Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Dark Article - ASMR Inducing Videos Might Be Useful For CFS/ME Sufferers

I've written a piece for CFS/ME website Foggy Friends about the possible benefits of ASMR for relaxation. ASMR is a bodily response to certain kinds of sensory input and can be triggered by watching certain videos etc. Click here to read my full article.

Image used freely courtesy of Gratisography

Dark Review - Predator: Incursion (The Rage War #1)

I review the first in a new trilogy of books set in the Alien and Predator universe on Geek Syndicate. Predator: Incursion starts things off with a fun dose of creature mayhem and human peril. Click here to read my full review.

Book Cover Image © Copyright Titan Books

Friday, 23 October 2015

Dark Film Review - Crimson Peak

I review Guillermo Del Toro's latest film Crimson Peak over on Geek Syndicate, a fantastic gothic horror with some fine performances and effects. Click here to read my full review.

Image © Copyright Universal Pictures

My Favourite Heavy Metal Albums of 2015

My Favourite Heavy Metal Albums of 2015

Written by Casey Douglass

2015 is almost over, thank fuck for that! As the nights draw in and the temperature strangely stays quite mild, I thought I would write a brief post about some of the fantastic heavy metal albums I have listened to this year. Some of the albums may be from 2014 too, I'm that much of a maverick you see. It won't be in depth, it might not even be to your own taste, but on the other hand, it just might send you scurrying to wherever you buy your music in the hope of listening to more. Who knows!

In no particular order:

Mastodon - Once More 'Round The Sun

I tried to get into Mastodon years ago but didn't really take to them. Roll on January this year and I heard a track on the Metal Hammer CD and quite liked it. I swiftly bought Once More 'Round The Sun and it has become my most listened to album this year. Mastodon have created an album that is both at once an echoing vocalled paradise and also a glorious mash of guitar riffs and solos. They also have a knack for making some truly crazy and strange videos. Check out the video for Asleep In The Deep below:

In This Moment - Black Widow

I bought Black Widow at about the same time I picked up Once More 'Round The Sun. I'd seen Big Bag Wolf on YouTube and fancied catching some more of Maria Brink and In This Moment's ear-worming brand of metal. You can check out Big Bad Wolf below:

Coal Chamber - Rivals

Coal Chamber were probably one of my most listened to metal bands when I was at college. I loved their brand of heavy as hell metal and Dez Fafara's gravelly vocals. I also had the chance to see them live just before Rivals was released. Sway almost brought the Norwich Waterfront's roof down, such a great song. Check out I.O.U Nothing below (it's quite bloody, in a comic way):

Ghost BC - Meliora

Another band discovered by virtue of Metal Hammer magazine's cover CD. A sinister Satan-infused style of music that is interesting to listen to, intricate and has a great sound that seems to demand attention. I'd love to go and see them live one day. Watch From The Pinnacle To The Pit below:

Fear Factory - Genexus

Another band that I enjoyed a lot while at college. Genexus, their latest album is just more Fear Factory, their own dark vision of a technological future writ large by Burton C. Bell's vocals. Check out Soul Hacker below, one of my favourites:

Not an exhaustive list by any means but one that details what I have been listening to the most this year, when it comes to my metalhead tendencies anyway. Cheers for reading and feel free to comment below, whether to call me a nu-metal newb or to suggest bands I might like to check out, I'm not fussed which.

Dark Music Review – Absence of Motion

Dark Music Review – Absence of Motion

Review Written By Casey Douglass

Album blurb: Alphaxone is back with his third album on Cryo Chamber, a truly moving experience with smooth reverbs, multi-layered ambience and intricate subtle compositions. Alphaxone sets a new bar for himself when it comes to production quality, recommended for spacefaring audiophiles.

It didn't take much listening to Alphaxone's Absence of Motion before I came to see the title as a little inaccurate; the soundscapes and compositions therein seemed to me to carry a great amount of motion, subjectively at least. Never one to let titles or track labels get in my way however, I let my own dark narrative form from track to track, embarking once more on yet another dark ambient safari.

The Tracks

Intro – Bird song and what sounds like falling rocks, accompanied by a hanging airy drone and distortion get the album off to an interesting start. The various sounds gave me the impression of what it might be like to walk into a hidden valley somewhere in a mountainous region, the sounds of footsteps aiding this impression magnificently. It seems however, that it is a valley that is as much aware of the listener as the listener is of it.

Appearance – An insectoid vibration joined by muted thumps, whistlings and skitterings as the listener espies the denizens of the valley for the first time, strange and fleeting in the mist.

Long Eternity – Digital artifacts, much like those seen in badly error-corrected video, flicker in dark caves that loom in the distance, a deep drone and tinkling chimes energising the air with strange notes. This track has a melancholy tint, and the tonal quality seems to change near the midpoint.

Space Continuum – Crickets and whistling are joined by effects that sound a little like wind, all hinting at a vast space within the cavern system that lies beyond that cave. A resonant tone sounds near the midpoint, flutish in sound, creating the impression of space shifting, like the glinting sun picking out the edges of some strange spacecraft in an area that had otherwise looked empty.

Dark Geometry – A dark drone with distant rasping sounds. A blending of the soundscape that gives a prolonged “Ohm” effect. The spacecraft sits in deepest black, all strange energies and angles. Notes give the impression of it beginning to come alive with lights.

Celestial – Wind chimes and another fluty sound meet with a thrumming noise. A high-pitched ringing like that of a finger run around a crystal glass joins, all creating the impression of activation or initiation.

Inner Horizon – A water/static sound is accompanied by footsteps and chittering birds. The spacecraft blinks out of existence and now you find yourself in a strange alien desert, a looming drone and strange noises your reward.

X-Land – A vibrating bass and rattling rhythm meets more digital/electronic sounds as the listener meets the natives of this new and strange location.

Close – A bass tone switches between each ear as rippling ruffles buffet the listener. You are led to a strange and wonderful tent, therein bid to lay down, the sound of strange breezes toying with the canvas lulling you to sleep amidst a pleasing drone.


Absence of Motion is a dark ambient album that revels in creating an absorbing sense of space and location, the various drones, chimes and ambient sounds painting the soundscape in some very alluring dark colours. The tracks are tinted with the taste of the alien, the exotic, and also the familiar in the sense of the few sounds that seem familiar, such as birdsong and wind chimes. However you look at it (or should that be listen), Absence of Motion certainly takes the listener on a mental adventure, no matter what the nature of the images conjured in the imagination might be. This, for me, is something that I prize highly above anything else and I am happy to find another dark ambient album that achieves this so fully. It's with this in mind that I give Absence of Motion 4.5/5.

It is also at this late stage that I realise that the title, Absence of Motion, might just as easily refer to how little movement the listener will make while relaxing and drifting off to this musical creation.

Visit the Absence of Motion page on bandcamp here for more information and prices.

I was given a free copy of the album to review.

Album Title: Absence of Motion
Written and Produced: Mehdi Saleh
Label: Cryo Chamber
Mastering and artwork: Simon Heath
Release Date: 25 August 2015

Monday, 19 October 2015

Dark Music Review - Azathoth

Dark Music Review – Azathoth

Review Written by Casey Douglass

In 2014 Cryo Chamber got some of the most prominent dark ambient artists together to synchronize their studios during a year of collaboration creating the album Cthulhu in tribute to H.P. Lovecraft. With Azathoth Cryo Chamber double the effort with a 2 CD release follow up. No less than 20 artists has been working for the last year to synchronize and co-create Azathoth. Azathoth is a collaboration NOT a compilation. Azathoth is an Outer God in the Cthulhu Mythos and Dream Cycle stories of H. P. Lovecraft and other authors. Azathoth's precise appearance is only hinted at throughout the Mythos, and indeed may be unknowable by mortal beings. It is described as occupying a position outside of the universe, where it is attended by a cohort of alien servants.

Cthulhu, the collaboration mentioned in the album description above, is probably one of my favourite dark ambient albums of all time. Its one massive track took the listener from the stormy waves, deep under the sea and back again, dragging something eldritch along for the ride. You can read my review of Cthulhu at this link. With this in mind, Azathoth had me wondering if I would find another mind-blowing favourite to add to my collection, another Lovecraft infused dance with the abyss. Featuring the work of a whole host of dark ambient artists including Atrium Carceri, Aphaxone, Randal Collier-Ford and Ugasanie amongst many others, Azathoth had every chance of being something very special. Did I find my shadowy bride or was I left jilted at the alter? Read on to find out.

Tracks / Thoughts

Rather than the usual collection of anywhere from 6 to 10+ tracks, Azathoth comes in with two mammoth tracks: the first of around 55 minutes, the second just breaking through the one hour mark. I did begin to write quite in-depth descriptions of each track but abandoned that when I realised it would make for a wall of text and would probably not be the best way to approach things. I've decided to give a general overview instead, having spent a good amount of time with Azathoth and relaxed to it on a number of listenings.

The first thing that I would say is that both tracks are fairly smooth dark ambient compositions, containing flowing drones and ambient sound recordings that I didn't find too jarring. Of the two tracks however, “Azathoth 2” has a few sections in which there are some quite harsh sounds: an example being what sounds like someone throwing a pebble at a rocky floor and it shattering. It almost felt like being poked in the chest. I can imagine this will only be an issue if you fancy using Azathoth to doze off to however, but not everyone is as strange as me in that respect I am sure.

The sounds contained in the tracks all serve to take the listener on a dark journey towards things that are hard to give words to. I felt like I spent most of my time roaming roughly-hewn rock tunnels in the earth, some segments dimly lit and dripping with water, others black as pitch with air so thick that it is hard to walk through, let alone breathe. There are audio effects that sound like something breathing and flying past in the gloom, there are others that give the impression of industry at a great distance, like creeping past some vast cavern containing strange creatures delving in further into the ground. Voices mutter and mumble, sounding like they are on old radio-sets far away and bassy rumbles hint at the shifting of colossal forces.

For me, Azathoth is a meditation on the rock-paved abyss, gradually falling through the world until finding myself in some other place, an other place with strange denizens and a strange atmosphere that scythes away the concerns of everyday life, replacing them with more primal themes and motives. If you couldn't guess, I very much enjoyed my time listening to Azathoth and happily give it a rating of 4.5/5.

Visit the Azathoth page on bandcamp here for more information and prices.

I was given a free copy of the album to review.

Album Title: Azathoth
Album Artist: Cryo Chamber Collaboration
Label: Cryo Chamber
Mastering and artwork: Simon Heath
Release Date: 6 October 2015

Friday, 16 October 2015

Dark Fiction - Obsessive Crumb Disorder

Obsessive Crumb Disorder

Written by Casey Douglass

This piece was written for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) awareness week 2015. I hope it is a way for non-sufferers to get an idea of how easy it is for anyone to slip into OCD.

You are walking home through the forest, following the path you always do. You are tired; it's been a long day. A deer shoots across your path making you flinch in surprise, your heart racing. Silly deer! you think to yourself. You walk on, the twilight of sunset casting strange shadows on the leaf-strewn ground. What if I'm lost and I don't know it? No, that's just silly! I walk home this way every day! A feeling of unease grows inside you as you walk on, going left past the knobbly tree, or should it have been right? You live with these thoughts all the way home.

The next day you have a day off work but decide to go for a walk and to take a picnic to eat in the forest. You like the forest, it's lovely this time of year! No sooner have you crossed into its leafy embrace when you remember your fears of the day before. Being quite bright, you stand and try to work things out. Okay, I know it was a silly thought but I still feel like crap. Maybe..maybe I could use some bread from my sandwiches to mark my path home. I won't be long enough for the birds to eat them so yes! That's what I'll do! You pull a smidgen of bread from your sandwich and, thinking to thwart the breeze, press it into the crack in the bark of a nearby tree. Feeling a little happier, you go on your way, leaving bread in all the right places. You still feel anxious, anxious enough not to fancy eating much of your second sandwich when you stop at the meadow in the middle. This upsets you, you hardly ever are off your food.

As you head back home, another thought crashes into your mind. How do I know I'm following MY bread trail? What? As if there would be more than once person doing that at the same time! What if someone left a trail and they never found it? You might find their trail and meet the same end they did! You see a crumb in a tree and walk up to it. Check the bread. You lift your uneaten sandwich and compare the colour of the crumbs. Looks the same but still, someone might have just bought the same bread as you! Your heart is pounding. Maybe check how the bread feels? You roll a crumb from the tree between one thumb and forefinger while you do the same for one from your sandwich in the others. Does it feel the same? Yes I think so. I'm not sure though. I'll find another tree and try another crumb, just to be sure! Day turns to night, warm turns to cold and light turns to dark. You do get home in the end, but any thought of entering the forest again fills you with such dread that you think you might never go in there again. You sob a little. You don't feel well, and what is that rattling coming from the washing machine? Does it always do that? You'd better check, just in case.

This story was written to illustrate how easily fatigue, shock (the deer) and a random thought that becomes hard to shake can give birth to an entire head full of catastrophe and fear. Just a day in the life of an OCD sufferer. Think before you take it too lightly, it's not a life style choice, it's a mental prison sentence. Visit here for more info on OCD: OCD UK.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Dark Music Review – Insomnia

Dark Music Review – Insomnia

Written By Casey Douglass

Brass, piano and various other textures are delicately woven into filmic soundscapes that echo the sounds of memories faded through time. Solemn vignettes seem to emanate from an early morning dream state, the late autumnal tones and noir-ish melodies drifting through fog, evoking feelings of quiet isolation and solitude. Recalling haunting and desolate places, a private world is exposed, where time and space are distilled down to what remain of distant pasts and hidden emotions, melded into a symphony of ethereal melancholy.
On reading the excerpt from the album description above, I was intrigued by the early morning dream state aspect of the words. So many ambient albums seemingly cloak themselves in the darkest time period of the night rather than the time nearer twilight, when the night holds its breath to see if the sun will rise again, or at least, that is my interpretation of early morning. What the listener has in Leila Abdul-Rauf's Insomnia is a collection of tracks that slide easily into this slice of time, one in which harsher or otherwise composed tracks might grate uncomfortably on tired minds.

The Tracks

“Midnight” opens proceedings, its lofty female vocals and chimes thrumming amongst a deeper cosy sound. A short track, it soon becomes “Drift”, a more subdued and reflective track. The notes and sounds created for me the image of a sparkling pool in an underground temple, the ripples reflected on the walls and taken up by the sounds in the soundscape. “The Opening” is a string-led oscillating track with a return of the female vocals again. A resonance joins them later, a reverberating whine that builds into what seems like male echoing voices at a distance.

“Clock Glows” is a cosy track, one that uses simple percussion notes to create an almost languid feeling of time passing and clouds drifting in the night sky. Lighter tinkling notes join as the track continues, almost imbuing it with lullaby credentials. “Pull” is a piano-led track that uses a mixture of brass and female singing to carry the listener along with the notes. “Seconds Tick” is another piano-based track, but this is more frenetic and airy, like a beaded curtain fighting against a strong breeze.

“Edges of a Mirror” is up next, a composition with a crystalline sound, all high pitches and ringing notes, slowly joined by a light drone that adds some flesh to the bones later on. “Absence” is a track that utilises repeating notes that set up a pleasing rhythm and that carry the listener along in some kind of self-propelling motion. Strings and echoing bassy sounds add more detail to what might be some flight of fancy or vision of ghosts from the past, like a ship in fog.

“He Sits in His Room” features bouncy notes that twang into more female vocals, the effect being one that shrouds the ears in darkness as other notes mingle with the soundscape. “Wane” is a track that features strings dancing in an echoing space, brass and drone joining them before things become quieter and deeper as the midpoint is breached. The final track on the album is “Dark Hours of Early Morning”, a track that begins with a breathy sigh and tinkling notes in the distance. A drone adds another layer to things, the sounds becoming stronger and more bold as the track continues. It seems to be very much a track in which something is happening, like a wanderer looking out over a misty forest canopy and seeing a giant tree surging into the sky, fireflies and birds flitting around its branches like some shamanic legend of yore.


Insomnia is an album that I felt fully lived up to its description. There is a certain aural caress to the music, but one that is more like the silence during a nuclear winter rather than anything too warm and cosy. Yes, there is often a warmth to the music, a relaxed feeling of night-time and rest, but there is also the impression of forces being marshaled and the prospect of being destroyed in a smother rather than an overt show of violence.

How someone with insomnia might fare if they popped this album on in the small hours of the night, I don't really know. All I can say is that, even if you sleep like a baby almost every night, you owe yourself the chance of listening to Insomnia if you have any kind of interest or appreciation for dark ambient that evokes night so completely.

I give Insomnia 4/5. Visit Insomnia on Bandcamp at this link for more information.

I was given a free copy of the album to review.

Album Title: Insomnia
Album Artist: Leila Abdul-Rauf
Label: Malignant Records
Release Date: 17 March 2015