Tuesday 20 February 2024

Witchcraft, Murk and Madness is Out Now

Just over a month ago, I released Witchcraft, Murk and Madness, the 7th music release under my Reality Scruncher dark ambient project. It's themed around idiots provoking ancient powers and meeting a mucky end.

If you like dark ambient, drone, horror music, you can check out Witchcraft, Murk and Madness below or on Bandcamp.

Sunday 19 November 2023

Dark Ambient: BlackWeald Interview

BlackWeald Interview

Interview by Casey Douglass

BlackWeald Interview

BlackWeald is a dark ambient and experimental music creator that has produced some truly monumental albums for fans to enjoy. His latest release: The Fermi Exhibit, is themed around the Fermi paradox, which in the broadest of terms, is the question of why we haven’t detected alien life. In this interview, we talk about how he became interested in the Fermi paradox, and what his thoughts are about some of the “solutions”. We also delve into the role that Lovecraft’s fiction has played in his creative life, the value of ambiguity in creating, and what kind of equipment he uses to create his dark marvels. Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy.

(Photos used throughout provided by BlackWeald. They depict some of the views from his local surroundings).


Casey: As we begin this interview, you are just over one week away from releasing your latest music creation: The Fermi Exhibit. It’s a dark ambient album themed around the Fermi paradox, the mental itch in scientists’ brains about why the sheer size of the universe lends itself to the idea that advanced extraterrestrial life should be commonplace, but that we seem to catch no sight nor sound of them. How and when did you first become interested in the Fermi paradox and what is your favourite potential solution?

BlackWeald: I was always interested in anything dark, morbid or mysterious. The nature of life, consciousness, and the insane scale of the universe are of course the oldest of these enigmas, also the toughest to get your head around.

I must state that I do not believe in intelligent design. Sure, it seems like the universe is fabricated in a way to facilitate human needs. You know the argument, if you’d change any universal constant (speed of light, Planck constant, ratio of matter-antimatter, etc.), the universe would be so different, that e.g. planets would not form, and no life would be possible. But I believe the answer for this isn’t intelligent design, rather it’s science’s most beautiful theory, the Anthropic principle. If the universe would NOT suit us, we wouldn't be here to observe it. There might be a crap-load of universes with different values of these constants, but there would be no life in them, and no observer in them to say “Hey, it seems to be 100% designed for us!”. So it’s the other way around. It’s not that the universe is designed to our needs, but we are like we are, because the universe is the way it is.

Back to the Fermi Paradox, although there are fascinating esoteric answers (which the album mostly deals with), the truth is probably much more mundane. And most likely the truth does not lie within ONE of these “solutions”, but a combination of the few. Perhaps interstellar travel simply cannot be solved, and you cannot bypass the speed of light anyhow. Combine this with the vastness of the universe and how specific a planet needs to be, to be able to develop and sustain even the most primitive life. These together would mean that although there are/were intelligent species, they are so far away from each other, that we would never ever be able to witness their existence, let alone communicate with them. It’s like an ant and a penguin inhabiting Earth alone, one in Europe, one in Antarctica. What are the chances they’d ever meet? The ant barely lives a year, they could not travel that far on land, there is the impassable ocean between them, and even if they met, they would not even recognize each other as another living being (despite these two examples descending from the very same tree of life).

In short, sure, there must be similarly intelligent life out there, but I doubt two of these species would ever come in contact with each other.

BlackWeald Lakebed

Casey: In an interview you gave to DarkUndergroundMusicZine, you touched upon your love of H.P Lovecraft. Do you enjoy contemplating the Fermi paradox because it in some ways touches the notion of cosmic horror that Lovecraft so adeptly describes, that sense of awe at the momentous forces and vast distances involved?

BlackWeald: I adore his work, he is my favourite writer. Anything Lovecraftian you can throw at me and I’ll probably like it. But I have to agree with the general consensus that he isn’t technically the best writer, rather it’s the “universe” he created and the way he tells his stories, that’s what really resonates with me. It’s very much like what Hidetaka Miyazaki does with his games. You have to piece the puzzle yourself, and even then, many things are left ambiguous. Which is great, because you can put your own thoughts, fears, feelings into these stories, making them personal. Anything that’s too straightforward, without any room for imagination, well, those are just stories. Unlike these ambiguous works, which create a framework, then it’s up to you to fit yourself into that.

I think this is what Lovecraft gets right. Instead of spoon-feeding you something tangible that he finds scary, he rather makes you think about a concept that might kick your existential dread in. “The universe is incomprehensibly large, and compared to that, you are incomprehensibly small. What do you think about it?” or “Have you ever thought of ancient civilizations that were once thriving but now are buried underneath the soil?” These are more inspirational thoughts than anything.

BlackWeald Church Ruin

I mean, one could say that Lovecraft himself made specific monsters, but I think even though we have a quite universally agreed representation of Cthulhu, it’s more about “What might lie beneath” than an actual monster.

Next to ambiguity, it’s important for me (either as a story-teller, or as a consumer) to actually take part in putting the story together, as opposed to just being told about the story. There is a very thin line between the two. Like, in a movie, when two dots should be connected, do you leave it up to the viewer to make that connection? You can give the viewer a flashback scene, or make a character say it out loud, but then the viewer does not actually participate in solving the mystery. But if you give them less, and let them figure it out, they will be like “Aha!” and it’s immediately more engaging.

Regarding how it’s tied to BlackWeald, I usually try to make my musical output ambiguous enough that there is always some room where the listeners can project themselves into. Some riddles to be solved, some connections to make yourself, something hidden, stuff that is not so obvious. This is why the song titles on The Fermi Exhibit are a bit shady. “Civilizations might be too far away from each other” not only sounds shit, but leaves no room to figure out what the song represents.

Of course it does not apply to all BlackWeald releases, e.g. Leonov and She and the Devil’s Sons follow a specific narrative, but I think it applies well for most of the others. Maybe on the “From Dust..” album the ambiguity went a bit too far and without the additional text, the framework of the album might not get through (the analogy between the timeline of a day and the timeline of a life). But e.g. with Sedna I tried to approach it in a Lovecraftian way. You know what happened, you know what it is capable of, but it’s up to you to imagine what it actually might be.

BlackWeald City Skyline

Casey: Why did you decide to form The Fermi Exhibit in the style of a museum exhibit, and what do the different sections represent?

BlackWeald: In short, if someone would have put a pistol to my head saying “You have to cut the album down to 2 hours!”, I would have chosen the first 13 tracks of the album. Fortunately I don’t have to tailor my output to any restrictions.

As a longer story, I started working on this album almost 3 years ago, right after 666 Minutes in Hell. As it happens often to me, a seemingly quick project turned into a huge monster. In a few weeks I found myself having 2000+ sound fragments and about 30 song concepts. Shaping it into finished songs seemed impossible and the weight of the project felt unbearable. So first I thought I’d slice the work up and have it released in a series of EPs. Then I got caught in the flow and during months of never-ending sessions, I finished everything at once.

When I saw that it turned out to be 8 hours long, I started cutting the fat off several songs and even threw away complete songs. I narrowed it down to 2 hours, having like a “best of” version of all the composed material, but I started missing many of the leftover material. I found myself listening to the “B-sides” more than the rest, so I just said “fuck it” and decided to keep quite a few of them. Today, I still have my own favourites in the more experimental, longer, less “traditional ambient” tracks. All that remains of this back-and-forth hassle is those two lines regarding the first 13 tracks being the “main hall” and the rest existing on the “gallery annex” of the exhibition.

Oh, and why an exhibition? Most of the stuff I release has some kind of narrative going through the whole album, but this one is among the few that is “just a bunch of tracks without any connection between them”, except for, of course, the overarching theme of the Fermi Paradox. My brain felt that I still needed to give the album a frame, which is this virtual exhibition, where each track is like a painting hanging on the wall, representing one solution to the Fermi Paradox.

Casey: When talking to The Dungeon in Deep Space, you explained that your music is created in a no budget, lo-fi kind of way, using an old PC, only using the integrated sound-card etc. Is this still the case, and what do you think that this minimalistic style of creation does for your creativity? I do a similar thing myself but it’s mainly to avoid overwhelm, perfectionism, and my OCD kicking my backside up and down all day long.

BlackWeald: Yeah, it’s still pretty much the case, although my PC aged 2 additional years, so it’s now 12 years old. Makes video rendering take ages. Although I bought the cheapest Behringer soundcard, so guitars and vocals can be recorded slightly more easily, but there are neither of them on The Fermi Exhibit.

BlackWeald Equipment Setup

The “no budget” nature is by my circumstances, not by my will. I’d love to have a dedicated room full of instruments and synths, having a top tier computer, etc, but that’s not my reality. Still, if you want to, you actually can compose and release with minimal gear and finances. Anyone saying otherwise is fooling themselves. My first few releases were made without a DAW, using only Audacity. Of course the methods used limit what the outcome can become. But, it is what it is.

Most of my favourite artists made music this way anyways. Sure, Swans has top tier gear, experience and several human talents behind them, but Dylan Carlson makes music almost all by himself, often with a single guitar only. Similarly, Hate Forest is practically one guy writing the best riffs ever and uses a drum machine. If my own favourites are often just “a dude with a guitar”, why would I fool myself thinking that gear matters the most.

I myself tend to overthink stuff by nature, so I have to keep pushing myself to accept “It’s good enough, move on!”. But also, restrictions can spark up creativity, whether they are artificial or not. So anyone planning a compilation work, feel free to ping me, as I love these kinds of works!


Thanks so much to BlackWeald for his time spent answering my questions. If you would like to check out The Fermi Exhibit, you can find it on Bandcamp at this link

The Fermi Exhibit Album Art

Saturday 11 November 2023

Dark Ambient: Shadowlands 4 Is Out Now!


Shadowlands 4 Art

Owl Ripper Recordings has just released a big slice of dark ambient and dungeon synth goodness: Shadowlands 4. I'm honoured to say that one of my own Reality Scruncher tracks, Breaching The Threshold, is nestling amongst the 19 other tracks it contains. Head over to Bandcamp to check it out. It's set to Name Your Price, which means you can even get it for free if you like.

Breaching The Threshold is from my Ennui and Terror in the Void album, and if you like the track, you might like to know that you can pick up any of my albums (or all of them) for 25% off until Sunday 12th Nov. Just enter "realityscrunched" at the Bandcamp checkout :).

Wednesday 27 September 2023

Dark Ambient Review: Mørketsland

Dark Ambient Review: Mørketsland

Review By Casey Douglass

Mørketsland Album Art

The technological progress of the modern world is amazing, but it can also feel oh so feeble. Our days are filled with the tedious “Marimba” of iPhones and the steady beep-beep of drip-fed pseudo approval from strangers. When held up against the heady, tangible world that the Vikings lived in, the present day appears to be little more than the cellophane wrapper on some tasty roasted boar meat that’s about to be offered to the Nordic gods. Mørketsland is a dark ambient album from ProtoU & Oljus, one that tears through the cellophane with its teeth.

Mørketsland contains echoing ritual drum beats, deep drones and eerie spirit-laced echoes that seem to bounce around a harsh, weather-swept landscape. Wind howls and swells, rain patters and drips, and distant thunder rumbles ominously in a pleasing, distant way. Every track of Mørketsland is a darkness-bathed, drum-fuelled homage to the Vikings, with the rites and chants being enacted by the voices almost certainly finding their way to the gods that they hope are listening.

I think that Spirits of the Water is probably my favourite of the seven tracks on the album. It begins with a low, slightly vibrating drone. A bell-like chime agitates the soundscape and a low chant begins. A slow echoing drumbeat is there also, and some strange little bird-like tweets. What sounds like distant thunder cracks in the distance, a ghostly vocal insinuating itself shortly after. Later, there are impressions of wind and waves, strange intonations, and as the drumbeat intensifies, a very deep vibrating tone. For me, this track felt like it was depicting a longboat out on open water, a moonlit fog enshrouding everything except the immediate blackness of the waves.

Wall of Thorns (ft Ager Sonus) is another track that really got my attention. It opens with low echoing drumbeats in a howling airy soundscape, the scratchy pattering of rain filling the ears with threat. There are rustles and creaks, and these are soon joined by a plucked melody and morose pipe notes. The soundscape slowly ratchets up into increasingly booming drum beats and ever busier howls, cries and swells of wind. The plucked melody, taken with the other elements of the track, gave me Witcher 3 or Game of Thrones flashbacks, which is a fun thing to return to.

All of the tracks of Mørketsland transport the listener into dark primal soundscapes, the kind of space in which the ritual drumbeats lend a trance-like energy to the swirling chaos and hardness of the landscapes hinted at. If you like your dark ambient to give you the impression of sitting in the firelight while the ever darkening shadows beyond its limits press every inwards, you might want to check out this album.

Visit the Mørketsland page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out the Spirits of the Water video below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Mørketsland

Album Artist: ProtoU & Oljus

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: May 2, 2023

Wednesday 20 September 2023

Dark Ambient Review: Anima Mundi

Dark Ambient Review: Anima Mundi

Review By Casey Douglass

Anima Mundi Album Art

Interconnectedness is a concept that can provide a great sense of spiritual peace. On the flip side, it can also lead to thoughts about how the worst or most undesirable elements of life are also closer than you might think. BRTHRM’s Anima Mundi is a three track dark ambient EP (among other styles) that brings the mystery of life and nature into energetic, musical form.

I think that the first track, Enchanted Grove, is probably my favourite. It opens with the sounds of dripping water and a low drone, with wooden knockings and breathy sighs soon joining. There are creaks and scrapes that give the impression of movement, and high swelling notes and shimmers that float over everything. There is also a peaceful “ahh” like vocal that seems to wrap everything in wonder.

What I really enjoyed about the first track however, is around the midpoint, there are beeps, radio squeals, and electronic melodies that I feel turn things a little “technology meets nature”. For me, this track felt like a deactivated android lying dormant in a rainforest glade, but something triggers its booting routine and it stands and stares in wonder at the life flooding around it.

The second track, Immortal Legacy, felt more like watching a tiny creature emerging from mud. It begins with a low shuddering beat and a rattling vibration. There is a roaming hissing static and a tone that sharpens into a razor edge. The sound of a ticking clock nestles against this high tone, before an 8-bit video-game buzz and melody joins proceedings. A great whirring begins, taking on the aspect of an air-raid siren punctuated with distant machine-gun fire. Before you know it, a warm melody begins, giving everything a “day out in Candy Land” feel.

The soundscape then buzzes like an insect-hive, and it was at about this point that I had the mental image of evolution, and some struggling organism trying to survive and overcome the obstacles of life. Why my mind went to something emerging from mud I don’t really know, but for me, this track would sit well with the images that are frequently used when talking about the evolution of man, from an ape walking on all fours, to standing upright, to walking along wearing a hat and carrying a briefcase. There is a sadness and a quirkiness to the sense of overcoming, but it’s a fun track overall.

The final track is Divine Offering, and this one features a chant-filled dark space that brings to mind some secluded temple hidden in the mountains, with monks sending their prayers up to whatever force they think is listening. It’s a deep, restive track, with a variety of tones and rhythms that come to play in its droning soundscape.

Anima Mundi is an album that takes the listener on a tour that includes both big picture feelings, such as thousands of years passing, and also the smaller concerns of one individual organism struggling in the mud. The darkness that it sometimes contains is more than balanced out by the uplifting nature of the melodies around it. If you enjoy your ambient/dark ambient music when it’s nearer this balancing point of light and dark, I think that you might want to check out Anima Mundi.

Visit the Anima Mundi page on Bandcamp for more information.

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Anima Mundi

Album Artist: BRTHRM

Released: May 5, 2023

Friday 8 September 2023

Dark Ambient Review: Internal Winter

Dark Ambient Review: Internal Winter

Review By Casey Douglass

Internal Winter Artwork

There’s a pleasing irony in listening to music titled Internal Winter when the sun is shining brightly outside and the air is humid and heavy. Not only does it contrast in the most obvious of ways, but the meaning deepens when you consider how our internal landscapes can be so at odds with the external world. Examples of this might be someone contemplating suicide while smiling in the midst of their own birthday party, or someone else sitting alone on an isolated bench at the coast, happier than they’ve been for months as they watch the grey storm roll in.

G. M. Slater and Rojinski’s Internal Winter is a dark ambient album themed around “five journeys through inner demons, conflict, and turmoil” and is the perfect accompaniment for those moods when the difference between the internal and external is so great that you just want to laugh or cry in astonishment. It’s a dark and ominous album that’s full of thick, brooding soundscapes, with a wind-blasted droning and chiming aesthetic.

I think that the first track, A Blanket of Shadows, is my favourite. It opens with the sound of a gale and what sounds like echoing footsteps. There are wooden creakings and rustlings, punctuated by the occasional shrill whistle of the wind finding small cracks to howl through. Low tones and drones begin to sound at intervals amidst the crackling static of what might be snow on frosted windows. A faint chiming drone sparkles higher in the air, lending a notion of some light to what feels like a dark and decaying scene. The track grows more aggressive as time passes, with various of the tones and wind noises ramping up to create the precarious feeling of a tipping point being flirted with. I would say that the album artwork of the decrepit snow-covered house was designed for this track.

Tunnel of Disillusions is another track that stood out to me, as when I listened to it, I noted down that it felt like a hellish trip to Narnia. It begins with a reverberating chime and soft choral feeling, but soon deepens to create the sensation of being enveloped by a cacophony of whispers and voices. It feels claustrophobic and dark, with sharp-edged tones cutting the air. The insect-like vibrations sit alongside bell-like tolling, and things just seem to go down and down and down. Around the midpoint, things open out again, and I felt like I’d emerged from the tunnel mentioned in the track title. It feels a little like emerging into the farm of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre family, in tone at least. The heartbeat like rhythm and door slamming beat certainly rub nicely against the ahh-like drone floating above them.

Internal Winter is a fun journey into the shifting miseries of the human psyche. All of the tracks felt atmospheric and gritty, with enough elements of softness to prevent them from feeling a little too unrelenting. I felt that the higher drones and chimes lend a notion of looking for help from some higher power, while the lower elements do well to keep the listener mired in the mud and the murk. If you like your dark ambient heavy and questing, you’d do well to check out Internal Winter.

Visit the Internal Winter page on Bandcamp for more information.

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Internal Winter

Album Artist: Slater & Rojinski

Released: March 24, 2023

Friday 1 September 2023

Dark Ambient Album: The Abyss Hunts The Noisiest Prey

 Dark Ambient Album: The Abyss Hunts The Noisiest Prey

The Abyss Hunts The Noisiest Prey Artwork

I just released another album under my Reality Scruncher music project. It's called The Abyss Hunts The Noisiest Prey and is themed around a ritual that destroys the realities in which it is performed. I aimed for the music to reflect that notion, so each track is the audio impression of the event.