Friday 31 October 2014

Dark Fiction - Forget


By Casey Douglass

as part of #fridayflash

A dog barks somewhere in the distance; it’s noise muffled by the dark trees that pressed in on the old house. Ted Smith stood on his porch step, taking the air and watching the evening deepen. A slight breeze molested a stray leaf as it bounced across his narrow garden path, the only other noise in the stagnant grounds.
Ted rubbed cracked fingers over his white stubble and nodded to himself. He pushed a hand into his shirt pocket, retrieved the headphones, slid them over his head and pressed play on the small MP3 player. A nasal male voice began to talk down to him.
You are in a safe place. You feel calm and relaxed.
Ted thumps down the steps and strides along the gravel path.
You are listening to this because you want to forget. You have suffered and you would like to erase that pain.
Reaching the waist-height wooden gate, he gropes behind him and pulls a pair of thick gloves from his trouser waistband.
Together, we will improve your life, removing the pain and adding so much more joy and fulfilment.
Gloves on, he squints into the failing light and frisks a nearby rose bush.
In a moment, I am going to count backwards from ten to one.
His gloves close on a spool of barbed wire. With a grunt, he lifts it, snagging one end on the shiny gate bolt. He twists and weaves and drags until the whole gate is a jumble of twisted metal spikes.
Try not to resist the process, we are all friends here.
A firework bangs in the east, its fizzing trajectory sputtering out somewhere over the high street.
He back-steps a few paces and picks up a plastic bucket. It clinks and chinks as he gives it a small shake.
He tips it slightly and continues his backward pacing, shards of glass cascading onto the uneven surface at his feet.
The street light dazzles as it caches in the tumbling daggers, Ted’s eyes twitching as they try to follow the movement.
His heels bump against the porch step. He takes off the gloves and chucks them and the bucket to one side, turns to face the house and climbs the steps.
Another firework goes off as he edges the screen door open, his hand resting lightly on a lever. Once his feet are clear of the welcome mat, he pushes the lever down hard. Heavy spikes puncture the mat from beneath, lifting it a few inches from the floor. He lifts the lever and twists it, a metal ping sounds below. The spikes barely show over the “Welcome” now, but the mat seems to quiver slightly.
He closes the door and looks up at the slab of concrete perched on a folding metal shelf. He takes hold of the gossamer wire that is linked to the triggering mechanism and delicately loops it around the door handle.
With a burst of pace he trudges through the house, picks up a handful of cloth and a carrier bag.
He rushes out the side door and jogs along his driveway, passes the hunched metal bulk of his car.
He reaches the other side of his garden gate and rummages inside the bag. He pulls out a long black cape and a rubber Frankenstein mask. He puts them on and then lifts a small plastic bucket from the bag. It’s orange and shaped like a pumpkin with small stickers plastered all over it. A lone candy rattles in the bottom. He throws the bag away and kicks off his shoes.
His hand clamps down hard on the waist-height, wooden and now very sharp gate.
Your pain can be overcome...


Happy Halloween. If you read this before 1st November, you might be interested to know that my Dark Distractions anthology is on sale:

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Dark Review - Tomb of Empires

Tomb of Empires Review

Written By Casey Douglass


Tomb of Empires

I always feel that reviewing dark ambient albums often reveals more about the psyche of the reviewer than the actual content of the music. I also find it a great creative exercise in stretching the vocabulary and conveying the imagery that often comes unbidden and makes a lasting impression. This is also the reason why dark ambient music is often in the background whilst I create my own worlds.

As a consequence, this review of Tomb of Empires, a 4 split release featuring different 4 different artists in the dark ambient scene and released by Cryochamber, is almost a journal of my impressions and feelings as I encountered each track for the first time. You will almost certainly have different images appear in your mind and other sensations and feelings in your body.

“We welcome some new faces to the label with this 4 split release between some of the more mysterious and sacred sounds of the dark ambient scene. With the chaotic sounds of former CMI artist Foundation Hope, the mysterious enlightenment of Alphaxone, the distortion drone heavy Coph`antae Tryr to the fresh and inviting bass rumbles of Council of Nine, this is one dark journey of soundscapes delving deep into humanities history.”

I will look at each track in turn:

Chimes of the Unfortunate - Council of Nine :
This track starts with a deep and foreboding sound that made me prepare for it to get deeper and deeper. A short while in, it gains some lovely higher pitched sounds that turn the whole thing around and makes it feel light and airy with, for me at least, a sense of sadness in the background.

Mysterious – Alphaxone :
Starting with a deep resonance that mingles with other lighter melodies and noises, Mysterious gives the impression of a derelict space, yet not a hostile one. There are rumblings and muted noises and at one point a rapid tinkling noise that conjures images of greenery or fauna struggling to survive in some ruins.

Comprehended - Coph`antae Tryr :
A rising fanfare looms nearer with this track, a catchy hook that entwines with other instruments to peel away the structure of your eardrum and pierce your mind. It hints at majesty that has faded and vanished into the past where only a few might still remember it even existed. Think ancient artwork painted onto walls smothered with ivy and doused in darkness.

Near to Nothing - Alphaxone :
Echoing architecture punctuated with the impression of movement and strange life.

Nothing to Near - Coph`antae Tryr :
Nothing to Near features some gentle audio hiccuping that serves to jar you into the awareness that you might not have been paying full attention. Its deep beginnings growing and intermingling with other sounds as the medley builds and peters out.

The Kind - Foundation Hope :
This is quite a boomy and jarring track, when compared to the others at least. It seems full of discord and as it progresses takes on a sound like a swarm of demonic bees intoning names you can’t fully imagine or comprehend.

The Beacon - Foundation Hope :
This track seems to be one of the more simple on the album. By simple, I mean it seems to have fewer layers of sound than the others, or it is just how it appears to me. It also features a wonderful whistling segment which conjured the image of a lone survivor whistling whilst walking through a decimated city in an attempt to connect with others, or just to let him or herself know that they are still there, still human.

Blood Lit Skies - Council of Nine :
The album ends with the longest track of the bunch at just over 12 minutes. It has a light and airy thrumming quality and in one place seems to depict the sound of wind and rain, to my ears at least. It is a fantastic and gentle end to the journey through the other soundscapes that this album conjures, a way to come back to the real world with a soft landing rather than a full combat roll.

Thoughts :
Tomb of Empires as a whole is a very smooth ambient album, from my own viewpoint at least. It doesn't feature the harsher aspects that some other dark ambient creations contain but is still great at conjuring hefty mental impressions. It arouses a background feeling of sadness and gloom but with areas of light and air, much like sunlight shining into the darkness of a tomb through some aperture in the ceiling.

This leads me on to the cover image which I have to say is one of the most well-picked I have seen in some time, even to the extent that it coloured what images were likely to arise in my mind as I listened to the album.

I give Tomb of Empires 4/5. As I said above, it takes you on a relatively peaceful journey and evokes periods of oppressiveness and airiness with equal ease, for which it is to be commended. The reason it didn't get a 5 is just down to my own personal taste when it comes to my dark ambient listening. I enjoy more oppressive soundscapes where you feel that you only come up for air after long intervals. This, compared to the ones that inculcate that feeling, was a bit tamer in those regards. Still an excellent listen though, and probably a great starting point for someone who might be less familiar with the sounds of the dark ambient genre.

Visit here and here for more information and purchasing options.

I was given a free copy for review.

Album Title : Tomb of Empires
Artists: Foundation Hope / Council of Nine / Alphaxone / Coph`antae Tryr
Mastering and Artwork: Simon Heath
Label: Cryochamber
Released: 28th October 2014.

Saturday 25 October 2014

Horror For Less This Halloween!

It is also available on Amazon sites in other regions at a similar discount by searching for my name or the title.

Dark Review - Littlest Lovecraft Presents The Call of Cthulhu

If you’re a fan of H.P. Lovecraft and you happen to have (or know) children who might like his writing, you have probably pondered when the right time to introduce them to the master horror-writer’s works might be. I take a look at Littlest Lovecraft's solution, an adaptation of The Call of Cthulhu aimed at a younger audience. Click here to read my review on Geek Syndicate.

Monday 20 October 2014

Party Slashers

Dungeons and Dragons used to be a harmless game, well, unless you took one of those pointy dice to the eye when a sore loser has a bit of a rage on. In Party Slashers, the risks are a bit more severe as some highschoolers accidentally summon undead mass murderers.

Written and directed by Carl Bachmann (who previously produced and directed critically acclaimed Miracle on Metal Street), Party Slashers follows the group of teenagers as they try to do the usual things teenagers do but end up showing their true selves when they have to deal with the undead "Revenants".

Party Slashers is currently on Kickstarter and is looking for backers. As usual, there are a number of rewards for varying degrees of financial support, with the highlight being contributors in the $35 bracket who will get their own grindhouse style poster incorporating their own sent photo.

Check out the teaser trailer below and head to Kickstarter if you want to give a fun and stylish undead film the chance to live.

Sunday 12 October 2014

Dark Fiction - A Wheelie Bad Idea in Indie Writers Monthly Horror Issue

My horror flash fiction 'A Wheelie Bad Idea' is available now in free magazine Indie Writers Monthly - The Horror Issue, which is available from the Amazon Kindle Store. Check out the info page on the Indie Writers Monthly website for more info. P.S It's not free for long so get it now if you want it.

Saturday 11 October 2014

Radio 4 Programme With My OCD Interview Airs Monday 13th October 2014

Edit: The program below can be found online at this link.

The interview I did for the Radio 4 programme Digital Human will be broadcast on Monday 13th October 2014 at 4:30pm. No doubt it will also be in BBC iPlayer for awhile afterwards too.

I have no idea how much of what I said will be used, it could just be the tinniest snippet or it could be a bit more. I chatted about Risk and Technology, how my OCD manifests itself when it comes to using the Internet, my computer or other types of gadgetry. It was a very pleasant chat and it made me realise that I had a fair amount to say about OCD and the various ways and techniques that I feel deal with it the best. As a consequence, I have been working on a short book about OCD and how I live with it, what I do to manage it, and other aspects that I have yet to see mentioned in other places. My book will hopefully be complete and up on the Amazon Kindle Store by Christmas.

Friday 3 October 2014

Dark Review - AvP: Fire and Stone Issue 1

I take a look at Dark Horse Comics' Alien Versus Predator: Fire and Stone Issue 1 on Geek Syndicate here. A stylishly drawn inter-species clash that hints at more violence to come.