Wednesday 30 December 2015

Dark Poetry - Strangled

Strangled Poem by Casey Douglass
(Click for larger readable image)

When I open my mouth
dust comes out,
the machinery of expression clogged
with vintage dreams.

When I open my mouth
my heart dies,
a lonely imp in a rusty cage
swinging from a barbed wire noose.

When I open my mouth
smoke flows forth,
the burning cremation
laying waste to old forms.

When I open my mouth
flames burst out.

I blast the world to ruin.

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Wednesday 23 December 2015

Dark Book Review – When The Devil Climbs

Dark Book Review – When The Devil Climbs

Review Written By Casey Douglass

When The Devil Climbs Cover

After a decade lost to addiction and criminality, Russ Grote is given an opportunity by his jilted ex-wife to reconnect with his son. But the day before the scheduled reunion, he and his coworkers are attacked by a horde of savage pigs infected with a mysterious virus. While taking refuge atop a billboard, the brutish crew of ex-convicts grow increasingly desperate and willing to do anything to survive. For any chance to reunite with his son, the most gruesome menace Russ must confront might be the one lurking inside of him.

My first thoughts after reading the above book blurb were something along the lines of “Excellent!”. I have long been a fan of dark and horror tales that take place with the victims holding up somewhere seemingly secure, but still trying to work a way out of things. It might come as no surprise to you that I really enjoy the first Tremors film for this very reason. I am also happy to say that 95% of Drake Vaughn’s When The Devil Climbs transpires with the hapless ex-cons stuck up in the guts of Big Bertha, the billboard they are tasked with working on when the snorting pigs eventually appear.

The location is an excellent choice for staging the kind of peril that the men face, with much dangling, shouting and swearing floating up into the soaring, searing sky. The pigs aren’t the only things they face, but dehydration, hunger, bad tempers and, as time progresses, a bit of madness. This is the other aspect of the tale, the slow drip feeding of knowledge about the characters, often in the reconciliatory phase after an argument or failed attempt at something. I think this is key to the tale holding the reader’s interest, as without these conflicts, man vs. pig would almost certainly have been far less interesting. Drake Vaughn does a great job at this back-story drip-feeding, the biggest revelations coming near the culmination of the tale.

If you are a gore fan, there are certainly some grim scenes, both in the moment and via flashbacks and introspection. The pigs certainly don’t mess around when they do get their teeth on something, be it human or another pig. The green snot that they expel is also nicely unnerving, adding a dash of colour to the tale beyond the occasional spilling of blood. At no point did the gore feel unduly extravagant or unwarranted however, which is another thing I was thankful for. I am all for grim stuff but only when it's not done just for the sake of being grim.

The book is structured into mostly small chapters, each beginning with the time of day and a small picture of something from the story. Starting each chapter with the time is a great device to foreshadow events in the tale, the reader seeing a night-time period and easily able to picture the darkness and the difficulties that it might bring, before even reading the first word of the new chapter. The time thing also helps give the narrative an anchor in the real world, rather than everything happening in some wishy washy other place.

When The Devil Climbs is a really fantastic read, and I don’t hesitate in giving it 5/5. If you like this kind of horror, it should tick all the boxes for you, it's well written and is something that will stay with you awhile after reading it, especially when you next might eat a sausage or some bacon.

Visit Drake's site for more info at this link.

I was given a free copy of this book to review.

Book Title: When The Devil Climbs
Book Author: Drake Vaughn
Publisher: Kal-Ba Publishing
Released: November 12, 2015

Monday 21 December 2015

Dark Music Review – Self Destruction Themes

Dark Music Review – Self Destruction Themes

Review Written By Casey Douglass

Self Destruction Themes Cover

Pedro Pimentel returns to Cryo Chamber with his second album on the label, Self Destruction Themes. This time with help from Amund Ulvestads beautiful cello performances, Simon Heaths textural piano work and Apocryphos atmospheric distortion layers.

This is a massive album of cold but inviting atmospheres, filtered noise, acoustic layering and sweeping textural layers. The sad theme throughout the album paints images of a world depopulated and of overgrown and dilapidated cityscapes.

Listening to Worldclock’s Self Destruction Themes, my mind went a slightly different way to the above album blurb. The cold, inviting atmospheres part I certainly got, along with the sadness. As sometimes happens though, I went my own way with my own mental impressions, so along with the track descriptions are my own mental images, which may not really fit with the depopulated and dilapidated cityscapes aspect of the description. I’m a maverick that way. On to the tracks.

The Tracks

Here We'll Be Gone – A sustained high note is joined by a low rumble as other notes scissor their way in. Strings and snatches of wind create a sombre mood. Footsteps in the snow gave me the impression of someone walking through snow into the wilderness as the soundscape deepens. A strengthening of the string notes is joined by dripping water as things take another turn, darkness settling in as night approaches.

The Fever Of Our Waiting – Creaking and dripping sounds are joined by a light drone. This is over-layed with teased strings and is later joined by a large wall of sound. Maybe the snow-walker is forced to shelter in an old stone floored hut as a storm brews outside. Repeating string notes really create a great feeling of atmospheric energy. The occasional screech of an unexpected string note is great to hold the listener’s interest. The track ends in a bit of a maelstrom as the storm hits.

It May Come – Static rain and echoing piano sound as the dawn breaks. Dripping water and a light atmosphere seem to the forefront now, water droplets glowing on twigs as the strings play once more. The calm after the storm, and a calm mind finding a sense of acceptance.

When Indecision Strikes – Piano, strings and drone all in tone with each other. A staticy backdrop is punctuated by metallic creaks and rattles. The decision of whether to leave the hut or not? Distant voices of a crowd add a surreal aspect, maybe the ghosts of possibility. Outside pressing in. Agoraphobic. The world carrying on without you.

Something More – A swelling voice-filled clattering grows in volume. Odd clangs and a variety of string sounds create a muzzy feeling, maybe the pressures of two possible paths or realities butting up against one another. Leaving the cabin or not?

More Often Than Not – This track starts with the sound of traffic driving along wet roads. A sombre melody begins after a few moments, strings and piano working together to create a feeling of dull mundanity, kind of like walking home as the night draws in, the street lights only now showing their first sickly shade of colour before the bulbs fully warm up. The title, and the sound of this track make me think of the coming down after the transcendental, taking the boring route rather than using the realisations you've experienced to lead a more exciting life. Maybe any peace felt by the traveller in the snow has fast evaporated as they enter civilization again.
Every Shade – This track begins in a lighter fashion, a lighter drone and prominent string notes giving some sense of joy and optimism to things. If the previous track was a mundane and rainy walk home, this track is spying the last rays of the sun piercing through cracks in the almost black clouds, their rays dazzling just before they vanish for the night.

Something Else – A hissy start with distant string notes piercing the soundscape. A drone looms in the background, slowly taking a more prominent role. The string notes fall repeatedly, sounding more and more like a wail. Sounds of dripping water creeps in as the strings take on a more melodious aspect, other lighter notes swelling above. This track could be a return to the same dingy house, the same crumpled bed-sheets, the same, the same, the same.

32 Walls – What sounds like plastic flapping is joined by see-sawing strings and a gentle dark drone, a feeling of a dark space opening around the listener, snatches of whispered words insinuating themselves slickly into the ear as a thumping beat reverberates through everything. This track could hint at the dark night of the soul, or even the old hag visitations of myth and folklore. Stifling and cloying, like being shut in a room for too long without any fresh air. Maybe a prison of thoughts, of desperation and desires unfulfilled. The thumping beat is joined by what sounds like dripping water hitting the ground at the same interval, the high and low qualities of each sound creating a great metronomic effect. Ghostly piano and the ever present strings finish the effect, making a solid soundscape that is a joy to listen to.

Lack of Language – A slowly rising vocal effect meets a floating resonance that splits the air, leaving an “ahhhh” sound in the mind. A thumping beat similar to the previous track begins, although faster, a little more like a heart that isn't quite at rest. This sets up the track’s momentum nicely. Another percussive beat joins the first, flittering brush strokes, almost military in fashion. Piano joins and the music swells creating a soundscape that feels like the end credits to a particularly sad film, one in which the hero tried but couldn't quite cut it. I guess in the images created by the previous tracks, this could be the music after the protagonist’s suicide, their way of escaping the 32 walls possibly.


Well what can I say, Self Destruction Themes was certainly a sad and melancholic trip for me, but one that was enjoyable even so. The prominence of the string and piano notes aided this effect as I always feel them to be quite melancholy notes at the best of times. Add in a little dripping water and audio grain and I am well on the way to imagining grey worlds filled with corroded metal.

I think When Indecision Strikes and More Often Than Not are probably my favourite tracks, the static, creaking and crowd noise of the first was very pleasing to me, the rainy misery of the latter also appealing in a gloomy kind of way. Lack of Language also gets a shout out for being a great culmination to the album.

I give Self Destruction Themes 4/5, a fascinating journey into bleakness with the knack of creating soundscapes that all feel different, yet share the same sad theme. Good stuff!

Visit the Self Destruction Themes page on Bandcamp at this link for more information.

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

Album Title: Self Destruction Themes
Album Artist: Worldclock
Label: Cryo Chamber
Release Date : December 15, 2015

Saturday 19 December 2015

Dark Book Review – The Phantom Cabinet

Dark Book Review – The Phantom Cabinet

Review Written By Casey Douglass

The Phantom Cabinet Cover

WHEN HEAVEN AND HELL DON’T EXIST…WHAT DOES? Space Shuttle Conundrum collides with empty atmosphere, passing from known reality into the realm beyond life. At the same time, a dead newborn is resurrected amidst a hospital-wide poltergeist infestation. What connects these ghastly occurrences and how can the fate of humanity rest on a single boy’s shoulders? As the haunted Douglas Stanton spends his adolescence an outcast—his only friend the ghost of a long lost astronaut—a porcelain-masked entity lurks in the shadows, planning Douglas’ demise. Because Douglas is the key… the key to the door… the door between what we know and what we fear. And when the key is turned…realities will come crashing together. Step into The Phantom Cabinet…

The first few chapters of The Phantom Cabinet set the scene for what the reader might expect from author Jeremy Thompson. It kicks off with a full-blown self-mutilation scenario on board a space shuttle that put me in mind of one of my fave sci-fi films Event Horizon. Gore and viscera fly, suicide and numb acceptance prevail. The next chapter depicts the poltergeist infestation mentioned in the blurb. Let’s just say that this doesn’t go much better for the poor victims of fear, and also, is one hell (pun intended) of a way for baby Douglas to come into our world.

The story proper starts after this, the confusion and character hopping of the earlier sections giving way to a calmer narrative pace that lets the reader focus on Douglas and his own peculiar troubles: that of being a magnet for departed spirits, not all of them friendly. As you might imagine, this is quite an impediment for a growing child, who frequently finds himself around the disaster area of spirit manifestations and atrocities.

I thought that this aspect of the book was very well realised. The reader ends up feeling truly sorry for Douglas as, for the most part, the other characters, both flesh and spirit, are out to get him. It’s almost a relief when he makes friends with Emmett and Benjy, two other kids not much further up the social scale than himself. The Phantom Cabinet shows how hard growing up can be, without being paranormally afflicted too. Jeremy Thompson also does a great job with letting the characters grow and change. Friends become enemies, bullies evolve and nothing stays stagnant, which is a very pleasing thing to see.

For all the ghosts Douglas sees, there are some recurring ones that are either out to aid or hinder him. His nemesis is a strange creation, but very effective in her weirdness and design. If you like Transformers, imagine a ghost version, where lesser ghosts build up to become one super strong one, and you are a fraction of the way there. I thought she was really well realised and her continual presence lurking throughout the book added a great sense of oppression to the narrative.

Structurally, the book is made up of quite small sections, which, while early on felt a little confusing, as I've already covered, but once well into the meat of the tale, provide a great momentum for the reader, not giving any one scene or happening too much wordage and so avoiding the risk of things becoming a bit dull or over familiar. I really liked this. The Phantom Cabinet is also a very easy read, a book that I seemed to get through more quickly than my average for a horror tale. The structure also lets you see how various fringe characters meet their end. Some of the deaths and the visions that lead to them are particularly inventive, one of my favourites featuring a hag-like woman taking some babies out for a walk. That doesn’t sound too bad until you read the nuances in the actual situation. It kind of stays with you. It did me anyway.

The Phantom Cabinet is a well-paced and interesting read, the gore and supernatural sitting easily with the isolated life of Douglas, and creates a great feeling of sympathy for him. The ending was satisfying, although I felt it seemed a little too compressed, like the end events were over a bit too quickly.
I give The Phantom Cabinet 4.5/5. It was an easy read with inventiveness and style and I would happily recommend it to any fan of horror fiction.

Visit Jeremy Thompson’s Goodreads page here for more information about him and to browse his other books.

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

Book Title: The Phantom Cabinet
Book Author: Jeremy Thompson

Friday 18 December 2015

Dark Music Review – Artificial

Dark Music Review – Artificial

Review Written By Casey Douglass

 Artificial Album Art

Artificial, the latest offering from Drifting in Silence, is a return to form, DiS owing its beginnings to the wave of musical innovation that was just becoming known at the time as ambient music. Derrick Stembridge, the beating heart behind Drifting in Silence, affirms, "This album is going back to the roots of the project for me. Pure ambient." A glimpse back is no denial, however, of new influences and the project's continuing musical growth. Artificial pays homage, of course, as does the entire genre, to Brian Eno. But, Stembridge says, "this album is heavily influenced by William Basinski."

Artificial, Drifting in Silence’s new ambient album, is an album that resides at the lighter end of the ambient spectrum, in my opinion at least. I usually dwell at the darker end of the ambient scale, so I felt a little like a fish out of water when it came to reviewing it. That being said, I had a pleasant time making my way through the tracks, each flowing easily into the next in a smooth and pleasing way. Speaking of the tracks...

The Tracks

Empty – This smooth track features flowing light notes and a simple melody with pleasant variations. It brought to my mind feelings of an empty bright space and purity.

Takeaway – High notes hang as a lower drone joins, layers build and fade with an electronic hum. After the midpoint some distorted vocalization and echoing notes join in. This felt like a warm track to me.

Descent – A dark and brooding start with the faint sounds of waves and a low soft drone. Distorted notes emerge from the drone, fast paced and getting louder. Sounds crystallize in the second third of the track, a pleasing rhythm carrying the listener to the end.

Surface – Gentle piano/keyboard notes set a subdued tone before things lift a little and then fluctuate between light and dark. This track created the feeling of what it might be like emerging from underground to find things have changed above ground in your absence.

Oceans – A quiet beginning with a low melody as a drone rises. The second half has some vocalization and a ‘clippy’ rhythm, some notes sounding like laser blasters from a sci-fi film.

Artificial – A dark and resonance filled start, string notes swelling and fading. This track becomes a bit more varied and harsher sounding towards the end.

Falling – Low notes undulate as they are held. There is a lot of note-bending going on but the track has a gentle feeling. This track also sounds a little harsher as it progresses.

Origin – A very low melody starts things off, as if coming from somewhere low down. The melodic notes feature a metallic tang that puts me in mind of the Machinarium video-game soundtrack. A fun and quirky feeling track.

Across – Bubbling quick notes give the impression of tiny things happening, maybe a boiling impression of the primordial soup or universal foam. Relaxing and a little strange to listen to.

Emotion – A dark rumbling featuring a variety of notes and sounds. This track has a slow pace, but the tone or impression given is a soundscape thick with energy.

Stay – Low notes rising into a dark starry sky. That seems like the best way to describe this track, a brooding but expansive atmosphere.

Intheend – Echoing high notes feel plucked out of the air. A light distorted vocal joins about a third of the way in with the rest of the notes and melody creating a gentle background.

Soulless – A high note meets a low drone. This track is another that feels gentle and also features soft distorted vocals. The overall tone felt sad to me.


I enjoyed listening to Artificial, but I will admit that I’m not sure it would have been an album I would have bought for myself. Not that there is any lack of quality or novelty to it, just on a very personal level, I like my ambient very dark. What I heard in Artificial, with a few exceptions, was more a light ambient album, many of the soundscapes giving me mental impressions of light airy spaces filled with white light or shining reflections.

There are certainly some tracks that did appeal to my darker listening habits, such as the dark feelings of Emotion. There were also some standout tracks for me, in that their sound had something that appealed to me in a novel way, such as the catchy rhythm of Descent and the bubbling notes of Across.

If you like lighter ambient themes, Artificial will probably be a 4/5 album for you. For my own dark tastes, it’s a 3/5 for me. Enjoyable, intricate, but ultimately not to my own personal taste.

Check out the Artificial website here for more information and prices.

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

Album Title: Artificial
Artist: Drifting In Silence
Releases: January 1, 2016

Thursday 17 December 2015

Dark Article - Mindful Binge-watching For Intelligent Geeks

Do you binge-watch TV shows? Are you intelligent? You are reading this so you must my opinion anyway. Check out Geek Syndicate for the article I wrote on Mindful Binge-watching For Intelligent Geeks. You can read the full thing at this link.

Clockwork Orange Image © Copyright Warner Bros.

Dark Film Review - Victor Frankenstein

Yes, we have another Frankenstein film on our hands in the guise of Victor Frankenstein, a gothic horror featuring James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe. Is it any good though? Visit Geek Syndicate to read my full review at this link.

Victor Frankenstein film poster © Copyright 20th Century Fox.

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Dark Music Review – Lacrimae Mundi

Dark Music Review – Lacrimae Mundi

Review Written By Casey Douglass

Lacrimae Mundi

I am a bird of sand on the wings of my scars remain from the rain, if you cry over me I'll disappear in your grief.”

CYCLIC LAW PRESS: "Active in the mid 90's, Croatia's TeHÔM has been resurrected in the past years by original member Miljenko Rajakovic. Their first 2 albums were released on Twilight Command, side label of Douglas P's NER label. TeHÔM's founding member Siniša Očurščak unfortunately passed away in 1997, victim of a probable war related cancer. 3 years after his passing their 2nd album, and what was thought to be their last, "Theriomorphic Spirits' was finally released. The project was then laid to rest and years later finally revived. A very surreal, obscure and cinematic sounding opus has been created by Miljenko, following closely in the footsteps of previous works but now taking the project to new levels. Yet always in keeping with Siniša's vision and in honor of his memory and spirit."

I must admit that I haven’t come across TeHÔM in my dark ambient travels, until now that is. TeHÔM, when translated into English means The Deep or Abyss, so really, that should give you a nice big hint about the kind of music contained on Lacrimae Mundi. If you are only comfortable sitting in the shallows while the leviathans frolic in the deeper spaces, this might not be the album for you, metaphorically speaking of course. Oh, go on then, it just might be. On to the tracks!

The Tracks

Perilous Depth – Even though the track opens with, what to me, sounds like swirls of a water-like sound, this track does a great job of creating a soundscape that puts me in mind of an old ruin. Distant thumps are joined by a voice saying “The Lord is My Shepherd”. Booms are joined by airy breathing. This track also features a pleasing tapped-out drum beat and unnerving echoes, along with throat chanting and other vocalisations. I could imagine this is what it would be like to be hiding in a labyrinth, trying to evade the Minotaur.

Darkness Cosmogony Of Myths – Dark rumblings and night-time insect drones joined by an echoing voice-over talking about darkness and fear. Clanking and instrumental notes overlay the scene with the impression of great powers being brought to bear. Seemingly discordant at times but layered and interesting to listen to.

Abyss – A dark leisurely beat reverberates in the darkness. It’s soon joined by the distorted gurgling of what seems like something awakening, some giant creature taking its first mammoth breaths in the stygian gloom. Tinkling bells, distorted and fast reverberating, take on the aspect of insects as a horn-like sound blares, snatches of voices exclaiming in alarm. Around the midpoint a strong drum beat sets up a rhythm, joined by didgeridoo-like sound. Maybe the creature is on the move, hunting once again.

Amorphous Structure – This track begins with water and snatches of bird-call, along with chitinous rattling and swelling electronic notes. A soundscape in which technology and the eldritch seem to meet. There is a voice-over about every man and every woman being a star. A whistling wind noise and crash is followed by a melody and resonances, with a drumbeat joining after.

The World Ended – Rumbling wind and thunderous waves of sound are a violent start to this track. Maybe it’s the shock-wave from a massive nuclear detonation. A voice says: “I’m recording this in case anyone ever finds it, so you can see, see how the world ended”. A simple deep melody carries this track, higher notes and distortions joining it at times. It’s an energetic soundscape, but desolate too. Various snatches of other vocalisations are joined by other instruments as the track progresses, nothing staying the same for too long at a time. Fantastic horn towards the end gives a great, gates of hell opening vibe too.

Lacrimae Mundi – Juddery tapping sounds and a long windy exhale open for a voice talking about the ‘Tears of the World’. An ominous beat starts and stops, and a roaming drone takes residence in the soundscape. If there ever was a track that could evoke the sound that might be at the core of the earth, if it was hollow, heartbroken and angry, this might be it.

The Magnitude Of Shaking – Guttural sounds and distorted words echo into a sucking darkness that seems to contain slithering things and less tangible threats. Sounds of civilization nestle uneasily amongst the rumbles, the soundscape merging the mundane with a darker reality in an interesting and effective way.

Atum – Another windy start to a track with a gently held note that comes and goes, a little louder each time, like a prolonged didgeridoo note. Strange echoes and movements are joined by a more consuming rumbling, static clicks and resonances adding more layers to the soundscape. Voices distort and hissing emerges, giving the impression of a humid, acrid space.

Modality Of Cosmic Matter – A single beat and a host of voices talking about being quiet, secrets and light. Thumping beats, hanging electricity swells and hints of string make this another breathy, multi-toned track that continues to give the listener new things to listen to.


Lacrimae Mundi is a brooding dark ambient creation with plenty of ominous beats and vibrating rumblings. This I like very much. The snippets of voices also lend the soundscapes a great themic quality, putting the listener’s mind onto certain avenues that might otherwise have been ignored if there was no word-based prompting.

I think my favourite tracks are Perilous Depth and Abyss, as both feature an audio effect that I am realising I enjoy more and more: the sounds of what might be a massive titan-like creature breathing in the darkness. Breathing is often something that can be relaxing to listen to, but given the dark context found on this, and many other dark ambient albums, it becomes something darker and more thrilling.

I enjoyed listening to Lacrimae Mundi and found it to be an album that sits easily in the background if working, or comfortably as the sole object of the listener’s focus. I give it 4/5.

Visit the Lacrimae Mundi page on Bandcamp at this link for more information. You can take a listen to Abyss below too!

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

Album Title: Lacrimae Mundi
Album Artist: TeHÔM
Label: Cyclic Law Records
Mastering: Frédéric Arbour
Artwork: Dehn Sora
Release Date : 28 July 2015

Tuesday 15 December 2015

Dark Fiction - Super Hero

Dark Fiction - Super Hero

Written By Casey Douglass

Image used freely courtesy of

‘You’re not the super hero this area needs, you’re the one it deserves!’
The door thumped shut behind him.
Steve pondered what had just occurred. He’d been playing Fallout 4 while Beverly had been reading. He’d called something out to the screen in a charming, gentlemanly manner when a cheap-shot from a bandit had killed him yet again. Bev had said something crass to him so he’d called her an overly sensitive harridan and she’d hit the roof! He couldn’t be one hundred percent sure of the wording, or even if the events had really happened. Where did being a hero come into things? He sucked his teeth.
The door opened and shut sharply behind him once more. He looked down and found his eyes met by those of a cross-eyed Jack Russell whose expression, besides being hilarious, conveyed her annoyance at being dragged into yet another one of his emotional messes.
‘And take Phoebe with you!’ Bev’s voice sounded through the door.
He rubbed his chin. That might have had some bearing on the events that had so recently transpired. Phoebe always went a bit cross-eyed when she was desperate for the toilet. Any other time, her eyes were totally fine, which he pondered was very good news. He had such an empathic link with her, his eyes were beginning to turn a little inwards too.
‘Come on Pheebs! Let’s get you walked so I can see straight again!’
She turned her head away, in disgust or looking at another visual image of him, he couldn’t tell. He picked up her lead, the other end already being conveniently connected to her collar by Bev, and stepped out into the cold wintry air.
Dog shit enveloped the edge of his right foot as a shaven-headed youth drove past in his modified Corsa, the bass-beats making bubbles rise in the brown sludge. A small light went on in Steve’s mind. The super hero this area deserves. As he looked around at the mouldy cheese poking out of someone’s letterbox and the first acrid tang of dog shit hitting his nostrils, he had the inkling that Bev just might have been taking the piss.

Reaching the small bit of grassland where little Pheebs regularly enjoyed her toilet motions, Steve stared into the distance, like a war hero in search of his next war, but hoping not to find one. He felt the retractable lead click and pull as her highness went for a little wander. He thought he’d make a great super hero and to prove it, he’d act like one for the next five minutes. He smiled. He had a rich inner life that he could draw on at a moment’s notice and he knew it! Maybe that could be his super power? It’d always saved him after all: from boredom, bad weather and dull people. Thirty seconds in and he’d already discovered his superpower!
His heart raced as he watched Phoebe squat down. If she did a crap, he wasn’t sure he had any bags with him to pick it up. He sighed in relief as she looked over her shoulder at him. Did she just wink? A golden stream hit the grass as he felt his eyes uncross in tandem with hers.
‘Good girl!’ he smiled. She looked away. He wondered what her superpower might be.
He gasped. What about his weakness? Sod the dog! He needed a weakness to be a legit super hero! Most hero-types had something that was key to their downfall. Superman had his kryptonite, the A-team were phobic about actually killing people, and Captain America looked a right tosser in his costume!
Steve shook his head. He’d choose something obscure. Synapses flared across his brain in arcs of brilliant neural-connective power. Anyone carrying out a brain scan at the time would see the pattern roughly make out the shape of fist a with a raised middle finger.
A pierced penis! He gave the air a small air punch, casually looking around afterwards to see if anyone might have witnessed the assault. He was alone. Besides Phoebe, or rather, Phoebe was beside him looking up at him with a new expression.
‘I’ve got it Phoebe! I know what my weakness will be!’
She sniffed and waited.
He wasn’t sure why the topic of a pierced penis entered his mind. He’d been trying to think of the most unpleasant things that he might have to go through, but which he had control over and were so unlikely that they wouldn't ever happen. He’d never liked the idea of having a penile piercing, the thought was horrible. The mental image of a slice of ham being perforated by a hole-punch loomed in his mind’s eye. He shivered.
He wasn’t sure what the effect of the aforementioned piercing might be. Maybe he’d lose his will to be a super hero and just end up sitting in front of the TV all day.
He grinned. He had his superpower: a rich internal life, and his weakness: a spiked sausage. Not bad for a few minute's thought.
‘Come on Pheebs, let’s go home!’
Phoebe shot off, the retractable lead whirring like a dynamo. Steve struggled to keep up as they both passed a mother pushing her baby in a stroller. As they neared home, Phoebe ran on, past the gateway, hell-bent on going somewhere else.
‘No!’ Steve cried, ‘This way wonder dog!’ He pulled back on the lead and the world seemed to turn. His super strength corralled the twitchy Jack Russell, sinews straining as she slowly walked to the left like he wanted her to.
Shit! That wasn’t his superpower was it! Ah, but it was a product of his rich inner life, so that was okay. Steve smiled, barely hearing the baby pushing mother say: ‘What a twat!’

Dog inside, lead undone, a triumphant stroll into the kitchen to kiss his lady.
‘What was that for?’ Bev asked, her eyes scanning him from head to toe.
‘I just wanted to show I loved you!’
‘And what my dearest?’
‘And that’s why you’ve now walked dog shit all through the flat?’
Steve turned and looked down at the floor, his eyes tracing the path of smeary brown footprints. God damn it! He’d forgotten about the dog shit!
‘Stand back!’ he exclaimed. ‘I'll handle this!’


This story was written in the hope that it makes my good friend Steve unleash the kind of smirking giggle that he so excels at. Steve, his lovely partner Beverly and their furry little friend Phoebe also featured in another of my tales a few years ago, which you can read at this link.

Sunday 13 December 2015

Dark Film Review – Hector and The Search For Happiness

Dark Film Review – Hector and The Search For Happiness

Review Written By Casey Douglass

Film Poster © Copyright Relativity Media

First up, Hector and The Search For Happiness isn’t a particularly dark film. There are night scenes and some peril but on the whole, it could probably be shown during the evening on national TV. That being said, I watched it today and in an effort to keep some kind of writing mojo moving, I thought I’d review it. The film stars Simon Pegg as the titular Hector, a psychiatrist who comes to the realisation that he isn’t actually happy, his life running through the same well-worn patterns and habits, his clockwork-like girlfriend Clara (Rosamund Pike) seemingly happy to live in the same manner. As with all surface appearances, cracks begin to appear, and after an outburst at a patient, Hector decides he must go on a trip, leaving Clara behind at home.

The film then settles into quite an easy rhythm, Hector travelling somewhere, meeting someone, either by chance or some old acquaintance, having some kind of human experience, be it adventure, peril or some illustration of the fact that not all humans are total arseholes, and then moving onto the next location. All of this is then to be condensed down into a one line summary for the philosophy or pointers of what leads to happiness, and to then be written in his quaint little notebook. I lost count of how many tips he ends up coming away with by the end, I believe it was into the double digits however.

Simon Pegg does do the bumbling English tourist thing very well; his noisy Velcro pockets and his inability to hold onto pens all coming across in an affable, comedic way. That isn’t to say that he finds himself having a lovely holiday. He does get put through the mill, both emotionally and physically at times, but the easy pace of the film and the characters he meets along the way all do a good job of making it stay interesting. Keep an eye out for the excellent Jean Reno and Stellan Skarsgård in those respects.

The whole film could easily be reduced down to one philosophy, “Be open to life and don’t be too controlling.” But then, wherever would the 90 minute film be with something as concise as that. I enjoyed watching the film, as far as it went, but I couldn’t help feeling that it just feeds the bullshit notion that you have to go to the far flung places of the world before you can say you have lived. After all, there are more types of exploration to be made in this life than merely the geographical. Beyond that nitpick, it was a worthwhile watch and I enjoyed it more than I expected.

I give Hector and The Search For Happiness 3.5/5. It won’t blow your socks off but it was surprisingly acceptable fare.

Saturday 12 December 2015

Dark Pondering - A Circle of Jerks?

Dark Pondering - A Circle of Jerks? 

Written By Casey Douglass

Circle film Image © Copyright FilmBuff

I watched a film on Netflix yesterday. It was called Circle and starred a fair few people I recognised from other things, but could never tell you their names without Google’s help. The setup of the film is that a group of people regain consciousness while standing in a circle. I hope that didn’t shock you, it did come at you from nowhere right? Long story short, they have to vote to see who gets killed by a strange energy beam next. I quite enjoyed the film, it was interesting to see how people began to bicker and argue, especially when under stress. There are some spoilerish things below so if you decide you want to watch the film, you might like to do that first and read the rest of this post another day. I try not to give everything away though.

It is interesting to see how people try to judge the worth of another’s life. The people in the film worked their way through many aspects of life: age, career, marital status, the existence of family or not, skin colour, sexual persuasion and religion to name but a few. On reading, that certainly makes them sound like an utter bunch of wankers, but on the other hand, how do you judge the worth of someone? It seems the only rational answer is simply not to judge, that every life has worth. That wouldn’t make much of a film I’m sure, and it rarely happens in real life, which is very sad. The people in the film were put in a situation that seemed to point them towards having to choose, but even that didn't mean they had to vote for someone else’s death.

Some of the people refuse to kill others by voting, and there are others who sacrifice themselves instead. The assembled group also splits into factions consisting of those who feel everyone is equal, and those who feel a young girl and a pregnant woman had the most right to survive. There is even an endgame in play but I won’t give away any more spoilers here.

I think I clicked with the film as worth is something I have always struggled to see in myself. On the other hand, I know I am guilty of judging others just as harshly at times too. I think it comes from the old habit of the human mind, that of wanting to compare things: what we have and what we don't have, what we do and what they do. Used sensibly, it can give us information about how to right injustice, highlight areas of our lives we need to work on, and things like that. Used wrongly, it can inspire hate, greed, alienation and low self-esteem. One theme of the film was the occasional agreement between some of the people, who did agree that the uniting thing amongst them all was that everyone wanted to live. The sad thing is that many felt that this justified any behaviour that helped toward that end. You’ll be shocked to hear that the concern for others’ well-being only extended so far as the person expressing the concern was safe themselves, with the odd exception.

We all need a strong survival instinct. If we didn’t have it, the human race would probably have died out millennia ago. On the other hand, humans need more than survival, or what's the point? If we devolve into angry primates when the chips are down, we are undoing any sense of progress or advancement we might have achieved as we have evolved. After all, if we take the big picture view, every person alive at this moment in time has been a fantastic product of survival. Surely that makes us all equally worthy to be alive right now? Our jobs, hobbies, social circle or lack thereof don’t mean we have any less right to be here. On the other hand, it is this same survival instinct that means, in a 1-on-1 life or death situation with another, we are quite naturally inclined to side with the continuation of our own existence.

It’s certainly a tough one. I applaud Circle for giving people something to think about.

Friday 11 December 2015

Dark Music Review - Earth Songs

Dark Music Review – Earth Songs

Review Written By Casey Douglass

Earth Songs

Dronny Darko and protoU presents us a highly conceptual work in Earth Songs. Starting with the Big Bang, leading us through a path of evolution from the first life below the surface to the connected consciousness of humanity and us finally leaving earth. A dark ambient album of soothing, dreamy atmospheric drones and field recordings.

Earth Songs is a dark ambient album built around an intriguing concept. As the above album description says, each track takes the listener through various time-frames and gives them an aural slice of history and future as the time-line moves forward. It is also, as the description says, very soothing. On my first two listening sessions, which happened back to back, I fell asleep half way through...twice! I think that this is due to a good number of the tracks featuring birdsong and animal calls which I just found innately relaxing. Anyway, on to the tracks!

The Tracks

Explosion [ 13.8 billion years ago ] - A muted explosion starts this track which then peters out into a swirling drone. What sounds like hints of strings and other thuds and bangs grants the soundscape an ominous roiling feeling, energy moving and creating, higher sounds seeming to show electrons and other particles vibrating in an orgy of light.

Life Beneath the Surface [ 3.8 billion years ago ] - An encompassing drone waxes and wanes, possibly hinting at the surface activity of a sea full of arching waves. As the track continues, dripping water and rainfall almost hints at an underwater cave leading out into somewhere above ground, with birdsong and footsteps walking along gravelly pathways. There is also a very pleasing tapping noise that echoes softly beneath the swells of string notes, adding its own feeling of time.

Riparian Forest [ 300 million years ago ] - Chirruping insects, birds and calling monkeys fill a gently noted soundscape that conjures an image of a shady forest floor dappled with sunlight and the scurryings of small creatures. A seemingly simple track that gives the listener ample chance to enjoy and absorb the sounds of the creatures.

Extinction [ 66 million years ago ] - This track comes in with what sounds like harsh wind, rising and fluctuating before begin joined by an airy drone that lends things a rumbling layer of threat. Things get harsher as the track continues, an almost orchestral-sounding held note joined by static clashes and breathy bluster. Lone notes see the track out as things quieten near the end with what seems like a massive exhale.

Primate [ 50 million years ago ] - Bubbling water and insect calls are joined by a resonance that hangs in the air above everything else. This resonance gets harsher just past the midpoint, distortions and higher pitches jarring a little. I like the two aspects of this track: the ever present insects and the jarring noises that hint at something not being right, maybe reflecting the birth of man and his destructive seed.

Singularity [ 2045 AD ] - A low drone builds with high-toned notes around it. The high notes spell a short repeating melody, a little like if you could get an ice-cream truck in heaven, its music might sound like this. Embracing and ominous at the same time, the odd bit of birdsong relaxing, the static dissonance jarring. A track of many faces and feelings.

Leaving Earth [ 2135 AD ] - A low start rumbles into an echoing metallic-sounding motion with fizzing sparks and droning engines. This track put me in mind of a great ark ship taking humanity into the stars. It doesn’t sound like a celebration though as whispered voices and mutterings hint at an unsteady and volatile atmosphere. The tone uplifts a little near the end, maybe offering hope as the ship vanishes into the dark distance of space.


There is a great deal to like about Earth Songs. I love the concept that the album is based on and this, along with the track titles, gives the listener some great guideposts to what might be happening in the soundscapes. The soundscapes themselves are gentle and smooth, and as mentioned at the start of the review, the birdsong and animal calls sits so well with the darker drones and resonances that it is a genuinely relaxing listen, for dark ambient fans anyway.

I found Life Beneath The Surface and Riparian Forest were my favourite tracks, partly because I found them the most relaxing. Saying that, the dual face of some of the later tracks, such as Primate and Singularity had my mind undecided about whether to feel at ease or slightly uneasy, and this was pleasurable in and of itself.

Earth Songs is a tremendous dark ambient album and one that genuinely takes the listener on a journey, even if only mental, through the ages. I give it 4.5/5 and would happily recommend it to any dark ambient fan.

Visit the Earth Songs page on Bandcamp at this link for more information, and feel free to check out Riparian Forest below:

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

Album Title: Earth Songs
Album Artists: Dronny Darko & protoU
Label: Cryo Chamber
Artwork & Mastering: Simon Heath
Release Date : 28 July 2015

Wednesday 9 December 2015

Dark Music Review – Onyx

Dark Music Review – Onyx

Review Written By Casey Douglass

3 veteran producers in the genre, Apocryphos, Kammarheit & Atrium Carceri, collaborate on this behemoth of an album. Each utilizing each others strengths to bring forth a dark and emotional ride through distant memories.

Onyx is a soundscape journey related to the reflection of dispirited memories and obscure sorrows felt by mankind. With the multitude of techniques used by each artist, it also reflects the rich history of the dark ambient genre and how it has progressed through the decades.

The signature analogue darkness of gargantuan caves of Kammarheit is combined with the sacral and emotional layering of Apocryphos and the rhythmical bass throbbing and isolated pianos of Atrium Carceri. This album was created by cross linking 3 studios in Oregon (US), Pennsylvania (US) and Umeå (Sweden). It took over 3800 lines of studio notes to finalize the album.

3800 lines of studio notes sounds like a heck of a lot of collaborating to me and it has certainly paid off with Onyx, a dark ambient album that is the perfect home for the atmospheric tracks nestling in its bosom. Each track fits in snugly with the others and all together, they serve to create an emotive and sinister soundscape that is a pleasure to listen to.

The Tracks

Immemorial – A muted rain-like sound is joined by a heartbeat-like beat and cold piano notes that give the impression of sound-waves resonating back to the listener from lichen-covered tombstones.

Ones Atop the Unknown – A repeating distant melody with reedy swells of sound and a reactive drone that seems to embrace and amplify the effect. It conjures a feeling of being stuck at midnight in a musty study as the embers in the fire place slowly wink out, darkness and the hot air mingling as the moon watches on through condensated window panes.

Night So Close to the Tongue – Another track that feels muggy and close, strings and chimes playing in a phantasmal room of mourning, creating a bitter feeling of melancholy.

A Lonely Strain – A dark echoing space populated with delicate notes that hang in the air against harsher vibrations and swells. Brings to mind what it might be like to watch a lone will o’ the wisp floating through a desolate cave network.

Aphotic – Eerie metallic resonances are joined by a fast paced repeating rhythm, a lot like a clock running far too fast. This lends the whole track a kinetic feeling of dark energy, the other aural elements, such as vocals and drones all underpinning things in a great sounding soundscape that expertly carries its own momentum.

Cavern of Igneous Flame – This is an aptly named track, the opening sounds giving a great impression of a flame-filled cavern, but with the added bonus of the possibility of some creature dwelling at the back, the impression of massive lungs breathing adding an ominous flavour to the soundscape.

Onyx – Delicate strings and a light drone create a mournful feeling before being joined by a pleasing beat that carries everything along. In places the track sounds like a hive of industrious bees before a melody change just after the midpoint where a few more notes come into play.

A Pale Sign Revealed – Rattling and vibrating notes dance with strings and higher tones in a slow-paced soundscape that haunts and escalates into another melancholy swirl of mist-like emotion. The gentle guitar melody is really rather nice too.

Avenoir – A similar track to the first, muted rain and cold piano notes providing a great shortish track to play out the end of the album, giving the ghosts previously conjured a nice soundtrack to walk home to.


It has taken me a long time to review Onyx, in no small part because my first exposures to the tracks often left me drifting off to sleep. That is in no way a criticism, I was feeling more unwell than usual and Onyx is a particularly mellow dark ambient creation. Staying awake, of course, gave me a far better understanding of what was going on.

As I have said in some of my track analysis, a good number of the tracks create claustrophobic, muggy feelings, placing the listener in a calm environment, but one that seems pregnant with possibility. I could definitely see myself listening to Onyx looking out through a frost-tinged window as night rolls in. It has that kind of cold beauty to it.

I give Onyx 4.5/5, the track composition and bitter soundscapes a great accompaniment for quiet introspection, or sleep in my case.

Visit the Onyx page on Bandcamp at this link for more information and check out one of the tracks below:

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

Album Title: Onyx
Album Artists: Simon Heath, Robert Kozletsky, Pär Boström
Label: Cryo Chamber
Artwork: Simon Heath, Pär Boström
Mastering: Simon Heath
Release Date : 8 September 2015