Monday 30 July 2018

Dark Fiction - Fiasco

Dark Fiction - Fiasco

By Casey Douglass


(Contains gross-out humour).

Fiasco was both his nickname, and a very accurate description of his life to date. Sometimes, it was shortened to Fi. Most of the time, it was shortened to Ass. Which was a bit unkind, to say the least. Some people are coddled by fate, others are held down, ball-gagged and jolly rogered by it. No prizes for guessing which side Fiasco fell on.

Fi always gave the impression of a court jester out of uniform. It was partly why the palace guards ignored him and gave him the full run of the grounds. He used this power to his utmost, enriching his life, using the expansive royal library and, no, he didn’t. He used it to perv at the queen. It should be said that Fiasco lived in a realm in which royalty lived around every corner. Hell, even his postman used to be a king of somewhere apparently. It was just one quirk of the peculiar land of Knell. Another will be catching up with him any moment now.

He sat in the flower bed, a conifer hiding his presence from the roaming officials and guards. There were limits to their amiability. It was his secret place, and, more importantly, a place he could catch strands of the queen’s hair when she brushed it at her window. He didn’t do anything kinky with it, he just liked to hold it and know it was hers. He sometimes sat elsewhere, on those days when she was at a low enough window to see clearly. At other times, she retreated higher up the minaret, and on these days, he settled for the flower bed.


He was pulled from a deepening revelry by the sneeze. It was her, bless her beautiful nose, her rosy lips and her dimpling cheeks. If he’d been more with it, he’d have known to roll to the side and pray it missed him. As it happened, it landed squarely on his head, pushing itself over his face and body, like a condom slowly being rolled down a cucumber. His shout of disgust popped with a gloop as the goo parted around his mouth.

This is another quirk of Knell. Things that fall from on high grow and gain mass the further they fall. Things on the ground that are propelled into the sky become lighter and less substantial. It’s hell when it rains but very handy for space exploration, if and when they get around to inventing flying machines. I’d say it’s a classic case of swings and roundabouts, but swings really could put undue stress on the body in Knell. Maybe I’ll just say it’s a case of roundabouts, and seem a little strange.

In Fiasco’s case, the queen’s sneeze fell far enough and for long enough to become quite a ball of fluid. Fiasco sat stock still as he realised that he could feel it seeping down his collar. He shuddered. It was still warm. He stood and peered through the conifer. Amazingly enough, no one was around so he ran like he’d never run before.

Sadly, he hadn’t run before, and his epic escape lasted five seconds before he tripped over his own foot and landed face down on the cobbles. Shrill laughter rang from a window to his left, voices calling and jittering. He pushed himself to his feet one more time, and trudged through the palace gate, the guards snotting into their mouth-covering hands with laughter.

It was a long trek. The midday sun seemed to baked the stuff onto him, drying it into crisp platelets that moulded to his form. People pointed and laughed, as he’d expected, but he was lost in thought, which took much of the sting out of their jibes. It was a weighty matter that consumed his mind, one that both troubled and teased him. It was the kind that demanded an answer or would forever tweak his nipples. Basically, Fiasco was assessing if he still fancied the queen. Could he fancy someone who’d covered him in mucus? Or more troubling still, did he desire her even more? And if he did, what did that say about him?

It was because of these thoughts that he didn’t detect the smoke. Or the screams. Or the general scorched look that the brickwork had around him. He snapped out of his mental masturbation well and truly when he saw the body-parts littering the street.

‘Run you bloody fool!’ an old man shouted as he pushed past.

‘What’s happened?’ Fiasco shouted after him.

‘Dillexers! Exploding cask!’ the man yelled over his shoulder.

A whoosh of flame blew the door from its hinges on the next house along the road, hysterical screaming following its flight. Fiasco stood for a moment, things falling into place in his mind and coming up with a course of action that his body felt was feasible. He dashed into the building, the flames that were licking out from the windows hissing as they hit his gooey armour. Then the second explosion hit, and it all went dark for Fiasco at the point.


He came to in a comfy bed, crisp white linen dazzling him when he cracked his eyelids open.

‘He’s awake!’ a woman yelled, setting Fiasco’s heart into a frenzy.

‘Where am I?’ he groaned.

‘It’s okay!’ she said, kneeling beside the bed and taking his hand. ‘You’re safe. You’re a hero to boot!’

‘A hero?’

‘You saved that poor woman?’

‘I did? I don’t remember much.’

‘Yes, you saved her! You ran into that burning house and came flying out of the door with her in your arms.’

Fiasco squinted as a memory surfaced. It was the terrified face of an elderly woman. She was being propelled towards him by an explosion behind her. Her forehead had smashed into his face...

‘Ahh, I see.’

‘She was ever so grateful.’

‘That’s nice.’

‘You don’t sound very happy?’

‘It’s just that I didn’t really save her. I was just lucky.’

‘That doesn’t matter! From what I hear, you put yourself in the right position for luck to find you! You were very brave running into that conflagration. I couldn’t have done that!’

‘That was only because I was unlucky earlier in the day.’

‘How so?’

‘It doesn’t matter. I’m just no hero, that’s all.’

‘You were caked in soot and ash. We had to peel it off you. Strange that the old dear wasn’t as dirty.’

‘Hmm. When can I go?’

‘Anytime you fancy. You seem to be fine, but you might want to stick around awhile.’


‘The old dear was a relation of queen Silvia. The queen wants to personally thank you for saving her great aunt!’

‘Silvia? As in the queen with a beautiful nose, rosy lips and dimpling cheeks?’

‘Yes, that Silvia! An actual wealthy queen who lives in a castle! Not some washed up has-queen who is washing the stains out of undergarments down the lane!’

Fiasco shifted his gaze to the ceiling as his mind entered overdrive. He had a decision to make, the one that had consumed his mind before he’d been distracted by flying old women and fumes. He hated it when his thoughts became locked onto a topic, it made him feel ill. His nipples began to feel as though they were being squeezed in a lobster’s claws. What should he do? What should he do?


Tuesday 24 July 2018

Dark Music Review – Abysmal

Dark Music Review – Abysmal

Review Written By Casey Douglass

Abysmal Album Art

There is something about the sea. When we think about massive spaces, the sky above usually grabs all of the attention, yet we’ve hardly made a dent in the wonders of the ocean. The sea is a flowing medium that can suffocate and crush us, or even simply conceal things that want to end our existence, and that doesn’t necessarily have to be the Elder Gods. In Abysmal, Ugasanie & Xerxes the Dark have created a dark ambient dose of warm insidious terror, one that takes the listener by the air-hose and drags them into the murk.
Album Description: Ugasanie & Xerxes the Dark team up on this album exploring the darkest depths of the ocean. The walls creak as you find your balance in the swaying research ship. A week in this storm is enough to make any man’s stomach turn, but today you enter the depths of the ocean. You slap some pills into your food hole and climb to deck, the bathyscaphe stands ready. You're 10 hours deep into the ocean when the power goes out. What the hell is going on up there? The darkness outside is thick, snake-like shadows worm around the vessel. Your trembling hand pushes down on the radio transmitter button, it's dead. For lovers of deep drone and isolated soundscapes, you want to swim with the leviathan? This is your album.

(FYI: A bathyscaphe is a kind of deep sea submersible. It’s also the title of one of the tracks, so I just knew I’d have to Google it to find out what it was. I thought it might just be like a bath-based-catastrophy, maybe someone slipping on the soap as they try to get out. I’ve certainly learned my thing for the day).

The tracks on Abysmal make great use of field-recordings to achieve their effect, which is something that I nearly always enjoy. From the opening sea-bird cries of Ships That Do Not Return, to the creaking metal heard in Creatures Of The Depths, the recordings do a fantastic job of setting the scene. And that’s not even mentioning the wonderful sounds of water, be it the broiling sea or the delicate bubbles rising from the depths.

Actually, I will stay with Creatures Of The Depths for a bit longer, as it’s a track that I really clicked with. After a very deep-sounding opening, we hear a flurry of bubbles and the diving klaxon of a submersible. After even more bubbles, we are treated to a variety of metal creaks that we can follow as they move from ear to ear. If this track doesn’t conjure impressions of sinking into the watery abyss, nothing likely will. The titular creatures, when heard, seem to call and cry with an underwater kind of wolf-howl. That’s the best way I can describe it. Top stuff.

Another track that I particularly enjoyed was The Unseen Dead Ship. The title itself brought to mind ghostly images, and the soundscape contained within certainly seemed to go along with this notion. After some bubbling water, again a sound that flowed from ear to ear, we hear an airy drone with a slight rumbling. Creaking is heard, possibly wooden this time, possibly a mast. I got the impression of fog as higher tones came out to play, a shimmer that hinted at the ghostly manifestation suggested by the track title. Another fun track.

Finally, and the final track of the album, The Sailor’s Song. This features yet more of the delicious field-recordings, setting the briny scene, but ends with a sailor’s voice. His words end with a cough and the sounds of drowning, which was a lovely surprise and something that I didn’t see coming. Dark eh? I loved it, and can’t think of a more interesting way to end an album.

Abysmal is a dark ambient album that features a watery mixture of gentle deepness and active darkness. Pressure builds as the soundscapes deepen, the sounds distorted by the fathoms, pulling the listener down and along for the ride. If your mind is tired of soaring among the heavens, or roaming strange dimensions, why not let it be dragged into the abyss for awhile, and see what comes and gives it a nibble.

Check out the Abysmal page on Bandcamp here for more information, and be sure to check out Creatures of the Depths below:

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

Album Title: Abysmal
Artists: Ugasanie & Xerxes the Dark
Label: Cryo Chamber
Released: Jul 10, 2018

Tuesday 10 July 2018

Dark Ambient Review – The Messenger

Dark Ambient Review – The Messenger

Review Written By Casey Douglass

Dark Ambient Review – The Messenger

Scott Lawlor’s The Messenger is a dark ambient album that for me, brings to mind the notion of some Luciferian being wending his way into the world to whisper his dark message into the ears of the receptive. Its soundscapes are clean and uncluttered, which is what you’d probably imagine when you hear that it was created with one take improvisations.
Album Description: This album was recorded over a weekend in October of 2015. All tracks, except 4 and 10 were one-take improvisations using only one sound for each track on the Roland fa08 with no overdubs. Track 4 was originally in two parts but I felt that it flowed better as one and track 10 had some additional piano. Track titles from the Messenger at

I’m not sure how unduly the album art might have influenced me, but the streak of light was a theme that seemed to follow me with each track. As an example, The Heart Transcends Desire has specific tones that aided this. This track features a hanging undulating tone that conjured to mind a spinning disc of some kind, catching the light. It also had a tone that put me very much in mind of an old-fashioned alarm clock ringing, which further added to the effect.

Other tracks seemed to give me an 80s B-movie horror vibe. When Flesh and Bone Expire is one example of this, the bone-clinking sounds at one point being joined by the noise an energy weapon might make as it dissolves a human to powder. This track sounds a bit insectoid in places, and I’m sure I heard the thrum of a flying-saucer’s propulsion system at some point.

Playing into the whole “Lucifer” notion I first mentioned at the start, a few of the tracks sound a little “churchy” to me. Stepping Past a Graveyard's Stare is one, the sounds and notes sound sonorous and religious somehow, before things quieten at times into a more whimsical soundscape. It’s a bit like hearing strains of circus music as it reaches you in your coffin, six feet below the earth.

The Messenger is a very dark album that creates some interesting soundscapes with the minimum of fuss. Something all of the tracks seem to have in common is the love of waxing and waning sound, the way things build and then quieten, and then evolve into something similar but different. Some do feature the odd “overload” effect of the sound getting very harsh in key places, but for the most part, it’s a smooth ride.

If you are a fan of dark ambient that manages to be dark and uncluttered, you’d do well to check out The Messenger.

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

Album Title: The Messenger
Artist: Scott Lawlor
Released: Feb 27, 2018

Thursday 5 July 2018

Dark Ambient Review – The Edge of Architecture

Dark Ambient Review – The Edge of Architecture

Review Written By Casey Douglass

The Edge of Architecture Review

From the moment I first heard ProtoU’s own flavour of dark ambient goodness, I’ve come to view Sasha’s work as an almost guaranteed way to relax. Yes, I can easily lose myself in demonic rumblings and sci-fi energy swells, but, as is mentioned in the album description below, the blend of cold and warm, field-recordings and electronic tones, soothes me more than almost any other. Only the mighty Azathoth still takes prime position in being my go to relaxation track. Anyway, on to The Edge of Architecture:
Sasha further explores the themes of her first collaboration album Earth Songs. While her album "Khmaoch" explored the roots of civilization, "The Edge of Architecture" probes into the future of the modern age. Black gigantic buildings loom over our hubris as we reach for the unnatural with each new brick in the wall. The night reeks of dark fluid as flickering neon lights reflect on wet streets. Winds howl over a jungle of steel and shadows of automated builders creak in the distance. Field recordings blend with deep drone and ethereal overlays on this immersive album. For lovers of Sasha's unique style of cold and warm ambient blended together into an emotional ride.

While The Edge of Architecture’s description and album art hints at darkness, concrete and abandonment, I actually felt a number of tracks brought daylight to my mind, dare I say it, even blue skies. Quiet Sky is the opener, and begins with the terse reports of air-traffic controllers merging into relaxed warm tones. There are doses of birdsong and insects later in the track too. For some reason this track just filled my head with the image of a deep blue sky, and not much else. A feeling of deep emptiness, and this is something that I carried on feeling for the duration of the album.

Any other sounds that emerge, even if hinting at civilization, seem ghostly and more echo-like in the context of the tones around them. I don’t mean they literally seem like echoes, but just suggest themselves as such. As an example, Falling Home, after what sounds like a storm, works in the sounds of children at play. Rather than feeling that they are there though, it felt more like hearing the world through closed curtains, all you can see maybe the sunlight through the material.

I think my favourite track was Glass Fractals as it features an audio effect that I’m not sure I’ve heard before. Each tone is accompanied by the tiny crack a bubble might make as it pops. This gave the very pleasing effect of feeling the notes gently popping into my ears, and I found it quite uncanny. I also enjoyed Hidden City as it felt like a track that was built around the clever use of radio static at its center.

The Edge of Architecture is another high quality entry into ProtoU’s portfolio of layered, emotive dark ambient. The field-recordings and clever use of subtle effects, such as the bubble-popping notes, makes each track a dark caress in a world that has gone to shit, but in which someone cares. I was going to say a bit more but I don’t think I can top that last sentence for accurately saying what I feel.

Check out the The Edge of Architecture page on Bandcamp here for more information, and be sure to check out Glass Fractals below:

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

Album Title: The Edge of Architecture
Artist: ProtoU
Label: Cryo Chamber
Released: Feb 06, 2018

Tuesday 3 July 2018

Dark Film Review – Tau

Dark Film Review – Tau

Review by Casey Douglass

Tau Film Review

Smart speakers and other devices are infesting our homes, giving us the impression that we are even more the masters of our domain than usual. Skynet. Sorry, I just wanted to get that out of the way now. While idly browsing Netflix UK the other day, I saw a new film had been added, one that taps into these notions of meat-based master and techno-servents: Tau.

The main character Julia (Maika Monroe) is abducted from her apartment, fitted with a strange glowing implant in the back of her neck, and thrown into a cell with two other unfortunates. She’s a crafty one though, and soon finds a way to set them all free. Then she meets the titular Tau (Gary Oldman), the artificial intelligence that runs and protects the house that she finds herself in, and things go wrong once again. This house belongs to Alex (Ed Skrein), some kind of tech-entrepreneur who doesn’t let notions of morality get in the way of his research. Julia now has to try to outfox both Alex and Tau, or she will never see the world again.

Tau is a film that spends a lot of its time in one location. At the beginning, we briefly see Julia in dance-clubs and her apartment, but the main bulk of the film is her being trapped in the grey walls of Alex’s bunker-like technology-infused home. I do tend to enjoy films that are set this way as I find that it builds an interesting tension, and also allows the viewer time to get to know one location very well. So this was a positive as far as I was concerned.

Alex comes and goes from the house, going about his daily schedule. This gives Julia time to talk to Tau. It is these conversations that really pique the interest. She begins with getting Tau to understand that she has a name, and things soon flow to the trading of information and mutual education. She wants to know what's behind x door and up y stairs. Tau wants to hear more about the things she knows about. Tau himself is a glowing red triangle that shimmers and fluctuates on the wall, but he can also control a fleet of cute drones and a murderous death-bot. These variations on his embodiment, or lack thereof, certainly add more interest to the film than if he was purely wall-locked.

Maika Monroe is great as Julia. She’s an actress I’ve enjoyed watching since I first saw her in It Follows and The Guest. As Julia, she has to be smart and physical, often knocked around, hurt and apparently subdued, but always eyeing the next opportunity to make a break for it. It’s interesting to see how her relationship with Tau develops, and this even serves to shine a light on Alex and his own apparent areas of lack. There is food for thought about how many different kinds of “prison” exist, to say the least. And of course, with any A.I film there are feelings of 2001 about it at times, but Gary Oldman voices Tau in a fine manner.

Tau was an enjoyable watch and I found the 90 or so minute runtime passed very nicely. I did feel some of the CGI looked a little second rate however, particularly the murder-bot at times. It was decent enough, but there were moments when it didn’t really “sit” in the environment that well. I did enjoy the animations of “Wall Tau” however, and the drones were good fun. 

If you like escape-based films with a splattering of technology and blood, Tau is well worth checking out on Netflix now.

Rating: 4.5/5