Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Dark Comic Review: Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #3: Two Peas in a Pot

Dark Comic Review: Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #3: Two Peas in a Pot


Review by Casey Douglass


Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #3: Two Peas in a Pot

The first two issues of Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia have seen wrestler Rory Landell declare himself to be the Galactic Champion of the Universe, triggering the invasion of Earth by wrestlers from Planet Wrestletopia. My reviews of those issues can be found here and here. Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #3: Two Peas in a Pot continues the hunt for the still missing Rory, with deals and power struggles causing many a crunching head trauma.

Manifest Destiny, the reigning Galactic Champion of the Universe, wants a title unification bout with Rory. He and his cronies approach Rory’s old promoter, someone who is quickly persuaded that it would be in his best interest to make this contest happen. Meanwhile, the hapless Rory, who ended issue 2 unconscious on the floor of a bar, finds himself tied to a lamppost as some alien wrestlers debate what to do with him. His friends, pint-sized wrestler Macho, and his old manager Don, turn up to rescue him, and to also fill him in on what has been happening in his absence.


Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #3: Two Peas in a Pot

It is later in this issue that the counter-faction to Manifest Destiny is also revealed to us. They have a vested interest in Rory not actually being found. During a later exchange with Rory’s ex-promoter, we find that the number one contender is someone called “Sunny” Jim Cooley “The peach blossom playboy”. Rory’s ex-promoter appears, once again, to be “persuaded” that he might just have to renege on his deal with Manifest Destiny. Part of this persuasion comes courtesy of a dominatrix Wrestletopian and her slave, which was an unexpected turn I must admit.


Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #3: Two Peas in a Pot

What we have in issue three, is more funny wheeling and dealing. On the human side, we can see greed and nationalism rear their heads, the latter particularly during a meeting of world leaders who can’t decide which wrestlers will stand in for Rory if he doesn’t show. As you might imagine, in the world of this comic book, it isn’t long before a brawl breaks out. As far as Rory, we spend more time on the road with him, and we are also treated to a glimpse of his little friend Macho’s origin story, how he came to be a wrestler, and why he is so good at kicking ass. I also liked the reveal of the number one contender, I mean, “Sunny” Jim Cooley “The peach blossom playboy” is such a great name.


Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #3: Two Peas in a Pot

At the very end of this issue is a page from a wrestling album, done in the style of those old WWF/WCW ones that I used to have in my youth. On this page we are treated to info bites about six wrestlers, including Rory, and Kodiak Jack, the bear with the coolest name ever. It’s a really great little piece of nostalgia and the whole style and tone was nailed nicely. As in previous issues, the humour in general, is just right too, with my favourite quote this time being Manifest Destiny’s response to being asked to sit down: “Your Earthling chairs are not fit to carry the Galactic Champion!”.

As always, it will be fun to find out what happens in issue four, whether Rory will make it to the fight, and what other conniving schemes or factions might emerge from the shadows to help or to hinder him.

Visit the Comixology page for more info.


I was given access to a review copy of this comic.


Comic Book Name: Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #3 : Two Peas in a Pot

Authors: Ed Kuehnel & Matt Entin

Artist: Dan Schkade

Colouring: Marissa Louise

Lettering: Dave Lanphear

Publisher: Starburns Industries Press

Released: 19 June 2019

Price: $1.99

Sunday, 29 November 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Witch-Works

Dark Ambient Review: Witch-Works


Review by Casey Douglass


Witch-Works

I recently reviewed Mombi Yuleman’s Storm-Maker Red Horse, a turbulent dark ambient album full of the glory of nature and the unseen gods that just might be driving things. During Halloween, Mombi gave out some free Bandcamp codes for an earlier album he created: Witch-Works. It’s a dark ambient, retrowave album, and I was lucky enough to nab one of the codes. After listening to it, I decided to write this review.

Firstly, Witch-Works was a great album for Mombi to gift around at Halloween. From the pumpkin-orange colour in the artwork, to the theme of the album, it is certainly a very “Halloweeny” creation. It is based on a narrative about Black Cat Toys, a company apparently run by modern day warlock Harold O’Bannon. When the locals who live nearby find out, things don’t go very well for Harold. His cult followers set in motion a plan to resurrect him, and to also curse the town at the same time. Detective Kobritz and his son have to investigate why residents begin dying in strange circumstances, and the track titles hint at the kinds of scene that they are treated to. Jars of Spiders anyone?

Actually, Jars of Spiders is one of my favourite tracks, so I might as well start there. The track opens with busy strings, fuzz and a falling tone. There was something about how these mixed, that led to me envisioning a carnival tent with a stand of jars, neon light illuminating the darkness just enough to show the long-legged things inside them. The track feels like an 80s horror, but it feels warm and quirky rather than scary, unless you can’t stand spiders of course. Some way into the track, there is the sound of shattering glass and skittering across the floor. For me, this created the image of all of the spiders (and there are hundreds...) racing for freedom. Then you see what is left in the jars, shapes that look strangely anatomical and human. I thought this was a really fun track.

Another track that jumped out at me was Lil Breath Sucker. This track makes great use of the sounds of a cat, from the meows when it wants something, to a deep and soothing purr at the very end. I’m guessing the inspiration for this track comes from the fears of cats climbing into bed and stealing your breath. The sounds in this track seem to point that way, and it’s a nice kind of mental friction to listen to something you like (I love cats) and how that thing might kill you.

Two other tracks that I will give brief mention to are Extracting the Razor Blades and Silhouette of the Factory. The first features life support beeps and muffled underwater sounds, but also something I’d describe as a great “80s cop film slow car chase beat”, the kind of “Don’t let him see us” undercover stuff. Maybe the person being operated on last watched a TV detective show, who knows. As for Silhouette of the Factory, I enjoyed this track because it made great use of metallic sounds, echoing beats and hissing steam, and other sounds that really brought to mind what it might be like to be near a stark factory at night, viewing it against the moonlight and seeing the shapes clattering and grinding. It half brought the video-games Limbo and Inside to mind.

Witch-Works is a fun, beaty, dark retrowave experience. There is a plucky playfulness to many of the tracks, the spirit of the carnival, of the freak-show, and of course, of Halloween. There is darkness for sure, but it is wrapped in attractive neon glowing paper. I enjoyed listening to its mix of soundscapes and 80s style beats, and I hope that if there are any toy factory running Warlocks out in the world, that they appreciate they have a fine soundtrack for the movie that might one day be based on their deeds.

Visit the Witch-Works page on Bandcamp for more information, and check out Jars of Spiders below. Mombi also recently created a Facebook group for people who enjoy using creativity to deal with their internal fears or monsters. You can find that here.


I nabbed a gift code for this album.


Album Title: Witch-Works

Album Artist: Mombi Yuleman

Released: October 04, 2019

Saturday, 28 November 2020

Dark Film Review: Goodnight, Halloween

Dark Film Review: Goodnight, Halloween


Review by Kasey Douglass


Goodnight, Halloween

Almost two years ago to the day, I posted about a newly released teaser for a horror film kalled Goodnight, Halloween. It was framed as a news report from a world in whikh Halloween kreatures are being persekuted by humans, their rights being torn to shreds and their lives free for anyone who wants to terminate them. Goodnight, Halloween is now komplete, and it was released, free to view, on YouTube at the end of Oktober.

The film plays out on 13th September 1986. The viewer slowly approakhes a komputer with a kall waiting to be aksepted. Goodnight, Halloween is set in a world where the letter C doesn’t exist. As you kan see, I opted to adopt this idea for this review. Bet you thought I’d gone mad? I must say, it’s an awkward fit for some words, fine for others. Anyway, the film...We see the news reporting the extermination of various kreatures on skreen, and then we see the viewer, a strange plant kreature with big teeth. It is here that we begin to konnekt with the main plot driving tool in the film.


Goodnight, Halloween

As tekhnology has permeated (infested?) our lives, it’s not unusual to see a narrative play out by way of elektronik messages and video kalls. Goodnight, Halloween uses this tool to great effekt, letting the viewer eavesdrop on earnest konversations between the various Halloween kreatures fighting for their lives. There is fear, suspikion and paranoia, and I must admit that the digital effekts on the video kalls really heightened my enjoyment of these elements. One kall in partikular was so washed out and low resolution that the way it amplified the features of the worried figure it kontained was genuinely very striking.


Goodnight, Halloween

I won’t say a great amount about how the film klimaxes, but it’s a dark film and it has a dark ending, something that is just fine by me. It kept me guessing until the end, and Monzen Nakacho’s darkwave, retro soundtrakk simmers under the intrigue that plays out on skreen. Yes, I know there is a “c” in the name. There are limits to my meddling. The makeup and effekts all looked suitably sinister, with a kind of grain and murk that I fully approve of. The film is deskribed as a “stylish throwback to the creature films of the VHS 80s era” and I’d say it nails this aesthetik wonderfully.

Goodnight, Halloween was 14 years in the making, and I have to say, I’m pleased to see it and that I found a lot to enjoy in it. I love how it plants the supernatural or otherworldly into a squalid little human reality, and how those things rub up against the other, korrupting and warping the kharakters. When I first saw the news report teaser two years ago, I wouldn’t have expekted it to lead to a film of tense konversation and hastily-made plans falling apart. I’d have bet on a more aktion-based short. I’d have lost some money on that one. The film was better for not being that kind of film, in my opinion. The fakt that it has released during a year of lokk-downs, isolation and bizarre politikal happenings, also makes it seem a fitting time for it to be unleashed. Head over to YouTube now and give it a view and a like.


Film Title: Goodnight, Halloween

Released by: Faster Productions

Length: 13 minutes

Genre: Horror/Fantasy

Written and Directed by: Luther Bhogal-Jones

Starring: Jean-Daniel Byrne, Natasha Lamper, Christopher Dingle, Stewart Barham, Sunita Shroff, Scott Hanley, Rocco Solato, Jim Faulkner, Mike Stoke, Minda Bhogal-Jones. Terence Drew, Alistair Lock.

Soundtrack: Monzen Nakacho

Released: 29 October 2020.

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Kosmobushir

Dark Ambient Review: Kosmobushir


Review by Casey Douglass


Kosmobushir

If I could, I’d love to visit some of the dark, sci-fi universes seen in fiction. There is something soothing about bleak distance, from the comfort of your own armchair anyway. As I can’t go into space, dark ambient albums like Kosmobushir are the audio vehicle to carry my imagination there, and I’m so glad that they exist. Kosmobushir is a dark space ambient album from Anihila, which in turn, comes from the mind of Flowers for Bodysnatchers’ Duncan Ritchie.

The album description paints the picture of the Soviet Union beating the U.S in the space race, and by the year 2158, being the power exploring the fringes of the solar system. Many Soviet citizens live out on the various planets and their satellites, with others pushing further out all of the time. One such ship, Akademgorodok, went missing near Neptune, and 14 years later, a strange transmission is received hinting at what it might have found.

Kosmobushir includes a lot of the things I hope for with a dark space ambient album. I want to feel like I’m on a spaceship, drifting in the darkness, hearing the metal creak and groan, seeing strange sights, and feeling like I’m somehow alone, but not alone. I found all of this on Kosmobushir, a prime example being the track Further Aft. Dripping echoes along metal corridors, a fuzz or static seems to permeate the air, and a strange yowling sound gives everything a creepy tint. This track is full of straining metal and cascading rumbles, making me feel like I was exploring a doomed spaceship, but one with a story to tell.

Alongside the metallic groaning and shuddering, Kosmobushir also makes great use of the whine and sweep of radio signals. The very first track, Neptune, opens with a “shrill, whistle-like scanning sound” (from my notes), with other sounds around it seeming to take on the aspect of half alarm siren, half swarm. The knocking and deep vibrations that come later really created the mental picture of approaching Neptune on a space ship that has to fight against itself to slow down, possibly because its sensors have just seen something very strange out there.

I think the most captivating track for me was the final one, Far Beyond The Reach. It makes great use of changes in direction, the soundscape morphing at different stages. I can only say that it made me wonder if this was what it might sound like to enter a black hole and to return again: the feeling of death and doom as the ship sinks in, finding yourself in a strange place that seems at odds with what you expected, and then being spat out somewhere else, back in our universe. Maybe I’ve watched Interstellar too many times. No, I don’t think that’s possible.

Kosmobushir is a fun journey into the bleak mystery of a doomed spaceship. If you find the idea of being in space riveting, even with all of the peril and strangeness that it might entail, this album might be a great one for you. Not only does it give you ominous creaking and hissing soundscapes to relax to, but it also frames them with an alternative history-fuelled future, and a conundrum, to boot!


Visit the Kosmobushir page on Bandcamp for more information.


I was given a review copy of this album.


Album Title: Kosmobushir

Album Artist: Anihila

Released: 31 Aug 2020

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Dark Comic Review: Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #2: Two Worlds Enter, One Leaves!

Dark Comic Review: Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #2: Two Worlds Enter, One Leaves!


Review by Casey Douglass


Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #2: Two Worlds Enter, One Leaves!

In my review of the first issue of Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia, I read about Rory Landell, a wrestler who declared himself to be the “Galactic Champion of the Universe”. By doing this, he managed to piss off not only people on Earth, but also aliens far out in the galaxy, aliens with their own idea of who the champion is: Manifest Destiny. Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #2: Two Worlds Enter, One Leaves! Is set to show how Rory’s words have sent a few pebbles tumbling down the mountain, the avalanche of the whoop-ass to come just starting to rumble in the heights.


Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #2: Two Worlds Enter, One Leaves!


In the opening pages of issue two, we are sucked into a flashback scene, one of a young Rory watching his parents argue and bicker sometime in the seventies. He has lots of newspaper clippings of his wrestler dad on his bedroom wall: Terry Landell “The Human Torture Rack”. Not a happy home, and an insight into some of the baggage Rory might be carrying around, baggage masked by his bravado. In the current time, we then see two astronomers picking up on strange craft that seem to be building something around the Earth. Yes, Manifest Destiny has arrived on Earth, to answer Rory’s challenge and to lay down the prospect of a Regal Rumble if Rory refuses the “call of Destiny”. What is a Regal Rumble? Well, think Royal Rumble, but with the population of two planets taking part!


Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #2: Two Worlds Enter, One Leaves!

Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #2: Two Worlds Enter, One Leaves! Ratchets up the tension nicely from the first issue. Rory’s bold declaration of being the “Galactic Champion of the Universe” has given him the first direct bite on the backside. As in the previous issue, the clean, colourful art-style and crunching wrestling moves are fun to take in. I particularly enjoyed seeing the alien wrestlers body-slamming a camel in Cairo, and suplexing their way through Whitehouse security personal. It was great to take in some of Rory’s past too, even if, in one scene, he ignores the offer of pornography in a convenience store and opts for a wrestling magazine. I mean, in a magazine about intergalactic wrestlers attacking Earth, I guess there has to be something unbelievable. Chortle.


Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #2: Two Worlds Enter, One Leaves!

The humour of the first issue continues to flow in the same pleasing way, particularly with Rory trying to get an elderly woman to remember him in a bar; he even runs out of breath as he reels off his wrestling patter. In the same bar a little later, a cryptic comment is muttered over an unconscious Rory, one that hints at the alien wrestlers not being fully united behind Manifest Destiny. I’m guessing issue three will reveal if this is really the case, and that it might also resolve whether we will get to see a Regal Rumble or not. It will be interesting to find out.


Visit the Comixology page for more info.


I was given access to a review copy of this comic.


Comic Book Name: Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #2 : Two Worlds Enter, One Leaves!

Authors: Ed Kuehnel & Matt Entin

Artist: Dan Schkade

Colouring: Marissa Louise

Lettering: Dave Lanphear

Publisher: Starburns Industries Press

Released: 15 May 2019

Price: $1.99

Saturday, 21 November 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Advent

Dark Ambient Review: Advent


Review by Casey Douglass


Advent

Advent is the title of Randal Collier-Ford’s latest dark ambient album, one that has just been released by Cryo Chamber. When I hear or read the word “advent”, I always find myself thinking of the modern advent calendar that many kids use to count down the days until presents. Sorry, I mean to Christmas. Luckily, the word outside of this context can simply mean the beginning of something. Fortunately, Randal’s Advent is a syrupy dark creation that blows away any notion of jolly fat men and mass consumerism.

The album description describes the appearance of a bizarre and sinister new world in the forests of South America, one with denizens that are hostile to explorers and whose fringes are roamed by titan shadows that roar in the night. Strange structures are mentioned, the contents a mystery to distant observers. My own journey through the soundscapes of Advent seemed, in the main, to be concerned with these structures, the sounds and atmospheres taking me deep below the ground. I also seemed to see things in the colour that permeates the album art above, darkness filled with that kind of glow. I really like that artwork!

Advent makes great use of long, horn-like sounds and a variety ritual drumbeats. They are the sort of signal that, when heard at the edge of an unknown darkness or stretch of deep water, you’d find yourself holding your breath as you wonder if some creature really will surface and answer the call. I enjoyed how the atmosphere reacts to these sounds too, the horn or beat at times gaining extra twists to its tone just at the moment it halts. A little like if you clap your hands in a room with metal pans hanging, you might hear a quiet “ping” afterwards, in the microsecond where your clap stopped. On a dark ambient album where strange things are afoot, that is a very pleasant addition.

The first two tracks (there are three in total on this 40 min album), saw me being a bit of a dark “Indiana Jones”, delving deeper into the stone tunnels of the temple, hearing drumbeats, chanting, and catching sight of strange flickering eyes in the red/orange light that seemed to illuminate things. The drumbeats seemed to echo back along strange corridors, the rattles, vibrations and buzzing the soundtrack for dark energy flowing and strange forces moving. There are also some sounds that might be bone cracking, strange creatures tapping on the walls, or some languid beast slowly moaning its way along a pathway that is probably too close for comfort. It’s not all ritual and darkness though.

At various times, the sound of string notes sing out. Sometimes in juddery bow jangling form, other times delivering a melancholy melody that changes how the soundscape feels. The Second Wound is an example of this, as I felt that the first half of this track had a morose and gentle feel to it, piano notes also adding into the mix to create a strange sad space. The second half of the track becomes more ominous with pounding drums and higher energy. With regards to the images that crossed my mind, I felt that I might have been roaming the dark vaults of some deep, underground temple, the “monsters” I’d been afraid of all laying dead on the floor, killed by something far worse that was coming up out of the depths. I liked that feeling.

Advent is a primal quest into the dark recesses of a newly manifesting world. Ritual, and the force of the raw unknown, dance together in the mind of the listener. The drumbeats seem to give the mind strength and confidence but to also be summoning some kind of doom at the same time. When you are tired of the Christmas madness this year, especially with the way Covid has warped the common sense of so many people, escape into Advent for 40 mins, and come back overflowing with dark ambient refreshment.

Visit the Advent page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out the track Beckoning Absurd Shapes below:



I was given a review copy of this album.


Album Title: Advent

Album Artist: Randal Collier-Ford

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: 17 Nov 2020

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Life Passes Slowly Unto Death

Dark Ambient Review: Life Passes Slowly Unto Death


Review by Casey Douglass



Life Passes Slowly Unto Death
Life Passes Slowly Unto Death Album Cover

When thinking or talking about death, it often doesn’t take long for the topic of “lights at the end of the tunnel” to emerge, usually in relation to a near death experience or a glimpse of the afterlife. Life Passes Slowly Unto Death is a dark ambient album from Scott Lawlor, and on listening to it, this contrast between light and darkness soon came into my thoughts.

The opening track: “Life Passes Slowly Unto Death”, gets things moving with a gentle opening, but one with, to my ears, a faint screech. The tones that emerge seem to channel a kind of “The Angels are coming!” vibe, blaring, manifesting and fading again, only to rise once more. For me, this track brought to mind how dust motes floating lazily around a dark room might look when one stray ray of sunlight breaks into the gloom. This is one example of how the light vs darkness aesthetic seemed to emerge for me.

Where the first track conjured light, the second track, “As the Dying Process Begins, Comprehension of Mortality is Realized”, seemed to focus on the tunnel. Shrill, pulsing tones and warbles create a dark, chittering space. It almost takes on the aspect of a sacral chant at times, the insect-like chirrups joining a shimmery tone. I felt myself journeying along a dark tunnel, a very distant light always moving around the bend minutes before I reached the same curve. The second half of the track feels like an even darker, and at times, quieter space.

“Drifting Through Unsequenced Memories” is one of my favourite tracks. After a smooth, low opening, both deep and shrill, howl-like tones sound, joined by voices and whispers. There is a clattering and skittering, and it feels like a space of intangible things. A bendy, pulsing note seems to thread stronger voices together, like a narrative does to the words we tell ourselves. This track seemed to very amply illustrate its title, the listener feeling like they are drifting through a space of disjointed impressions, with some force, consciousness maybe, trying to make sense of them.

The last track that I will mention by name is another favourite: “Whisperings Far Beyond the Veil Call You Home”. High chiming notes ring out in this soundscape, beginning to warp after some time. The echoing space is soon filled with a stuttering wind and bird-tweet-like whispers, giving way to a low pulsing that thrums through the space. There is muted rustling and muffled movement, and an ominous metal clanking at times. This track brought to mind a graveyard, the living and the dead brushing up against each other, the occasional communication getting through to one side or other.

Life Passes Slowly Unto Death is an album of dark spaces and liminal places. The soundscapes felt more dark than light, but the molecules of brightness do stop the whole thing feeling too oppressive. I found it to be calming, introspective and intriguing, and if you like dark ambient music themed around death or what might come after it, you should head over to Bandcamp and check out Scott’s album below.

Visit the Life Passes Slowly Unto Death page on Bandcamp for more information.


I was given a review copy of this album.


Album Title: Life Passes Slowly Unto Death

Album Artist: Scott Lawlor

Released: 18 Nov 2020

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Dark Comic Review: Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #1 : A Date With Destiny

Dark Comic Review: Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #1 : A Date With Destiny


Review by Casey Douglass


Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #1 : A Date With Destiny

When I was younger, I used to enjoy watching the wrestling on TV. Show me a growing boy who doesn’t like watching people throw each other around, flexing and laughing while they do it. At that time, it was the WWF, the likes of The Legion of Doom, Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior. I drifted away from it over time, and today, I find myself generally disinterested. When I was given the chance to check out some issues of the Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia comic, I wasn’t sure if it would be for me. I saw enough though though, to think that it would be a bit of a light-hearted giggle, so I was happy to wade in and see what happened.


Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #1 : A Date With Destiny

Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #1 : A Date With Destiny, lays the foundation for what is likely to come. I remember how so much of wrestling used to be about someone’s mouth getting them into trouble, and the beat down that would often follow. The main character in this comic is Rory Landell, and he makes probably the ultimate boast that a wrestler might make. Live on TV, he proclaims himself to be the Galactic Champion of the Universe! In a universe in which we are the only life-forms, he’d still probably annoy enough humans to regret his words, but in this comic, there is life elsewhere, and it gets mightily pissed off to hear his words.


Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #1 : A Date With Destiny

We get to see some of what brings Rory to make his claim next, his disillusionment with how things are, and his inspiration to turn the brag dial to 11. Part of this plays out in a particularly novel scene in which he argues with a wrestling promoter while a bear is sparring in the ring behind them. The bear is called Kodiak Jack, which I think is probably one of the best names I’ve ever heard a bear have. Stand back Rupert and Paddington! Rory later finds himself in disgrace, boozing and getting into trouble. At around this time, his TV broadcasted boast reaches far enough out into the stars for other beings to hear. Uh-oh!

Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #1 : A Date With Destiny

The artwork of the comic is bold, colourful and very pleasing on the eye. The panel layout has enough variety to keep things looking fresh on each page, and I particularly liked the art style for the “universe hearing his boast” page. It made me think of retro sci-fi comics. The wrestling action itself, feels like it has impact and heft; you can almost hear the “slam!” as the bodies hit the ring’s floor. As far as the humour, I did find myself smiling, and I can be a moody git so that would probably be a laugh for a “normal” person.

At 36 pages, Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #1: A Date With Destiny felt like a nice, fun introduction to Rory Landell and the trouble that is probably (I hope) coming his way. I’m looking forward to reading the next issue to see how things progress, and I’m hoping things continue in the same amusing vein. Visit the Comixology page for more info.


I was given access to a review copy of this comic.


Comic Book Name: Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #1 : A Date With Destiny

Authors: Ed Kuehnel & Matt Entin

Artist: Dan Schkade

Colouring: Marissa Louise

Lettering: Dave Lanphear

Publisher: Starburns Industries Press

Released: 01 May 2019

Price: $1.99

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Crier’s Bane

Dark Ambient Review: Crier’s Bane


Review by Casey Douglass



Crier’s Bane

As someone who often has his head in a sci-fi novel, historical settings don’t often appeal to me. Besides a few flirtations with steampunk, my general taste seems to be “Give me space travel over death by consumption any day!” Crier’s Bane is a dark ambient album from Dead Melodies and Beyond the Ghost, one that immerses the listener in the sounds of Victorian London, during a time of murder, cobbles and horse-shit. As has previously been the case, my love of dark ambient seems to have been a fine lubricant to ease me into a setting that I could have otherwise been a little bit “meh” about. Worryingly, it seems to have also led to a strange use of innuendo only one sentence after mentioning horse-shit. I'll have to keep an eye on that.

The field-recorded elements of Crier’s Bane are one of the key parts to the atmosphere that the album creates. The opening track, Message from the Horsemen, features the snuffling and clip-clopping of horses, the sound of a blacksmith hammer pounding an anvil, an owl calling, and various voices as the listener’s point of view seems to travel city streets and alleyways. Alongside this are mellow tones, strains of French horn and warm guitar notes. Everything seems to gel together to paint a picture of the deepening night, one full of people ending their day’s work, with the shadowy underbelly making their furtive preparations for the night.

Cursed Riders of Night is another track that I really enjoyed. A melodica melody and a scuffed wind-like sound dance with high tones in the soundscape. After awhile, I thought I could hear the sound of creaking wood and a kind of grainy tapping, like a wraith at a window pane. A pulsing bass tone gives the whole track a kind of lurching momentum. Maybe the listener is in a carriage journeying through the dark London streets, the pea-soup fog throwing intangible, ghostly faces against the glass. It was a soothing and interesting ride.

The Unforgiving Toll of Time is a track that stood out to me, I think, because of its theme. It opens with a brief vocal, but as it progresses, the soundscape becomes infused with the ticking, windings and later, chimes of clocks. The creaking that accompanies these sounds might be the slow swings of a pendulum, or even someone lolling in a rocking chair. The ticking is slow, the other sounds swelling and falling. I liked the peaceful, introspective nature of this track, the sensation of closing yourself away from the world and losing yourself to your inner landscape. The clocks almost take on the aspect of the gears whirring in someone’s head, their thoughts catching in the cogs of their ruminations.

Crier’s Bane is a dark ambient album that does a fine job of evoking what Victorian London might feel like. The soundscapes are dark, grainy and spectral, the dirt, soot and creaking seeming to be an apt palette for the intangible fingers of ghosts to paint a mood with. For me, the feeling it created was one of restful melancholy, but one filled with hints of activity and the world carrying on at the fringes. Cripes, that sounds a lot like my life, minus the Victoriana at least. If you are looking for an atmospheric dark ambient album to while away those long Winter evenings, Crier’s Bane will take you somewhere else for a pleasant while.

Visit the Crier’s Bane page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out Cursed Riders of Night below:



I was given a review copy of this album.


Album Title: Crier’s Bane

Album Artist: Dead Melodies & Beyond the Ghost

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: 03 Nov 2020

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Dark Comic Review: Murky Waters: Tales From Beneath

Dark Comic Review: Murky Waters: Tales From Beneath


Review by Casey Douglass


Murky Waters: Tales From Beneath

For a long time, I’ve been drawn to media that explores the ways that reality, perception and imagination all interplay in our view of the world. I believe this started for me, when I was in the first throes of undiagnosed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) as an almost teenager. I think I knew that my mind was taking liberties with the reality it presented to me, but I still fell down the rabbit hole of fear. Murky Waters: Tales From Beneath is a full colour, 56 page collection of eight dark comic book stories. These tales look at some of the ways that our minds play with reality, and reading this about it, was more than enough for it to get my attention.

There are a number of philosophical and unnerving elements on offer in Murky Waters’ pages. These range from the way that others view us and how this might define us, to paranoid notions of being watched or controlled, and ponderings about the nature of what happens to us after death. If that wasn’t enough, there is the way that suffering might affect the mind, questions about imprisonment and entertainment, and the internal pressures to be authentic. A number of these stories manifest in only one or two pages, so as you might expect, the imagery and layout has to do some stellar work in gripping the reader’s mind. I felt that they all achieved this nicely, each in their own way.


Darkness Unending

Darkness Unending is a prime example of this. It opens with images of a woman’s face, mainly her eyes and nose. She is pondering how different religions view the conundrum of the afterlife. The camera pulls back and we notice blood. We also hear the sounds of combat off to the side. This story felt like an ever expanding frame, with the woman as the focal point and the view pivoting around her. I really liked how almost every cell gives the reader more information and context as to what is happening in the scene, and the climax is certainly a fun one.

Cogito Ergo Sum is another story that I really enjoyed. I loved the colour palette. It made fantastic use of cool sci-fi blues and mellow greens, which is fitting for a sci-fi story set in 2047. A woman hears voices at work and fears she is developing schizophrenia. As with other stories in Murky Waters, nothing is quite as it seems, and it turns out that this woman might actually be right to worry, even if the truth is a little different, and far darker, than the one that she fears.


Cogito Ergo Sum

Above, I said that some of the stories tell their tale in very few pages. Breaking Down The Walls takes just one page to tell its own, a mere six panels. It would be very hard to comment on it without saying too much, but its brevity and fourth wall breaking both go hand in hand to make what I thought was a really impactful moment in time.

The last tale I will mention by name is House of Cracks, mainly because it brings me back to how I opened this review, talking about OCD and how the mind can colour what we see. House of Cracks features a couple trying to overcome loss. The woman initially sees problems with cracks in the wall, and no amount of reassurance sets her mind at ease. She becomes obsessed with other things as the story progresses, all of which seem to be distractions from the couple’s shared emotional suffering, or maybe just manifestations of her own torment. The artwork and colours of this story show how two minds can view the world differently, even through the lens of shared suffering, and again, I found this a very satisfying read.


House of Cracks

All of the tales in Murky Waters are dark, thoughtful and clever. The twists and reveals all seemed very satisfying to me, and going back and re-reading each story once I’d got to the end gave me new things to appreciate and to notice. If you like horror, sci-fi and philosophical ideas, all rolled up in striking imagery and intriguing narratives, I think you'll enjoy Murky Waters too.

Murky Waters was created and written by Christian Carnouche, who is also the creator of The Resurrected mini-series. A whole host of international artists (see below) have come together to bring these stories to life, each bringing their own flavour to the images created on the page. A Kickstarter has just begun to try to raise funding for the initial printing run, and this has a whole host of rewards and benefits for the backers. If you like the sound of Murky Waters, head over to the Kickstarter and see if there is a support option that you might want to take advantage of.


I was given access to a review copy of this anthology.


Comic Book Name: Murky Waters: Tales From Beneath

Author: Christian Carnouche

Editor: Erica Schultz

Artists: Gabriela Contreras, Christian DiBari, Alex Diotto, Matthew Dow Smith, Triona Farrell, Ismael Hernandez, Maan House, Allison Hu, Dearbhla Kelly, Ariela Kristantina, Roshan Kurichiyanil, Lala Narita, Devmalya Pramanik and J. Schiek. Donna. Also, A. Black, Iain Laurie and Sachi Ediriweera produced pin-ups for the campaign.

Cover By: Tula Lotay.

Lettered By: Cardinal Rae

Publisher: Carnouche Productions

Kickstarter Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2129323534/murky-waters-tales-from-beneath

Monday, 9 November 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Dunkel

Dark Ambient Review: Dunkel


Review by Casey Douglass


Dunkel

The album description for Nerthus’ dark ambient album Dunkel contains a great phrase: “It is an auditory nightmare for lightless moments.” I really like this cluster of words, and when you factor in that “Dunkel” means dark in German, well, you know you aren’t getting a Whale song meditation album, that’s for sure.

The main feeling I got from listening to Dunkel, particularly the imagery that crossed my mind, was that of a sprawling haunted mansion at midnight. There is just something about the echoing chimes, hollow wind-like tones and rasping, breath-like sounds, that it all seems to be happening in that kind of environment. I'll admit, it was only a month or so ago that I finished re-reading an H.P Lovecraft anthology, so maybe those eldritch images are still lurking close to my conscious mind. I certainly haven’t played Resident Evil for decades, so I think I can exclude that.

In’s Dunkel is the opening track, and a prime example of this haunted mansion feeling. It opens with chiming and a hollow background tone. These are soon joined by swells of deeper sound. The chime notes begin to warp and twist, as if spectral fingers are flicking through their sound waves. Around the midpoint, things quieten and deepen, the audio equivalent of the silence after a grandfather clock has stopped chiming. What this leaves is an emptiness, and what felt like a breathless malevolence watching. Maybe this track takes place in one of those corridors where the walls are plastered with sinister portraits, each of which watches you as you walk the corridor’s length.

Parasit is another tasty track. It’s another that has that sense of wind and space, but there is a judderiness to this soundscape, like a strange guttural call, or lungs struggling for air. Things quieten and a deep drone begins. An airy quality accompanies it, and the sound buzzes at the end. This track made me think of a strange shadow walking in the moonlight outside the mansion, the feeling of eyes at the windows, and things having crawled up from the grave that should have stayed there. Some of the sounds in this track seem to have the quality of electronic feedback or fuzz, which to me, hinted at the shadow emitting some kind of disturbing field that plays havoc with mundane reality. Another fun track for me.

Entitaten opens with a deep undulating tone. It’s soon joined by another, to build up into a kind whine. Voices begin to sound, some relatively clear, others whispering like rustling leaves in the background. The resonant tone and electronic beats and hums that come later, set me to thinking more about the supernatural interfering with our world. This culminated with regards to this track, by the image of a radio in a room that is slowly succumbing to a kind of wall growth. Think how the hives look in Alien maybe, and you won’t be far off what I was thinking. Maybe the entities hinted at by the title of the track are hot-wiring the radio circuits with some kind of host organism. Who knows. I enjoyed thinking about it though.

Dunkel provides soundscapes that buzz with hints of the unseen. I felt there was a welcoming malevolence to most of the tracks, an occult aesthetic that sits nicely in whatever images the album creates in the mind. While for me, this was the aforementioned haunted mansion, it could just have easily been a graveyard at midnight or a crypt somewhere deep underground. I guess that’s a long-winded way of saying that a dark mind will find plenty to spark the imagination in Dunkel’s soundscapes, and that’s a very pleasing thing. If you are a fan of darkness and murk, you might want to check out Dunkel and add it to your music collection.

Visit the Dunkel page on Bandcamp for more information.


I reviewed this album by streaming it for free from its Bandcamp page.


Album Title: Dunkel

Album Artist: Nerthus

Released: 06 Sept 2020

Saturday, 7 November 2020

Dark Film Review: Terrifier (2016)

Dark Film Review: Terrifier (2016)


Review By Casey Douglass



Terrifier


I must admit that the vast majority of horror films I watch, get viewed once, get a “That was worth watching” verdict from somewhere in my mind, and rarely get watched again. There are exceptions of course, but that seems to be the pattern. Terrifier is my latest exception. I first watched it months ago, and when I saw that it was on the Horror Channel around Halloween last week, I realised how much I wanted to see it again. So what is it about Terrifier that hooks me? What’s the secret sauce? Art the Clown, played by David Howard Thornton.

Terrifier begins with a talk show interview with one of Art the Clown’s victims, a woman with a very disfigured face. We are then treated to a scene of Art the Clown getting ready for his planned activities, choosing his weapons, tools and flails, getting his make-up just right. The next scene is set after the interview is over, the interviewer is on her mobile, commenting about how ugly the guest was. She hears a sound behind her, and things don’t go well for her. We then see two friends, Tara (Jenna Kanell) and Dawn (Catherine Corcoran), walking home on Halloween. Their paths cross with Art the Clown, and this ends up with them both gaining his attention in the worst possible way. The rest of the film is about the bloody trail of destruction that Art leaves in his wake. He is both opportunistic and cunning in taking advantage of situations to give himself access to his victims, and anyone else unlucky enough to get in his way.

I’m not a coulrophobe, that is, I’m not scared of clowns. I think they’re great characters in many horrors, and if I see one walking down the street, I won’t try to avoid them unduly. I mean, with Covid at the moment, you have to avoid everyone right now, but you get my meaning. So what is it about Art the Clown that I like? I think there are two big draws. One is his silence. Art is like a sinister, murderous mime artist. His actions create sounds, screams mostly if I’m honest, but when it comes to his own voice, there’s nothing. I find this both hilarious and sinister.


Terrifier

There are scenes where he intimidates by his expressions alone. Early in the film, when the two women are in a pizza joint, Art follows them and sits across the room. His expressions are genuinely creepy. Dawn finds it funny and her carefree (maybe drunken) humour leads to one of the most tense selfie scenes I’ve ever seen. The way Art the Clown’s eyes flick towards her as she turns his face for the photo... pure hatred. He gets his own back with a very gory selfie later in the film though! There are also scenes where his victims fight back, where all he can do is emit a silent scream of fury as someone rams a nail into his foot. Art is the master of freaky silence.

The other thing that I really like about Art the Clown is his ability to not take things too seriously, to have a bit of fun even while he is hunting people down. Which is scarier? Being chased by a murderer who is wholly focussed on snuffing you out, or being hunted by a clown who stops half way through the chase to ride a tiny bike that he just found? I know which I’d choose. Horrors that feature an antagonist that seems truly unhinged have always been more riveting for me. Sure, anyone who murders is probably likely to have some mental health problems, but there are problems... and there are PROBLEMS.


Terrifier

The gore, when it happens, is done very well. Terrifier isn’t a film for the squeamish, and there is one scene involving a hack-saw that made me flinch even on the second viewing. Body parts don’t stay attached (or whole) for long, and Art’s bin-bag of tools contains a few nasty surprises. The “Will help come?” notion provided by the other characters is also a deft balancing act, with music blasting headphones masking desperate screams, or the ramblings of a crazy woman not being believed. There are also moments of suspended time, such as Tara walking into a hallway and suddenly seeing Art stood like a statue, a gleeful look frozen on his face, scalpel in his motionless fingers. Everything seems to stop... and then he lunges.

I really enjoyed Terrifier. I know that I said I wasn’t a coulrophobe above, but I’m not exactly a clown fanboy either. I’ve seen plenty of horrors featuring clowns that were average at best. The combination of elements that I mention in my review just all gel together very nicely for my own tastes, and I know that I will watch the film again in the future. I’d say it is well worth a watch, if you have the stomach for it.

Terrifier

P.S Terrifier 2 was due to release this Halloween, but Covid got in the way, as it has with so much in life this year, which is sad news. I’m looking forward to watching it though, whenever it does eventually release.


Film Title: Terrifier

Director & Writer: Damien Leone

Cast: Jenna Kanell, Samantha Scaffidi, David Howard Thornton, Catherine Corcoran, Pooya Mohseni, Matt McAllister

Released: 2018 (UK)

Studio: Dark Age Cinema

Distributor: Signature Entertainment

Thursday, 5 November 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Werifesteria

Dark Ambient Review: Werifesteria


Review by Casey Douglass


Werifesteria

According to Urban Dictionary, Werifesteria is the word used to describe someone walking through a forest, on the hunt for mystery. French dark ambient artist Hiemal’s Werifesteria album, brings this notion to audio life. The album consists of three tracks. The first two clocking in at over 30 minutes each, the third lasting almost 20. Each offers the listener their own forest mystery experience, and each adds a slightly different feeling or texture to that experience.

The first track opens with the sound of a strong wind rustling the forest canopy. A mid to high pitched drone begins, nestling comfortably among the field-recorded sounds of the elements. The drone is both mercurial and stable, simple yet complex, depending on how you listen to it. The best analogy I can think of is how visible light is made up from all of the colours of the rainbow, and you can only see the individual colours when it passes through a prism. I felt that the drone on Werifesteria sets the listener’s mind as the prism, and the drone as the light. If you listen for the lower tones, you hear more of them. If you set your ears to the higher end of things, you’ll hear things too. Other tones do emerge but they are matched so well to the drone that they almost appear to sneak in.

The drone also changes over time, but it proves decidedly slippery to notice. I’ve listened to Werifesteria a decent amount of times, and the number of occasions that I’ve settled back and told myself “Pay attention to when the drone changes!” and I’ve just not managed to. If you click through the tracks it’s very noticeable, but in real time, it might take quite some time to think “Hey, has this changed?” I really like this element of the album. The drone itself is a great thought magnet too, sucking everything in. I once tried to meditate by holding a continuous “Aum” sound in my mind’s ears. It left me feeling quite strange, and the drone on Werifesteria seems to tap into this same feeling. There is something about a sound that just goes on and on and on...

The first two tracks of Werifesteria feel quite similar. In the first, the field-recordings feel more wind-based, in the second, more water-based. Both share the same kind of mind-focussing drone, with slight variations, although I felt the drone in the second track seemed a little less bold. The third track opens with the crackling of a fire and the sound of night insects chirruping. The drone/tones on this track seem like a continuous string-note floating in the air. There is also an ominous hollow feeling to some of the bassier sounds, maybe hinting at darker things roaming the shadows behind the fire light. I enjoyed this feeling.

One of the key qualities that I enjoy in a dark ambient album is if it is conducive to nodding off to sleep while you listen to it. Werifesteria has this quality for me, and then some. The evolving nature of the drone and the soundscapes means that I didn’t really notice many moments that were harsh enough to break the spell it casts on the listener. If anything, the only times I seemed to wake up were when a track was fading out. Maybe my mind missed the drone and began to wonder where it had gone. The field-recorded forest sounds and droning tones make this a lovely album to listen to, and a great escape from the mundane, into the mysterious.

Visit the Werifesteria page on Bandcamp for more information. It’s currently “Name Your Price” so it’s a great time to check it out.


Album Title: Werifesteria

Album Artist: Hiemal

Released: 25 Oct 2020

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Seclusion

Dark Ambient Review: Seclusion

Review by Casey Douglass


Seclusion

Being alone doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In the current Covid times, getting away from crowds of people has its own soothing effect, and that’s just crowds of normal people who do their best to social distance. I won’t mention the #covidiots that the click-baiting media love to put on display to get everyone riled up. Seclusion is a dark ambient album from Dark Fields, and its deserted soundscapes and barren ruins might be just the thing to escape into, when humanity is really doing your head in.

The album description paints the picture of an extinct humanity. To be fair, it doesn’t specify humanity. It could be about an alien race on an entirely different planet, but to my mind, the clues point to humans having wiped themselves out, probably by an idiot taking a selfie too close to a button that says “Do not press!” Whatever happened, the landscape is now one of perpetual fog, snow and ruin, all framed by a nice murky sky. The final line of the album description says: “An infinite dark calmness. It is SECLUSION, the beauty of Loneliness.” I wouldn’t mind walking through that landscape, and listening to this album is probably the next best thing.

As you might imagine, Seclusion makes use of sounds that convey the aspects that you might associate with such a landscape. I often heard the bleak rushing of the wind, hollow tones and gentle plucks and pops. Low drones rumble and high, sparkling tones dance in the sky. I often felt that I was listening to the equivalent of snow falling from pregnant black clouds, the grey flakes battling with the perma-fog in the mind’s eye. The track: Snowflakes brought this out for me the strongest, but it felt like an ever present flavour to most of the other tracks too.

Nails stood out to me for its “lowness.” Wind and a bassy rumbling deepen into something that just feels like it gets deeper and deeper. There are higher tones and vibrations, but the star of this track is the maelstrom that feels like it’s happening just outside the window. It deepens in pulses, like the rhythm of the sea when an extra big wave comes in. I even wrote in my notes that I felt the track kind of “dragged me down”, which I don’t think I’ve written about anything else before. I don’t mean in mood either, just a force that wants to crush me. A great track.

Dust is another track that I wanted to describe. It starts with a saw-like whirring. Metallic and swarm-like. There is a high tone that emerges a short time in, one that takes on a screaming-type of aspect, at least for me. This track conjured up the feeling of ash being blown around, ash from burned bodies and open graves that have cooked in some intense inferno. Near the end, the sound of what seems to be gas-mask breathing begins, finishing off the post-apocalyptic aesthetic nicely. So maybe there are some survivors after all. Or maybe the listener is the gas-mask wearer...

Seclusion, for me, is the ideal Winter listening album. When the long, grey days begin to become tiresome, when the sun begins to feel like a myth, Seclusion is the soundtrack for just that kind of day. If you find yourself in any kind of Covid restriction or lock-down, Seclusion will doubly stand in for the sentiments that the situation might create in you too. Maybe you could even listen to it at the supermarket, particularly when you see that the toilet paper is all gone and you find yourself thinking some distinctly uncharitable thoughts about the human race. Whatever the occasion, if you like bleak, post-apocalyptic dark ambient soundscapes, you might want to check out Seclusion.

Visit the Seclusion page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also click around and sample the full album on the Dark Fields’ YouTube video below:


I was given a review copy of this album.


Album Title: Seclusion

Album Artist: Dark Fields

Released: 17 June 2019

Saturday, 31 October 2020

Book Review: Black Shuck: The Devil’s Dog

Book Review: Black Shuck: The Devil’s Dog


Review by Casey Douglass



Black Shuck: The Devil’s Dog

I first saw Piers Warren’s Black Shuck: The Devil’s Dog on a display table in my local Waterstones. I’ve always found tales of supernatural black dogs to be interesting, and a book with a story set in Norfolk, the county that I also live in, seemed to hold a double attraction for me. Strangely, I didn’t buy the book that day, but it stayed in my mind enough that I eventually picked it up from the Kindle store.

After a prologue in which the origin of the narrative’s own devil dog is revealed, we meet the protagonist of the tale Harry Lambert. Harry is a wildlife photographer trying to shake off calamity. His best friend is dead and his wife has deserted him. It’s with a down-trodden soul he takes himself off to Blakeney on the North Norfolk coast. He hopes that a bit of sea air and a different pace to life might give him the time he needs to rest and recuperate. Like any good horror story though, he’d have almost certainly had a far more relaxing time if he’d just stayed at home.

Harry has a booking at Tern Cottage B&B, a homely place run by Linda and Frank. Harry is touched by how at home they make him feel, and is charmed by the village itself. He gradually meets more of the residents of Blakeney, and when accompanying Frank on a fishing trip, he first hears the term “Shuck”. Frank laughingly calls a friend’s dog his “Shuck”. Frank then fills the puzzled Harry in on the legend of the ghost dog. Harry soon finds that not everyone is as open to discussing the creature however.

The story darkens further as it progresses. Blood is found on the beach, seals are being attacked by something strange, and superstition rises in the locals. Harry moves out of the B&B into a more secluded building further along the coast. The isolation this brings begins to play on his mind and he starts to see and hear strange things. The one thing that seems to give him some solace is Anna, the daughter of the wildlife warden and a woman he becomes increasingly close to as events begin to take their toll on the community.

The author handles the issue of Black Shuck itself very well. It isn’t just a standard “ghost hound” story, and there is extra variety in the phenomena that surrounds the dog and its activities. An example is the way that the dog doesn't just seem to portend the death of someone close to the witness, but actively kills or attacks at times. The bleakness of the coast and the harsh weather also lends an interesting backdrop to events. At times, the characters are as much fighting against the elements as against the dog, once they begin to understand what is going on at least.

There are some wonderfully creepy moments in the story too, things that had me scratching my head as again, they didn't seem to fit with the “whole ghost dog thing”. You begin to wonder what else is going on, but the links do become clearer later on. The climax of the book is suitably chaotic for the characters. The story, which has been slowly building with the odd moment of threat or revelation, hits the final act with a flurry of dangers. The author manages to mix claustrophobia, the elements, and the supernatural, in a “what could go wrong, will go wrong” kind of way, and I enjoyed that very much.

I enjoyed reading Black Shuck: The Devil’s Dog. It was a story set in a location that mixed peace and bleakness with warm humans and supernatural upset. I liked how these different elements fused together into a narrative that really suited the antagonist’s theme. It was also very pleasant to see places that I am familiar with named in a story. It’s rare for me to come across this local kind of feeling, the last time was in an anthology that happened to include a tale set in The Fens. You don’t need to be familiar with Norfolk to enjoy the book, but for me, it added an extra level of enjoyment. If you like slow-build supernatural horror, you should check out Black Shuck: The Devil’s Dog. Then if you are really brave, go for a long walk, alone, on a bleak windswept shore.


Book Title: Black Shuck: The Devil’s Dog

Book Author: Piers Warren

Publisher: Wildeye

Published: 2011

ISBN: 978-1905843015

Price: £5.83 (paperback) / £3.99 (Kindle) on Amazon.co.uk as of 30 Oct 2020)

Thursday, 29 October 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Andarlīh

Dark Ambient Review: Andarlīh


Review by Casey Douglass


Andarlīh

One of the goals of Swedish music creators Hymnambulae is described as seeking “a vocabulary for the innermost and a deciphering of liminal spaces.” Their album Andarlīh certainly seems to meet this goal, and in great style. Some of the album was even recorded in an underground church, which is probably a liminal space in a number of ways; the strange feelings it might bring up, to be somewhere where life meets death, or when light meets the deepening darkness.

Andarlīh is an album that gave me the impression of dark spaces, flickering candles and rock walls. It is dream-like, a little melancholy, and layered with subtle sounds that mean wherever you focus your attention, you'll hear something a little different. The soundscapes feature a variety of musical notes, emitted from such instruments as the zither and harmonium. These notes sit in drones and loops that sometimes feel ominous, and at other times, a little lighter. In some tracks, I thought I could hear the aspect of a howling wind, in others, strange cries or warbling sounds.

Súmbolon is a track that opens with these warbling sounds, and it’s one of my favourites. They sit in a drone and are soon joined by a quiet melody. There is a kinetic throbbing to the bass tones, everything seeming to quiver with nervous energy. For some reason, this track made me think of a robot running out of power in a dark cave, having just enough juice to make its voice circuit garble, but nothing else. It could have easily been a ghost, but for me, and my mind in this instance, robot. Maybe I’ve just been reading too much science fiction lately.

Alkoven is another track that I really enjoyed. It opens with a deep rumbling and crackling, long notes soon beginning to ring out in the grainy soundscape. There is the occasional cascading of grit, like tiny earth tremors dislodging dirt or tiny bits of rock from a cave roof. I heard an occasional knocking/beat-like sound too. This track is a dark soundscape, but with lighter elements. As it progresses, there are some chime-like impacts and the impression of wind and bats flying around in the spaces unseen. I enjoyed this track, as it gave me the feeling of walking through a cave system, one that could collapse at any time, but that hopefully won’t.

Andarlīh is a smooth listening experience, a collection of tracks that slowly weave the liminal into layers that form beautiful soundscapes. It’s introspective, ghostly and mainly dark, but with lighter tones that stop this darkness from becoming unrelenting. It’s a dark ambient album perfect for the early gloom of a winter night, when the Moon rises early and the sky slowly darkens through your window. It’s also a fine album to listen to this Halloween, in my opinion.

Visit the Andarlīh page on Bandcamp for more information.


I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Andarlīh

Album Artist: Hymnambulae

Label: Hypnagoga Press

Released: 10 Sept 2020