Wednesday 30 December 2020

My Dark Ambient 2020

My Dark Ambient 2020


By Casey Douglass



My Dark Ambient 2020

2020 is the first year that I think my dark ambient music listening eclipsed my partaking in heavy metal. Previous years, I viewed it as an about even split, but this year, I think the dark stuff has overtaken all other contenders. I’m sure the pandemic has played its part, but in nearly every way, my health issues have kept my life small enough, that even a pandemic hasn’t really changed much for me. I’m grateful for this in certain ways, but in others, I feel quite down about things. When the world comes out of the other side of Covid and people can get back to a version of normality, I kind of dread the bitterness and envy I'll likely feel. I’ll be happy for the people who get their lives back, of course I will, I just want a shot at a ‘more normal’ life too.

I have to rest frequently throughout the day, but my main rest period after lunch is when I always listen to a dark ambient album. Headphones on, eyes closed, duvet up to my chin. The drones and tones of dark ambient seem to give all those separate parts of my mind something to focus on. Maybe the ruminating part gets lost in the drone, maybe the part that thinks dying wouldn’t be so bad marvels at the crystalline high notes, and maybe the part that still has hope can chase the shimmering tones. It’s like a buffet where there is something for everyone. I might doze off, I might not, but the soundscapes usually fill my head nicely and it gives me a little holiday from this world.

Azathoth is still my most listened to dark ambient album by a massive margin. This year has been no exception. It creates such a feeling of swirling inky blackness, vast spaces and ominous presences, I never get tired of listening to it. It’s also my “go to” album for when I feel like I’m sinking deep into depression. If you are reading this and you aren’t really a dark ambient person, you’ll probably be thinking “Where’s the logic in that? Won’t that just make you more depressed?” The answer is no, it doesn’t. It helps mirror my feelings and lets them pass. I never expect anything going into it, but more often than not, I feel a space opens up, even if it’s just enough to wiggle my fingers around the boulder that has trapped me in a tunnel of murk.

I really don’t want to spend longer praising Azathoth, as I could quite easily make this whole piece about it. I guess that I’m just trying to describe how dark ambient can soothe, and that I’ve always used it in this way, even the more jarring stuff. This year has seen some great apocalyptic albums cross my inbox. After all, if you are worried about the world ending, entering a space where the worst has already happened kind of takes a load off. One that I’ve come to listen to quite a lot is the excellent Seclusion, from Dark Fields. Seclusion is set in a post-apocalyptic landscape, one where humans seem to be long gone. One of its tracks, Nails, is extra brilliant. It creates such a feeling of being inside thick concrete walls, but hearing some kind of maelstrom raging outside... it made me feel really cosy.

Another of the albums that I really appreciated this year was Mombi Yuleman’s Storm-Maker Redhorse. This album is like a bottled dose of what a god-fuelled tornado might sound like. In a year where all sorts of whacky stuff hit the news, if someone is going to believe that 5G was the cause of the pandemic, you might as well make shit interesting and have gods driving the weather too. As I write this, the UK is suffering floods again. I wonder which god might be behind that?

As is often the way, dark ambient has watery themed stuff to suit your needs too. Shadows of Forgotten Legends is a wave-infested album from Alphaxone, ProtoU and Onasander, and it takes the mighty Kraken as its muse. The lapping sea, the pinging tones and drones, all suggest the presence of something scary and beautiful, something passing by that could destroy you, but in truth, really doesn’t care if you’re there or not.

I’ve dipped into the apocalypse and some of the sounds of nature. I don't think I’ve mentioned albums that feel a bit “evil” yet, besides Azathoth, of course. I recently described Psionic Asylum’s Rotting Dreamland as one of the most intense dark ambient albums I’d ever listened to. It’s an album infused with such malignancy, one of the tracks even made me think it was the sound of wading through a shitty sewer in Hell. It was so fun to listen to though. Another album that tapped into the “things are badly wrong” vibe is Kehseverin’s Awaken The Flesh. Think The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes and The Evil Dead, mash them all up in a big cooking pot and pour the contents into your ears. No, don’t do that, but you hopefully understand what I mean. It just made me think about those films, the uneasy atmospheres of dread they contained. Another really fun album.

I also want to mention that Cut The Light’s Outre’ releases in January. This is another fine album, one that is a little like listening to a mechanised version of Hell. One final album that I would also describe as having an “evil” atmosphere is Randal Collier-Ford’s Advent. While it depicts strange occurrences and stranger creatures roaming the Earth in a way that doesn’t bode well for humanity, the swelling string notes and melancholy give it a gentle air at times. The ritual drumbeats in the latter half of the album might even suggest a bit of a fightback, a “monster turning on monster” kind of situation. This sets it slightly apart from the other albums I’ve mentioned.

Something else that I find just as soothing as barren landscapes, hellscapes and blustery wind and water is space, particularly the kind of dark space ambient where you feel like you are trying to sleep on a spaceship that is breaking up around you. Kosmobushir is an ambient album from Anihila, one themed around a lost Russian craft and the strange events that seemed to befall it. Another tasty dose of sci-fi listening came in the form of Afnimaran’s Graveyard Orbit, an album on which each track is themed around a starship or space station. Well worth having a look at.

Well I’ve written quite a lot here, and I could still go on to mention cinematic dark ambient, such as Crier’s Bane, the radio-ambient of Mount Shrine’s Shortwave Ruins, and how I always have four of five of ProtoU’s dark ambient creations on my phone because I find them to be just the right amount of relaxing. But I’d still be leaving some fantastic albums out. If you open any of my linked reviews above, click the “dark ambient” label right at the bottom of the post to see all of the dark ambient that I’ve ever reviewed.

There is some amazing music out there and I feel very lucky to not only be able to get review access to the albums that intrigue me, but to also exchange the odd message with some of the great creators who are making the stuff. Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me, both this year and any year, and thank you to those who replied when I was the first to reach out. If there is any writing that I can do for anyone, maybe giving a little help with their album description or constructing a story to to theme the album around, I’m always around. I also want to say a big thank you to the people who read my website, for taking an interest in dark ambient music and what I have to say about it. I appreciate the time you spend reading my stuff and I hope that you might sometimes go away feeling that you’ve discovered a great new album or artist.

Happy New Year :).

Monday 28 December 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Anthems Of Solitude

Dark Ambient Review: Anthems Of Solitude


Review by Casey Douglass



Anthems Of Solitude

When I am alone, unless I am practising some kind of mindfulness technique, my mind goes to other places. These tend to be fearful future ruminations, or more often than not, wandering through some kind of fantasy or mythical location, by way of book, film or just my own imagination. Phragments’ dark ambient album Anthems of Solitude is described as an exploration of the concept of solitude, and it’s a great audio companion to the feelings that might arise.

When listening to the first track: Hollow, my mind did its usual thing of constructing some imagery around the sounds and feelings created. Hollow opens with a distant drone and a sound similar to a radio momentarily picking up static. A ghostly “howl” type of tone begins, part wind blowing through small gaps, part desolate waste-ground gale. This latter impression is amplified by the metallic clattering and thumping that begin shortly after, along with a machine-type grinding. What came to mind listening to this track, was the notion of the top of a mineshaft, but one where it’s known that goblins live. A chant-like sound begins after awhile, which, for some reason, led me to think of a someone sitting at the top of the mineshaft, maybe trying to call the goblins from below... for company?

The next track is Consequence. Low tones swell in the darkness, things becoming darker and deeper still as the track progresses. A shimmering tone hangs in the air, and what could be distant cries or hissing sounds can be heard at the fringes. The soundscape feels like it gets a bit harsher after the midpoint of the track, with a howling type tone rounding things off. For me, this track might literally be the consequence that meets the person in the first track, the goblins answering their call and coming up to play, but not in a violent way, more a “blink, and they’ve vanished” kind of movement.

Frontiers of Hope opens with a “breathy” flowing drone. This is soon joined by a spectral melody that seems to float in the air. For some reason, the imagery brought to mind when I listened was a mist covered floor, the air currents occasionally revealing the bodies of dead unicorns. Maybe the higher tone is caused by some kind of fairy beings dancing over the dead creatures, crying their little hearts out. Or maybe I watched Legend too much as a kid. A horn-like blaring begins to sound and a shimmering, chittering quality seems to infuse the soundscape. Maybe what killed the unicorns is approaching, and it fancies some fairy desert?

The final track is called An Ode to Our Times, and for me, this rounded off the dreamlike qualities I described above. The main reason for this is due to one of the tones sounding a little like someone has dozed off with their mouth to some kind of wind instrument, blowing gently as they snore. There is a distant “steam train-like” whistle at one point, and at other moments, I half fancied I could hear a distant rumble that might just be traffic. This track had a “mist of memory” feeling to me, an awakening. The time-flickering as the age of steam leads to motor vehicles and to the modern day. I guess another way of saying this is that the soundscape seems to shimmer and flow with the audio equivalent of fantasy meeting reality, and if someone really has dozed off in an easy chair, are they waking up to anything better than where they’ve just been?

Anthems of Solitude is a dark ambient album that contains a calm darkness. I’m not surprised my mind did the thing it does and created the images and landscapes that it did. I can even see the symbolism or themes in the things that came up. I mean, a track title that mentions hope and me thinking about dead unicorns... Fun stuff though, and I say that sincerely, not flippantly. That’s why I love dark ambient music, horror and anything else that sends fluffy people running for the hills. Anthems of Solitude is a cracking album for the time of year too, and I only just realised that solitude and the Covid pandemic/lock-down cycle is another great fit. Go and check out Anthems of Solitude, it’s well worth your while.

Visit the Anthems Of Solitude page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also checkout the YouTube teaser video below:


I was given a review copy of this album.


Album Title: Anthems Of Solitude

Album Artist: Phragments

Label: Construct.Destroy.Collective (CDC)

Released: 20 Dec 2020

Friday 25 December 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Awaken The Flesh

Dark Ambient Review: Awaken The Flesh


Review by Casey Douglass



Awaken The Flesh

Any horror fan worth their salt has likely seen any number of flicks set in the rural middle of nowhere, creaking cabins and crinkled leaves the canvas often covered by blood and gore once things kick off. Kehseverin’s Awaken The Flesh is a dark ambient album that hooks into the same feelings that these horrors do, those sensations of strangeness and isolation. I’d also bet that, on first seeing the cover art above, some of your first thoughts might just have been about The Evil Dead.

As you might imagine from an album with a title like Awaken The Flesh, the sounds you will find in its soundscapes are all suitably grim, ominous and unnerving. One of the early tracks: Descent, is a great example. It opens with a low rumbling and a grainy, “pot boiling” sound. There is a hint of flies buzzing, a hint of wind, and for me, the growing sense that this is clearly some cannibal’s house. It just makes the most sense. There is a grinding feeling to the soundscape, rustling leaves, and what might be the sound of creeping insects. Add in the fizz of a detuned radio or TV, and you’ve got your own grim cabin scene right there.

The next track: Absolutes, is just as dark. This one opens with a low tone, and I thought that I could hear wind or rain. A deeper bass rumbling joins the low tone. A fuzzing, vibrating tone depicts a sad melody, like a beetle buzzing around, looking for a window. I might have heard whispers at the edge of the vibrating sound in places too. For me, the best way to describe this track is, if insects could chant and do their own little devil worshipping rites, this might just be what it would sound like. Is your house infested with Satanic cockroaches? Is there such a thing as a priest bug exterminator? I guess you could mix the pesticide with the holy water in the spray gun...

Horizon is another fun track. I say fun, in the same way that you might enjoy watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, as that is the film that this track set me thinking about. Horizon begins with a smooth, undulating drone. A short time later, a kind of spinning aesthetic creeps in, a bit like a spinning-top beginning to whirl faster and faster. This is where I thought of the sunrise scene in so many horrors, the blood covered victim gaining new strength from seeing the night sky turn orange. It wasn’t a big jump from that, to remembering Leatherface’s chainsaw spinning tantrum. Not that I heard a chainsaw, but everything else just felt like “horror sunrise” to me.

The final track I want to talk about is Confluence. This is another buzzing, vibrating track, that put me in mind of cannibals again. There is a tin-lid-scraping kind of beat that had me thinking about someone rummaging through old baked bean tins. An electronic rising tone begins, like the hum of a power core. A little later the soundscape turns into a dense, clanking space. Some of the clanking could very well be the flapping of corrugated metal. Maybe the action didn’t take place in a cabin but above an abandoned mine. Maybe this track is a little The Hills Have Eyes. Another fun one, whatever it is.

Awaken The Flesh is a journey into the unnerving backwaters of the horror genre. The kinds of places where people neither care for the rules of society, nor lose sleep over making use of whatever meat is handy. The soundscapes vibrate with hate, poverty and fear, and the listener gets to sample these unnerving places from the comfort of their own, hopefully safer, surroundings. I loved it.

Visit the Awaken The Flesh page on Bandcamp for more information. Check out Descent below:



I was given a review copy of this album.


Album Title: Awaken The Flesh

Album Artist: Kehseverin

Label: VoidSoundLTD

Released: 27 Nov 2020

Wednesday 23 December 2020

Dark Comic Review: Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #6: Galact-o-Massacre!

Dark Comic Review: Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #6: Galact-o-Massacre!


Review by Casey Douglass


Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #6: Galact-o-Massacre!

(Minor Spoilers Below, it is the end of the story after all!)


Well, this is it, Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #6: Galact-o-Massacre! Over the course of the previous five issues, we’ve seen Rory Landell proclaim himself to be “Galactic Champion of the Universe”, managing to piss off a planet of alien wrestlers, and ultimately, getting his friends, and the Earth in general, into a bit of a sticky situation. Everything has been leading to the question of whether Rory will face Manifest Destiny in the title deciding Galact-o-Massacre. This issue answers that question, and also gives us an outcome.

This instalment opens with a shot of wrestling commentator hype, taken with a chaser of the kind of humour that we’ve come to expect from the Planet Wrestletopia series. “History’s greatest astronomers have contemplated the night sky while pondering the question that has perplexed mankind throughout the ages – Is there life out there... and can you wrestle it?” Who hasn’t pondered that very same question!? It’s also always nice to get a chuckle on the very first page of a comic.


Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #6: Galact-o-Massacre!

Yes, Galact-o-Massacre is here. And yes, Rory does eventually make it, although the schemes afoot to keep him away almost succeed in their aim. His friends, both old and new, very much save the day, even the ones that sadly fell by the wayside, in one way or another. All you need to know is that Rory makes it to the ring and that the fight with Manifest Destiny happens. It is also suitably epic, twisting and full of surprises.

If you watch wrestling, either now or maybe during some time earlier in your life, you will probably remember how important bouts tended to play out. Why would the events of a fight flow from A to B when they can take in so many other letters of the alphabet. The kind of shenanigans you might see in an old WWF bout on videotape all seem to appear in this galactic battle. There are shifting allegiances, ring side interference, cheating, bad luck, good luck... it’s no wonder this issue is described as a 47 page megaextravaganza on its cover, most of it is devoted to the events of this one wrestling match!


Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #6: Galact-o-Massacre!

I’m really pleased that the confrontation between the two galactic champions played out in such a fun way. I usually find anything that builds to something over a period of time can give a slightly disappointing finale. I didn’t experience that here, and it made me remember a few wrestling bouts I watched as a kid, which was a pleasant dose of nostalgia, and I don’t even class myself as still a fan. The humour persists throughout, and I particularly liked the turn-coat commentator who wants to embrace the planet’s new Wrestletopian overlords before the fight has even begun.


Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #6: Galact-o-Massacre!

Does it end happily for Rory? I’m not telling, but I was certainly happy with the outcome. You’ll have to check out the comic to find out what happens.


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


Comic Book Name: Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #6: Galact-o-Massacre!

Authors: Ed Kuehnel & Matt Entin

Artist: Kendall Goode

Colouring: Jio Butler

Lettering: Sal Cipriano

Publisher: Starburns Industries Press

Released: August 12, 2020

Price: $1.99

Tuesday 22 December 2020

Dark Ambient Review: X-Theory (Best of 2005-2020)

Dark Ambient Review: X-Theory (Best of 2005-2020)


Review by Casey Douglass



X-Theory (Best of 2005-2020)

Xerxes The Dark is a dark ambient project from Iranian artist Morego Dimmer. It was founded in 2005 and is imbued with the concepts of strange spaces, warping time frames, and darkness. X-Theory (Best of 2005-2020) is a collection of some of the output from Xerxes The Dark in that time frame, a compilation that stretches to four hours in duration. That’s a lovely, heady dose of darkness if you ask me.

In the last couple of years, I’ve reviewed a couple of Xerxes The Dark’s more recent releases: Tower of Silence and Final Crisis. In general, in my dark ambient reviews, I usually highlight at least three tracks that stood out for me as ones that I particularly enjoyed. X-Theory contains five tracks from these two albums. Before I began to write this review, while listening to X-Theory, I noted down the tracks that immediately appealed to me, and then realised upon checking that they were from these two albums. Above, I’ve linked to the reviews in which I covered the tracks at length. Below, I’ve looked at three of the tracks from the many on X-Theory that I’ve just heard for the first time.

Timetube Travel is the first I'll mention, as for me, it’s a track that could have easily come from Final Crisis, Xerxes’ end of the world, black hole-laced dystopian album. Timetube Travel opens with a really pleasing corrugated plastic tube-like sound, a bit like someone dragging said tube over a hard edge, or maybe like a really pissed off bumblebee flying around a hollow plastic thing. There is a bassy, deep quality beneath the sound, and it soon gives way to a metallic dragging and jostling. Near the end, the sounds change to a swelling, pulsing bass version of the plastic tube. The track seemed to convey the different stages of travelling down one of these worm-hole type tubes. If we ever discover or create real time tubes, and get to travel down them, I’d like to think that they might sound like this.

(Sur)Realization is a track originally from the album Xenophillis, and for me, is another great track that excels at making the listener feel like they are traversing some strange space. It begins with a deep drone that roams the soundscape like a moody animal, with little sparkles or tinkles of electronic tone jittering in the air above it. It’s a soundscape where the low and the high have an uneasy meeting in the middle, maybe the audio equivalent of an anti-matter ocean in which certain waves boil up to meet our reality. Who knows, but whatever is going on, it sounds like a fun space to listen to on an album. Maybe not so fun to visit in reality though, if that were even possible.

The final track I will mention is something a bit different. Dimmer was originally released on the album DIM, and is a more frenetic creation. While I do find myself gravitating to Xerxes’ more brooding soundscapes, Dimmer is a fast-paced, retro-feeling, somewhat jaunty track that I found got stuck in my mind. It opens with an electronic melody that gets loud enough to feel almost uncomfortable, but then fades a little when lower tones join in. This track has a feeling of massive momentum, and the grainy distortion of the tones just gives it even more charm. Maybe it’s a radio broadcast from another universe, or maybe it’s a dimension jumper’s soundtrack of choice before they engage their mini-black hole-fuelled jump device. It’s a track that feels bright and vigorous, with a retro aesthetic that wouldn’t be amiss as the theme to a Netflix nostalgia-fuelled sci-fi series.

As you can see, X-Theory (Best of 2005-2020) is a great collection of some of Xerxes The Dark’s ambient creations. For me, it helped get me acquainted with some of his earlier work that I had missed, and also, in the case of Dimmer, saw me revisit an album that I should have paid more attention to, but that I didn’t feel was my type of thing at the time I came across it. I guess I’m saying that X-Theory is a gateway drug to Xerxes’ other works, smoothing the way for them to infest your mind. I’d bet that’s his plan anyway...

Visit the X-Theory (Best of 2005-2020) page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also watch the X-Theory Excerpt Video below:



I was given a review copy of this album.


Album Title: X-Theory (Best of 2005-2020)

Album Artist: Xerxes The Dark

Released: 04 Dec 2020

Sunday 20 December 2020

Dark Film Review: What It Takes

Dark Film Review: What It Takes



Review By Casey Douglass


What It Takes

As a horror fan, I have to admit that I’ve wondered what it might be like to become one of the creatures in the films or books that I enjoy so much. I guess it’s a craving for power of some kind, especially if you feel a bit lacking in other areas of your life. What It Takes is a horror short that focusses on someone who is actually given the chance to achieve this transformation, in this case, to attend an interview in the hopes of become a vampire.

The film opens with a car pulling up at a house, depositing a man named Vic into the night. He knocks on the door. When he looks down at the note in his pocket, a flash-light illuminates his face, a woman is standing in front of the still closed front door, having made no sound on her arrival. Once inside the house, she tells Vic the rules of the interview: That he has to stay in the room, has to stay seated on the chair, and most importantly, that he must answer truthfully. Anything less is a “fail”, and she informs him that he “Is free to fail at any time.” Vic is ushered into the interview room and left in the candle-lit darkness. After some time, a woman is suddenly sitting in the chair opposite him, the only sign that she is there the way that her hair seems to catch the light. The interview has begun.


What It Takes

The interview is part curious chat, part interrogation. The woman says that she wants to get an idea of Vic’s substance, his true self, particularly what he wants and why he wants to become a vampire. She comes across as playful, wise and amused. Vic comes across as someone wanting to become more than he is, a bit of a loner, and as someone wanting more time to make the world a better place. As the interview progresses, the nature of things changes, and it is here that I will stop from fear of spoiling the plot. I will say that the interview as a whole, is the kind of conversation that is particularly riveting. I think this is because the desires and fears of one side are up against an inscrutable shadow woman who might just be able to fulfil them or snuff them out in one motion. The choice of words and the reward seemingly at stake certainly inject a pleasing tension to things.

The visuals of the film do a fine job of blanketing the narrative in murk and threat. There are also some nice touches that reveal a little of the nature of the vampire, without being glaringly “on the nose”. One example is seeing her hand pick up a wine glass, and when she returns it to the table, her fingers have become talons. Small moments of revelation that don’t linger, which play very nicely with how she and her assistant seem to come and go without even a pop in the air. The film is backed up by a suitably ominous, drone-based score, that lends a sense of danger and threat to every scene.


What It Takes

What It Takes was created by BloodScribe Creations for the 2nd annual Fright Film Competition in Ohio, and it scooped a number of Skelly Awards: Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Music, Best Screamplay and Best Special Effects. It was premiered on YouTube on the Fourth of December, and you can watch the whole 14 minutes of it on YouTube. I really had fun with it and I recommend you have a peep.


Film Title: What It Takes

Studio: BloodScribe Creations

Director: DJ Remark

Written By: Jason Orr

Music By: Fyodor Novotny

Starring: Vincent Sarowatz, Angelia Green, Samantha Sather.

Friday 18 December 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Outre'

Dark Ambient Review: Outre'


Review by Casey Douglass



Outre'

When watching The Terminator film, a younger Casey found one of the most ominous and atmospheric scenes to be the caterpillar-tracked robot tank grinding its way over bleached human skulls. Even today, I think anything that mixes mechanisation and fleshy biology can be more than a little unnerving. Cut The Light’s upcoming dark ambient album Outre' is something that very much set my mind down this path again, and even with the extra years of horror-film fandom under my belt, it managed to reach “Young Casey” again in a similar way.

Outre' is an album that incorporates the various sounds of machinery, such as clanking and humming, alongside the more electronic aspects of technology, such as tortured speakers squeaking or crackling feedback interference. As I’m sure you’ll likely guess at this point, this is not a smooth, relaxing listening experience, but a harsh, ominous and at times jarring one. This isn’t the white-noise of a docile conveyor belt carrying tins of dog food, but a hell machine syphoning soul-juice from the victims strung up over its reclamation funnel.

The Flesh Cascades is a track the illustrates this feeling oh so nicely. Its soundscape feels metallic, with a reverberating bassy impact near the start, and low vibrations and a power-building hum soon joining it. The soundscape changes after awhile, to one that seems dominated by a sound that put me in mind of a whirring circular saw. This is when the dripping begins, a wet, fleshy sound, that when married to the saw-like sound, led me to think that this might be what some kind of automated human-harvesting abattoir might sound like. I don’t think I heard any screams, so I guess the victims at the least, are already dead? Silver linings and all that.

One of my favourite tracks is Xenobiotic. I think this is one of the most ominous, threatening tracks I’ve listened to for some time. It opens with a blaring, vibrating metallic tone. A mechanical drone and a pulsing bass note join the throng. The pulsing bass-note lends the soundscape the “standing outside a nightclub” feeling, where you can hear the beat but no real detail of the music inside. This led me to think that this track might be about a strange robotic, half-alien creature, lurking in the dark alley nearby. There are even breathing-like hisses and sighs to add to this impression. Maybe it’s waiting for someone to be foolish enough to walk down that alley...

Outreworld is another fine example of the kind of mechanical horror that this album contains. This track put me in mind of a kind of steampunk Jurassic Park. It features a nice variety of sounds, from resonating electronic tones to quiet static, and what might be the sound of something being dragged along the floor. The stars of the soundscape for me were the electronic roars. There is something bestial about this track, and all the pulsing, squeaking metal led me to think of some kind of theme-park where monstrous robotic hybrids wander their enclosures. Maybe the track title brought Jurassic World to mind, and my thoughts ran with it, but regardless, it’s another engrossing track to listen to.

I usually end my reviews with a final paragraph that wraps things up in a way that pleases me, but today I think that the previous ones have already described those things that I wanted to convey. I think you will know if Outre' will be your kind of dark ambient album, and even if it’s not, dip in to a couple of its tracks on its Bandcamp page just to get a taste. It’s well worth the consideration, and I really like it.

Visit the Outre' page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also watch the teaser video below:



I was given a review copy of this album.


Album Title: Outre'

Album Artist: Cut The Light

Label: Black Mara

Released: 14 Jan 2021

Tuesday 15 December 2020

Dark Comic Review: Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #5: Show-Me-State-of-Mind!

Dark Comic Review: Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #5: Show-Me-State-of-Mind!


Review by Casey Douglass


Dark Comic Review: Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #5: Show-Me-State-of-Mind!

(Warning: Minor spoilers below)

Layers are great when it comes to keeping you warm in the Winter. Layers are not so endearing when they consist of the things that go on in your mind, the negative self-talk, anxiety and other personality traits, that hold you back like some kind of smelly straightjacket. Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #5: Show-Me-State-of-Mind! Is an issue that peels back the layers in Rory Landell’s mind, all while seeing the roguish hero get ever closer to his date with Destiny.

After a very sticky situation in which Rory has to complete a reverse “Dukes of Hazard” move to escape a fiery end, he finds himself (pun intended... you’ll see) wandering in the desert. He comes across old wrestler Jay Warcloud. Some spiked sandwiches send Rory off into a peyote-fuelled wrestling event his mind has called “Egomania”. Here, he faces off against various aspects of his personality and his past, and it’s a fun thing to witness. It’s a trippy sequence of fights that reveal the various ways that Rory sees or remembers himself. It even ends with a surprise reveal, which adds even more juice to the trip.


Dark Comic Review: Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #5: Show-Me-State-of-Mind!

Once Rory has finished battling his mental foes, his friends, who have overcome their own literal scuffle, appear just in time to almost run him over. Their RV is knackered, which leads this issue to culminate with the bright idea of some train-hopping. Sadly, this only puts the group in the clutches of some sneaky Wrestletopians. This surprise appearance causes a mass train-top grapple-fest, and a cliffhanger ending that sees the reader wondering if one of the companions might die in the opening pages of issue six.


Dark Comic Review: Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #5: Show-Me-State-of-Mind!

Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #5: Show-Me-State-of-Mind! Is another issue that moves the story along while also giving an insight into a character’s state of mind. It’s action packed, trippy and humorous, and still gaining momentum as Rory’s fight with Manifest Destiny looms. Most importantly though, there is a background news-report happening in one of the scenes, one that details how wrestling bear Kodiak Jack escaped from his handler and is running amok in a shopping mall: “...suplexing several shoppers before raiding a Steamin’ Weenie.” This really made me chuckle and I hope that Kodiak Jack puts in another appearance at some point in the series. He’s awesome. Roll on issue six.


Dark Comic Review: Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #5: Show-Me-State-of-Mind!

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 #5: Show-Me-State-of-Mind!

Authors: Ed Kuehnel & Matt Entin

Artist: Kendall Goode

Colouring: Jio Butler

Lettering: Sal Cipriano

Publisher: Starburns Industries Press

Released: 11 Dec 2019

Price: $1.99


Saturday 12 December 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Nocturn

Dark Ambient Review: Nocturn


Review by Casey Douglass


Nocturn Album Art
Nocturn Album Art

When I sat down to write this review of Kehseverin’s dark ambient album Nocturn, I found that my understanding of the word “Nocturn” was partly wrong. I thought it was another way of referring to the night, and it is, but it seems to have its roots in some Christian rites that had to be observed at night as well. I guess I’ve learned my thing for the day. Nocturn is an album that takes the nocturnal hours as its muse, featuring low, dark-in-feeling soundscapes and melodies that blanket the listener, much as night might blanket the view through your window.

Amongst is one of my favourite tracks. It opens with an airy drone, one with a kind of grinding quality behind it. A shimmering tone builds, sending reverberating judders through the soundscape. This track caused my imagination to conjure up a dark forest glade with a strange, ancient stone archway inside, fairy-lights crackling around and through it. The track becomes more mellow and gentle as it approaches its midpoint, maybe hinting that the listener has passed through the portal. An ominous rumbling begins a short time later, joined by gentle pops and crackles in the ear, and later, some wind. Maybe the portal doesn’t point to anywhere nice...

Another track that I enjoyed was Upon A Hill. This track opens with gusts of wind and a gentle puttering sound, like a very unhealthy heart-beat. There are grainy clicks, swirls of movement, and a roaming electronic tone that throbs in the air. I felt that this track had a general feeling of malice about it, and daydreamed a lone figure on a hilltop, watching across a valley. When the Moon comes out, the figure is gone, but their shadow is still in place on the ground. It’s a furtive, looming feeling.

Eclipsed is another track that I felt contained its fair share of malice. It begins with an uneasy metallic drone, a little like a steam engine hissing and grinding to life. Rather than steam however, this one might just be ejecting spumes of ectoplasm and dust. Big tones hold long notes, the sound underneath sometimes feeling like it takes on a chittering, rotating aspect. The second half of the track deepens into an ominous space, the sound a little like a dark sacral chant. I’m not sure what is being eclipsed, and by what, but it sounds nice and brooding.

Nocturn is an album in which some of the tracks feature more melody than others. For me and my own dark ambient taste, I think I gravitated more to the ominous, droning spaces in the tracks above, and to the ones with very slow melodies, but I did enjoy the more musical tracks too. All of the tracks shared the same kind of midnight murk and muted peace, the furtive silence of the night rubbing up against uneasy shadows and encroaching dreams. If you like your dark ambient low-toned and dark, but that livens up with some faster melodies at times, you should check out Nocturn.

Visit the Nocturn page on Bandcamp for more information.


I was given a review copy of this album.


Album Title: Nocturn

Album Artist: Kehseverin

Label: VoidSoundLTD

Released: 02 Dec 2020

Thursday 10 December 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Silent Annihilation

Dark Ambient Review: Silent Annihilation


Review by Casey Douglass


Silent Annihilation

A few weeks ago, I reviewed Anihila’s most recent dark space ambient release: Kosmobushir. It certainly wet my appetite for more of Duncan's bleak space soundscapes, and he was kind enough to give me review access to his first Anihila release: Silent Annihilation. Whereas Kosmobushir was themed around a lost Soviet spaceship near Triton, Silent Annihilation is about the crew of a space-station orbiting a strange, time-bending planet.

Silent Annihilation is an album that taps into that desolate sci-fi feeling of strangeness, the one you get when you watch a really disconcerting film set in the stars. The kind of film I’m talking about is not only one in which nobody can hear you scream, but that also aren’t there to see your insides make a break for the outside, as a sinister throbbing star indifferently sweeps your body with radiation. That being said, some of the tracks also hinted to me, that other presences might be nearby, and with the time-warping factors of the theme, they might even be past or future echoes of the hapless space travellers.

The opening track is a fine example of the notion of presences. A hissing static is pierced by high tones. Metal screeches, and a sound that might just be breathing insinuates itself into the soundscape. There are electronic tones and whines, and distant clattering. This track made me think of a space-station in trouble, red light bathing its innards, cold space staring in through the windows, shadows shifting at the edge of vision. You know the kind of shadows that red emergency lighting can cast? They seem to take on a redness of their own. Here, maybe they’re even watching you.

I always think that there is something infinitely relaxing about shuddering, creaking metal on a space ambient album. I’m sure I’d shit bricks if I was really on a space-station or a ship making that kind of sound, but from the comfort of my own bed, it’s heavenly. Eusebes is a track that I thoroughly enjoyed, particularly for its use of these metallic sounds. What Eusebes throws into the mix however, is the kind of sound that you might hear when one spaceship docks with another, a kind of vigorous thump that goes way beyond straining superstructure. I felt that this was an introspective track, but one that creates the feeling of something coming. A bit like being alone in your house and thinking you hear a door opening downstairs, but on a space-station, with ships and time-warps. Maybe it’s you coming home forty nine days from now. Maybe it’s an alien wanting to suck your brain. The soundscape builds into a throbbing, pressurized space, knocking sounds and ghostly howls making you feel that, even if something has got in, it’s too late to do anything anyway.

Locus Meropis is another track that makes great use of creaking metal. This time, it felt to me as if the whole station was having its orbit adjusted. I thought that I heard the sounds of jiggling crockery and engines rumbling. There is also a sound that seemed like a large creature snoring. Maybe the station is having to take evasive action to avoid a space leviathan? Who knows! There are impacts on the hull, fairy-like tones, and a drone that smears a feeling of strangeness onto things. I doubt that the station is simply avoiding an asteroid, let me put it that way. Maybe it’s avoiding a future or past version of itself? Could be...

The final track is when my mind finally turned to the planet itself. Another Cold Night Alone is a mellow track, beginning with echoing string-notes that undulate away into the distance. There is a high tone that might be a distant howl or cry, and a rumbling that begins about a third of the way in. The elements of this track suggested a lone person sitting on a lush, alien world, its gravity spiking as another massive planet rises on the horizon, casting a spectacular shadow as it causes night to fall. What felt relatively tranquil is changed by the rumbling. The latter half of the track feels a lot more ominous and throbs with a sense of foreboding. Maybe the listener escaped the space-station and found somewhere that looked safe and beautiful, only to find that at night, the things with teeth come out.

For me, Silent Annihilation was the story of someone escaping a space-station that was in trouble, and possibly finding themselves in a different kind of danger as a consequence. I loved the relaxing metallic rumblings and creakings, and I loved the dose of unreality or uncanniness that seemed to go hand in hand with them. Think Event Horizon meets Interstellar maybe, with a chunk of Solaris, if you want my film reference-based description of how Silent Annihilation made me feel. If you like your dark space ambient ominous and twisted, check out Silent Annihilation.

Visit the Silent Annihilation page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out Eusebes below:


I was given a review copy of this album.


Album Title: Silent Annihilation

Album Artist: Anihila

Label: Pretty Dead Girl Records

Released: 01 May 2019

Tuesday 8 December 2020

Dark Comic Review: Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #4: Road Games

Dark Comic Review: Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #4: Road Games


Review by Casey Douglass



Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #4: Road Games

In my review of the previous issue of Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia, I said that we spend some time on the road with the hapless Rory Landell, and that it would be fun to find out if he makes it to his fight with Manifest Destiny. Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #4: Road Games, is still very much in road-trip mode, as you might have guessed from its title. The fun thing about this is that it places Rory and his friends into a variety of strange locations and barmy situations. It also puts them in touch with danger too, as is so often the way of things.

In the opening pages, Rory, Macho and Don find themselves crawling out of their upturned car just outside a theme park. They clash with more wrestlers from Planet Wrestletopia, and one part of this fight actually occurs as everyone involved slides down a twisting water slide. I found this hilarious. It’s also presented in a really stylish way, in cells that mimic the twist and turns of the water slide. It is shortly after this slippery slide that some old acquaintances turn up to save the day, prompting Rory and company to join together with them and to hit the road once more.


Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #4: Road Games

While in their friends’ RV, Rory and pals chin-wag and play a wrestling game on a games console. This leads to the origin story of why tag team partnership Three-D only has two members, which is pretty funny. Let’s just say that the love of money plays a role, and not in the way that you might immediately think. The humour in this issue is on point, just as in previous ones. There is an “almost drowning” (pictured above) that I did have to chuckle at, alongside an instance of a man determined to finish a ginger-ale he paid for, even though he no longer wants to drink it where he bought it, which amused me quite a lot too.


Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #4: Road Games

Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #4: Road Games is an issue in which we hear about more of the fallout from Rory’s “I’m the Galactic Champion” boast, the effect it had on other people in his wrestling circle, and the hardship it caused. A scene in a strip club also causes Rory’s ego to flare once again, causing a walk-out that, at first, seems to save him from the event that befalls his friends, but by the end of the issue, sees him in just as uncertain a situation. I’m being deliberately cryptic here as I don’t want to blab about everything in the comic. Where’s the fun in that? What will happen to them? Time will tell.

One extra thing that I will say, is that the Earth-defending title fight has been dubbed the “Galact-O-Massacre” which is a fine name for a potentially world-ending bout. At the end of this issue, there is a fun page from the doomsday essentials collection, a selection of gear for wrestling fans who might feel inclined to prepare for a worst case scenario. I particularly liked the chemical toilet, in the main, because of the copy spiel that: “Nothing strikes fear in the hearts of Dark Covenant like untreated human excreta.” I must admit, it’s a fear that I can fully get behind.


Invasion from Planet Wrestletopia #4: Road Games

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 #4: Road Games

Authors: Ed Kuehnel & Matt Entin

Artist: Kendall Goode

Colouring: Jason Lewis

Lettering: Sal Cipriano

Publisher: Starburns Industries Press

Released: 30 Oct 2019

Price: $1.99

Saturday 5 December 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Rotting Dreamland

Dark Ambient Review: Rotting Dreamland


Review by Casey Douglass



Rotting Dreamland

The album description for Psionic Asylum's Rotting Dreamland says that it’s a “morbid journey through the rotting land of dreams”. This, when taken with the album art, certainly got me into a kind of “Clive Barker” head-space. This space is filled with fleshy creatures, sharp metal and strange doorways leading people to even darker places. This feeling was magnified tenfold upon listening to the actual soundscapes of Rotting Dreamland. It is incredibly dark, grim and brilliant.

The soundscapes of Rotting Dreamland are ripe with hissing, cries of pain, scraping metal and just a general feeling of bad things happening. Take track The Boiler Room as an example. It opens with a whistling hiss and a rumbling, punctuated with cries of pain. After a short while, the hisses seem to take on the mantle of breathing, and a little later, what sounds like a crying child can be heard. Then comes the sound of grinding metal, making me wonder a little, if Silent Hill’s Pyramid Head might be coming. The second half of the track features a barking voice rasping out “You will die!”, and another voice, a little like a gremlin, shouting “Help me!” For me, the whole track screamed “Kidnap victim in a sack waiting on the floor of a boiler room to see what their fate is”. I said it was dark.

Opening track Temple of Succubi is a different beast, swapping the hiss of a boiler room for the harsh stone and echoing vaults of a temple. An airy drone sounds, with chimes and distorted voices. Then the moaning starts, and I wasn’t quite sure if they were groans of pleasure or pain. A high sparkling chime and a rasping rhythm emerge. I felt the opening minutes of this track created a sensation of what it might be like, to be a ghost in a blender. There is scuffling movement, metallic grinding and knocking, and the atmosphere seems to start boiling as we approach the midpoint. The second half of this track led me to imagine a hazy temple, and a succubus slowly beginning to form from the incense that billows and curls in the air over a despairing mass of squirming bodies. A sensual and scary track.

The last track I will go in-depth on is The Source of Endless Filth. This is a glorious, bubbling, gloopy track, the kind of thing that just encapsulates what a sewer in Hell might be like. The kind of sewer where the effluence doesn't flow, it sucks and burps its way along, a thick tar laced with sweetcorn-like skulls and bones piercing its surface. There are sounds of wet exhales and squeals, and also the impression of something large wading along the tunnel. Maybe it’s even a soundtrack to what it might be like to pass through a giant demon-lord’s bowel? Who knows. Listening to it was fun though, especially in the relief of not being able to smell what you could hear.

Rotting Dreamland is one of the most intense dark ambient albums that I think I’ve probably ever listened to. Some of its tracks are less intense than the ones mentioned above, but even these are melancholic, bleak, and create feelings of desolation. If you can remember the last proper nightmare you had, and by proper I mean one that would make a great horror film, Rotting Dreamland would more than likely make a great soundtrack for that film. If you love delving into disturbing soundscapes, you should really check it out.

Visit the Rotting Dreamland page on Bandcamp for more information.


I was given a review copy of this album.


Album Title: Rotting Dreamland

Album Artist: Psionic Asylum

Label: Distorted Void

Released: 21 Nov 2020

Thursday 3 December 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Infernal Beyond

Dark Ambient Review: Infernal Beyond


Review by Casey Douglass


Infernal Beyond

When people study the notion of becoming “enlightened”, it isn’t unusual for a variety of religious and spiritual systems to refer to the energy involved as being like a fire or a flame. This flame can be fuelled by many different things, even tipping someone over into madness. If you base a dark ambient album around the concept of a fire at an asylum for the insane, and then hint at sinister occult forces driving the whole thing, Flowers for Bodysnatchers’ Infernal Beyond is where you might just find yourself.

The album description says that the asylum fire killed almost everybody inside. The small town in which it happened is rife with rumours that “something unnatural and otherworldly” now resides there. It’s possible that the fire might have been some kind of occult mass murder, and that something dark has taken up occupancy of the fire-blackened walls. Personally, this led me to ponder if screams might still echo from the brickwork, but ones that are now fuelled by an energy quite different to that of insanity.

The overall feeling I got from Infernal Beyond, was one of whimsy and carnival. That’s not to say it isn’t a dark album, it certainly is. But there is a playful malevolence to many of the tracks, like a rigged fairground game that looks winnable, but in which you are actually risking your life rather than your money. One of my favourite tracks was Of Shadowed Horror, and I think that by describing it, I can explain my point a little bit better.

The track opens with jaunty notes, possibly from a melodica. Crackles of deep fuzz rub against the notes, accompanied by a kind of “fingernail running along plastic comb teeth” sound. The mental image this gave me was of a puppet master, but maybe one with humans dangling on bloodstained strings. Everything is smooth in the first half of the track, the puppet master revelling in their control. Then we hear a kind of groan, and the soundscape turns into a bassy, rasping space. It feels tight, and frustrated. It made me wonder if the puppets are beginning to realise that they are trapped, starting to struggle and twist in the air. The puppet master’s whimsy clashes with the puppets’ despair.

The track that follows was another favourite of mine, as it holds on to this rasping, guttural feeling and runs with it. Lurkers opens with juddery strings and a jarring high tone. It also has tones that sound like they might have been made by the sound of metal manhole covers sliding open. This kind of set the scene for me. There are echoes, hissing sounds and knockings. I wondered if I was listening to some sewer dwelling creatures rising up through the streets, moving slowly towards the nearby church. Things deepen and become more ominous once they are inside, but just after the midpoint, a silence falls, punctuated by the almost sleep-like hisses of slumber. Maybe the creatures only wanted to pray, and once on their knees, they found some kind of peace? Gentle tones warble over the scene, seeming to lend a peaceful darkness to the tableau.

Underval is another track I really appreciated. It starts with a lone piano note and a beat. This repeats a couple of times before a piano melody begins. There are rising and falling string notes and a whining in the air. A crystalline whistle emerges later too, alongside what sound like cries, and an insect-like buzz. Around the midpoint, the soundscape feels like it has “inverted”, for want of a better word. You know if you look at a photo in an image editing app and invert the colours? For some reason, I just felt that this track did the same. The second half is an airy, chimey, howling space. It quietens again and the listener enters into an echoing space of metallic impacts and dripping. A deep tone vibrates, a rainstorm rumbles, and distant dogs bark. The strange thing about the dogs though, is that they sound more like humans acting like howling dogs. Or something else... A great sinister track.

Infernal Beyond is a dark ambient album that gives the listener the run of a town in trouble. Some of the tracks are stark and brutal, hinting at strange treatment chambers and echoing vaults. Others seem to have an almost luxurious feel, like an orgy about to take place in a plush Victorian mansion, but one in which the beds are covered in blood and the platters of food don’t really contain the kind of meat that you think they do. This is all wrapped up in the “carnival” feeling that I alluded to earlier. If you enjoy dark ambient that skirts on the edge of worlds, realms and insanity, you’d do well to check out Infernal Beyond.

Visit the Infernal Beyond page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out the track Underval below:



I was given a review copy of this album.


Album Title: Infernal Beyond

Album Artist: Flowers for Bodysnatchers

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: 01 Dec 2020

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