Month: December 2018

Frozen in Time – 2018 Year End Edition

The end of 2018 is upon us. This has been a trying year, world-wide. [Insert endless political rants.] However, it’s been a pretty great year for new releases in the dark ambient genre. We are so proud to have spent another year with the dark ambient community. We really can’t thank you all enough for riding along on this journey, which started a few years ago as little more than a side-project. We hope to have another productive year ahead of us in 2019 for the dark ambient community.

It’s not all been great this year though. As the world gets more troubling, more and more people find themselves in dire straits. The wage gaps between rich and poor have never been greater, on a global scale. As we further divide, people are finding less and less “entertainment money”, instead focusing on the essentials of life and family. While this is absolutely understandable, I’d like for people to reflect, going into this new year, on what aspects of our underground community are absolutely essential to you. If, say, your favorite label closed up shop tomorrow, how would you feel? As we spend less on music, the labels in turn have less to work with for future releases. They begin digging into their personal savings to make a release happen, or close up shop for good, seeing that they are no longer able to keep the business afloat. Decide what is important to you, and instead of that Starbucks coffee, or new movie on Amazon, maybe think about directing that money toward buying a new release from your favorite label/mailorder. I am positive that every single one of them that I cover will appreciate this more than you could imagine! 

As usual, I have let this edition build up for a few months. So there is a ton of news here for you to absorb. Don’t try it all at once!  Bookmark the page and come back over the coming weeks as you have time to absorb/discover more new releases. Every single album I’ve covered in this list is, in my opinion, absolutely worth hearing/buying! Without further ado, here’s the news!

Michael Barnett

New Publications On This Is Darkness

Sodom & Chimera – Interview with film director James Quinn
Arktau Eos – Interview
Lars von Trier – The House That Jack Built – Movie Review
Hector Meinhof – Interview
Martin Bladh – Marty Page – Book Review
The Inner Sanctum – Dark Ambient Vlog: Episode 6 & Episode 7
Arthur Machen – The Recluse of Bayswater (1895) Full Novella Text
Algernon Blackwood – The Willows (1907) Full Novella Text
Cadabra Records – The Call of Cthulhu – Review
Senketsu No Night Club – Shikkoku – Review
VelgeNaturlig – Kundalini कुण्डलिनी – Review
Shinkiro – Archive: Volumes I-III – Review
Manifesto – Hive – Review
Atrium Carceri – Codex – Review
False Mirror – SIGINT – Review
Sysselmann – Live At Mir – Review
Arktau Eos – Erēmos – Review
Dahlia’s Tear – Through The Nightfall Grandeur – Review
Endless Chasm – Saṃsāra Eternal – Review

Dark Indie Films

Sodom & Chimera Productions
I discovered Sodom & Chimera a while back when they were working on Flesh of the Void (2017). They are currently preparing Tears of Apollo for its premiere, and meanwhile, Daughter of Dismay is going into post-production.

We have just published an interview with James Quinn, auteur behind these productions. Check out the interview here.

Tears of Apollo – Teaser (2018 Horror Short)
The story of Tears of Apollo, a throwback flick to low budget horror films from the 70s, revolves around a suicidal woman, who, during the apocalypse, meets just the person in what are supposed to be her last minutes on earth that no one should ever meet in a situation like such, let alone at all. Morbid doom ensues.
Shot on 16mm.
Find out more at sodomchimera.com.

The Quantum Terror – 1st Trailer Unveiled
The twin sister and ex-boyfriend of a missing grad student lead their friends down a labyrinth of dark tunnels inhabited by an alien entity, in search of her. A story of terror and madness, in the tradition of H.P. Lovecraft, David Lynch, and old school practical effects.
Directed by Christopher Cooksey (Total Moonlight Productions)

Music Videos

Apoptose – time-lapse city
Released over the summer, “time-lapse city” is a music video for a track from their latest album Die Zukunft.

Ashtoreth & No One – Redemption (Teaser)
“Redemption is a remarkable collaborative effort between Belgian artists No One and Ashtoreth. Ashtoreth improvised a track and then No One worked his magic. He took the track, decomposed it, and recomposed it, with soundscape, drones, field recordings and arrangements added. “Redemption” grew organically out of the ashes of the Ashtoreth improv into a thrilling and utterly gripping work of art, making the one hour trip a truly enthralling, yet galling redemption.”

Ashtoreth & Grey Malkin – Pilgrim
This video is for the track “Pilgrim” from the new release of the same name on Cursed Monk.

Black Mara Records – Palaces of Darkness (Video Teaser)
Black Mara presents the dark ambient / folk compilation “Palaces Of Darkness”. Featuring:
Corona Barathri, Ad Lux Tenebrae, Nubiferous, Sol Mortuus, Mrako-Su.

Empty Chalice – Treblinka’s Snow
From the forthcoming album, title and release date TBA, the first official video of the track called “Treblinka’s Snow”!

Gamardah Fungus – Crossing the Wasteland (Album Teaser)

Gamardah Fungus – Immortality
This is by no means a new track or album. This released back in 2013, but Gamardah Fungus found a few extra physical copies and I revisted the album. This music video, I think, is quite impressive. I had never seen it before and assume most of you haven’t either, so I thought I should share it! Screenplay and lead actor are Igor Yalivec (Gamardah Fungus). He shared editing and directing duties with Antoine Miroshnichenko, who also operated and edited the short.

Iluiteq – A Prayer for the Departed

Ivan Kamaldinov – Inreversed
Bonus track from “Unrest”.

M. Kardinal & Monocube – Apparitions: III. Substratum
“III. Substratum: An inner garden, a sacrament place for the one who yearns and seeks the place to restore themselves from the shattered cosmos. Slowly emerging into the light – one’s nature reveals itself exposing the beauty of a human mind’s substratum. Imagine a Hortus Amoris, which provides bewildering path into inner life and having a cryptic dialogue with themselves.

APPARITIONS: III. Substratum, the performance of M. Kardinal & Monocube is the third part of APPARITIONS series to reflect and embody elusive happenings beyond human’s perception using analog technique. With progression APPARITIONS becomes ominous and bleak, the collaboration of M. Kardinal and Monocube is an immersive and compelling work, seamlessly bound together in an embrace of beautiful darkness.”

Mebitek – Chi No Torrat & What I Have Lost

Moral Order – Dead Bodies
The new album Krypteia by Moral Order is due for release on Malignant Records soon!

MZ.412 – Svartmyrkr – (Album Teaser)
MZ.412 ‘Svartmyrkr’ CD/LP (CSR257CD/LP) Out 8th February 2019 on Cold Spring

Shibalba – Stars Al-Med Hum (Album Trailer)
Ritual ambient powerhouse Shibalba are back with a new album on Algonia Records.

Tim32 – [5[T]Н[I]3[M]2]

Listen / Download here: https://pantheophania.bandcamp.com/album/5-t-i-3-m-2

Vanessa Sinclair & Carl Abrahamsson – Live @ Fylkingen – 14 Sept 2018
Vanessa Sinclair & Carl Abrahamsson, live at Fylkingen, Stockholm, September 14th 2018. Live mix by Kali Malone and Per Åhlund. For more information, please visit: patreon.com/vanessa23carl and highbrow-lowlife.com

Misc. News

Endarkenment – Dark Ambient Newsletter
Danica Swanson has started a subscription-based dark ambient newsletter. She will be focused on specific themes and artists, instead of a standard news website like This Is Darkness. Her first exclusive edition included an in-depth interview with Ulf Söderberg of Sephiroth. Danica’s enthusiasm for his work, as well as the rarity of an interview with him, makes this an essential read for fans of this artist and other CMI era musicians!
Last month’s edition featured another in-depth interview, this time with Pär and Åsa Boström of Hypnagoga Press, and this month Swanson speaks with Northumbria!
Sign up for her newsletter at: https://endarkenment.substack.com

Noise Receptor Journal – Issue No.6 Pre-orders Available!
A highly respected and long-standing journalist in the post-industrial world for over two decades, Richard Stevenson first ran the Spectrum Magazine and later would change name and format to Noise Receptor Journal. Stevenson, as I said, is highly respected in the community and I have gathered a decent bit of my knowledge from the pages of his zines. Also, keep a look out for a Spectrum Compendium, all issues of Spectrum compiled into a single book.
“Noise receptor journal is a specialist micro print endeavour which constitutes the physical manifestation of the noise receptor website, but contains new interview and art content to differentiate it from the already published web-based reviews.”
https://noisereceptor.bigcartel.com

Events

Phobos X – An Evening of Dark Ambient Music
On 16 March 2019 in Sophienkirche Wuppertal, the Phobos Festival will have its tenth event. This year’s line-up looks to be glorious with performances from: Arktau Eos, Circular, TeHOM and Vortex. Martin Stürtzer, the organizer behind Phobos, asked me to mention that the event this year will be held in the old church, not the same place as last year’s event!
Pre-sale tickets and info are available at www.phelios.de

New Dark Ambient Releases

A Cryo Chamber Collaboration – New Album Released (Cryo Chamber – CD/Digital)
“A 2 hour dark soundscape album recorded by 20 ambient artists to pay tribute to H.P. Lovecraft.
Dark sounds from dreamy dimensions to never ending cursed forests. Join us in the ritual of lust for the Black Goat of the Woods.
Shub-Niggurath is an Outer God (or Outer Goddess) in the pantheon. She is a perverse fertility deity.
An enormous mass which extrudes black tentacles, slime-dripping mouths, and short, writhing goat legs. Small creatures are continually spat forth by the monstrosity, which are either consumed into the miasmatic form or escape to some monstrous life elsewhere.”

Alphaxone & Xerxes the Dark – New Album Released (Cryo Chamber – CD/Digital)
“Alphaxone & Xerxes the Dark brings an unsettling space collaboration to Cryo Chamber with Aftermath.
Dark swells, pulsating shimmers and endless reverberations greets you on this dark space exploration album.”

Alone in the Hollow Garden – New Album Released (Digital Only)
“Septem Spectris Metallum” was channeled as an incursion into the alchemic realm of the Seven Noble Metals and their esoteric correspondences found in every manifestation emerged from the all encompassing Fabric of the Stars.

All rituals were recorded live, only with the aid of a modular synth system and of a few metal piezo devices self made by A.I.T.H.G., with no overdubbing and other unnecessary embellishments and with the clear intention of keeping the alchemical flame of creation and dissolution in the purest, natural and spontaneous possible form.”

Ambiguous – New Album Released (aliensproduction – CD/Digital)
“One of the darkest Aliens production releases is momentarily actual thanks to this gentleman. Igor aka Ish and his devious side returns after a longer silence under the wings of Aliens Production. Once again Ambiguous is opening the gates of the mystery where is no boredom to dig and the remains of dead souls over which the sacred dust is decomposing will alive. Movies atmospheres are a strong source of energy and pulsating percussions shifts this piece into industrially tuned proportions. Atmospheric backdrop is wrapped in scary areas in which on the places embrace ancient testaments and abstract images. Painful but beautiful beginning of the end where various testaments and undiscovered corners meet.”

Apoptose – New Album Released (Tesco – CD/Digital)
“In the four years of production Apoptose selected a wide range of different singers for this album. Most outstanding is classical trained tenor Daniel Sans. He sings “What Power Art Thou” – a song that was composed by Henry Purcell in the late 17th century. Apoptose and Sans preserve the complex harmonic structure of the original translating it into a breathtaking five minute ride in apoptotic soundspheres. They succeed in conjuring up Purcell’s “cold genius” that had already fascinated legendary countertenor Klaus Nomi in the 1980s. Other voices on “Die Zukunft” include the gloomy spoken words of the advance single “Time-lapse City”, the lost girl’s voice on the title track and two female singers on “Dornen”. Consistent with the album title Apoptose does not look back, but is heading for novel territories within the dark ambient music genre.”

Argyre Planitia – New Album Released (Essentia Mundi – CD/Digital)
“Dystopian dark ambient – unplug from the network while still possible. The version of our future connecting strong AI, IoT and cyberhumans and a dark outcome…thou shall escape!”

Arktau Eos – New Album Released (Aural Hypnox – CD only)
Check out our review here! Highly recommended!
Arktau Eos unveil a new album, Eremos, one of their most involved and intense creations. While intentionally minimal on the surface, layer upon layer of subtle, haunting, and evocative sounds are slowly revealed to the attentive listener. Eremos aims at nothing less than the total transition of the listener to the desert realms implied by the title. Old synthesizers and ritualistic acoustic elements are seamlessly blended with even more obscure aural phenomena, including field recordings done in Northern Finland and the untamed steppes of Mongolia.

As has been the testimony of wise men and women of all faiths, solitude bestows its own distinct gifts upon the seeker, a process here treated in less intimate terms than on the voice-led Catacomb Resonator. Eremos is more expansive; the desert that opens before the listener is not a locus of temptations or simple retreat, but a vivid inner mindscape of dramatic confrontations and transformations between flora, fauna, stellar matter, earth, and stone. Gradually they shed away the humanness in its most banal sense, until man identifies with the scorpionic voice of power that carries to the ends of the earth – and cosmos.”
Order here.

Ashtoreth & No One – New Album Released (Consouling Sounds – CD/Digital)
“Redemption” is a remarkable collaborative effort between Belgian artists No One and Ashtoreth. Ashtoreth improvised a track and then No One worked his magic. He took the track, decomposed it, and recomposed it, with soundscape, drones, field recordings and arrangements added. “Redemption” grew organically out of the ashes of the Ashtoreth improv into a thrilling and utterly gripping work of art, making the one hour trip a truly enthralling, yet galling redemption.”

Ashtoreth & Grey Malkin – Preorders Available (Cursed Monk – CD/Digital)
Pilgrim is the first in a series of collaborative works between ASHTORETH and Grey Malkin, that was initially released as a limited (50 ex.) CD by UK based house of wyrd Reverb Worship in June 2018.
The album sold out within a week and got much acclaimed in the music press.

Cober Ord – New Album Released (Cyclic Law – CD/Digital)
“3rd album, and first for Cyclic Law, by the enigmatic French Pyrenean ritual ambient act created by Yann Hagimont (Habsyll, « O », Ecce Homo) and Yann Arexis (La Breiche, Stille Volk, Ihan). Recorded in various natural locations throughout the mystical Pyrenean landscape, in ancient temple caves, sacred mounds and ruins using an array of acoustic and electronic sources and local field recordings. Cover Ord functions as an ode to lost ruins and mineral elements, chants summoning the rising of nature, a post-modern ritual for times of ecocide. They’ve weaved and channeled an exceptional soundtrack exploring the confines of matter, spirit, time and space.”

Dahlia’s Tear – New Album Released (Cryo Chamber – CD/Digital)
Read our review here.
After 6 years of silence this veteran dark ambient producer is finally back with a new album. Through the Nightfall Grandeur is a dreamy and multi-layered melancholic journey through worlds both inner and outer.
The album revolves around a spiritual awakening where the shattering loneliness of the protagonist fuels the search for meaning. We follow through moonbathed nights on a journey through dark abysses, snowy mountains and desolate moors.
A detailed and layered album that takes many repeat listens to fully explore all the complexities, one mystery at a time unto enlightenment.

Daina Dieva – New Album Released (Digital Only)
“At the moment Daina Dieva aims at creating sounds that would become a shared experience between her and the listener. Based in Lithuania, she is interested in dystopia, non-human futures, dehumanising technologies, postindustrial landscapes, capitalocene, catastrophe, (green) activism and alternatives to the current state of affairs.”
‘hibou’ was created for Kaunas Magazine and consists of a plethora of sounds collected in the second half of 2018. Collected sounds include: bridge, under the bridge, freedom avenue, castle roundabout, night busses, sea st., street piano, sliced piano, construction site, mindaugas ave., cranes, night, keeping watch, silenceless spaces.

Dead Melodies – Preorder Available (Cryo Chamber – CD/Digital)
Dead Melodies presents us a dark cinematic space album with Primal Destination.
Deep drones, sweeping atmospheres and a mysterious setting creates an immersive setting for this sci-fi journey.

Desiderii Marginis – New Album Released (Cyclic Law – LP/CD/Digital)
“Long awaited new material by one of Sweden’s most revered Dark Ambient acts.?“Vita Arkivet” translates from Swedish as “The White Archive” and is an official document detailing ones funeral arrangements. In death our existence is whitewashed, the slate wiped clean. We start all over and we bring nothing with us were we go. We lose the agency of our own memory and leave it for those left behind to attend to, to continue our story, to write our eulogy. Vita is also the latin word for Life, so the meaning could also be “The Life Archive”. White is the colour of the casket lining, the plaster death masks and the walls of the chapel, it is the colour of the first and last pages. What is kept in between the covers of our life archives? This record is a personal reflection and manifestation of that process, the loss and the great detachment from life, from others, and from ourselves.”

Distorted Void – New Compilation Released (Distored Void – Digital Only)
This latest compilation on Distorted Void is a nice combination of some of my personal favorite under-rated dark ambient artists, as well as others I’ve not yet discovered. Definitely worth checking out to find some new talent!

Dronny Darko & Apollonius – New Album Released (ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ – CDr/Digital)
“In the darkest places, there’s always a light. Hidden, untouched yet always omnipresent since it is its nature. The deepest sea levels, the vastness of space, the darkest corners of the human soul. It’s always there, waiting for the call, eager to unfold and to show an unexpectedly wide horizon of possibilities. On the fundamental level, it’s not even light as we know it – just feasibility of action, of motion and creation. We all have it. It’s a boundless sea and we are always on its shores.”

Embers Below Zero – New Album Released (Sombre Soniks – Digital)
“Urban Witchcraft tells the stories written on the walls of abandoned buildings. The tales of strange rituals performed on the last floors of glass skyscrapers. The stories of digital sorcery and of the nightsky that looks just as beautiful as it did centuries ago. While making this album, I had in my mind the image of a XXI century Jonathan Strange taking a mescaline trip on a summer night in Tangier. Just like the debut, “The Oblivion Sea”, released by Shimmering Moods Records, with atmospheric ambient as a foundation, this release derives from various types of experimental electronic music – from noise to dub – to build a passage between alchemy and technology.”

Endless Melancholy – New Album Released (Dronarivm – Vinyl/CD/Digital)
“‘Fragments of Scattered Whispers’ is a collection of soft piano melodies and transparent ambient textures, gently flowing one into another. On this album Endless Melancholy continues with the tape sound explorations, started on his previous album ‘The Vacation’, but in a new, more distinctive way. On this occasion, Oleksiy teamed up with Krzysztof Sujata (known for his musical outfit Valiska), who did some outstanding job on processing the tracks through different kinds of tape recorders and mastering them afterwards. Accompanied by a stunning artwork by an acclaimed artist Gregory Euclide, ‘Fragments of Scattered Whispers’ is meant to evoke hazy reminiscences from the deepest corners of listener’s mind, like a blurry photograph suddenly falling out of an old book.”

Experiment#508 – New Album Released (attenuation circuit – Digital)
The Hollow Ward is a dark ambient that lies firmly on the more experimental side of the genre. Staticy washes of sound and synthetic noises merge forming a post-apocalyptic sort of feel. ‘Name your price’, so check it out!

Foudre! – New Album Released (Gizeh – Vinyl/Digital)
“Improvised and recorded live at Le Rex de Toulouse supporting the 10th anniversary of French doom metal band Monarch!, KAMI神 extends the cosmogony and the sound of the band by taking excursions into the invisible and ambiguous side of nature. In this orgiastic and surprising mix of sonic textures and rhythms, you may hear strange phenomena, summoning of animistic spirits, shamanic calls, siren yellings and growls. The original chemigram artwork was created by French artist Fanny Béguély by painting with chemicals on light-sensitive paper.

Following the sold-out EARTH soundtrack (GZH71, 2015), KAMI 神 delivers an immersive soundscape for abstract clubbers, where kosmiche electronic, power ambient and industrial punk music are freely invited to commune. This pagan ceremonial is an ode to the ever-changing vortex of life – a sonic dream machine for the occurring now.”

Gamardah Fungus – New Album Released (Flaming Pines – CD/Digital)
“After a trip across the India, we decided to dedicate our new album to the Thar Desert, a large, arid region in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent that forms a natural boundary between India and Pakistan.

This album is our vision of modern and sacral Asian culture – rich, mysterious and insufficiently explored. And this is probably our most minimalistic album to date. We deliberately refused the multiple layers of sound forms and methods that were used on previous records. We wanted to concentrate on sound repetitions and pauses, like in Indian mantras and folk music, trying to achieve a deep trance with minimal arsenal – only guitar, modular synthesizer and tanpura.”

Hiemal – New Album Released (Digital Only)
“Five Drone Ambient tracks over a single field recording. Three hours under the northern lights, soothed by the cold tapestry of sound whispering softly among the mountains.”

Hilyard – New Album Released (Cryo Chamber – CD/Digital)
“Hilyard brings his first solo album to Cryo Chamber with Furthermore. A deep space adventure that lets you float in zero-G and gaze upon the anomalies of the universe.

Escape from a tired and dying world into the realms beyond quasars. Journey in isolation through thick dark matter in search of answers. Drift in quiet melancholy, past the failed floating structures, gas giants and furthermore, into an endless horizon.

Sweeping electronic drones combine with analogue bass to create a multilayered space ambient album that is emotionally captivating and enlightening.”

Holotrop & Vrna – New Split Released (Qualia – CD/Tape/Digital)
“Welcome to the Sleep Temple! Holotrop and Vrna, two of the best kept secrets of the contemporary dark ambient and ritual music scene, immersing into the profound mystery of dream incubation.
The religious practice, of sleeping with the intention of experiencing a divinely inspired dream, was practised by many ancient cultures all over the world.
Both projects reflecting and interpreting in four so called Onirokons their own practical dream work.
ENKOIMESIS works on the highest sensory level of perception. Typical ritual instruments like bells, gongs, chimes and drums mixed with drone and ambient soundscapes leading, accompanied by cryptic and mysteriously whispers, deep into the land of dreaming and opening the way to sacred gates.”

Ivan Kamaldinov – New Album Released (Digital Only)
Edgeless pulsating tones, vocals submerged below waves of droning static, completely sanded smooth output that strikes an excellent counterbalance between golden noise and sustained tones.
Full of neo-classical elements but taken into a proper electronic droney space through the held tones and electronic haze that permeates the tracks. Chords are held forever as if trapped in amber. The sounds vibrate in a wavey haze.
Surrender yourself now.

La Santa – New Album Released (Wannamarchi.club – Cassette/Digital)
“Calabria, Southern Italy — a landscape of unmarked graves hidden by abandoned construction sites left as monuments to a corrupt state; a code of silence masking a culture of extreme cruelty; age-old folk traditions and occulted religious rites which refuse to acknowledge the passing of time; the secret brotherhoods; the holy bloodline and birthplace of the ‘Ndrangheta – part business, part religious order and part ancient military, now one of the most powerful organised crime groups in the world.

Broken Britain Cassettes inaugurates its World Service imprint with Pax Mafiosa, the first dispatch from La Santa, a native Calabrese, who delivers a concoction of ceremonial death chants, phone tappings and initiation rituals. Based around collaged samples from an inherited record collection, Pax Mafiosa invokes visceral fear and spiritual ecstasy with biting electronics and harrowing field recordings.

In Calabria the sacred and the profane are not mutually exclusive. The name ‘La Santa’ refers to both the Virgin Mary and the highest, most secretive level of The ‘Ndrangheta, a secret society within a secret society which links the top bosses with freemasons and extremist terror organisations. Pax Mafiosa is a sonic mapping of this dysfunctional marriage of mafia and religion.”

La Tredicesima Luna – New Album Released (Lighten Up Sounds – Cassette/Digital)
“Italian solo artist Matteo Brusa (otherwise known as Medhelan) returns to the imprint with his remarkable project LA TREDICESIMA LUNA. This second full length from the project brings focused illumination to dark waters with a singular form of celestial luminescence.
The debut album from October 2017 brought shadowy tones and other-wordly fog, but with this newest work Oltre L’ultima Onda Del Mare (Beyond The Last Sea Wave), our Mother Moon guides us upon a grand ancestral voyage. A shard of guiding light breaks through blackened sky, the prismatic spectrum reflected across infinite sea.”

Lunar Abyss Deus Organum – new Album Released (ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ – Cassette/Digital)
“Endless steppe, dry and cold air, the grass is everywhere… It lasted almost an eternity, no changes. Day after day, season after season… But someday the wind turned to ice blades. It wounded the sky and the snow started to fall. Sun was still bright, but the snow was falling more and more. The snow was so soft, that he started to feel sleepy. He stopped his life-long walk. He closed his eyes. It seemed that the glaciers were moving, melting, freezing, moving again… He saw how winds crafted some amazing figures off them. He saw the rains, the trees, the moss… And ice again, the wind. Birds were getting smaller in the sky. Then vanished. Then metal ones replaced them, leaving long trails behind. He saw the distant lights, heard sirens and rumble when metal things pierced the sky once again, leaving the fire behind. The rumble went still, the lights faded. It was silent again and the ice was bright when it started to melt. He opened his eyes. It was dry and cold again. He tried the grass – it was juicy and fresh. “What a wonderful dream”, he thought. And continued his walk.”

Mordançage – New Album Released (Facture – CD/Digital)
“Mordançage: an alternative photographic process that alters silver gelatin prints to give them a degraded effect. The mordançage solution works in two ways: it chemically bleaches the print so that it can be redeveloped, and it lifts the black areas of the emulsion away from the paper giving the appearance of veils.

Mordançage creates a degraded appearance by physically altering the film. The excellent new collaboration from Andrew Tasselmyer and Tobias Hellkvist has experienced the same process of slow alteration, its grey-washed ambient emerging from the recesses of a dark room. Standing in a rectangle of light, its music is a new being that’s experienced its own process of development.”

Med Gen – New Album Released (ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ – CDr/Digital)
“The quiet humming of the earth and high-pitched bird calls, reflections of the autumn sun in the bog puddles… Silent steps on the path well-hidden in the thickets. No winds here. Just mesmerizing swaying of branches. Maybe they’re giving you signs not to partake in this journey, maybe better turn back and go home while you can… Yet this smell, these colors, those mysterious rustles in the deepness of the woods. One step after another and the story begins to unfold. What lies beneath these murky waters, between the layers of peat and on these oddly colored tussocks? Sun is approaching the horizon, so don’t hesitate, breathe in this night.”

Mortaur – New Album Released (Digital Only)
After a very long silence, Mortaur has returned with another horror ambient offering. This album takes him into more dynamic territory than he’s previous works, but keeps the deep darkness we’ve come to expect.

MZ.412 – Svartmyrkr available for preorder and streaming (Cold Spring – CD/Vinyl/Digital)
“Swedish behemoths MZ. 412 return with their first full-length album in 12 years, once again asserting their dominion as the true Kings of Black Industrial. “Svartmyrkr” is a massive tour de force that reinvents the classic sound of MZ. 412 whilst retaining their trademark malevolent harshness.

This album is dedicated to the true hell of the north – Helheim – and the giant goddess that rules it, Hel. From blackened ritual incantations, to bleak yet beautiful dark ambient arrangements, to harsh bombastic orchestrations, this album exceeds all expectations.

MZ. 412 blur the lines between music, magick and reality. The earth trembles… the mountains quake… all light is vanquished. The Swedish overlords darken the hearts and extinguish the souls of all who bear witness to “Svartmyrkr”.”

Northumbria – New Album Released (Cryo Chamber – CD/Digital)
“Vinland is the third and last album in Northumbria’s trilogy inspired by the Norse discovery of Canada.

The journey was long and hard, you lost good men sailing across the never ending sea, but now you stand on foreign land. The father of gods watches over you as his ravens circle the funeral pyre to bring his warriors home.
Using guitar and bass, and recording their improvised compositions live, Jim Field and Dorian Williamson create a deep textured sound world. Evoking the ancient wonder that the Norse explorers must have felt discovering Vinland, the Windswept Land.”

Oestergaards – New Album Released (Digital Only)
“You do not quench the sun with a jug of water” is an expression that no-one has said before but can match the dark ambient artist Oestergaards. Step by step, his dark-lied world receives attention internationally in that slightly shadowy genre. After the debut album Rötterna and the subsequent remix album Rötterna Decomposed, he is now back with a 4-track EP that goes deeper into the dark ambient genre. The titles of the songs are extracted from his acclaimed dialect Ovanåkersmål. A flashback in the past among one’s childhood home dreams, with the memory of time becoming increasingly foggy.

O Saala Sakraal – New Album Released (Cyclic Law – CD/Digital)
“A new collective led by former Hadewych member Peter Johan Nÿland. Etmaal (“natural day”) is the first in a series of explorations that aim to serve as a channel between the ethereal and chthonic, sacred and profane, the innermost black well and the outermost white sun. The album follows the circadian path as an analogue to the revelation of the actual self, with the sun as the inverted eye that unveils all things in their temporality, opposite the eternal inner black of night. Sudden transitions between coercive percussive hammering and sharp boreal drone pieces seek to mirror cosmic events; from glacial movements to throbbing punctuation and sudden death and with each end resolved arises a new tension and an attempt at cleansing and delving deeper with the intent of finally arriving at the inner clearing. In the recording process for Etmaal, the group effectively alternated between states of extreme focus and hiati in which subconscious impulses were allowed to arise and the result is an album that skilfully wanders an essential pathway between two planes in its own distinctive way.

Otovan Veret – New Album Released (Cyclic Law – CD/Digital)
“Syvys is the second demonstration of how Finland’s OTAVAN VERET decipher the pulse of the great cosmic filaments. The radiation from the distant otherness takes audible form in four pieces of ethereal, pulsating atmospherics, where the multitude of transmissions is implemented via a curious amalgam of electronic and acoustic sources operated by Kaarna & XVL. As a result “Syvys” reflects the many phases of a stellar journey in a dreamlike state, encountering both enchantment and anxiousness.”

Phragments – New Album Released (Malignant – CD/Digital)
“New full length from Phragments based on collaborative works done with Atranenia, Mindspawn, Rasalhague, Shock Frontier, and Terra Sancta. 40 minutes of sweeping textural doom, cinematic drift-scapes, and smog covered drones. Forlorn and dramatic music for the end of days, from the master of apocalyptic electronics. Limited to 300, released in collaboration with Construct.Destroy.Collective. Mastered by John Stillings, Steel Hook Audio.”

Rafaael Anton Irisarri – New Album Released (Umor Rex – Cassette/Digital)
“Rafael Anton Irisarri continues his string of post-minimalist releases with his third for Umor Rex: El Ferrocarril Desvaneciente. While composed as an ode to an overnight train journey through Spain he took many years ago, the music picks up sonically where his previous album Sirimiri left off. Irisarri focuses on deploying sonic cycles throughout these four shorter pieces, basing much of this sweeping ambience around looped sounds and distant pulses. The sound is however kept in a state of forward motion and constant evolution, invoking the slowly rumbling night train that inspired it —not to mention its cargo of misfits and travelers. Irisarri’s skill, set as a manipulator of minimal sound input, is at full strength here, imbuing even shorter pieces such as “El Espectro Electromagnético,” with chasms slowly cresting drama. The phantasmagoria of “Un Saltador” was even composed as a departure for him, toying with synths and pedals in a “modular kind of way,” letting an experiment unfold with minimal interaction.”

Randal Collier-Ford – New EP Released (Digital Only)
“Inspired by the musical work of Akira Yamaoka
This record is a dedication to the millions of individuals who have, will, and still do suffer from the effects of crippling depression, anxiety, and what comes of these inner conflicts. Written during a state of depression, Cyclic is a cathartic messages of acceptance of this void that never fades away, but can only be subdued for a time. To be a reminder of what this state of mind brings about, from the lies we tell ourselves to the realities we must face and overcome, this EP is an ode to this age long conflict
Please, don’t go it alone. Seek help, seek strength, seek open arms.”

RNGMNN – New Album Released (Reverse Alignment – CD/Digital)
“RNGMNN is Ronny Engmann, a multidisciplinary musician working from his base Berlin, Germany.Combining his minimal dark ambient with contemporary horror music making an own experimental style he’s now entering the Reverse Alignment territory with the new album “On Darker trails”. Releasing several contributions on various net labels since 1999, “On Darker Trails” is the first official physical release on CD. The album takes a dive into the skies above and phenomena that, for humans unreachable, space and there after.”

Sacra Fern – New Album Released (Black Mara – CD/Digital)
“Protected by forest spirits, shining in the rays of magic fern, this stone has absorbed all the power of the Sun. It will open doors to a world of magic in the shortest night of the year for who follows his own willpower.”

Senketsu No Night Club – New Album Released (Aquarellist – CD/Digital)
Check out our review here.
“As in the most successful outcomes, the artistic alchemy of Vincenti, Leonardi, and the british saxophonist Ian Ferguson, generated a feverish and endless activity. Only a year ago the trium was busy laying the foundations of its debut album, recently pressed by Old Europa Cafè.
The sonic product of Senketsu No Night Club, floating between jazzy movements, dark ambient soundscapes, and power noise ruptures, celebrated then the far east extreme cinema whilst the Furachi Life’s fetish imaginary – if you are familiar with the perturbing japanese artist – was the band concept’s perfect incarnation.
Stunning yet sensual, as in the best representation of the sex/death duplicity. Today, with
a different approach, “Shikkoku” represents the nocturnal spleen and its melancholy, the erotic lyricism of Mishima’s novel “Nikutai No Gakko, ????”, and the eternal clash of Eros and Thanatos by G. Bataille. The beauty, the crime, the violence, the anguish.
100% Doom-Noir Jazz in a dark connection between Rome and Tokyo.”

S.E.T.I. – New Album Released (Loki-Found – CD/Digital)
“Right in time for the long nights Andrew Lagowski is back with his probably most ambitious project to date! A deep ambient space soundtrack of nothing less than eight hours on eight CDs presented in a beautiful cardboard box. These recordings have been composed, sequenced and mastered in such a way as to allow for periods of hazy dreams, deep sleep, time displacement and finally, awakening. Please use them as you see fit – perhaps as a toolbox for your own sleep travels and dream experimentation.”

Shibalba – New Album Released (Agonia – CD/LP/Digital)
“Shibalba is an otherworldly, meditative project from the members of Greek and Swedish black metal bands, Acherontas and Nåstrond. It differs greatly from the aforementioned acts, with main focus set on expressing shamanic, trance-like states, by the use of ethnic instruments and musical technics peculiar to religious rituals. In doing so, the band also incorporates contemporary synthesizers and guitar drones. Some of the more traditional instruments they use include Tibetan horns & singing bowls, bone & horne trumpets, darbukas, ceremonial bells & gongs as well as percussion instruments made of bones and skulls. The music is richly detailed and multidimensional, while its outcome is deep, unsettling and subconscious. As a whole, it offers an otherworldly voyage.”

Shinkiro – Preorders Available (Limited CDr and Digital)
Shinkiro continues with the release of his archives through this fourth edition in the series. Find out more about Shinkiro and the first three archives in our recent review here on This Is Darkness.

Shrine – New Album Released (Cyclic Law – CD/Digital)
“Based on the fictional story for Tomb Raider III, created by the British game studio CORE in 1998, the story begins in Antarctica millions of years ago, where a meteorite has crashed into the landmass and when the continent was still located in the tropics. Millennials later it was discovered by the ancient Polynesians who had reached the Antarctic coast and they soon realised that strange otherworldly powers surround the celestial rock and so the people began to worship it as a deity. After severe mutations started to occur among their newborn, the settlers fled in terror and never came back but before they left, they sealed the meteorite into a deep underground chamber, locked by four “keys”, four unique objects crafted from the same alien material as the meteorite itself. In the 19th century, a group of sailors travelling with Charles Darwin came to Antarctica and rediscovered the artefacts. The story follows the search for the four artefacts and the rediscovering of the meteorite, hypothesised to contain the most important findings in genetics and evolution since Darwin. We are aurally taken through this unique world through 6 singular chapters of pristine sonic grandeur.”

Slowlodger – New Album Released (Outside Noises – Cassette/Digital)
Slowlodger presents “A violent soundtrack for a non sense life” as the second reference of Outside Noises. This album is in the opposite concept side from the previous work by Blovk: AVSFANSL is a record located in the field of drone, dark ambient, noise or avant-garde music.
Thinked as a soundtrack that sonorize the moments in which a human can thinks that life make no sense, in this modern times and the coming future. Composed during the darkest moments of 2018.

Snowbeasts – New Album Released (Chthonic Streams – CDr/Digital)
Combining their knowledge and skills from previous releases, Snowbeasts deliver a new album which is as likely to linger in dark ambient despair as it is to erupt into post-industrial ferocity. These is another brilliant release from a project that has been delighting listeners since their 2014 debut. The highly limited (only 25!) and quite beautiful CD release, comes in a archival box with 3 art prints, by Noah G. Hirka, mounted on black boards and a pouch of talismans. This one is another tour-de-force in presentation by the Chthonic Streams label, run by Derek Rush (COMPACTOR, . Highly recommended.

Sun Through Eyelids (ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ – CDr/Digital)
Liminal states and unexpected discoveries they bring – means of the evolution, a constant call inside some weird ones. Travelers, visionaries, tricksters, magicians, artists… Explorers of the Earth, of Cosmos and, hence – the deepness of the human possibilities. Which land will lull them in their last sleep? Will be it under tall trees or in the midst of iced tundra? Radiowaves and bird calls, forgotten rituals and enigmatic fossils – no one knows where and when this mystery will give some keys to its essence. But there is always someone ready to follow this path, no matter where it ends.

Syrinx – New Album Released (Sombre Soniks – Digital)
“Thee first album from Syrinx since their ‘Speaking Alone’ was released on Sombre Soniks in 2011! They return with just under an hour of material taken from an improvised session rekorded earlier this year…
Syrinx is thee kollaborative work of members from several Projekts inkluding Ghoul Detail, Pink Venom and Glowing Pixie.”

Valanx – New Album Released (Reverse Alignment – CD/Digital)
Water is flooding. Land is obsolete. Scattered tribes rule their part of the world. Struggling. Adapting. “Tidelands” is Valanx soundtrack to a post-apocalyptic future where water is abundant and the circumstances of living has changed radically.
This is the final album by Valanx and Reverse Alignment is very happy to release it. We’ve been fortunate to work with such great artist.
Arne Weinberg says:
“This album is the swansong of my long musical journey and I would like to dedicate it to the most important person in my life, my wife Petra. Without her I’d be lost in nothingness. Eternal love.
I’d also like to thank Kristian Widqvist for his continued belief in Valanx and his dedication to the project.
Last but not least, a big thank you to all the listeners over all these years.”

VelgeNaturlig – New Album Released (Winter-Light – CD/Digital)
On ‘Kundalini’, Ivo Santos presents us with an album, layered with a rich tapestry of dense drones, reverberating sub-bass and circulating processed sounds, cleverly woven together with field recordings.
As with most, if not all of VelgeNaturlig’s work, on ‘Kundalini’ the tracks flow together as one, creating vast musical landscapes to traverse within the minds eye. The music weaves an infinite pathway between the light and the dark, sometimes isolating but always keeping the listener engaged.
‘Kundalini’ is an album of true awakening, invoking a clash of primordial sounds and energies. Let the currents flow…..
Check out our review here.

Winterblood – New Album Released (Digital Only)
Self-released & ‘name your price’ new album by Winterblood.
“Musica di Mezzanotte’, is a concept focused on the rêverie, the contemplation of the fire, specially a candlelight; a journey through the rooms where the reader dreams, stares at the window, waiting for nothing. A dreamscape worth to be reached, to never come back.

Most of the music performed on Analog Paraphonic Synthesizer ‘Nyx’. Nyx is also the Greek goddess (or personification) of the night…”

Wolves and Horses – New Album Released (Digital Only)
“This album is about Earth, our Earth.
Each track name is based on a place or an interesting phenomenon around us.
I encourage you to check where and what these are.
We all have to change our attitude if we don’t want to lose all of this, if we want to have a place to leave to the next generations.
This is my tiny little brick in the wall…..and I hope you’ll enjoy the music.”

Zoloft Evra – New Album Released (Signora Ward – CD/Digital)
“Wounds of No Return “, the third album from ZOLOFT EVRA is a fierce merciless ritual, blood soaking void. Pure murderous sonic intercourse where death cult, self destruction, sexual fetish obsessions, antichristianity cross the fields of eerie negative industrial ambiences.”

 

Sodom & Chimera – Interview with film director James Quinn

James Quinn is the writer and director behind Sodom & Chimera Productions and their upcoming film Daughter of Dismay. Quinn has been solidifying his position in the film community over the last few years since the company launched with it’s debut film The Law of Sodom in 2016. I’ve found his work very compelling and have been following the company for the last few years. But, it seemed like things were really starting to take off in 2018. This is, indeed, the perfect time to speak with James Quinn. As industry renowned talent is being brought on board for post-production and the film gets closer to completion the scale and quality of what he’s orchestrated has become apparent. This is a huge step forward for a small company, which could see themselves moving toward ever loftier goals in the film industry over the coming years. I hope you’ll enjoy my interview with James Quinn, and that you will find his work as compelling as I have!

Krist Mort as The Demon

Interviewer: Michael Barnett
Interviewee: James Quinn

Michael: The end credits for The Law of Sodom looked a bit like those of Lynch’s Eraserhead. James Quinn, you seem to have carried most of the weight of Sodom & Chimera in its earliest incarnation. Was this something you enjoyed? Do you consider yourself an auteur, more than a compiler of elements, a true author of a production?

James: The Law of Sodom (2016) was a very personal and extreme project, both in terms of content and how it was made. A lot of time and pain went into it, and it’s indeed a production that I practically carried alone entirely. By now, the way I make films has changed dramatically. I do consider my projects to be somewhat of auteur works though. My ideas and concepts of films are things I’m very picky and strict about in terms of execution, and in most cases, what you see on screen is based on deep, personal ideas and emotions, things I try to convey in very specific ways. Though, it has to be made clear that all films are collective works, larger ones often more than smaller ones.

Regarding Eraserhead (1977), yes, that has always been a massive inspiration to me as a filmmaker, and has also influenced the making of The Law of Sodom.

Michael: How long has Sodom & Chimera been active? Was it long before the release of The Law of Sodom, or was it a fast-moving project from the very beginning?

James: Sodom & Chimera is fairly young. It was founded in October 2016, right after the North American premiere of The Law of Sodom, which was shot before Sodom & Chimera was a thing. Sodom & Chimera, to me, is more of a personal collective. We’re a small team, and work together on a lot of projects, but most importantly, it’s a way to connect all works, promote them, and give them a voice under the banner of something more recognizable than just the name of a director. Sodom & Chimera represents a large body of work, from photography to film, to the occasional other obscure piece of art that might present itself. It has indeed always been a very fast moving project, from the day it started.

Michael: What have been some of the biggest influences on the people behind Sodom & Chimera? Do you have a personal favorite director?

James: I can’t speak for my colleagues, but personally, there are only a handful of artists that directly influenced me. The very obvious one is David Lynch, though – even though I greatly enjoy all of his works – the only of his films that directly affected my own filmmaking are Eraserhead and Inland Empire (2006). Other big influences in terms of more obscure works have been Karim Hussain’s Subconscious Cruelty (2000), Merhige’s Begotten (1990), Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), Un Chien Andalou (1929), Lars von Trier’s Antichrist (2009), and several works from the 20s and 30s. Even though a lot of my previous films are very bizarre and surreal, the grotesque aspect of them was never my true objective. It was important to me, yes, but my main goal was always to create something that is beautiful or at least interesting to look at. Cinematography is the most important element in all of my films, it’s a tool I use not just to show what’s happening in a scene, but to be poetic and create impressions that stick out. To be completely honest, most of the ways I frame shots and try to explore visuals do not stem from inspiration from certain films or photography, but from paintings. Paintings are built differently, from the way they’re framed to the amount of detail present, to just how much image is included in the frame and where it cuts off. Creating images like this is a very mathematical process, actually. I try to keep that in mind whenever I build a scene.

Ieva Agnostic as The Witch in Daughter of Dismay

As to the question of who’s my favorite director, that’s an easy one, actually. Andrei Tarkovsky. Never have I seen any other works of film in my life that convey visuals like his. It’s pure cinematic bliss to me, and all of his films are truly like moving paintings. Having seen his film Andrei Rublev (1966) on 35mm, I don’t think I’ll ever change my mind on who my favorite director is.

Michael: Daughter of Dismay has been moving along nicely, with some great talent steadily being added to the project. How much work is going into this one in comparison to previous films?

James: Daughter of Dismay is a mammoth of a project that pretty much destroyed my health. There was so much careful planning, budgeting and pitching involved, so many days of going without sleeping, so much unbearable stress that I literally had to call an ambulance to my house due to heart problems a week after the shoot was over. I’m still recovering, even though production is nowhere near over. Once post is finished, the entirety of the production will have taken around a year, of which only two days were shooting. Shooting a short in 70mm IMAX, actually getting it made is pretty much near impossible, and it has a reason no one has done it yet. Getting closer and closer to the finish line of post production, I can see why no seems to have even attempted it yet. It completely eviscerated me, mentally and physically. But it was entirely worth it.
James Quinn

Michael: Do you anticipate Daughter of Dismay to be a more or less accessible (in terms of theme/content) film than your previous works?

James: Daughter of Dismay is supposed to be a film that can be enjoyed by the masses. It’s the most accessible film I directed so far, and can be enjoyed by pretty much anyone who is okay with darker themes. It is indeed extremely dark, emotional and sad, with one scene that might make some cringe, and the tone is very sinister, but in its core, it’s a very inspiring story with an extremely polished look. It’s not experimental in the slightest and presents itself in a very linear manner, with a focus on epic, visceral execution. We had an extremely large budget, which enabled us to get the most out of this and make it feel like a little blockbuster, instead of just an independent short, for which I’m very thankful. The reason I made the film this way is multi-faceted. I love creating dark niche visions, films that freak people out and evoke extreme reactions, raw, experimental films that mess with people’s heads, but I’ve also always particularly enjoyed the kind of cinema that relies on entirely different values; clean, more traditional pieces of direct storytelling, with a strong focus on emotion, something that progresses throughout the story and ends with a bang, a scene that leaves you emotionally affected while watching the credits roll. This is a recipe that works especially well with short films, one that I’ve been meaning to explore for a while, though never had the means to properly pull off. Some of the fans of my work might get cramps reading this, but Daughter of Dismay was made to be mainstream-accessible, which is one of the reasons we shot in IMAX, and will present it in this format. It’s supposed to be big, epic, dramatic and to be enjoyed by as many people as possible, though in this case not for being “fun”, but for the intense impact it has. Even though it is so very accessible, I still have to clearly mention that I included a lot of my trademark elements in the film, and it is guaranteed to be the darkest and most surreal IMAX film you’ve ever seen.

“I love creating dark niche visions, films that freak people out and evoke extreme reactions, raw, experimental films that mess with people’s heads, but I’ve also always particularly enjoyed the kind of cinema that relies on entirely different values; clean, more traditional pieces of direct storytelling, with a strong focus on emotion, something that progresses throughout the story and ends with a bang, a scene that leaves you emotionally affected while watching the credits roll.”

Michael: What is the most crucial change in the framework this time around? Someone added to the project of utmost importance or some perfect set location?

James: Everything was different about this project, and every single thing mattered. From the gigantic efforts our cinematographer took upon himself, making sure to pull this off in the most amazing way possible, and enabling us to shoot in IMAX, to the lighting team, who pulled off the insane task of shooting with an ISO of 50 in a location with barely any light, and made it look like the sun was shining intensely, to our special effects team, who built an entire fake human that looked completely life-like, to our incredible team of production assistants, we went big in every single aspect of the production and squeezed out every drop of potential there was, to make it the film it is now. It would be hard to pick something precise, something that I can point to specifically, since every single aspect of the film’s production was extremely important, and if just one were missing, the film wouldn’t exist.

Dajana Rajic on Daughter of Dismay set.

Michael: For Daughter of Dismay, are there any connections to previous films you’ve produced? What should the viewer know, going into the film?

James: I would actually go as far as to say the ideal way to watch this is without having seen any of my other work before. It has no connections whatsoever to the rest of my films, and is very different, in that it is just a lot less offensive or extreme, and, like mentioned earlier, much more accessible than anything I’ve ever done. So, having seen the rest of my work, one might get false expectations, which is one of the reasons I’m making it very clear that this is a cleaner version of my artistic vision, though I do think fans of my traditional work will enjoy it just as much. If you go into this not knowing anything about it, or about my work, you’ll be able to enjoy it unbiased, just knowing you’re going into a 70mm IMAX film, which I think really helps.

Michael: You created the film in 70mm, and appear to be one of the first in the industry to do so for a short film. What influenced this decision and what is so important about working in this format as opposed to the industry standards?

James: We’re the first narrative short film in the history of cinema to shoot in 70mm IMAX, actually. Most films that have been shot this way are either grand space documentaries, or other documentaries of gigantic proportions, or massive blockbusters like Dunkirk (2017) or The Dark Knight (2008). The reason we shot in this format is quite simple: It was clear pretty early on that Daughter of Dismay is supposed to be a big, epic piece of film, something you watch and go “wow”, something you don’t just watch, but actually experience. The closest experience to being inside a film itself (besides 3D, which I’m not a supporter of) is 70mm IMAX, a format that is so unlike any other format, simply due to the intensity of the image, the detail and sharpness, it’s like being sucked into the world of the film itself. Christopher Nolan very fittingly described it as “virtual reality without goggles”. You’re being moved closer to the screen, which is extremely large, not only being very wide, but multiple times as tall as regular screens, which places you directly in the center of the image. Additionally, the sharpness and detail are so intense, it makes things pop out that you would never see in any other format. The digital resolution equivalent is around 18K, something that is obviously impossible to reach with digital sensors. Actually, you see more detail in a 70mm IMAX projection than in real life. We had to stop and have someone remove a pencil from the forest ground during one scene since people would have been able to see it on the big screen. In real life, this was barely noticeable. The way we see things when looking at a two-dimensional image this sharp is vastly different from the way we see the world in real life, and it gives us a strange sensation of being “more real looking than real life”. This is exactly what I wanted for Daughter of Dismay. You don’t just go see it. You experience the entire thing. Obviously, not everyone will be able to see it in this format, but we’re going to make sure to have the rest of the presentations be as impressive as they can, which means most of them will be in regular 70mm or 35mm, both formats that are absolutely beautiful.

Michael: You filmed Daughter of Dismay deep in the woods of Austria. Was this the plan from the beginning? What are some features of the Austrian woodlands which attracted you to this set location?

James: I have always been fascinated by forest landscapes and the natural atmosphere they bring. There’s something mystical and sinister to them, even though I consider it to be a place of peace. Most of my films have scenes in the woods or take place in them entirely. The Austrian woods, besides being the most accessible to me, since Austria is my home, are especially beautiful to me. For Daughter of Dismay, I wanted a set that’s as visually impressive as possible. Fallen trees, very large, tall ones, big, thick roots, grounds full of leaves, all of this is essential to the visuals of the film. I’ve shot in many different forests so far, and all of them looked different. This time, I went back to one I’ve already shot in, for Flesh of the Void (2017), though in Daughter of Dismay everything looks vastly different due to the different format, color and style. I’ll most certainly continue to shoot in forests, though I’d love to explore different ones in the future. Getting to explore mystical locations for a film shoot is one of the many things I enjoy about filmmaking. It’s a multi-faceted process that brings me much joy.

Still from Daughter of Dismay

Michael: Joseph Bishara will be working on the film score for Daughter of Dismay. What has been your past relationship with this musician? Why is his work so fitting for the film?

James: I haven’t had any sort of relationship with Joseph previous to Daughter of Dismay. He was my first pick for the film’s score, and he agreed to do it. I consider us extremely lucky to be working with him. Joseph is an absolute genius in his field and, in my opinion, one of the most talented horror composers of all time. I clearly remember seeing Insidious in the theater in 2010, and being absolutely blown away by how anxiety-inducing and dreadful his sounds are.

The screeching violins, dissonant and violent, loud, metallic explosions of piano strings, paired with very harmonic, beautiful and emotional melodies placed me in an absolute state of awe. I remember going back home, and immediately looking up the score online, listening to it again to examine it. There’s a very psychological element to Joseph’s way of composing, with an extreme amount of detail and passion present in his music, as he’s able to give you chills by simple (and also very complex at the same time) means of sound, something that deeply impressed me. I ended up following his work closely, being blown away over and over again. For Daughter of Dismay, we needed something sinister, something dark and mystical, but at the same time something that is extremely emotional, melancholic and touching, something that puts you in a certain mood by just listening to the piece itself. Knowing very well about Joe’s talent in not just creating horrifying soundscapes, but also strong emotions, I contacted him and told him about the film, and the rest is history.

Michael: Ben Brahem Ziryab has been brought on as director of photography. He’s done some quite impressive work in the past. How has your experience been working with him? Does he bring a particular magic to this project?

James: Ben was absolutely amazing to work with. He did indeed bring a particular magic to the project. Not only did he enable us to expand to IMAX instead of regular 70mm, his work ethics, dedication and talent stood out so much, I know for certain already that I will continue to work with him on more projects. He initially contacted me about a possible collaboration, and after talking to him on the phone for hours, I knew absolutely that this was going to be a person I’d want to work with more regularly. His passion for analog film and cinematography is absolutely magical, and he is talented beyond belief. I especially urge readers to check out his short The Negative (2017), which was shot in VistaVision (horizontal 35mm film). It’s an absolute masterpiece of both, storytelling and cinematography, and is deeply inspiring as a project, too. We worked together closely on Daughter of Dismay, and prepared on location for around 10 days before the shoot, visiting the set almost daily, to plan everything through as carefully as possible. Working with him on set was fantastic, as our visions for the film matched perfectly, with some of his own touch making it the unique piece it is now.

Editor’s note: You can read more about Ben, VistaVision and The Negative in this article by Kodak cameras.

Director of Photography, Ben Brahem Ziryab on set.

Michael: As for the acting talent in Daughter of Dismay, do you have any recurring actors you seek to employ for each project?

James: I try to work with new talent as often as possible. I enjoy exploring the world of actors and actresses, and there are many fantastic talents out there. I do occasionally hire people I’ve previously worked with, as I did with Dajana Rajic, who plays the daughter of the witch in Daughter of Dismay and has acted in a music video I directed. But usually, I try to focus on being open towards new talent and finding the absolute perfect persona for the character of the film. In the case of Daughter of Dismay, we had an extremely talented all-female cast. Actually, the entire reason why the film exists is due to the lead actress, who I did a spontaneous photo shoot with in early 2018, in which she posed as a witch, which lead to very occult works of photography. I was so impressed by her ability to portray emotion and expression purely through her face and posture that I asked her if she was interested in starring in a film as the same character. She loved the idea, and I was so into the character that I ended up writing the script in a couple of hours, since I already had her entire background story laid out in my head. Everything progressed from there. She really sells the film, her talent and mystical looks are perfect for this role and inspiring. Dajana, who played the role of the daughter, a smaller role, but very important nonetheless, did an equally amazing job. I love working with children, and Dajana is especially gifted at following instructions, and has an intense emotional range that she can express on command. Her role was very dependent on conveying confusion and sadness, and she proved to be absolutely perfect for it. The shot before the very last shot in the film is a shot of her that is especially haunting, though you’ll have to see for yourself why.

Dajana Rajic in Daughter of Dismay (not that final shot mentioned above).

Michael: What are some other films and projects from Sodom & Chimera which you would like to mention?

James: With the promotion and publicity of Daughter of Dismay, I’m trying to focus on presenting it as a singular project, one that’s separate from my others, like mentioned. I’ve made a range of films so far that are all very different from each other, though many carry distinctive elements that I put in all of my films. My favorite so far, besides Daughter of Dismay, was Sulphur for Leviathan (2017). It’s a grimy arthouse short about Satanism and the downfall of Christianity, and was heavily inspired by Andrei Tarkovsky. It was painful to shoot and made me want to quit filmmaking, but I’m extremely glad we pulled it off. It’s still the most provocative and radical film I’ve made so far, even though there’s practically no violence in it.

For people who would like an introduction to my filmmaking roots, I suggest to check out The Law of Sodom, which is an extremely disturbing and experimental film about my personal experience with mental illness, all written and shot during episodes of psychosis. (Watch on Vimeo on Demand)

Like mentioned though, Daughter of Dismay is a very separate piece, and I’d like for people who see it to disregard any other work they might have seen of mine. That doesn’t mean I’m not proud of my other films – not at all. It’s just such a unique and different film, I’d like people to go into it without any specific expectations of my style.

From the photo set (same name) which inspired Daughter of Dismay.

Michael: You also work within still-photography, a number of these sets are available for browsing at sodomchimera.com/photos. I particularly enjoyed the ‘Idolatry of Emptiness’ set. Is this an equal passion to your filmmaking? What has been your most memorable photoshoot?

James: Photography is a big passion of mine, yes. Visual art is something I’m very fond of, and there’s something about photography which greatly excites me, which is the ability to tell an entire story with one single frame, to put very specific thoughts into people’s brains and make them make up their own stories. There are similarities to filmmaking in the way I approach it, but in the end, it’s such a wonderfully different medium, and it’s especially pleasing as an artist since it works quicker than shooting a film. I do prepare most of my shoots, and even script them, but with photos, the possibilities of being spontaneous are much more open, and I very much enjoy that. Often, my photography is later used as the base for films, as was the case with Daughter of Dismay.

from ‘Idolatry of Emptiness’ set.

Michael: For a newcomer to the films of Sodom & Chimera, what would you recommend to readers as the best starting point?

James: I’d say check out the photography first, and start with a more stylistic and less extreme short, like Sulphur for Leviathan. It will give you a better idea of our artistic goal, after which you can work your way up to more obscure works like The Law of Sodom and Flesh of the Void. Ideally, you’d start with Daughter of Dismay, but it’s obviously going to take a little while until that’s possible.

Michael: Do you have any lofty goals for Sodom & Chimera? Any dream projects which you are waiting for the perfect set of circumstances to proceed? Or have you been steadily working through most of the ideas as they arise?

James: There are a few projects and scripts that I’m sitting on that I’m waiting with still, just because they need the right resources and talent, and I’d like them to be perfect. I can’t really say a lot about our future work, though I can tell you that there will be more features coming.

Michael: I thank you very much for your time, James. If you have any last words or information that you would like to give readers, feel free!

James: Thank you! All I want to close with is an appeal to people to go out and experience movies more intimately and intensely, and give analog film a chance. Look up special screenings, take a road trip and check out a film in 70mm IMAX, watch old classics in 35mm, take the time to experience things and movies you don’t know or maybe wouldn’t have watched otherwise, try to see the medium of film as an experience and spectacle instead of something to pass time with. It’s such a beautiful art form, and there are amazing sights and experiences to be had beyond just watching a film on a flat screen or in your local multiplex. Go live some movies.

Links

Sodom & Chimera Official Website
Facebook – Sodom & Chimera
Instagram – Sodom & Chimera

The Inner Sanctum – A Dark Ambient Vlog: Episode 07

Joseph Mlodik of Noctilucant says of his latest dark ambient vlog:
“Two Inner Sanctum episodes in one month! What is going on?! In this special “holiday” edition of The Inner Sanctum, I chill out, be myself and talk about a few older and generally forgotten dark ambient releases from years past. Reviews and further insights on releases from Convalescent, Vestigial, Non Ethos and Cataclyst. Enjoy the darkness!”

Episode chapters:
00:00 Intro
01:59 Convalescent
08:30 Vestigial
15:32 Non Ethos
22:26 Cataclyst
29:16 Outro
32:40 End Credits

Check out the Noctilucant Youtube channel here.

Arktau Eos – Interview

Credit: Arktau Eos

Arktau Eos are one of the most distinct and respected groups in the ritual post-industrial scene. They have been among the top-tier acts in many of the most revered festivals in the scene over more than a decade. Arktau Eos, like the Aural Hypnox / Helixes collective as a whole, exudes an air of authenticity and primal energy which is unrivaled by most, I would passionately argue.

There haven’t been a large number of interviews over the years with anyone from the Aural Hypnox / Helixes collective, though the ones available are certainly worth seeking out! So, it is with great respect and privilege that I am presenting you with this highly in-depth interview with Arktau Eos, who also have authority to, and do, speak on matters of the label at large herein.

In this interview we will be discussing the future of Arktau Eos, their greater relationship (or lack thereof) with music, politics and religion, their current views on physical, digital and video formats, analysis of Eremos and its context in the Arktau Eos discography, proper setting/atmosphere for deeper listening/understanding of their music, and quite a bit more!


Michael: Arktau Eos has been an essential group in the ritual ambient scene for more than a decade. Do you see yourselves on the same trajectory, following the same ideologies and aesthetics as when the group was first formed?

Arktau Eos: First, thank you for your kind words. We are certainly still on the same trajectory. Aesthetics evolve, ideas are fine-tuned, our technical know-how improves, but as for fundamental changes – there have been none.

Perceived changes usually relate to matters nearly wholly external. Being something of lone wolves and outlaws, we have, for instance, gradually drifted apart from categories such as ‘ritual ambient’ or ‘dark ambient’. Granted, those terms are not entirely without merit and many of our listeners fall into the demographic; no disrespect is intended. Yet we have searched for a slightly better fitting description, using ‘elemental music’ on occasion, in reference to its primal origins, suggesting a step aside from the dominion of chronology to seek the eternal, while simultaneously recalling the Paracelsian tria prima and similar formulations: everything has its base in a few active elements from which things of great complexity may nevertheless be composed by skilled hands, aided by knowledge of nature’s mysterious ways. Then again, we can agree with Alexey Tegin from Phurpa, who is adamant that Arktau Eos – like his own group – in fact has nothing to do with music per se.

Michael: Where do you see the future taking Arktau Eos? Should we expect another decade of releases?

Arktau Eos: Without any doubt. After all, Arktau Eos is a part of our respective life works, a point where our mutual interests and goals converge in a partially public context. We acknowledge Death as the grand initiator whose presence drives us to continue apace. This is not a statement of some inherent morbidity – we laugh too much to pass for the most ardent death-worshippers – yet it holds true in many senses, the basest one being that we realise the limits as to what can be accomplished in this lifetime at best. One can only hope it is enough to create a sustained awareness in areas of transition, including the final one that awaits us all. To this end, our records are travelogues and notebooks, quick sketches of eldritch spaces in mind or elsewhere (is there a difference?), cryptic but meant to communicate keys of access to others via suggestion and deep, universal symbols: beyond textual means, beyond sound even.

Credits: Costin Chioreanu

Michael: What is the current line-up of Arktau Eos? Is this still a fluid roster, keeping the core members A.I.H. & A.I.L., but interchanging other members from album to album?

Arktau Eos: It has never been a fluid roster really. We have returned to the original Arktau Eos pact, a duo formation, and intend to keep it that way. If we require the expertise of additional musicians or artists, they will be invited as guests of honour and lavished with fine wines, champagne and Cuban cigars, but typical ‘band’ dynamics are usually just a hindrance to the actual work at hand, and to be avoided.

Michael: Your last release Catacomb Resonator as well as its predecessor Unworeldes were released on vinyl. Your newest album Erēmos has returned to a CD-only format. Does each release dictate its own physical characteristics (cassette/CD/vinyl), or do outside influences (market/pricing) dictate the choice?

Arktau Eos: A combination of both. CDs will in all probability remain the label mainstay. Rather sadly, vinyl is becoming increasingly infeasible for us. So much is good about vinyl, but the odd frequencies and lengthy tracks present lots of problems mastering-wise and reliable pressing plants are few. Catacomb Resonator is a case in point. While it turned out decent and benefits from the vinyl sound, the process of getting there was taxing to the point of ridiculousness – the endless travails of its emergence included inspecting and sending back every single copy of the entire run! Cassettes are less finicky. Genuine tape saturation and hiss usually work wonders for our sonics anyway.

As a side-note of potential interest to some readers, it remains a distinct possibility that we pushed our luck too much with Catacomb Resonator. Its third song or side (‘The Third Canticle’ of the liner notes), the real core of the record, is merely implied by hidden motifs on both sides A and B, residing soundlessly in-between them as a sort of ‘charged absence’… perhaps this artificial tension overloaded the aura of the album, playing a part in its troubled manifestation. This matter cannot be explained in plainer words, so we’ll leave it at that.

To get back to the original subject slightly: contrary to expectations the recent vinyl boom did not benefit any of the Aural Hypnox artists even marginally, so frankly, a release must justify its appearance on vinyl exceptionally well for the format to be even considered. Such are the realities as we speak, however disappointing to the vinylophiles among us.

Some Aural Hypnox customers have remarked that a CD is an easy (!) way to bring along Arktau Eos for walks in the woods and mountains. In fact, portability is the only sensible reason for download codes we have ever come up with; perhaps we will relent and add them to the physical releases sometime in the future as a gesture of good will towards those few folks inclined to take our music to accompany their private pilgrimages.

Credit: Robin Levet

Michael: You’ve worked again with the artist K.T.L. on the artwork for Erēmos. Is K.T.L. a part of the Aural Hypnox/Helixes collective, creating music under one of these projects? Or, is this someone from the outside world you’ve sought for collaborations?

Arktau Eos: Our collaboration came about the most natural and hassle-free way possible. Timo Ketola, or K.T.L. as he is known in the Hypnox circle, is A.I.L.’s friend since the ‘90s and has been more or less clued in to Arktau Eos’ ways of working ever since the release of Mirrorion. Having vast experience of metaphysical and artistical subjects consonant with ours, K.T.L. adapts easily to our peculiar whims and is a rich source of ideas himself. He is mainly known as a visual artist, a highly talented draughtsman and painter, who in recent years has also been apprenticing in the art of tattooing. However, A.I.L. and K.T.L. did perform together as boreal electro-Behenian duo Astrolithos in Salerno and Rome back in 2017; K.T.L. did percussion. The Astrolithos set was demoed to an advanced stage, but there hasn’t been a suitable opportunity to finish it.

Most pertinent is that we will be working with him again for the 2019 Blow Up festival in Helsinki; with a bit of luck, this also means another new release from Arktau Eos. In a way, we continue in the spirit of the Origin of Fire event in Stockholm in late 2017. At Origin of Fire, Welt, Ketola, and S.A. Hynninen exhibited their work, while Arktau Eos, Stephen O’Malley, Aluk Todolo and Corps provided the evening’s sonic backbone. A 96-page exhibition catalogue was released that night including a foreword by Bobby Beausoleil. It is well worth getting if still available.

Michael: Erēmos contains field recordings from the North Ostrobothnian Woods in Northern Finland, as well as the “untamed steppes of Mongolia”. Was the idea for Erēmos conceived unexpectedly during your travels to Mongolia in 2014? Or, did you travel to Mongolia with the creation of this album in mind?

Arktau Eos: No, the concept of Erēmos is not tied to these travels originally. It was conceived in late 2017, when we were finishing Catacomb Resonator, its distant relative. The recordings were drawn from our archives because they fit and enhanced the concept. It was not premeditated at all. We have unused recordings all the way from our early days, and often they just reappear when needed. A.I.L. also did additional recordings in solitude at a remote Tantric Buddhist initiation temple in Mongolia – with permission, we might add: the gifts of the spirits are unexpected and numerous! Those recordings are yet to be used. They need a context, something more ritualistic than Erēmos could convey, whereas the rationale for using the field recordings on Erēmos is tied to the polarities these remote places – the Finnish woods and the Mongolian steppe – represent. While both are potential locations of retreat, they are in many ways opposites. The eternally blue skies and the openness of the steppe is contrasted with the dank, dark, forbidding nature of the Finnish woods, the open air ovoos with the minuscule cell of a solitary monk etc. The vision that unfolds when listening to Erēmos is an unspecified ‘desert’, that is, a mind-scape of extreme retreat which manifests according to the individual, not necessarily something that has a physical presence or counterpart. Fittingly, after an absence of a few years, solar-Apollonian elements have also crept in, most notable in this sense is “Pacts of Stone and the Sun”, recorded during the Summer Solstice.

Credit: Jeanne Saint-Julien

Michael: Also on the topic of release formats, will there be plans for more full-length video releases in the future, similar to Taiwaskivi and R.A.S.H.N.K.A-RA by Halo Manash? Or, do you now prefer just doing individual music videos, similar to the recent Templum N.R. “The Unseen Tailor”?

Arktau Eos: Individual videos seem to be the way forward. The bigger issue here is not the format or length but the actual content: for instance, R.A.S.H.N.K.A-RA was fine for its time, but the focus of Aural Hypnox video productions has since shifted. Instead of depicting ritual customs, our interest right now is in their after-effects, in painting impressions of what it means to do a ritual and what sensations it evokes – and for ‘ritual’, please take a broad view and read also meditation, summoning, prayer, etc. The problem with ritualistic videos is that they are very much tied to a certain moment. Watching them after the energies have departed might satisfy someone’s curiosity for procedural minutiae, but that is neither here nor there. The power and intent are already elsewhere.

Michael: It’s been stated in past interviews that Aural Hypnox seeks to remain separate from any specific religious doctrines. Is this also the case specifically within Arktau Eos? If there are any universal beliefs followed within Arktau Eos, what would they be?

Arktau Eos: Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that while we do not avoid any specific religious doctrines, we tend to steer away from their most common or vulgar expressions. Alternatively, you could say there is an Arktau Eos filter at work. While recognizing the immensity – perhaps impossibility! – of the task, Arktau Eos attempts to reach beyond the obvious appearances to deeper ur-currents that feed the present religious, magical, or mystical expressions, remaining untainted by political agendas or intellectual fads. One must learn the mystery of the mask and the masked to do so without impunity, with open heart and discerning intellect. In our home studios, we are constantly surrounded by markers of this enigma; wooden idols, thangkas, icons, nkisis, and so forth, which may or may not leave their imprint to what we do – but at the very least their presence draws our minds back to the work whenever they start to drift toward everyday worries, which have no place in our studio-laboratory environment. While we shun shifting beliefs or paradigmatic approach to religion as a folly of the rootless, we refrain from proclaiming a single doctrine of truth; we leave preaching to others, and in general tend towards detachment and the apophatic. Power itself does not gain from being drawn towards the human; it is richer without limitations, some of which are instantaneously in effect, should we desire to address it.

Credit: Gavin Semple

In a practical sense, to remain on the same page regarding Arktau Eos, we assume a few working hypotheses which pertain more to cosmological and ontological rather than religious aspects. A few delineations follow, which may be of interest to the few who care about such matters. Most of these general ideas are nothing new: visualizing the vertical dimension as comprising of three distinct realms, understood as the underworld, our world, and the celestial and stellar domain. Man’s unique role may well be joining the superior with the inferior as Hermetic-derived traditions insist, yet sometimes it feels like we are lightning conductors and not logical operators in doing so! The universe appears to express harmony and correspondence, and analogical thinking enables us to correlate its contents and consolidate some of the seemingly conflicting world-views and maps of reality, while the axiom of the inner being the outer and the within being the without is a Gordian knot best split by the blade of sudden insight, not intellect. There is life before birth and life after death; even biologically speaking we return to the elements through the work of worms or the agency of fire. Some dreams appear to arrive from beyond these dramatic realignments, and they may even eradicate the boundaries shaping that which we in the wake world identify as ourselves (Ioh-Maera is heavily concerned with this process). Arktau Eos as an entity appears to stand motionless at the edge of twilight, Janus-faced, yet it walks the route of the return and the widdershins way at the same time, continuously realizing their unity as a point afresh in the eternity of NOW.

Michael: Arktau Eos, like Aural Hypnox as a whole, focuses on the mystical and spiritually connecting to the natural world. Do any members hold strong political views/beliefs which dictate the direction of the project? Put differently, do you see the current global issues, particularly focusing on the environment, as an important element in your artistic output? Or, do you try to stay focused on your own lives and remain separated from any greater political/cultural dialogues?

Arktau Eos: We make some conscious choices in our daily lives to reduce our impact on the environment, but we are not activists or especially politically orientated. To those who argue that no act at all is without political undertones, we may appear conservative: after all, we value the survival of old beliefs and traditional handicrafts. On the other hand, our sonic output obeys no rules at all. Arktau Eos sessions are devoid of political discussions. While we leave politics, and environmental politics in particular, to those more eloquent and passionate about them, for what it’s worth, it should be clear to anyone who has ever held an Aural Hypnox artefact in their hands that we want to create things that are of lasting value, forsaking throwaway produce and culture, and view purely utilitarian preying on the environment as short-sighted and negative.

Credit: recviem-art.ro

Michael: If you do see a need for concern, do you consider the output of Arktau Eos to be a way of reconnecting humanity to the natural world?

Our interest in this direction lies in the interactions of man with specific places in the natural world, the portals and power-zones, sites of attested theophanies and curious photic phenomena, unusual geomagnetic and geographical regions, mountaintops, caves, holy springs and lakes, nemetons, etc., all of which inspired our ancestors to marvel, worship gods known and forgotten, build shrines and tumuli, and erect megaliths based on stellar and solar alignments. Churches upon Mithraeums, chapels upon spots of pre-Christian apparitions… the layers are many and all are fascinating.

The otherworld is never but a figurative step away, but these liminal locations appear to amplify the catacomb resonances, the sense of the otherness, at times causing the veils of separation to unravel forcefully. Perhaps they are there to compartmentalize our experience, for who can withstand the full incursion of the greater reality unprepared? Beyond those veils certain sites shine as beacons to which flock entities that may bear little or no resemblance whatsoever to human life. Whether the impromptu sabbatic revels ensuing from encounters with such non- or un-beings still count as engagements with the natural world is obviously a matter of debate!

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio

Our age lacks the framework for comprehending such experiences and casually relegates them to the category of the supernatural, now used pejoratively, stigmatizing unusual phenomena by equating them with hallucinations or glitches of brain-functions. All in vain hope that this would somehow nullify the nagging unease brought on by them displaying characteristics we are accustomed to associate with ourselves and related species, such as intelligence and independent will. We are not opposed to hard sciences and we value critical thinking, but merely wish to point out, as Shakespeare had Hamlet state to Horatio, that “there are more things in heaven and earth … than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. We have sent probes to Mars, which is all great, and even the depths of seas are becoming familiar to scientists, although their hold on imagination has not let go. And probably never will, so primal is the strata in which the idea of the abyss, tehom, resides, welling up as the waters of Genesis or earlier creation myths like that of the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad. Yet, even today much on this planet remains little known, just consider the vastness of deep biosphere and how it defies expectations with its strange lifeforms: microbes living hundreds of thousands of years, for instance. Try, then, to explain the complexity of our imaginative faculty or of consciousness: the shoreless ocean or, indeed, abyss, the evolution of which spans geological epochs!

Some of our innate sensitivity to the numinous itself – the capability for apprehending pure awe that carries no moral or ethical baggage – has been lost, perhaps irrevocably. The common man has his senses dulled, his mind distracted by the ‘whys’ and ‘wherefores’, as if there would ever be an end to the chain of questioning. The culprits contributing to this sad state of affairs are numerous, but we could start with urbanization, light pollution, unnatural pace of life, over-reliance on technology, and the forceful shifts in our way of thinking since the Industrial Revolution, not to mention imperious scientism rife among the myopic and petty types. Religions and supposed experts on spiritual matters are not without fault themselves, having often accrued ways of conceiving the divine in terms unduly influenced by social and sociopolitical patterning. It is a precarious balance, to be sure.

In our own small way, we attempt to reverse the damage, cultivate an understanding of sacred sites within Arktau Eos, and walk their precincts with reverence. This is a reconnection, but alas! of a kind that will never be popular. Perhaps one must have a Gnostic sense of unease to seek out the forbidden and hidden to begin with. Few are truly called.

Credit: Arktau Eos

Michael: Aural Hypnox has previously unveiled Mount Hypnox, a line of hand-crafted incenses which could be used in connection with the label’s releases to further connect the listener to the aura of the music. Would you have any recommendations for the best incense blend to better connect the listener to the new album, Erēmos?

Arktau Eos: Erēmos calls for something uncomplicated. Locally available tree resins and the scent of a campfire are enough. Further down the line, we will probably release an Arktau Eos incense blend of more complexity. It should be clarified here that while we often use incense live, it is to add an extra dimension to the proceedings, an appeal to the olfactory senses to deepen immersion, and not to appease someone’s desire (fixation) for ritual as such. Immersion is vastly more important live than ceremony. The live shows should be more akin to a prolonged dream than a routine ‘ritual’ – at least they work better viewed that way.

Michael: Do you have any recommendations to listeners on the best way to enjoy this new release? Should it be enjoyed casually? During meditation? During one’s own rituals? Is there a right answer?

Arktau Eos: The gist of it is, indeed, that there is no correct answer. Over the years we have heard back from many listeners and have been pleasantly surprised about the ways people have deeply engaged with our albums. The knowledge that our records have been used in the rituals of certain magical orders and Neognostic enclaves is also gratifying in that it speaks volumes of their applicability and capability to communicate in such highly charged settings. Nevertheless, Erēmos is so unambiguously focused that a suggestion is hereby offered: it just might be best suited to lonely wanderings and meditations, whatever form they take. Trust your instincts. And by the way, we have no objections to casual enjoyment of our musical endeavours either. Your choice. Your responsibility, as ever. This is one area in which we have quit being elitist bastards. Working on the rest.

Credit: recviem-art.ro

Michael: Arktau Eos has recently performed at the L’Homme Sauvage event in France. What was the event like for Arktau Eos in comparison to some of your previous events. Were there any fellow artists from the line-up that you found particularly impressive?

Arktau Eos: L’Homme Sauvage is an excellent event, a whole community selflessly coming together to create something of greater good. It was our fourth time playing in the mountains (Stella Natura in the US twice, Funkenflug in the Austrian Alps, and now this). Rather conspicuously they all number among the highlights of our live ‘career’. Perhaps we have an affinity to mountains? At L’Homme Sauvage, we watched one of the bands struggle with power cut-offs earlier in the evening, but although stressful to the organisers, in the end the tension just seemed to heighten the collective anticipation and atmosphere. With bonfires lighting the area and a lone hurdy-gurdy resounding in distance, a truly unusual atmosphere took over, and when everything finally worked out as it should, people seemed to appreciate everything on-stage with heightened fervour. The organizers made a wise choice in having Visions play last, since his drone-heavy set helped that atmosphere linger on long into the night instead of being dissipated by traditional band-type sounds, as could have easily happened.

We had acclimatized to the Pyrenees, mentally preparing for the gig the entire preceding week by presenting ourselves to the powers that be on solitary peaks and other significant places, such as the many Cathar castle ruins dotting the landscape. We also spent some time with director-shaman Richard Stanley and witch Amanda, then residents of the village of Montségur, whose expert guidance in the region was most illuminative. Standing before the pog of Montségur, in full moon’s light in the dead of night, immersed in the profoundest silence punctuated by an owl’s hoots, remains one of the most powerful experiences of our recent travels. It is hard to relay without resorting to clichés since it is so archetypical: without warning – as gently as the first snow brushing your face yet as decidedly as a tidal flow – something entirely else came over and the landscape was transformed into an eerily beautiful faerie realm of timelessness. An extreme calmness remained although one’s sensorium was madly tingling owing to the presence of that which is beyond – and more than – human, leaving in its wake a curious nostalgia, or longing… And that is all that can be said, except that intuitively you feel certain that this has been experienced over and over again, century after century, by many folks, us being merely the last in a long line. Probably there are those who at that very interstice have decided to walk away from the life as we know it for good and now reside in that lambent ever-night permanently, barely remembering their former selves.

Our last time in Stella Natura was another momentous mountain spectacle from the beginning to the end, and to tell all would require pages and pages. Perhaps another time. As for the climax, we played in the early morning hours before the first light of dawn and it was actually damned hard to find our way out of the imposing Sierra Nevada woods and back to the trails after our set! A disastrous snowstorm had struck the day before and only a handful of people, the truly hard core, had stuck it out for our set, sipping magical potions infused with ingredients gathered from botanicas of San Francisco, drawn into that strange, cold void exhaling the breath of the earth and the intoxicating scent of pine resin deep in the woods. Together we formed a closed circle set apart from the rest of the world, in sway of total darkness except for the hues of spectral red bathing the stage, our drones and cymbals echoing through the massive canyon carved by the Yuba River nearby. Those gear-geeks looking for the ’best natural reverb’ on Internet forums, we declare the search over; but you can’t put it into a pedal, sorry!

Back to France and your question. Unfortunately, we did not get to see that many of our fellow performers at L’Homme Sauvage, being away on our own excursions under the mountains, exploring tunnels in darkness of which time itself flows in abnormal directions! Of the ones that we managed to hear, we enjoyed the tribal noise act 若潭 / ruò tán and the folk-goth of Traum’er Leben, both well-versed in their craft, and Mütterlein, who sounded very powerful. And as is natural in such rustic surroundings, the experimental folk stylings of La Breiche were more than fitting! Our friends Hexvessel are always good on-stage, and we gladly accepted their invitation to bring some of the Arktau Eos hexcraft onboard for a rendition of “I am the Ritual” to cap off the musical side of our trip.

Credit: Gavin Semple

Michael: You also recently performed at Death Cult Rising III in Barcelona, along with long-time label-mates Zoät-Aon. Were there any special moments from this event you’d like to share? Was it nice to see a Zoät-Aon performance after quite a lengthy silence from them?

Arktau Eos: Death Cult Rising III was another great festival and line-up. Always reassuring to see organisers put real effort into what they do, and the sound was fantastic. Highly recommended. This urbane setting – a club resembling a scene from a David Lynch movie complete with a masonic floorboard – was a nice contrast to the rustic festivities that soon followed it in form of L’Homme Sauvage. For ourselves, it was interesting to compare how our basic set took different directions with the slightest push, transforming itself to suit the surroundings in both cases. Let us hope 2019 will turn out equally fulfilling regarding live appearances!

As for Zoät-Aon, it was and is excellent to see Jaakko Vanhala set the old beast into motion again. We have both assisted him live at one point or another (A.I.L. accompanied him for the last two shows), and he fully deserves the credit and laudation he has acclaimed throughout the years for creating his original, highly technical yet feral brand of dark ambient. A running Hypnox house in-joke calls it ‘in-your-face ambient’.

Michael: Speaking of Zoät-Aon, I wonder if there are currently any plans to release another album as Arktau Aon?

Arktau Eos: No plans exist. The whole concept would need to reworked, as we cannot possibly re-create the youthful fire and spontaneity of the original sessions. It’s a miracle they survived and were recovered from our archives in the first place!

Michael: I wonder if you would be interested in detailing any of the process of creation for Arktau Eos? I’m particularly interested in how the drones and other synthetic elements are created in association to the live elements such as percussion, chanting, etc. Do you plan these rituals out in advance, creating the synthetic elements to be utilized in the live ritual setting? Or, do you create these synthetic elements intuitively and extemporaneously during a live ritual recording process?

Arktau Eos: There is always an element of intuition involved. We are not that big on presets, and enjoy tweaking sounds live, come what may. We always ensure there is room for improvisation, the possibility of taking the set in unanticipated directions. Certainly, much is planned and rehearsed, but should the situation call for it, a trip beyond in the spirit of joyful abandon will be seized with no remorse. We will never be a sterile live act that simply attempts to recreate studio work on-stage. What we can bring along creates natural limitations and the lack of second takes guarantees certain rawness and lack of refinement, but that is not necessarily a drawback.

When crafting our sound in the studio, there is no set work-flow. The only hard-and-fast rule these days is that it should immediately evoke that unmistakable presence of otherness to which one responds at gut-level. Synthetic, organic, digital, analog – while we have our preferences (vintage when possible!), it does not matter in the end, unless we want to involve some element or a self-made instrument for a distinct reason. We are not Luddites or attempting to recreate hypothetical prehistoric music, nor hold any pretensions to that effect, so there is never a question of authenticity in that sense – playing music with only sticks, bones and stones, to fulfill someone’s idealized, absurd notion of original ritual music! Catacomb Resonator was 90% vocals, Erēmos relied on other things… and what we work on right now sits right between the two albums, subject to change as always.

The studio environment is essentially a haunted microcosm and a crucible of change.

The studio environment is essentially a haunted microcosm and a crucible of change. We treat the synthetic parts as at least half-sentient, evolving things, animated by the subtle interrelated alchemy between everything that goes on in the studio. Electricity is an organic element as much as are fire and wind. Directing control voltages through analog gear is the act of mesmerizing the machine; electromagnetism is the kuṇḍalinī of the circuits!

Therefore, we also cherish and utilize to the full the moments when old or malfunctioning synthesizers and effects decide to embark on their own trajectories, bringing about unexpected changes. This goes in tandem with our interest in the romance and mystique of ‘transmissions’, whether supernatural or shortwave! Intention, if correctly formed, eventually pulls everything together. The filaments of the spider’s web reach into the unknown, carrying resonances from afar. Some of our synths involve the operator becoming part of the actual circuits, further fulfilling a mystic conjunction of flesh and metal. Tactility is a must: you will not be seeing Arktau Eos with a laptop on-stage anytime soon, perish the thought!

Credit: David Arranz

Michael: The ritual ambient genre seems to be growing every day. Though many of the musicians creating within this genre don’t seem to have nearly the depth of seriousness which musicians from Aural Hypnox consistently present. Would there be any certain musicians outside the Aural Hypnox/Helixes collective which you would recommend to followers of your works that are looking for the same level of dedication and authenticity?

Arktau Eos: To be honest, we do not wish to assume the mantle of arbiters regarding these matters: time will always tell. Let us see about dedication in five or ten years. Many from the old school have proven their dedication repeatedly and compared to them we are the newcomers. All hail and honour, you know who you are: acceptance by Arktau Eos is hardly needed! As for authenticity, the shallow ones are effortlessly told apart, although there is no pleasure in the exercise: those desperately striving for recognition, the pathologically self-important, the ones vacant-mindedly copying sigils from grimoires they do not grasp in hopes of impressing other dimwits, and so on, ad nauseam. All of them united by wallowing in the bitter waters of their smug self-complacency, while failing to recognize the vessel of crystal-clear stellar nectars when it is freely passed forth… You know the drill. Waste of energy, though fools may strike gold, once! More importantly, for the rest, the sincere ones we extend our well-wishes and a friendly word: just know how ‘authentic’ you want to become, because when things get real, they inevitably bring on danger, personal sacrifice – and your ego to the firing line. Those with escapist fantasies are not cut for such trials. The abyss will gaze back, unwavering.

Michael: Thank you very much for this interview, I am fully aware that these aren’t granted often, and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to speak with you gentlemen!

Arktau Eos: Thank you, it was a pleasure answering your thought-out questions! We appreciate your time and interest, wishing you the best of luck with This Is Darkness.

Arktau Eos Links

Helixes Collective Official Site
Aural Hypnox Official Site
Arktau Eos – Facebook
Aural Hypnox – Soundcloud
Aural Hypnox – Vimeo

Cadabra Records – The Call of Cthulhu – Review

Artists:
Andrew Leman (Spoken Word)
Theologian (Soundscapes)

Album: The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft
Release date: Spring 2018
Label: Cadabra Records

Cadabra Records has effectively carved out a niche for themselves with their H.P. Lovecraft vinyl series. It might seem strange to essentially buy an audiobook without the convenience, but their pressing of Lovecraft’s 1929/1930 work Fungi From Yuggoth takes the story’s effect to unimaginable heights. These projects aren’t mere reading. They’re gripping, haunting works of art in and of themselves.

Andrew Leman’s utterance of Lovecraft’s words is harrowing enough in and of itself, but the inclusion of post-industrial legends Theologian was a true stroke of genius. Their nebulous soundscapes embody Lovecraft’s fear of the unknown to a degree no other artist could hope to reach. Given how great Fungi turned out, it only made sense of Cadabra to unite the same artists once more to tackle Lovecraft’s magnum opus—The Call of Cthulhu.

A palpable aura sets into place right when the needle hits the wax, and only tightens its grip on the listener’s senses. Listening to this thing in the dark at high volumes is profoundly nightmarish, as the speaker and the musicians work to magnify the dreadful feeling The Call of Cthulhu elicits. The chemistry between Leman and Theologian is unprecedented in this type of media. Their respect for the source material is evident, as each sound and word resonates at the core of Lovecraft’s chilling narrative.

Subscriber only variant.

While Theologian’s input on this release doesn’t stray far from amorphous noisescapes, their sonic tides rise and fall in synchronization with the story’s emotional crescendos. As Leman gets more impassioned, the soundscape acquires more layers of paranoid sound. The result gives a dumbfounding fervor to protagonist Francis Wayland Thurston’s descent into madness. Lovecraft always made a point to detail the mental fallout experienced by his protagonists after beholding the Great Old Ones, which this recording mirrors as Leman’s tone of voice gets increasingly agitated.

Leman and Theologian’s respective contributions were obviously made to be mutually exclusive, but this project keeps both the reading and the music compelling. Leman’s reading would be captivating without Theologian backing him up, just like Theologian’s finely-crafted ambiance could transfix by itself.

Theologian made a good call to avoid trying too hard to evoke each plot-point as it happens. The musician instead supports the overall atmosphere, working tirelessly to up the ante as the chilling narrative takes its course. There are a few nuanced additions to drive some of the most terrifying moments home. When police official John Raymond hears the ritual drums that lead him to the Cthulhu cult’s terrifying procession, a very quiet, but deliberate rhythmic pulse creeps into the aura.

Instead of trying too hard to musically interpret the story, Theologian intuitively creates a head-space for the listener. It almost works like subliminal messaging, preparing the ears and mind for Lovecraft’s words. This release forces listeners to contend with monsters beyond comprehension after being whisked away to Lovecraft’s macabre world.

For vinyl lovers who haven’t read Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, this is the perfect introduction. For anyone already familiar with The Call of Cthulhu, this provides a re-experience like no other. This album’s immersive ambiance and expressive reading is nothing short of spectacular. It takes nothing from the source material, only adding to its impact as a seminal work of horror and weird fiction. Cadabra may well have outdone themselves with this project.

Written by: Maxwell Heilman

Lars von Trier – The House That Jack Built – Movie Review

Title: The House That Jack Built
Director: Lars von Trier
Starring: Matt Dillon, Bruno Ganz, Riley Keough, Uma Thurman, Jeremy Davies, Siobhan Fallon Hogan
Original Languages: English
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Drama
Running Time: 155
Year: 2018
Available at select theatres and on-demand services now.
Check for your own region.

Matt Dillon as Jack in The House That Jack Built, courtesy of Mongrel Media

 

“I don’t have a handle on how many processes
take part in the decay of a dead human,
but I know a bit about dessert wines.”

Jack

Lars Von Trier has been shocking audiences for over three decades now with his controversial, but often heart wrenching, films. But, with many seeing his best work behind him, in films like Dogville and Dancer in the Dark, Trier has slowly moved into a more shadowy region of the film industry. The fact that only one theatre in the whole Baltimore/DC region appeared to be showing it on opening day (Parkway Theater, home of the Maryland Film Festival), and on top of that I was one of four people in the theatre (this was a 3:30 PM showing, one of several throughout the day/night), seems to drive this point home. As with much of his work, The House That Jack Built seems destined to be misunderstood by many and totally unnoticed by most.

Lars von Trier has always worked with subjects that veer toward the darker sides of human emotion. His first major film, The Element of Crime (1984) was a post-apocalyptic crime noir, which was certainly the darkest work he’s produced to date. Europa (1991) put Trier on the map with its tragically pessimistic conclusion enveloped in a hazy historical piece. Riget (1996) (The Kingdom), along with shows like Twin Peaks (1990), helped to change the face of television, paving the path for future shows with much more intricate plots and content which often pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable for television at the time. But, the films Breaking The Waves (1996), Dancer in the Dark (2000), and Dogville (2003) positioned Lars von Trier as a Cannes favorite for years. These three films were able to harness the subtleties of that darkness from his previous films and blend it with much more personal tales of sorrow.

Director Lars Von Trier – Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

However, it wouldn’t be long before Trier dreamed of returning to the darkness that seemed to be at the source of his original inspirations. This coincided, coincidentally or otherwise, with his mental breakdown which landed him in a mental hospital for a brief stay, due to a major bout of depression. During and on the other side of that, we were presented with The Depression Trilogy. Antichrist (2009), Melancholia (2011), and Nymphomaniac (2013) explored the depths of utter despair and depression, and the depravity that is often spawned from these mind-states. While Melancholia received quite high esteems across the spectrum, Antichrist and Nymphomaniac haven’t been so well received by the film community or the general public. Add to this a very badly timed/executed Nazi joke, and Lars von Trier found himself persona non grata at his old strongholds like Cannes.

Left to right: Siobhan Fallon Hogan as Lady 2 and Matt Dillon as Jack in The House That Jack Built

Lars von Trier did present The House That Jack Built this year at the Cannes Film Festival, but it received a tepid response from crowd and critics, with many walking out of the film during some of the harsher scene. As mentioned at the beginning, the ability to see this one in theatres seems to be almost non-existent, unless you happen to live in a city/town with a film school, or other privately-owned theatre that seeks rarer/smaller films. There was news of the director’s cut being available for a brief period on YouTube the night before release, but it disappeared soon after. Luckily, the film does appear to be available for rent from On Demand services, so it should find a wider audience quickly.

“Sick, Violent and a Total Bore”
The New York Times

“Empty, Repugnant Provocations”
The New Yorker

“Von Trier can be a filmmaker of great empathy when he wants to be, but it’s exhausting to see him unable to think about the artistic process as anything other than a predator/prey dynamic.”
Vulture

The House That Jack Built isn’t going to win back any of those good/neutral critics. It is filled with violent acts against women and children. Jack almost seems to be Trier’s idea of one of these American incels, Jack delivering a speech on the injustices against modern men to drive the point home. I think this perspective will make it much harder for Trier to reconcile this work with his left-leaning critics who have been labeling him a misogynist for years. I have seen the positive traits Trier wants to evoke in so many of his female roles/actresses throughout the years, but if you were in the camp that felt he was already being demeaning toward women, this one will send you quite further down that path. Of course, there will be lunatic loving sadists coming to this film for the wrong reasons, just as there will be social justice warriors giving it attention from the other side, but I try to separate art from reality and see the film as it is supposed to be, incredibly uncomfortable art with many nuances.

Matt Dillon as Jack in The House That Jack Built, courtesy of Mongrel Media

This film certainly follows in the footsteps of The Depression Trilogy in many of its features. Though, there do also seem to be enough differences to say that he has moved on from that trilogy and is not seeking to add this to its ranks. But, as you will see, Lars von Trier has continued to keep a strong connection between the actions of his protagonists and mental diagnoses with, for instance, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder being used to invoke some of the most comical moments of the film.

“A murderer with OCD it’s almost ridiculous. But how unfortunate for you Jack, and to top it off, with cleaning compulsions.”
Virgil

The best way I could sum up the film is to say that it is a perfect combination of the Hannibal (2013) TV show with American Psycho (2000). These elements are, of course, run through the Lars von Trier filter, meaning there will be the sorts of halts in narrative, tutorials, and multiple time-lines which have been staples of The Depression Trilogy. The film is more-or-less a narrative, Jack tells Virgil (author of The Aeneid) about a few of his most memorable kills/situations as they are traveling together.

*Possible Spoiler*—> While the majority of this film follows the above framework, the epilogue takes us into a vastly different situation. This is the part which makes me wonder if this will end up being my favorite Lars von Trier film of all time. I will not give away the scenes/events, but I will say that we are taken into another place, a place which could hold analogies to David Lynch‘s Red Room. While in this place, there is a sound, a sound which must be heard at great volumes. This sound is a sort of dark-ambient droning I would say, it’s really quite an impressive sound which adds so much emphasis to the scene. So there are dark ambient drones and a sort of alternative Red Room scenario. <— *Possible Spoiler* The final point I’d like to mention on that connection is in the way that new chapters are introduced in the film. Trier has used this style in the past, but I find it to be the most well executed in this film. The animations of these chapter-markers show the handwritten text reverse-dripping. The scenes are very Trier, but they also seem incredibly Lynchian to me, like artwork that could be pulled right out of his studio. This isn’t to say that Trier is ripping off David Lynch, I don’t think he is at all. But, the things that make me like both of these directors so much can come into such harmony at times that it surprises me. I often daydream of what sort of monster would be created if these two directors were ever to work side by side on a project. Alternate directing television episodes? I think there could be gold there!

Matt Dillon plays the serial killer Jack. While he’s a well-enough-known actor in Hollywood, and has been starring in films for decades, he’s never gotten the esteem or top-roles of actors like Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Jake Gyllenhaal and other grounded-sort-of-actors. This role, if you’ve totally separate it from any feelings on Lars von Trier, was played magnificently by Matt Dillon. It is a combination of him being a natural choice for the role and him truly living up to its demands. He is able to successfully convey a range of emotions in this role that will take the viewer from laughing out of their seat, to trembling with unease at his psychopathic, homicidal gaze. Performances by victims Uma Thurman and Riley Keough also stood out for me, along with the epic voice of Bruno Ganz.

Left to right: Riley Keough as Simple and Matt Dillon as Jack in The House That Jack Built

The film is shot, mostly, using the hand-held camcorder format which Lars von Trier has been incorporating for quite a long time. There are also the occasional art stills which have been so beautifully realized in his past works. There are sort of scrapbook-like pieces added throughout as well, along with the aforementioned tutorials. In short, this is typical Trier, atypical Hollywood. There is a point in the film, where we are given a deeper glance into the works of Trier. This moment will be obvious to viewers because he actually uses scenes from throughout his film career to convey the message. I’ll leave that one to you, but it is worth noting that he really seems to be working with something personal here. Maybe, as with depression, Trier sees elements in this film that have been essential to his entire career.

I’d rather not go into too great of detail on the specifics within the film’s narrative. I recommend watching it for past fans of Trier’s work. But, this one should be interesting well outside his usual crowd. There is a massive market these days in the genre of true crime. Books and podcasts are selling off the shelves on the topic, so a new serial killer film should find its own audience easily enough. This one feels a bit less artistic as a whole, in comparison to Antichrist or Melancholia, but it still holds many of those elements which make his past films equally timeless and transgressive. If you have the stomach for a serial killer’s mentality through the no-holds-barred approach of Lars von Trier, this film is sure to delight you.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Hector Meinhof – Interview

Hector Meinhof is an author and musician out of Sweden that has recently released his debut book, Three Nails, Four Wounds through Infinity Land Press. Outside his writing, Meinhof is known for his work as a classically-trained percussionist. He’s performed as part of Kroumata, a percussion ensemble. He’s also part of the scenic music duo, Hidden Mother. He is a collector of  antique photography, specialized in post-mortem, medical and religious themes.

This book had a real impact on me, more so than with many/most books I’ve read in recent years. There is a perfect melange of macabre photography with a strange story that takes place in an asylum, centered on seven 11 year old girls. The story is filled with brilliant allusions to an apocalypse, mental/physical disability, old-fashion asylum conditions, and a dark and twisted conception of Christianity. Mingled with this is a very unique writing style, a blend of dialogues, poetry, and prose which all come together with the images to form an incredibly powerful experience.

Hector Meinhof has written a book that is both beautiful and cruel. His poetic prose and the doom-laden pictures from his extensive collection of vintage photographs have bled into one tortured, corporeal unity. This is the illustrated scripture for the new dark ages, it will be read and beheld again and again. – Martin Bladh

I decided that only reviewing the book wouldn’t do this work enough justice. I wanted to delve into the topics a bit deeper with Meinhof and find out a bit more about this promising new artist to the literary world. There will be a review coming along soon, but for now I highly recommend this book! Enjoy, and thank you all for your continued support of This Is Darkness and the works we cover!

Interviewee: Hector Meinhof
Conducted by: Michael Barnett

Michael: First off, thank you very much for agreeing to the interview. Three Nails, Four Wounds was my first introduction to your art-form and I must say I am incredibly impressed. I rarely am eager to go right back to the beginning of a book and start reading again, immediately after finishing it. But this the case with Three Nails, Four Wounds.

Hector: Thank you for those kind words, Michael. I’m looking forward to hearing your questions. Let’s dig into it!

Michael: Christianity plays a major role throughout the narrative of Three Nails, Four Wounds. What is your particular relationship with religion? Do you fascinate on it from afar, or do you hold some beliefs?

Hector: I did not have a religious upbringing at all (by the way: Sweden is mostly protestant). I thought religion was the most boring subject when I went to school. I didn’t care about these things until my 30s when I started to read about Christian mysticism. People on the fringe of society have always interested me and all those eccentric mystics – the saints, the stigmatics, Christ-erotics, those crazy nose-bleeding nuns, levitating, fasting, suffering, flagellating themselves – really struck me as the most extreme way of life ever recorded in the human history. It also made me aware of my Christian heritage. In the West – especially in Europe – we are all cultural Christians whether we like it or not. It’s not just the architecture, music, art, philosophy – but it’s in our way of thinking, in how we perceive things. So, whether you believe Christ was crucified for our sins or that he was “incompetence hanging on a tree” [Anton Szandor LaVey] it doesn’t really matter – we are what we are because of Christianity. In Scandinavia, Christendom is of course mixed with Norse mythology (look at the Norwegian stave churches with their dragons).  Personally, I don’t have a problem with our Christian heritage, it has given birth to astonishing art, literature and philosophy, a rich set-up of archetypes that can guide and inspire, and the church’s demand for control wasn’t strong enough to keep the light of science from creeping in.

Michael: Martin has mentioned in the Afterword that it took you a great deal of time to find your individual writing voice. Do you think you’ve finally found that voice with Three Nails, Four Wounds?

Hector: That’s a good question. There are so many books in the world – is it even possible to create something new? Since I can’t do better work than Dante, Göthe, Shakespeare, Bronte,  Dostoevsky, Huysmans, Rilke, Woolf, Proust, Camus, Bataille, Zürn, Ungar and Wittkop, already have done, I need to find themes, or a combination of themes, that haven’t been explored (at least not the way I do it); combine that with a personal style regarding language and form – then maybe you can create something that at least could be perceived as original. I had been writing for many years, but never thought anything turned out good enough for publishing. This time I thought it did. I guess this is my voice then – but I suspect that it will change over time. It took a long time for me to learn how to write, let’s leave it at that.

Let me add that when I started to write “Three Nails, Four Wounds” I knew that I wanted the story to take place in a hospital, and that although the religious themes would be there (like a skeleton of the book), my main focus was to find ways to express feelings of despair, pain, loneliness, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, a frustrated stutterer full of things to say lacking the ability to talk freely, and mental illness in general. I didn’t want it to be a conventional novel (building up characters, etc.), and I wanted a slightly surreal tone in the girls’ speech – that was my biggest problem: how to make them talk like they were from another dimension of life. So, I got the idea of using old poems (written ca. 15 years ago) as lines – and that’s how I found the tone in the dialogue. At one stage, I did consider composing the book entirely of lines of dialogue, but it felt too constructed.

From Three Nails, Four Wounds

Michael: Was Three Nails, Four Wounds part of this process of finding your voice, or did you begin the book after you felt that you were in this proper mindset and had found a narrative voice suitable to continue with a more intensified and directed focus?

Hector: I guess “Three Nails” was part of the process. I wrote the book, read it, and felt for the first time that this book made it through the needle eye of my ambitions. I was ready. Twenty years from now, I will hopefully be a much better writer and then I will probably see flaws in this first book of mine – but I do believe that I will stand behind it and defend it.

Michael: Would you like to elaborate on some of the ideas that you were working on when writing this book?

Hector: My heroines, the seven 11-year-old girls, are not victims of anything, they act without hesitation, they are not afraid of the present. And many people are afraid of the present. A psychologist (I can’t remember who) talked about a man, happily married with children for 15 years. One day, his wife tells him that she has had an affair for the last five years and that she wants a divorce. The man is shocked. He says: “But I thought we were happy – when we had dinner last weekend, our holidays in France, when we visited your parents… Now, it’s like I don’t know myself anymore” – and the man had a breakdown. Happy memories turned into memories of deceit. His wife’s betrayal had changed his past, his history. So, the present can change the past, and that’s why it’s scary. In the present, we lack control. Everyday unexpected things can happen. Someone might walk up to you and say or do something that changes your past – and then we don’t know who we are anymore. The seven 11-year-old girls don’t remember, maybe they don’t have a past at all – and they are not afraid of anything.

My heroines are female because I think Woman has a certain inclination to spirituality – and most important: they use their body to express this spirituality. Reading about, for example, Mechthild von Magdeburg (which is quoted in the book), there is a very physical side to her belief in God. She talks about Christ more as a physical lover rather than something unreachable. The female saints bleed, they experience stigmata, they fast, they throw up objects, they levitate; when their bodies are dead they smell of flowers, when their hearts are dissected we find patterns and symbols inside. It seems to me, that female mystics use their flesh in a way male mystics don’t (there are, of course, exceptions). Their worship is like an art-form – and makes me think of contemporary performance artists, such as Marina Abramovic, especially her work in the 1970s.

Editor’s Note: An interesting article, if you want to learn more about some of Marina Abramovic’s work in the 70s.
https://www.elitereaders.com/performance-artist-marina-abramovic-social-experiment/?cn-reloaded=1

Hector: My heroines are children because I wanted them to be virgins. You could say that I use the seven 11-year-old girls as a cliché of the innocent childhood, not yet affected by social rules, sensual not sexual etc. But there’s a deeper meaning to it: their virginality – and I’m not talking about the bodily aspect of the term, but rather as a mental state. The virgin is self-enclosed, remote, secluded, turned inwards, doesn’t please others, penetrating only her own body, sterile, uncontaminated. Virginity as a state of mind is a sort of resistance. Let me quote from a book I just read [Images of the Untouched, 1982] about how to make a unicorn trap. You place the virgin in a forest, “with her breast uncovered, and by its scent the unicorn perceives it; then it comes to the virgin and kisses her breast, falls asleep on her lap and so comes to its death.” You could interpret the unicorn as “the spirit”, and the ”unicorn trap” as a way to unite the spirit with the body. “The virginal nourishes the spirit, while spirit makes the virginal psyche pregnant.” So, virginity as a state of mind is to be pregnant – that is: creative. In some cultures, the menstrual blood is viewed as a manifestation of creative power, especially a girl’s first menstruation. So, in my book you can see what happens when seven 11-year-old psychic virgins start acting, breaking the snow-white silence and awakening the avalanche.

Michael: There are hints that this book may not take place in a century-old past, as may seem more obvious, but that it is a look into the future. A possible warning about our coming struggles as humanity, as we wrestle with the ramifications of our systematic destruction of our own planet and existence. Do you see this as a sort of apocalyptic warning, a sort of prophecy?  Something more abstract than this?  Or do you prefer to let the reader sort these details out on their own?

Hector: Timewise, the book takes place in all eras (including the future). I think that in our culture we have lost the belief (and understanding) in sacrifice as a means for change.  I wanted to remind people of that. I have a really bad feeling about the future. On the other hand: the way I read the book, it actually has a happy ending. I believe that in the end of the book [spoiler alert! -> when the seven girls torture themselves to death, this sacrifice actually saves the town and the people in it. <- spoiler alert!] Let me just add that I don’t have an agenda – political or religious – with my work, you might see it as an intellectual preparation for the approaching darkness.

From Three Nails, Four Wounds

Michael: Were there any worries about the subject matter/visual content of Three Nails, Four Wounds?  It is, of course, packed with some quite macabre imagery, unavoidable considering the themes of the photographic content.

Hector: Not really. I did suggest that we black out the eyes of the disabled children, because those photos were taken in the 1940-50s (so they could still be alive, although I doubt it). It is, of course, a bit weird that photographs taken in the 19th century – for private use or as documentation – are now viewed as art. I see them as historic artifacts worthy of our attention, as memento mori objects, as our past, our collective memory.

From Three Nails, Four Wounds

Michael: It seems reasonably obvious that Infinite Land Press wouldn’t take issue with pressing such an intense release, as it is really the culture of their company. But, what of the hapless consumer that stumbles across your work. The person that had no clue what to expect. Do you have any preferred reaction/emotion you’d like to see coming from them?

Hector: I think the hapless consumer will be alright. If he or she doesn’t like my book they can just throw it away. People get offended by different things, some by photos of the dead, some by naked breasts, some by stupidity. I cannot limit myself by the fears of others. I saw ”The Shining” [Kubrick 1980] when I was ten, and I couldn’t sleep for days. I got extreme anxiety when I had to watch an anti-drug movie in school, where a woman injected heroin into her neck. But I survived – and rather than prosecute the people behind these ”childhood traumas” I feel grateful for being exposed to great art (The Shining) and brutal reality (syringe in neck). And no, I do not have any preferred reactions from a reader – all emotions are welcome.

From Three Nails, Four Wounds

Michael: “The Shining” was the first film that I appreciated more deeply and intuitively. A horror that could overcome the viewer on multiple levels. I, also, wouldn’t have had it any other way. Now that you are moving in the published world, do you have plans for more publications to follow in the foreseeable future?

Hector: I am currently writing a new book. Infinity Land Press is interested. I need at least one more year to finish it. The plan is to get it out in 2020.

Michael: Have you been holding back ideas with the anticipation of coming into your own as a writer, or have you been working through material as it presents itself?

Hector: The latter, I believe. Writing for me is very intuitive. I don’t know what’s going on inside my head when I’m working. It’s a mystery to me – and I like that.

Michael: Martin Bladh mentions that you found inspiration in a passage from the ancient Roman historian Plutarch, in which fear of being carried naked through the market stopped a sudden phenomenon of the Miletus townswomen impulsively hanging themselves. Was this an interesting tidbit you found? Or do you have a deeper fascination with Roman history/stories/mythology?

Hector: I would like to learn more about Roman history, but the Plutarch story was just something that I stumbled upon and felt was connected to my book.

From Three Nails, Four Wounds

Michael: During my studies of Roman history at university, I found the stories: ‘The Golden Ass’ by Apuleius, ‘Satyricon’ by Petronius, and ‘The Satires’ by Juvenal, to all be the most resoundingly interesting. But there is a never-ending torrent of literature worth reading. One must be selective with their time, especially in modernity when vacation and retirement are imaginary concepts for most people. (At least here, in the U.S.)

Hector: I agree, there are so many books to read! Think about a man like Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century. He read all books that existed in his time, he possessed all knowledge there was in the world and could grasp the whole intellectual effort made by mankind. You could say that he knew everything. Today that would not be possible – and knowledge is consequently fragmented upon various experts. And now I have contributed to the ever growing pile of books in the world with my own book…  I would guess that psychic virgins are very selective readers (or they probably don’t read at all).

Michael: What are your thoughts on Francesca Woodman’s perspective on her art?  Do you think it was auto-biographical in nature? Do you think her still largely unreleased body of work would inform us better on this matter?

Francesca Woodman, Space 2, 1976.

Hector: I was around 20 years old when I discovered Francesca Woodman. It had a great impact on me back then, but I haven’t thought about her for some years now. I don’t want to speculate about her work, if it was auto-biographical or not – it is what it is, for us to enjoy. But there is something mysterious about her, both in her work and her as a person. A feeling of something untold. I saw that documentary [The Woodmans, 2011] a few years ago, it had a weird atmosphere – her father photographing young Francesca-like women, like he was repeating (or continuing) his dead daughter’s work. The documentary didn’t really give much new information, but it was nice to see bits from her performance videos, and to hear her “Minnie Mouse” voice.  When she jumped out of a window at her New York apartment she did not leave a suicide note, but in a letter to a friend she wrote: “My life at this point is like very old coffee-cup sediment and I would rather die young leaving various accomplishments, i.e. some work, my friendship with you, some other artefacts intact, instead of pell-mell erasing all of these delicate things.”  That tells us quite a bit regarding her aim for perfection. I do hope we will get to see the rest of her work someday, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Michael: Have you found any current photographers that are able to capture her level of emotion in their works which you found so profound with Francesca Woodman?

Hector: For the last ten years or so my focus has been on antique photography, so I’m not really up to date on contemporary artists. But if you want pain, I can recommend the saint-like Spanish photographer David Nebreda.

Michael: Again, in the Afterword, Martin mentions your original fondness for film directors like Pasolini, Dreyer, Bergman and Tarkovsky. Who are some of your more modern favorites? I’m, personally, a huge fan of the works of Lars von Trier and David Lynch, quite a bit above most other current filmmakers, though I’m always looking for some young talents to carry the torch for the next generation.

Hector: When I started writing, film was an important source of influence. I went to a movie theater (that showed classics and art house films) almost every day. But as with contemporary photographs, nowadays I’m not really up-to-date with what’s going on. I like Michael Haneke’s films, Tarr and Alexander Sokurov. If I should name a Swedish director, it would be Ruben Östlund. Sorry, don’t come to me if you want tips on photographers or directors! When I was younger, I searched for influences everywhere, nowadays I try to avoid influences – the thoughts inside my own head are enough.

Vintage hidden mother photographs from Three Nails, Four Wounds.

Michael: How has your collection progressed since you started procuring 19th and early 20th century photography? Do you just find this sort of stuff on the internet, or do you attend auctions and other markets for finding such niche photography? I imagine there must be so much of this stuff out there, waiting in attics for some horrified descendant to one day unpack, and they wouldn’t have the slightest clue what to do with an oddity like this.

Hector: I think my interest in buying antique photographs started when I saw a “hidden mother” on eBay. I realized that there were a lot of interesting photos on the market. Pretty soon, I started to buy post-mortems, and then medical photos, and then religious themes. Most of them I bought at on-line auctions like eBay, but I have also gotten to know photo collectors from around the world. It’s a small community and we know each other’s interests, we sell and trade with each other. Some of the photos in the book make me uncomfortable too, looking back I think this was a way for me to come to terms with certain fears, and to learn to see beauty even in the nastiest subjects. I like to look at kittens too.

From Meinhof’s personal collection.

Michael: I imagine a hobby like collecting 19th – early 20th century post-mortem photography wouldn’t present itself in a vacuum. Do you have any other interesting collections you’d like to mention?

Hector: Well, that would be old books – but beyond that I don’t really think that I’m such a hoarder. On the other hand, if I had a lot of money, I could easily imagine myself surrounded with exquisite antiques – cylinder music boxes, medieval paintings, large vellum books, talking machines, phonographs, 17th century medical models in ivory, religious objects and relics from saints – in my little castle in the Swiss alps…

Michael: That sounds like a wonderful way of spending a fortune! Has your particular environment had an impact on your artistic direction?  As you are Swedish, it is understandable that the works of Ingmar Bergman would come to you at an earlier age than for someone like myself growing up in a rather traditional American family.

Hector: Bergman was important, films like Persona, Hour of the Wolf, Cries and Whispers, had a huge impact on me. Not just visually, but also his treatment of the Swedish language. But most of all, this feeling of independence and freedom; that you can create a piece of art with its own inner logic regarding form and content, not following the manual and not caring about what other people think or say. And, since I have been working with hardcore contemporary art music for my whole adult life, I think (although I cannot explain exactly how) that this has influenced my sense of form and structure. Xenakis, Stockhausen, Cage, Lucier, Ligeti, Sciarrino, Whitehouse…

From Three Nails, Four Wounds

Michael: What are your feelings on Infinity Land Press? Are you happy with the book and Martin and Karolina?

Hector: I had met Martin once before in connection with the recording of the CD Closure… by his post-industrial band IRM. They wanted some additional percussion on the album and, via a mutual friend, I got the job. A few years later when I had finished Three Nails, I heard that Martin had moved to London and started Infinity Land Press, together with Karolina. I sent him the manuscript and he replied like 24 hours later that he wanted to publish it – I was stunned! Martin and Karolina are very professional, both are artists themselves, so we have the same understanding of where the boundaries in our different roles (writer – publisher) should be. I think Karolina’s design of the book is very tasteful and Martin provided a thoughtful afterword that gives the reader some background to the thematic aspects of the book. And of course, the translators Marianne Griolet and John Macmillan were crucial for the birth of this book as a physical object. To produce a book with over 100 photos is expensive, and I wanted it to be affordable (especially since this is my debut), and I think that ILP managed to make a book that feels luxurious without costing a fortune. I am very happy with the result, it’s a little gem. And the reception has been fantastic, I’m humbled by all the praise from my readers.

Michael: I think you hit your goal nicely. I forgot the book was under £20, it certainly feels like a more expensive and very well-made product.  Do you see any other publisher out there working on projects of these sorts?

Hector: I think you know more about publishers than I do, Michael. But we have, for example, Kiddiepunk [Michael Salerno], and Amphetamine Sulphate [Philip Best]. I was happy that Wakefield Press released two books by Gabrielle Wittkop a few years ago.

Michael: I am learning new things every day. I am constantly finding new artists, publishers, film directors, that are changing my ideas on art and its limits. I just try to bring the zine’s readers along in my process of discovery. You never know where the next hidden gem will decide to shine and reveal itself. I find that an artist’s particular set of interests can often unlock a whole new world of interests to their followers. So, I thank you for sharing some insight, not only into your own work and process, but also into the things that brought you to become the artist you are today. I thank you again for your time, and I’ll leave the final words to you!

Hector: The pleasure was mine, Michael. Thank you for spreading the New Gospel! My final words… well, the aborted calf is shaved and skinned. The skin is stretched over the firmament: In the afternoon sun, people cease to cast shadows. In the town square, the puppet theater closes for the day. The puppet master pulls off the puppets and discovers that his hands are soaked with blood. You see, this is for real.

Purchase Three Nails, Four Wounds here.

Hector Meinhof Links

Official Website
Facebook
Instagram
Youtube
Hidden Mothers band site

The Inner Sanctum – A Dark Ambient Vlog: Episode 6

We are very pleased to share with you the latest episode of Joseph Mlodik’s
The Inner Sanctum!

“Episode 6 of The Inner Sanctum is upon thee! In this episode I talk about one of my own recent releases, and then discuss a relatively new project called, Forest of Frogs, which is followed by Infinexhuma making its second appearance on The Inner Sanctum with the brilliant, Unasan, album. Pär Boström; the man, the myth, the legend, is discussed next, with his recent side-projects, Bonini Bulga and Hymnambulae. Thanks for watching!”

Enjoy the Darkness!

Contents:
00:00 Intro 00:00
01:56 Noctilucant/DeepDark
12:46 Forest of Frogs
16:36 Infinexhuma
27:48 Intermission
28:18 Pär Boström
32:43 Bonini Bulga
37:44 Hymnambulae
43:56 Outro
44:35 End Credits

You can read our review of Bonini Bulga – Sealed here.

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