Let the darkness consume you...
Let the darkness enlighten you...

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"I am the brain fart of Deity.
Spit into a meat suit, embodying an idea discarded.
I am the lost, the forgotten, the becoming ..."    

                                                     ​- Quantum Mystics

​Updated 9/14/2018

Horn & Dagger - Dark Tunes


Horn & Dagger Paperback Edition Available Now on Amazon!

Below is an exploration of the Dark Tunes that inspired and continues to inspire Brian White's next novel, Horn and Dagger. This is a dark tale whose main characters consist of a monk, an engineer/alchemist, a mushroom cult, a tribe of mutants, and a unicorn that defecates a substance which is then crafted into the island of Gull's most commercial product, Memory Glass. 

We are confronted with strange technologies, surreal visions, wormholes, horrific monsters, murderous clans, bio-augmented assassins, and a beautiful creature that holds us in awe. Visit the world of Gull to be amazed and horrified and then stay to witness the dark revelation that can only be found by searching the dark abyss we are loath to gaze into.

Author Sketch

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Masstaden by Vildhjarta & Extinct Instinct by Threshold – The Dark Seeds of Horn and Dagger

Vildhjarta is one of my favorite bands and Masstaden is at the top of my list of favorite albums ever. This concept album is a dark dirge of the soul, filled with complex guitar patterns and odd time signatures. The very first time I heard this album it awaken a visceral nerve, conjuring a plethora of dark storylines. The down tuned 7 string guitars would thunder, then squeal. Clean guitar melodies, thick with chorus and reverb, echoed in soft and depressing tones, continually weeping in the background throughout the album. When I closed my eyes and listened to the atmospheric minor melodies I would picture myself in a dark wood, on an island covered in mist and that island had a secret. On this island was a creepy engineer/inventor with a hidden lab, a prodigal son returning, maybe to annihilate or redeem the island, a beautiful creature that could create the illusion of perfection in perpetuity hid the mystery of the island. Increasing spirals of oddities were conjured in my mind.

The album started with the return of one of its inhabitants, his intentions unknown, a malicious confrontation, the music going from mysterious to paradoxical, leading to insanity. There is a national anthem (Masstadens Nationalsang) that sounds more like a requiem, but what death do we mourn? The song, Traces, feels like a fight between demons and angels as aggressive growls are met with clean angelic vocals to counterpoint, keeping the listener in a constant state of paradox as each element of the music becomes laced with irony and dark sarcasm.

Masstaden was the inspiration album and I joyfully listened to it over and over trying to conjure the complete storyline that began in a place called Gull, where a dark secret was waiting to be revealed, a beautiful magical creature capable of miracles is in residence, both revered and feared, and the dark prodigal who has returned for reasons we do not yet know. Does he bring destruction, salvation or revelation?

From the moment I heard this dark tale told in haunting growls, I knew that eventually a story would emerge. The CD artwork also played a role in my imagining, showing a dark place inhabited by folklore animals, enveloped in some mystery that I was so ready to explore but could not fully grasp. I listened to this album constantly feeling like I was on the cusp of finding a story but it would take other influences to dislodge the tale fully from the dark recesses of my mind.

Around the same time I was listening to Threshold and a song, Eat the Unicorn, particularly intrigued me.

Give me a place to stand and I will move the world
Give me the right to speak and see my flag unfurled
The gods of war and the generous whore
Give me life in this tinsel town
But the shit I eat and the people I meet
Make me want to bring this curtain down

I started to think of this song as providing the backstory to Masstaden. The two were related somehow. In Gull there is the surface reality, the glitz and glam, but that is merely the curtain behind which this island’s dark secret is kept. The prodigal is returning with some knowledge that can either be enlightening or harmful to the system of the island or counter to the emotions or logic of the magical creature.

Nightmare is coming and i hear the drumming
Of demons in the night
The space where my heart was is claimed by the servants
Of my subconscious flight
The wings that i fly on are taking me into
The underworld tonight
Where i perceive all my wildest dreams where i
Bring them all to life


Nightmares are coming. These demons are revealed and released by the dirge of Masstaden’s National Anthem. All the dark, shadowy, secret things that hide in Gull come to life and fly out into the blue-white moonlight of the night. But this transformation is not only physical it is psychological and spiritual as well. You are entering the realm of shadow and dream where the lines between the mythic, the miraculous, and the “normal” no longer exist as you swim in this sea of the surreal.

It was then that I knew one character in this still to emerge story, would be a unicorn. But there it stayed. A desire burning in my brain, an idea, a location, characters, but no story. It would be years later before the perfect inspirational storm would come to free the story.

Then one day, about a year ago, I saw that the movie, The Last Unicorn, was available for streaming and I had a nostalgic desire to watch it and see if it was how I remembered it. It wasn’t. I don’t remember it being such a dark and scary tale when I watched it as a kid. The storm started to swirl again and began to pick up some new fragments from the recent past. A few months before reliving, The Last Unicorn, I had read Haruki Murakami’s novel, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of The World, which also had unicorns in it. Again, something so visceral was awakened in me based on their appearance in the story, so magical, yet sad. The concept of the unicorn touched something deep down within me, something primal and sacred that I couldn’t explain. The storm was picking up speed again gathering new fragments into the swirling vortex. This time I could hear the distant rolling thunder but I couldn’t see the lightening yet, but everything was beginning to coalesce.

Then everything came to a head a few days later. After a long mountain bike ride I came home sat on the couch and put my headphones on and started listening to Masstaden. I fell asleep and had these dark surrealist visions with characters, worlds, animals, objects, forests, temples, ancient villages, mushrooms, all fused together in impossible combinations, and of course there was a Unicorn a prodigal son, ancient monks, an island and a village called Gull with a sadistic engineer and a mushroom cult. And so Horn and Dagger was born. The hard work was getting it on paper and trying to understand what these visions were showing me. For that I needed more Dark Tunes.



Serpents by A Wake in Providence

A friend of mine turned me onto this band. He knows the bass guitar player and suggested I give a listen. I’m glad I did. And the bass playing is awesome by the way.
 For anyone who has read the Dark Tunes segments related to, In the Shadow of the Witch, you know that I have this thing for the tolling of bells in songs. For me it is always a signal to some event. No matter how subtle the toll may be my mind yells some version of the following. “Hey pay attention to what follows! Did you hear what he just said? Something bad is coming! Run! Hide!” This fascination will show up a lot in Horn and Dagger music, particularly when I discuss the influence of Rotting Christ.

This album doesn’t have a bell but it does have this sonar ping sound which occurs in the beginning, throughout the album and finally at the conclusion. For me these pings tied the album together in some way I won’t even try to explain, but this tone had a way of bringing me back and centering me on what I was listening to.

The first character we meet in, Horn and Dagger, is a monk that is returning to Gull after being away for some time. As these sonar pings began I pictured his approach to the island from the sea. He is contemplating why he left, where he’d been, what he was going back to, as well as considering what he was hoping to accomplish. He will need to re-acquaint himself with the magic of Gull and at times stare into the darkness if he is going to uncover the truth that hides there. In the darkness he will need something to guide him. This sonar ping was a guide, showing me what was important, reminding me that I was searching for something regardless of how many tributaries I was offered on the way. In this case the pings were saying, “Keep searching. Remember why you are here. Don’t lose your way.” This is what our monk needs to do.

Serpents, has some awesome lyrics, with each song advancing the concept of the previous. As I read the lyrics and listened to album I began to envision it as one long song. After the repetitive and searching sonar pings fade Dominion starts with the lyrics:

We’re starting this empire
Right in front of your fucking faces
You will never know
What it’s like to be true
You will never know
What it’s like to be true

When we arrive at Gull all we see is the curtain of illusion created by magic. But behind this gossamer veil lurks a dark world. It is out in the open, hiding in plain sight. No one sees the darkness because they are focused only on the glittery illusion presented to them. But our monk is different. He has the knowledge and the esoteric tools to see beyond the illusion.

Continuing into Forsaken:

Bring yourself to the light
Show me what really hides inside
Your justice awaits your demise
We will show you what monsters you've created
Is this not everything you wanted us to be
Lost and hiding behind all your fallacies
Breathing in your intoxicating ways
Now we will release the keys to unleash this genocide
I am the end
(I am what moves you)
I am the end

This is exactly what the monk wants to do. He knows the island’s secrets and has some of his own. His goal, he believes, is to expose these fallacies, to expose the lie and in doing so force the inhabitants of Gull to breath in their own intoxicating lies, which may become the keys to genocide. In that way he is the end, whether that will take the form of salvation, revelation, evolution or death, we don’t know.

Then in Serpents:

Your pretending to be alone in paradise
Your pretending to love this life
Your regrets will always haunt you
And your mistakes
They will always find you
You will watch me tear apart your secrets
You will live in fear with this sickness
You will watch me prey upon your weakness
You will live in fear with all your regrets
Now you will live with regret

These lyrics could be stated by multiple characters and groups in the novel. The issue is that in many cases each character thinks they have created the truth and have exclusive access to it. They firmly believe that they are consciously hiding this truth behind a lie they alone have created. The mushroom cult has a truth and the lie it tells to obfuscate it. The engineer has yet another and believes the mushroom cult to be completely disillusioned to the point they don’t even know that their truth is a lie! And the monk believes he can see beyond all of their spiraling and splintering truths and lies!

Therefore, each believes that their holy quest is to tear apart the others secrets. Their lies became their sickness. Is there anything behind these myriad illusions? Is there even anything to hide anymore or have each been so enamored of the other’s lies that they have lost the capability of distinguishing the truth from the real? It’s the same concept of believing a lie for so long that it has become the truth and no one even remembers what the original truth was. It’s gone. Forgotten. Can it be retrieved?

I swore to myself I would never follow
In your footsteps
May mercy find its way to your soul
You are the serpent who betrayed us all
It's about time the world found out who you really are
I have become the martyr
You are the reason why
We have become the nightmare
That you will not survive

It’s very difficult to say who the serpent in, Horn and Dagger, is. The serpent in Genesis is equated with Satan. But in hindsight what was the intention behind his want to tempt man/woman to eat of the fruit of knowledge. Does that not lead to self-awareness instead of sin? Are not the rule breakers those that bring about evolution? Is this not the start of humanity’s rise toward true kinship with the All? Or is this the birth of illusion brought about by separation and an immersion into Self? Regardless of how the outcome is judged, is not the Serpent the catalyst to change, the symbol for renewal, as it sloughs off its old skin to be covered by new?

In, Horn and Dagger, all the characters are pointing a finger outward. They all become the serpent, some with the aim of revolution and others with the desire to propagate sin. There is the dream of the protagonist which is simultaneously the nightmare of the antagonist (and it’s not clear which one is which).

This idea is propagated again in, A King Without a Kingdom:

We have fallen under your command
For far too long
Eyes sewn shut
From all of your lies
When will you
Show your disguise

And then we come full circle with, Through the Eyes of a Traitor:

How could you
How could you live with yourself
Knowing you deserve to die
How could you live with yourself
Knowing you deserve to die
Losing sight of what is real
When everything around you is a lie
Look around you
What do you belong to
Fighting the temptation to sacrifice your life
Provoking the devil that lives inside

Again each protagonist/antagonist is asking this question? In the context of the album is the traitor asking these questions or are they being asked of him? From the novel’s perspective it may not matter, because the question can only be answered by the truth, which has become convoluted by the serpents and saviors that inhabit Gull. First we must shatter the illusion. But is that the aim of any of our questing knights? Is each character only trying to propagate their own viewpoint, their own lie, then defend it or do they legitimately believe that these other characters are traitors and that all lies need to be wiped out to reveal the truth? Difficult to tell.

Nothing but pure evil lives inside us all

I would say that some of the characters believe this. It is however not a sentiment I subscribe to. In fact I believe the opposite. However, if we look through the eyes of the traitor then he must only see evil. He sees the lie and the illusions of others and believes they must be destroyed. But isn’t the traitor also stating that only evil lives inside him as well. That is what the lyrics seem to state but that then seems to cause the logical inconsistency of the liar’s paradox as exemplified in the statements:

This statement is false.
Or
The following statement is true.
The preceding statement is false.

The paradox results from self reference. If the traitor is part of “all” then logically he must be evil. If that is true then wouldn’t an evil person lie? The other lyrics seem to equate evil with lying. But even if this is not the case and purely evil beings can tell the truth, what basis is used within the system of self reference to judge good vs. evil?

Then I began to wonder if that was the point of this line. The traitor is a paradox, his very existence is a self-contradicting loop and nothing he says can be trusted, either about himself or about the world around him. In essence he lies even to himself and doesn’t know it.

This leaves us swimming in a sea of possibilities. This was the interpretation I walked away with because it lent itself to a surreal paradoxical game and Gull was the game board. We don’t know who the traitor is but we do know that the traitor is a paradox. As a result we don’t know whose eyes we can trust. Maybe the only eyes we can trust are those outside the system, those in a position to judge statements without self reference: The almighty reader.

When faced with these paradox loops, attempts to solve them usually results in a crash of the system. Maybe that is exactly what is needed in Gull: crash and reboot.

And then finally we have:

We are the ones who created this world
And we will be the ones who destroy it
Nothing will remain
No one will ever change
Let this sink into your shallow mind
This disease has been spreading for far too long
We are the end of this world
We are the end of this world

If we are to judge this from within the confines of the “system” illusory though it may be, then this becomes logically true. We created it, we can destroy it. We are its end. But when it is gone, who has created what is behind the curtain? When we tear the illusion down from its curtain rod did we or do we, create what is behind it? Or was it always there; the truth we hid from ourselves.

I really enjoyed the mental gymnastics that resulted from listening to these lyrics. The use of paradox helped me view the world of Gull from multiple viewpoints, which helped me flesh out this surreal, mythic world seen from the perspective of multiple traitors and serpents.

As an aside. Due to my obsession with the sonar pings I decided to track their frequency and occurrence throughout the album.

Dominion

Slow sonar pings separated by atmospheric background tones that reminded me of a horror movie soundtrack. The sonar continuously pings, sweeping, looking for something. We are beginning our exploratory search.
Ping
We’re starting this empire
Ping
You will never know
What it’s like to be true

Serpents

What’s lost is lost
Ping
You had your chance
Your pretending to be alone in paradise
Held hostage by your demands
Ping
This is the end

Through the Eyes of a Traitor

Provoking the devil that lives inside
Ping
Will you find it
Will you survive this
Ping
How will we become accustom to your hypocrisies

We are the end of this world
Ping…ping….ping…
Pinging fast as if telling us we have arrived or we found what we were looking for. Did we?

What does this mean? Maybe nothing? Do the pings point us to what we should hone in on? Don’t know, I just found it an interesting exercise.



If someone sees a connection please let me know by contacting me at brianwhite@darkrevmedia.com and I can post responses on The Dark Daily Blog or on tumblr: http://brianwhitedarkdaily.tumblr.com

    

Horn & Dagger Dark Tunes - Part 1


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 Horn & Dagger Dark Tunes - Part 2



The Violent Sleep of Reason by Meshuggah


Awesome! Only thing I listened to after the release date for a few weeks. Pre-ordered the limited edition box set with the mask and then followed that up with seeing them in Concert at the Starland Ballroom.

There is a lot of sociopolitical commentary/imagery embedded in the lyrics which could apply to a myriad of historical events or to yesterday’s news depending on your point of view. I think Meshuggah did a good job of not pointing at a single event or in clearly defining a given point of view. The listener gets to direct their internal intellectual spotlight towards whatever they feel is applicable, as each of us is left to contemplate where “humanitarian treason” is occurring in our world. Or it can be further personalized by lyrics such as, “The pain you feel. Indifference thrust into your back. Forged from our ignorance, from our immorality.” Whatever your moral or political bent the lyrics can be applied, forcing reflection on topics and emotions many of us may flinch from normally. It is not pretty. It is dark. But to evolve it is necessary. Pain is the touchstone to progress.

I won’t ruin the album with my commentary on what I think the concept or lyrics mean in our current world or how it could apply to the news of the day. Instead, I’ll do what I always do; comment on how it affected the creation and development of, Horn and Dagger. But before I move on, I will say that there are many levels to Meshuggah’s music and lyrics and The Violent Sleep of Reason continues that pattern. There is the political, social, spiritual, metaphysical and then what I’ll focus on as a writer, the creative and inspirational dimensions. All of them are worth delving into but I’ll concentrate on the creative/inspirational and maybe a little of the spiritual/metaphysical.

Even the title of the album, The Violent Sleep of Reason, contains multiple levels of meaning to explore. The album was named after the Goya sketch, The Violent Sleep of Reason Can Bring Monsters, (pictured here) which, according to the band, inspired the original concept for the album.

The more I listened, I began to notice a pattern to the lyrics as they vacillated between illusions (dreaming/sleeping) and violent symbolisms "I bring you me - conflict and death and the promise of spilling red by the ton" (By the Ton). This violence occurs when reason begins to seep into the illusion, fracturing it; cold, dark reality visible through the cracks.
  
 The monsters start to invade our individual dreams; the rainbows and puppy dogs become giant walls which we thought were there to protect but are now revealed as a cage, those puppy dogs become large wolves that guard the gates to freedom. There are many names given to the illusions: security, prosperity, freedom but they have their dark equivalents in the world of reason: spying, data collection, secrecy, big brother, despotism, stagnation, disadvantaged, status quo, enslavement. To achieve a level of security does it become necessary to spy on our citizens, collect data on them? Is prosperity only defined by gross national product or average income? Are we more interested in keeping the status quo or in searching for true freedom for all? Does the enslavement of one group result in the freedom of another? Are we really free? Or do we simply allow the illusion to define our reality, taking pleasure in our gilded cages? These are questions we could ask while listening. These questions are pivotal to the plot and character motivations of, Horn and Dagger. They frame the primary struggle between the various groups that exist on the island of Gull.

I also like Meshuggah's use of the term dissonance in the song entitled, Born of Dissonance, for which there are a few definitions:
                 
Musically it could mean the mingling of discordant sounds or a clashing or unresolved musical interval or chord.

This is a definition which could aptly describe Meshuggah's music which at times is an ecstatic cacophony with odd time signatures and parallel rhythms which flip quickly to syncopated off-beat patterns that beautifully jar you from one sonic phrase to the next. It is truly a complex tapestry that is born in dissonance.

In the context of the novel however I thought of other definitions:
Inconsistency between the beliefs one holds or between ones' actions and ones' beliefs.
Cognitive dissonance - a psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously.

Gull is truly a place born in dissonance. It is a place that wavers between illusion, dream, nightmare, pleasure, pain, darkness and light. Each moment you struggle to understand where you are on this scale of consciousness and just when you think you’ve figured it out, it changes.

Born in Dissonance

We come to make all things collide
Those joules define what we are
An energy born in dissonance
Long before first ever star

Baptized in the river you call time
We know that we are sacred
In human tongue we're apocalypse
For we bring with us obliteration

Collision is inevitable in Gull and the energy of its warring factions is born in dissonance. But that dissonance can bring healing as well. And we come to that topic again of apocalypse. Does the end bring a new beginning? Is an apocalypse sometimes necessary to start things afresh or is the threat of it enough to bring people to a new understanding, a new awareness?

Clockworks

Disassemble this machinery
Re-program these eyes, undo this design
Break this deceitful machine

Is Gull a clock ticking down to zero? Are we disassembling the machinery to analyze and understand it? Once we do, can we then begin to see it for what it is? Do we “re-program these eyes”, and “undo the design” with the knowledge and wisdom we have gained through this process? Is that what the monk is trying to do in Gull? Has he returned with the goal of getting people to open their eyes to reality? Or is his ultimate goal to break the deceitful machine? Maybe he wishes to repair it?

Monstrocity

Welcome all to MonstroCity where norm is that of the insane
All is illusion in MonstroCity
Bow to it, it knows your name

You never quite know where you are in Gull as your consciousness flits between various mental states brought about by exposure to Gulls National Anthem, its memory glass, the unicorn or the mushroom cult. Each jars you with its appearance, like Meshuggah's rhythms, changing time signatures on a dime, you believe one thing and feel one thing one moment only to be absolutely baffled by the appearance of something so counter to what you had just felt. That is Gull. That is the norm. The norm of the insane. Is it all an illusion or are only aspects of it? When we look at the surface of any city, is that the reality of it or is our vision always colored by our individual perspective? Does one look and see only the neon lights, the joy, the energy of motion, while another sees the grit and dirt, the poverty, the crime? Which is real? Which is illusion? Or is the truth somewhere between?

We are in Monstrocity/Gull, the glitter of the illusion has trapped us. All is illusion in MonstroCity/Gull. We are enamored of its vistas, the ocean that surrounds it, the quaint village, the myth of the magical unicorn, the wondrous clock tower. And then there comes the violent twist in our psyches as the National Anthem drones like a fog horn from the wondrous clock tower, the rainbow suddenly twisted into a dark snake that winds and slithers over your skin. That awful dirge announces the night, the moon, the fracturing of the illusion and then the monsters rush in to fill or escape through the cracks.

By the Ton

You think that you've seen the truth, you think you know
Yet disbelief grinds, the doubt it claws
In your sleepless delirium I devour your thoughts

And you allow yourself to believe that now you have seen it all. You see what hides in the dark, lurks in the shadows, crawls under the rocks. But you are wrong. This is just another layer of illusion. You are right to feel disbelief, the doubt clawing at you. But is it enough to awaken you from your sleep?

The purpose of this illusion is then explored in Violent Sleep of Reason:

A systematically applied veil to heedless eyes
Focus deflected, ignore
All will imply it's an illusion, a fallacy
So when you die, remember we said it's not reality

 In every part of the island of Gull you encounter the constructions of illusion, those things meant to obfuscate the truth. The shadow pulls back but what is revealed is not completely understood. The pieces of the puzzle are being collected but you don’t know the picture that is being formed. This idea, that we use illusion to hide from the truth or deny the reality around us, is echoed repeatedly through, The Violent Sleep of Reason.

In, Ivory Tower

The construction is our penance here
growth chiseled in white
When the darkness comes to slay the day
Enters horrors that you'll be wishing away


Which is the way?

In Stifled:

Impotent king beneath our feet
You can rule down where you belong
In dirt compacted, buried deep, you dwell with those you wronged

In Gull the king is represented by a group of people that have been stifled. They are ruling the squalor they live in. They know the history of Gull and the core of the Engineer’s magic which also makes them dangerous.

And then the best example in Nostrum:

Jealous vengeful fabrication
Halo-crowned invention
Sacred universal lie
Artificial divine
Great archaic obsoletum
A prevarication
Deceitfully contrived


Synthesized fictitious
Dreamed up by remote prototypes
Opiate for the yearning mass
Administered applied
Three letter word for monster

These lines are perfect for describing the Engineer and could serve as his mission statement.

Nostrum has a few definitions:

  • A medicine or remedy in conventional use which has not been proven to have any desirable medical effects.
  • An ineffective but favorite remedy for a problem, usually involving political action.

Both definitions fit the plot and characters of, Horn and Dagger. There is this snake-oil, this panacea that we think will solve all our ills. It makes us feel better and we forget our problems, but we are never changed, things remain as they are we just don’t see it. Meanwhile we go around touting the cure. Almost every character in Gull is guilty of this to some degree.

As a political or social action, the same is true. The snake oil here is the illusion of oneness, the goal of equality and prosperity but it seems that only those creating the rules are prospering. The members of the populace are equally abused by he who is delivering and enforcing the rules. But for a time the illusion persists. But after a time it must break down. The snake-oil won’t heal the wound it will only make you forget it for a while or cover it. The tithe/taxes won’t pay off the enormous debt, so it is used to pay for entertainment or services that allow the populace of Gull to believe, even if only momentarily, that everything is right and good. But it’s a lie.

Then we come to, Into Decay:

Caught in this endless spiral, locked equilibrium
A stasis founded in this atrophy of thought
Your eyes unflinching, unaffected by the misery
Gone is commiseration, gone is any sympathy


What character does this describe? All of them? None of them? Are they locked in their own illusion seeking equilibrium that is based on their own ideals? Have they lost the ability to sympathize and empathize with their perceived enemies? Or are they too far gone? Do they only see their own selfish desires and aims?

One last farewell to perspicacity
Final surrender to futility
Dissociation, severance



What is this farewell to perspicacity? Do we say goodbye to understanding when we refuse to see things as they are, when we are too trapped by our own delusional perception? Once we do this, do we not lose the ability to truly discern right from wrong? To grasp the full implications of our actions?

And/or have we tried for so long to expose the truth that this is our last gasp. We surrender to the futility. The world at large has become ensnared by this web of illusions and no matter what we do to cut the strings and expose the web, our message falls on deaf ears. So we sigh and give in. We dissociate, severing ourselves from either the illusion or its believers. But we no longer fight. And we ask of ourselves:

What have you done?
What have you become?

And so we end …

This album was a masterpiece, one of my Meshuggah favorites.

This album came out while I was in the process of completing the first draft. I only had the final chapter to go. However, as I listened to it I began to think about a lot of the concepts and ideas that the album presents. I found myself going back through the novel in my head thinking about ways to incorporate and explore some of these ideas. As I wrote the last word of the first draft I could tell that I was going to end up weaving some of these ideas into the overall story which I hope will bring another dimension and outlook to some of the things going on and the way in which Gull vacillates between a happy illusion and depraved reality, as it tosses and turns, prodded by the violent sleep of reason.


Air on a G String by Johann Sebastian Bach

Not in my normal heavy metal rotation but this has been one of my all-time favorite songs for as long as I can remember. Whenever I hear it my mood is immediately altered. I enter this sublime state somewhere between joy and sadness. When the song completes I'm left in this hard to define contemplative state that moves from reflections on metaphysical questions to a meditative state that can only be described by the Freudian term "Oceanic" where I am a small part of a much larger “All” that is awesome in scope, beyond comprehension, and ineffable.  This feeling of being one with all things is what solicits the joy but as my ego then realizes its infinitesimal part in this schema there is the sadness, which can linger until one crosses the gap created by the ego by shedding it and comes to the realization that our identification with the All reveals our true identities; making us simultaneously nothing and everything.

The songs ability to solicit the emotions of sadness and joy concurrently, that ecstatic state that wavers between the horrid and beautiful is the most lasting impression I'm left with and the one that I most identified with while writing Horn and Dagger.

I did not listen to this song over and over again. There is a specific scene in the novel where I listened to it. In fact as soon as the scene occurred to me I knew this was the song that would bring it out and make it real for me. Air on a G String was the perfect song for the choreographed movements of this scene. I pictured slow motion scenes where this insanely paced action was slowed by our altered perception as we watched. For the performers it was in fast forward but we are afforded the opportunity to enjoy it slowly, the scene dripping along to the sound of the weeping of a bowed violin. We watch, stunned by both the beauty and violence of the scene. There is something so sublime in this dance transcending our ability to judge it. For a moment we are enraptured by the dance itself, we forget about what it may mean, what impacts it may have or what judgements we want to place on the performers. This scene captures the mood of the song, the song, the mood of the scene and while writing it I became lost forgetting which had inspired and produced which. It didn't matter. Both flowed perfectly together.

I don't want to give too much away but the scene involves a battle between two factions on Gull and the beauty of it as solicited by Air was that it took on this aspect of dance and became so much more than just one group fighting against another. It is one of my favorite scenes in the novel and it was only fitting that one of my favorite songs provided the backdrop to it.


Enki by Melechesh

This band's music incorporates aspects of mid-eastern music including some mid-eastern string, wind, and percussion instruments as well as scales and patterns that contain that same feel. The concept and lyrics tell the story of early Sumerian legends such as Enki and Enlil. I did not focus as much on the lyrical and mythological aspects of this album because in many ways it did not apply or fit with the plot and characters of Horn and Dagger. However, the flow of the songs and mood definitely fit well together.

Doorways to Irkala, is a departure from the mid-eastern metal displayed on other songs. The song starts with acoustic guitar, a wind instrument and slow percussion. The song has a gradual buildup and reminded me of ritualized music, a slow mantra that builds in speed, intensity, and complexity. With each revolution of the main theme a new aspect, instrument or sound was incorporated, adding to the mantra's complexity. I envisioned a ritual that starts out simple and becomes more complex as the spell of the song takes over. This was perfect music for one of the mushroom cult's rituals, which then leads into the battle where Air on a G string becomes the soundtrack. These songs flow perfectly, one to another, just as the ritual scene leads perfectly and seamlessly into the choreographed dance of violence that occurs immediately after.

I also found it interesting that Irkala is a word that can be translated as underworld. Not just any underworld but one from which there is no return, according to Sumerian legend.  The ritual that occurs during this song is one doorway to the underworld but each person participating has a different experience. However, one of the dangers of this ritual is that if you enter the door and become consumed by that other world and the experience it presents you can become trapped in it. That person then enters Irkala and has no hope of escape. They are lost to psychosis and at times even death.

During the course of this song the mantra reaches a temporary crescendo and then pauses for a moment of silence. Here is the decision point. Open the door and step through, gaze deeply into the primordial darkness and understand who you are, what you are or turn away, don't look, don't understand. Stepping through does not mean you are lost in Irkala, to become lost means that you were incapable of synthesizing this dark knowledge into your world view or incorporate it into your being while maintaining your sanity. The decision to press on comes with danger but to step away, to turn away, comes with its own dangers as well; existential depression and hopelessness. The decision is yours.

The other standout was, The Pendulum Speaks, which has a great guitar riff and incorporates mid-eastern scales during the various interludes. The singer's voice is also a departure from the low growl of many metal bands. His voice hisses through the songs, a protruding snake that winds its way through the various rhythms, while telling the legend of the Sumerian gods.

Great album from a band that seamlessly mixes in various musical styles and influences. 


Exodus by Shokran

I came across Shokran one day while searching through metal bands and customer feeds on Bandcamp. The first album I heard was Supreme Truth. The guitar playing is awesome. Shokran has a sound that is a mix of, Born of Osiris, and Within the Ruins, utilizing the quick staccato rhythm patterns that are a staple from those bands. As I listened more closely the music became even more complex. Singing in the background I heard the whine of a sitar. The singing vacillated from deep growls to clean singing, guitars going from staccato patterns, to metal crunch and then all of a sudden these quick leads running down scales and patterns would scream in. Supreme Truth also had an instrumental version. As much as I liked the singing the instrumental version allowed me to really appreciate the guitar work on this album. I was sold.

As soon as Exodus became available I started listening to it. Unfortunately I have not found an instrumental version of this album. But Shokran continues their amazing guitar work, shredding through riffs and leads while continuing to incorporate additional string elements such as sitar and acoustic and included some guest singing on songs like Praise the Stench, Disfigured Hand and my favorite, And Heavens Began to Fall.

The album works its way through the biblical story of Exodus focusing on the punishment of the Egyptians by God when they refuse to release the enslaved Jews.

The lyrical content did not exactly fit the plot of Horn and Dagger, however, the general concept of a group enslaved or a people harmed at the hands of a dictator is relevant. The Engineer did not set out to enslave people but his use of harmful/poisonous technology eventually sickened and deformed a group of people that lived in a particular part of the island. Due to these deformities they were relegated to the wasteland that the Engineer had created. He inadvertently cages them there. Although this result may have been unintentional the truth is he never considers these people or cares that they have been harmed by his technology. Additionally, he begins to see them as expendable and when he needs to start creating a small army he decides that he’ll pull expendable recruits from the wasteland and worse will use them as guinea pigs in his deranged biological experiments.

This album and particularly the song, And Heavens Began to Fall, were influential in creating the mood that surrounds any of the visits to the wasteland, where we encounter a fierce people that are waiting for their opportunity to strike out against the Engineer and his plans. The world they inhabit is dead but there sprits are crying out for a chance at redemption and if they fail at that then they are determined to at least take vengeance upon the Engineer.

Lauren Babic’s voice is an excellent addition as this song moves from heavy guitar riffs, clean singing, yells and growls, and then her angelic voice rings in releasing us from the wasteland and the tyranny of the Engineer.

Great album that continues Shokran’s experimental sound by mixing various influences, styles, and instruments. Can’t wait for the next one. And if anyone is taking requests I would still love to hear an instrumental version of Exodus.

First Draft Completed

The first hand-written draft is done. Now I’ll begin to transcribe (decrypt) my horrendous handwriting to Word and during that process will begin to weave in new ideas so stay tuned for more updates. There is a lot of music I plan to listen to during the typing/editing process and I’ll write about how that affected the novel and process in future updates. Until then enjoy these dark tunes.
The Violent Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters by Fancisco Goya
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 Horn & Dagger Dark Tunes - Part 3


   
Vol. 1: Cigarette Lullaby by Live Conform Die

Beautiful clash of musical styles and influences from this band from Perth, Australia. I found them on Bandcamp. It is not often that I hear something one time and instantly know it’s for me but this was one of those occasions. There are so many elements to this band. It's a delectable cacophony of sounds. I hate to draw comparisons but I heard Korn, Vildhjarta, Humanity's Last Breath, Slipknot and a mashup of musical styles and sounds; Spanish acoustic guitar, classical phrases, djent, metalcore, groove metal, nu-metal, piano sections, chants, etc.

I'm beginning to notice a pattern in the music I'm selecting to listen to for, Horn and Dagger. At first I thought the pattern was that there was no pattern but then I realized I was purposely choosing music that was eclectic either, in the type of style, the category, or had some odd component to it, such as the inclusion of odd instruments, changing time signatures, offbeat patterns, etc. I went from Vildhjarta and Meshuggah to Bach, then to music that incorporated multiple styles.

This class of music matches the mood and general theme of Horn and Dagger because it is a story where the viewpoint is constantly shifting. Not only are these perspectives drastic shifts from one character to another but you are never sure how much you can rely on that character's perspective. Is what they are seeing real? How warped is this reality they are experiencing? Is the narrator or the Unicorn omniscient? Do they see the truth but don't share it?

This was another album that I relied upon for creating mood swings and shifts in perspective. Many of the characters in Horn and Dagger are confused or warped and when I was entering the psyches of these characters, this type of eclectic jarring music, swinging from chamber chanting to deep growls and then from piano to djent riffs, was extremely useful. It enabled me to constantly question reality and then shift my perception as I attempted to peer through the character's eyes and experience the world of Gull as they did.

During the course of the album there were a few sections where there is this odd wavering guitar pattern very similar to the guitar sound in Korn's A.D.I.D.A.S. or Freak on a Leash. I'm not sure what is used to create this effect, maybe a wah pedal, but it is used to excellent effect. The music takes on this strange surreal quality, haunting you. During these sections I was transported into an alternate world, vision swimming, the landscape wavering, struggling toward coalescence but never quite arriving there. The special characteristic of the assassins the Engineer creates have this type of warping effect on the landscapes they traverse. When they first appear, the target of their wrath often feels dizzy, as they struggle to put together a picture that has suddenly become disjointed. I don't want to give away why this happens or what makes it happen but whenever I would gaze through the eyes of one of the characters that come in contact with these magical assassins, this music was the backdrop, transporting me into an atmosphere where I couldn't tell what was real.

Great album. I hope to see more come out from this band in the future.


The Catalyst by Extinction Level Event

Another Bandcamp find. I've been looking for new music and trolling through Bandcamp for something different and unique for this novel. The bass guitar on this album is a standout and maybe that is because there are three bass players and no lead guitars. Obviously these guys from North Carolina know how to creatively push the sound of their instruments to new levels because it wasn't until I looked the band up that I realized there was no lead guitar. Even after learning this I listened to the album again and still thought I could hear it there. The constant chug of those bass guitars is mesmerizing. There are great bass lead parts that included fret taps and slides that I would image are difficult to pull off on a bass but it definitely engenders the album with a unique sound. The singer sounded a lot like Jens Kidman from Meshuggah which adds a great vocal quality to the thunderous bass and there was some great lyrical content that matched the thinking of Horn and Dagger.

For instance:

The will to Live

In a fantastical delusion
The center of all things
The light for all
To follow
the beacon
A siren's call

We are cast within this fantastical delusion but we are never sure exactly what is delusion or whose delusion it is. The island is magical. The people and creatures that inhabit it are magical, yet there is illusion at work as well and each character warps that into their own  delusion. I like the lyrical move from beacon which is usually seen as light bringer and rescuer, lighting the way to safety and then the next line we have the Siren's call which is fraught with warning and danger. The beacon calls one to safety while the siren calls one to their destruction and no matter how beautiful the siren's call may be it must be resisted.

Declare yourself the cleansing light
To wash away reality
Bend space time to suit your needs
Distorted perspective all you can see

Everyone seems to be declaring that they are the light and truth of Gull but what is important is which character or group is claiming that they will wash away the illusions, destroy that which needs to be destroyed to make way for new life and ideas. Are these characters washing away the reality or the illusion? And of course, as I've done in previous novels, there is that bending of space and time but here it is controlled by certain individuals who use it to distort perspectives, showing the inhabitants of Gull exactly and only what that individual wants them to.

Alive Within

Will I awake, find this world a fever dream

A fever dream. A dream brought about by sickness of the body and mind. Is that what is happening on Gull? Whose dream? Whose sickness? I also thought of the beginning of this line as a separate question, Will I awake? Because if you don't how would you know you’d been in a dream. But then I also need to ask the question, how would I know when I'm awake. If there are all these levels to consciousness, all these demarcations for dream and reality, how do I know when I've crossed them?

The next line is very important:

Am I a guest, forever

It is hard to know if anyone really wants to understand Gull at a root level. Most seem content to live in whatever illusory version of Gull they enjoy and are willing to fight to maintain that. However, without getting down to that root level the inhabitants are only guests. They are not a part of the true Gull. They live within the illusion and cannot be seen as full citizen of Gull because what the True Gull is becomes impossible to define.  When the illusions are changed or if the fever dream should end, the inhabitants of Gull may either find themselves homeless or living in a place they no longer want to be a part of.

Entropy

Give yourself, over to the coming entropy
Free your mind from the fear of life's uncertainties
Give your thoughts to task that is at hand
Don't lose the forest in the trees

Entropy increases the chaos of a system and with all the factions on Gull, with different agendas; it seems that no one on the island is having an issue giving themselves over to entropy. In fact, it almost seems to be what powers Gull, a constant state of degrading towards complete chaos. The forest has been lost to the trees, each person examining the tree in front of them at the expense of all others. It is fear of the uncertain, of what Gull will be like if it moves on, that keeps each person fighting to maintain the status quo, forgetting that the status quo on Gull is entropy.

Spontaneous. Irreversible. Uncertainty.
Evolving chaos takes control

Evolving chaos is taking control. It seems the law on gull. Can chaos evolve or does it eventually just fracture the system and degrade into complete anarchy till total annihilation is achieved. We'll have to see.


III and Ankaa by Eths

I listened to two albums and picked a few songs from each to add to the playlist. From the information I gathered from the Internet there is a different female lead singer for each of these albums Candice Clot for III and Rachel Aspe for Ankaa. I loved both and didn't really know there was a different voice on each album until I looked it up. What I can say about both singers is that they exhibited great vocal range, going from scratchy growl, to demonic scream, then angelic singing and then shifting to this hypnotic haunting moan or chant that definitely conjured that surreal haunting quality that I look for to help me conjure the atmosphere of my novels. 

The arrangement of these songs is so jarring, another quality I enjoy, bringing the listener through an atmospheric pastoral scent only to plunge you down into the depths of hell and then at last delivering you to the gates of heaven. You never knew quite where you were or what was going to happen next, keeping you on the edge of your seat. History was no aid here. No matter what pattern you heard on the previous song it was going to be shattered in the next, this kept me in a state of flux and anticipation which is another great quality of the music I look for when writing.

The lyrical content was mostly delivered in French. There were some songs with lyrics in English but as I stated above I was more enraptured by the range of the vocals then the actual meaning of them. The songs that were most standout from a playlist perspective were Nefas and Nihil Sine Causa from Ankaa.

Nefas starts out with music that sounds like the opening soundtrack to a horror movie. The clang of a metal cell door clanks behind you, strange psychotic carnival music wavers in and out and then an asylum scream beckons in Aspe’s demonic scream, the thunder of double bass joining in the fray.  The guitar drones in, voice screeching, signature heavy metal riffage and pace. The all of a sudden there is an interlude with drums and guitar, a scream flowing through the background. Silence. There is the moan like a chanting Tibetan, deep and resonant, then comes the haunting moan of Aspe. There are a few rounds back and forth with the tempo going from the screaming double bass heavy metal tempo to this hypnotic droning cacophony of voices, chants and moans.

Nihil Sine Causa follows a similar pattern but the vocal interludes contain mid-eastern vocal patterns that sound like they are sung in Arabic.  The voice is angelic, evoking feelings of worship. After these interludes there is a mixture of clean singing and growled lyrics playing off one another and enhancing the sound of each. Then there is this strange techno beat that starts, the vocals again war against each other, screamed lyrics followed by clean singing, returning to that hypnotic pattern with angelic sighs in the background and then the final angelic cooing, praying for redemption, praying to be released. At least that is where it brought me. I stood upon the shores of a wasteland, a place I had once called home, crying for the loss, hoping for deliverance. It wasn't Gull exactly but it brought up that emotion that the monk feels as he stares across the water at the village and wonders where things went wrong.

Then there was Harmaguedon on III. The song starts with the chattering of voices in another language, the demonic chittering of possession, echoing, trapped in a skull. Then the song starts with more traditional metal patterns but soon the growls are replaced by the clean singing of Clot. Her voice is beautiful on this song. At times she can sound like a child and then the demon growls from the depths of her soul. I pictured a person torn by two warring voices in their heads, each filling her with visions of another world, one dark and torturous, the other beautiful and peaceful. The voice is the expression of this battle, it booms and beckons in pain and then turns soft and pleads for mercy, for forgiveness, for deliverance.

Great albums from a great band. I read that the members of the band had decided to part ways but will be doing a few farewell concerts. I hope they reconsider and put out some more music.


Rituals by Rotting Christ

Rotting Christ is a great band with a unique sound. They were one of those bands that when I first heard them I knew I was going to like them. They didn't have to grow on me. Their sound was so hypnotic and visceral that I was immediately taken under their spell and Rituals is one of my favorite albums by them.

I listened to the whole album during the writing process. However, there was one song, Devadevam, which was used to accompany a specific scene. This song has chanting, a repetitive mantra, and one of my favorite musical elements, the tolling of a bell (I know I'm fixated on the bells. I don't know what it is.) There is a specific scene in the book that this song was just perfect for. When writing, In the Shadow of the Witch, the song, Quietly by Mouth of the Architect, was used in a similar fashion. In that novel the song was actually the inspiration for the scene it was the soundtrack to. However, in this case I was already writing the scene and had conjured it in my head. The music I was listening to wasn't matching the mood or pace and I kept getting derailed. Usually I will allow the music to push me in certain direction but in this case I knew where I wanted to go and didn't want to shift. The visions were already crystalized in my mind and I just needed something to aid me in breathing life into it.

I've been listening to Rotting Christ for a few years so I immediately thought of them and Devadevam was the perfect song. The scene is a battel scene viewed through warped perspectives. In my head the scene always occurred in slow motion, each toll of the bell initiated a new sequence in the battle. In each sequence some new aspect of the combatants was revealed. It became a dance to the sound of the chant and took on this new flow. As I said, I already knew what was going to happen and how I wanted the scene to take shape but this song gave it the perfect pace. This chaotic, frenetic scene was suddenly slowed down, every movement, every change in the dance was taking place in pristine detail in my head. Under the orchestration of Devadevam, this dance of violence was rendered beautiful.

Definitely a favorite song of mine.


Black One by Sunn O)))

Returning to bells and chimes again. Like Rituals this album was one of those that I returned to when a rite or ritual was being performed in the novel, particularly those that were of longer duration. The song, Cry for the Weeper, was used during a specific ritual in which the mushroom cult is preparing the deadly Norja mushrooms for ingestion as a hallucinogen. This practice is integral to their spiritual beliefs and plays an important part in their magical rites and abilities.

The song begins with the typical Sunn O))) drone of pulsing synthesizers. Then the single clash of metal on metal rings out: the closing of a gate. The drone continues, going deeper and lower with each round, slower. I pictured the ritual, its phases, the practiced movements, the visualizations of the participants. Then there is the scream of a guitar, a silvery flash of light within the dark depths, signaling the move to the next phase of the ritual. Pain is working its way into cramped tired bodies, forcing an increase in concentration as the ritual becomes more complex. There is a series of high pitched guitar notes accompanied by the sound of multiple smaller bells. When the bells stop the guitar returns to its guttural drone. There is a mantra quality to this section as the pattern repeats. The bells disappear, the lone sustained growl of the guitar pulses through the next phase of the song. In the background there is what can only be described as the sound of wind passing through a deep tunnel, growling. That wind carries arcane secrets that had been hidden for centuries until this moment. The ritual is recreating that ancient moment as the complexity degenerates into a need for calm. It begs patience of the participant.

There is a moment to breathe before the high pitched guitar rings in again with the tolling of the bells. Action needs to be taken, the dancelike movements, stylized and full of intent, begin again. The room is hot, the heat of the fire blistering, sweat flows down their foreheads and the back of their necks, running down the snake of their spines. Their faces, chest and arms are burning in hell fire as their backs freeze, an icy river of sweat cleaving them in two, causing their bodies to come alive in both conditions of hot and cold simultaneously. Neurons long asleep, now awaken to these contradictions of sensation. A biochemical fire ignites as their bodies come alive; creating a new state that is beyond the opposites. And then it is done. The ritual, enacting a miracle of creation, the transmutation of death into epiphany is complete.

Fade to black. The ancient wind following us down the dark tunnel of unconsciousness.


Path of Eight by Mouth of the Architect

Bells! This time it’s even in the name of a song. Not my fault.

This is a great album. I was a little surprised at first because the sound wasn't as raw as in previous albums. I was disappointed at first but then as my ears adjusted I found a lot of great sounds to enjoy.

The Engineer on Gull has his rituals too. In fact just about everyone on Gull has a ritual. But the Engineer's are sinister in nature. I toyed with using, Cry for the Weeper by Sunn O))) for these sections of the novel but when I tried it, the music didn't capture the atmosphere that I was looking for. Once the deep bell starts to toll in Ritual Bell, I knew I had found what I needed. The singing sounds like its coming from someone trapped in the darkness of a deep well, crying for release. I thought of this as the dark genius of the engineer begging to be let loose. That alter ego was speaking to him, telling him what needed to be done. The bell drones on, guitars move in, then fade away. The engineer gazes upon what he has done as if awakening from sleep, surprised and aghast at what he has done. The bells signal his switch, wake the voices, and he begins his ritual.

The Priestess incorporates female vocals and is a slow methodical song with a slow build up. I thought of this as the aftermath song. There are moments of insanity, particularly for the Engineer, and then suddenly he's spent. He's tired, he's not sure what he's doing, and there are these moments of contemplation that arise at these times. There is regret and sadness mixed into this contemplation. In his mind he hears the lyrics ... The past is behind you now. Your path will soon be clear. This is what sustains him, the belief that what is done is done, there is no time for regret because his path to victory is clear.


Masstaden by Vildhjarta

I realize I already spoke about how this album influenced the creation of the world of Gull and the plot. However, it was so integral to the writing process as well that I needed to revisit its influence in that capacity and focus on a few of the songs that are going to be on the playlist.

First we have Shadow, which begins with the lyrics, Burn absent sun. I thought about this phrase for a long time. It is the opening line of the album. As I listened to this song I thought of many things. What I pictured was the monk, staring at his home, Gull. He is returning as a prodigal son, gazing over the inky black water from a small boat. The sun is in eclipse, two forces, one solar, one lunar, synchronized, mixing their energies. It is a magical instant where that which had only been exposed to daylight is now exposed to darkness and vice versa. There is this ecstatic moment where opposites coalesce, the moment ticks by, fiery serpents of flame writhe behind the moon, casting a hazy flickering orange glow over the island. The tower is in silhouette, its darkness revealed to the daylight-visitors who usually will not stray outside during the darkness. Suddenly everyone is caught unaware, trapped in this moment of darkness that should not be, their dark desires burning and revealed to this glowing absent sun.

Dagger:

This was the genesis of an idea to have a dagger be the transforming agent of this tale. But it is not a dagger when we first encounter it. In fact, we are never sure what the true nature of this magical tool is. The dagger is a magical object that is tied to the will of the monk. He must fashion it from his will when it is needed.

Come taste this poisoned daggers blade.
The difference is vague between truth and fake.
Come taste this blade.

As the blade is a transforming agent it can also act as a poison to that which needs to be killed and removed. It makes no qualms about what it is. It is dark, it will kill, and then it will remove and cut out the necrotic tissue left behind. But it could be that the blade is killing and removing the cancer that is infecting Gull. The promise of the blade is vague, is it removing a cancer or is it spilling the life's blood of the truth. But it does not force, it sings out to us, Come taste this blade. Come taste transfiguration.

A mirror maze of shadows and glass.
Reflections will trick your eyes.
I speak and keep disguised.

This partially refers to the tower in the center of Gull and what it truly is (not going to share that part). More importantly, thinking about these lines gave me the idea for Memory Glass, which is the main attraction and monetary staple of Gull. Its reflections will trick your eyes and is used to sinister effect by the Engineer in the creation of his magical assassins (that's all I'll say).

Traces:

This is the only song with clean singing and is one of my favorite songs on the albums. The first few sections are a battle between the twin voices of Daniel Ädel and Vilhelm Bladin. I pictured an argument either between two characters or even within the characters themselves as they fought over the logic or emotion of their decisions. In fact some of those wars were between emotion and logic.

Empty shells whispering quietly.
They speak to me of a common past,
teaching me how to become insane,
to silence the ambivalence that's in my head.

Both of these voices have a common past but see something different in those events. It has caused the warring that takes place in the monk’s, in the engineer’s and the unicorn's head. It is teaching them to become insane. To be split. The only way to silence the ambivalence is to move forward, to follow the insistence of one voice.

Time passes through me in the shape of a dream,
clawing ferociously through my memories.

The monk revisits and at times even relives the past through his dreams. The past becomes present for him and at times may be indistinguishable to him and to those of us traveling with him. This clawing through his memories is releasing new abilities, new insights.

The clouds are getting darker
and the winds are colder now.
When I am gone, I will be gone.
This is irreversible.

I think about these lines a lot. I don't know what they mean yet in the context of the novel. However, I always picture the Engineer uttering these words as if saying goodbye to some part of himself. He sees the darkness. He is letting that cold wind blow through him, allowing it to transform him even though he knows that once he is gone, he will be gone. He is choosing to allow this transformation to occur. Once it is done it will be irreversible. At times he is saddened by this, like now. And we can identify with him. For a moment he is very human, he is vulnerable, saddened because he believes that what he is doing is right. He is a dark hero, lamenting the death of his humanity, but it is for a purpose. But once he is gone, he is gone spiritually as well and he knows this. The engineer on the other side of this transformation will no longer remember the ideals and goals of the old one.

Måsstadens Nationalsång, Phobon Nika, Ostpeppar, Nojja

These are the instrumental songs on the album. I grouped them together to create the soundtrack for the scene that would occur when people would gather around the tower to hear the music that celebrated the death of the light and the birth of darkness. This is not ordinary music; it is magical and has the ability to hypnotize listeners. People flock to Gull for two reasons, Memory Glass and to hear the music from the tower. It is powerful, and everyone on Gull gives homage to this time. Even if they can't hear it, its power is felt. The tower is not the physical center of the island but it is the spiritual, psychic center. We don't know why yet. But the music is definitely an event. Therefore, Phobon Nika and Ostepeppar, are the songs that I used to visualize the moments before the music. People are gathering, there is a hushed silence as people move towards the tower or turn in its direction in anticipation.

The people gather. The sun explodes in color, the landscape screams with reds, yellows and oranges, the sun cascading light in one final burst before it sinks below the hills and the water. The gray of dusk begins to settle in, moving towards darkness. A moon, burning blue-white begins to rise. And the Anthem begins.

Masstadens Nationalsang is an instrumental dirge; darkly beautiful. It is the song that issues from the tower to bring in the darkness. The sun has set, the last rays of red-orange light bleeding across the water, shadows lengthen and become menacing, tentacles reaching out to ensnare or long cold fingers gently embracing those that are friends of the night. The illusions of day are over, the bright beauty replaced by a darker revelation, the moon energy rises and we enter a new world. The Gull of darkness is not that of light. The darkness comes out, it comes out of the natives, the visitors, of you. There is terror, there is dread, there is decay, but there is no mistaking that there is beauty here as well. The dirge sings of the death of light and the birth of darkness and its promises.

Nojja completes the cycle. Once the last note from the Anthem has died, Nojja describes the dark energies that now begin to sway all those that have been hypnotized by the anthem. It is time to either flee to the safety of artificial light, attempting to deny the darkness, or to embrace the night and its power. This song carries and describes the emotions of that decision, frustration, conflict, fear, joy, ecstasy. For those of us that remain we embrace the darkness and it embraces us. Then we see a new world. The real Gull? We need to explore more to know.

    
Now I’ll translate these in the order I have arranged them in the playlist because I think the song titles match the scene I was conjuring even though that was unintentional at the time (translations are from www.got-djent.com )
     
Phobon Nika (Conquer all Fear) – The moment is coming. The people gather and for one ecstatic moment there is silence, anticipation, awe which suspends the fear that the anthem can bring.

Ostpeppar (Pepper or Spice from the East) – The sun is setting in the west. The moon rising in the east in its eternal chase, bringing with it a change in energies. I thought of this as a gift that come from the east the same way in which the three kings in the Bible brought spices from the east as a gift to mark the birth of Jesus.

Masstadens Nationalsang (Seagull Town Hymn) – This is the Hymn of Gull. It’s National Anthem. It’s National Treasure.

Nojja (Paranoia) – The anthem/hymn is over and it is the time of darkness, which contains beauty but also fear. Fear can be a normal reaction based on experience or a fear of the unknown but paranoia is irrational fear. It is irrationally fearing the darkness without knowing it. Even as it reaches out with gently fingers, offering an embrace, we shiver, we step away, we run screaming to the light, not wanting to see the revelation that the darkness hides.
    
I could go on and on about this album. At some point, when I have the time, I would like to paint a surrealist word picture of what I see and think about when I listen to this album, but that will have to wait. I've even contemplated a series of short stories based on the individual songs. There are a lot of facets to this album and the parts that inspired Horn and Dagger only represent one perspective. There is still much more left unexplored.


I am still in draft mode and have a few other albums I'm listening to which will make it in the next edition of Dark Tunes which will most likely be the last for this project and then it will be on to the next. Until then enjoy these Dark Tunes.


    
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Horn & Dagger Dark Tunes - Part 4

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Deathgrip by Fit For a King

The Deathgrip Album contained a lot of the ideas around redemption and salvation that are explored within the novel. But it was the song, Deathgrip that had me focusing on the concept that small cracks at the core of Erebos had begun to yawn further open, revealing the darkness that had previously been contained within. For instance we have the lyrics:

Foundation cracks
The wounds are bleeding 
The end is calling
The end is here

The Lady of Erebos seems to be the only character that truly perceives these cracks. She can feel them. She uses her magic to try and keep the darkness from spreading outward from these cracks. The fact that the island and it flora are what has transformed her makes her more in touch with the island creating an organic attachment to it that the other characters do not have. The Monk was born on Erebos but the process of his transformation is multidimensional and is not completely reliant upon his presence on Erebos.

Then we have the Engineer. The below lyrics capture his beliefs and attitudes:

I will be the last one standing
I can see the end
It's staring right back at me
I brought us here
A place spent to waste my humanity

The Engineer believes that he has made Erebos a better place. His motivations may have even started out as pure and good. The question remains: Is it his ego and intellectual arrogance that turned him, making him culpable or had Erebos and its dark mistress the Norja transformed him and his followers into its emissaries of evolution? In one case the Engineer is motivated only by control and glory and in the other he becomes simply an actor on the stage with Erebos writing the script. Whichever the case the Engineer believes that he has spent his humanity on Erebos, not wasting it, but shedding it, revealing the deity contained within. That, he believes, places him in a position to determine its fate.



The Serpent and The Sphere by Agalloch

Agalloch’s, The Serpent and The Sphere, was a major influence on the ideas that shaped Horn and Dagger, as will be apparent when we examine some of the lyrical content. However, there are long period of dark instrumental meanderings over the course of this album that influenced the tone and atmosphere of the novel, creating the perfect sonic environment for the creation of Erebos and its inhabitants.

The Birth and Death of the Pillars of Creation

Towers...
Deity forged architecture
Swirling in and out of form
Enveloped in the arms of dark matter
Towers...mercurial and flowing...


My work is done

The tower at the center of Erebos is ancient. Is it deity forged? I won’t say. But it does possess a mercurial existence that swirls in and out of form, constructed and transformed by the dark matter that pulses at its core. Ironically, it becomes the intent of all the main characters to keep Erebos in a constant state of transformation, never quite allowing it to solidify into a state which each character believes will be detrimental to the spiritual evolution of Erebos and its citizens. Solidity means that one of the character’s dreams has become actualized, which is something none of the other characters want. For instance, the Monk wants to end the Engineer’s reign and return Erebos to a collective spiritual utopia where commerce and consumerism are not the governing influences. Actualizing this during the course of the novel seems impossible, therefore, the Monk would prefer to keep the island and himself in a constant state of transformation as long as it keeps the Engineer’s goals from becoming reality. Which then relates to the next set of lyrics:

Pillars...
From an antediluvian bane
Collapsing in and out of form
Embodied in a cradle of absence
Pillars...mercurial and flowing...

My work is done

The tower is an antediluvian bane. It is ancient and at the point in time when we encounter it, its energy has been forced out of balance causing distress. It is only later that we realize it is a multidimensional object that has the capability to collapse in and out of form.
“Cradle of absence” is an interesting phrase. The tower is mercurial and flowing, is ancient, but it is also the infant bed of absence, of non-being. Taking another definition for cradle, the tower can be viewed as the origin point of absence, in a sense giving birth to the void of non-existence, of silence, of darkness. The tower acts as the pivot point for much of the action throughout the novel. Even when not present it has a way of influencing the characters and their thoughts and actions.

The Astral Dialogue

Languages of the gods, spoken in sidereal tongue
Divinities of the stars
Illuminate in runes of man

The markings on the tower could be considered the language of the gods. This language is not spoken but it is one that comes from the distant stars (possibly) with the intent of illuminating the minds of men. Does it also cast light on the language of men, their symbols and runes? Again, possibly.

Gods sire and propagate here
Under divine law of the opus magnum
Evolution of a language to come

The language to come is not spoken, it is silent, it is the emotions of the dark. The ancient beings came here to plant the seed of divinity. However, we don’t know who the real deity is on Erebos. Were these ancient beings monks, astronauts, mere vessels of divinity? Was the divine law being whispered from the Norja, was it delivering and evolving this new language through its ability to impart revelation to those that received its sacramental visions?

Dark Matter Gods
Dark Matter Gods
The abyss is the elder of time
Dark Matter Gods
The void is the archetype of being
Dark Matter Gods
The dark mass is the father of all

Darkness is a character in Horn and Dagger. You can feel its pressure weighing on you. Physicists state that there is more dark matter in the universe than ordinary matter. What rules and laws does such matter follow, what can it tell us about the universe, about ourselves, what happens when we expose ourselves and open ourselves to the raw naked power of such dark matter? Do dark matter gods exist in a separate pantheon of gods than the gods of the light we seek and pray to?
The abyss, no time, no space. It precedes time. This void, this nothingness, represents the framework for our being. It is not the meat suits we wear that we should identify with but the void that exists beyond the veil of flesh. This is the Gospel of the Dark Matter Gods, calling us to identify with the void, with nonexistence, making them the fathers of all.

Celestial Effigy

My allegiance is with the inner self
The dark celestial voice of wisdom
Beyond the dust that is this world.

The Monk constantly identifies with the dark voice that whispers to him. It is when he does not listen to it that he seems to encounter the most stress or confusion. The Norjans know only that dark celestial voice. They state that the Norja is in every cell of their being, its’ spores in every breath they breathe. The Norjans identify themselves by this darkness, which takes them beyond the dust that is this world.

There is a voice adrift in the starless
and marble black dark space
A voice of wisdom and purity
Beyond the vestiges of sanity
There is a voice deep in the darkest places
calling...haunting me...
Where no light bears a shadow
Where no time escapes unhallowed

If the Erebos Anthem had lyrics, these would be them. This magical island speaks with the voice of wisdom and purity but from a mouth that is not beautiful or welcoming. It speaks from the pit of insanity, for we must abandon our preconceived notions in order to properly hear what is being said from the darkness. There is beauty here, but it is not present to our eyes, it awakens different senses and we must take the leap into the abyss and allow the insanity to take hold. The revelatory voice of the Norja speaks only from the darkest places of the mind, calling you to listen, and once heard, it haunts you. As you identify with the void, the shadow is swallowed by the enormous pressure created by the revelation, creating a singularity, a black hole, where no light can cast a shadow, where no time escapes unmolested.

Vales Beyond Dimension

Between the vales of existence and the miasmic landscape of consciousness
The fabric of being has withered away; no longer there waiting for me


The Monk believes that when he bases his actions on conscious decisions, he is taking on more and more of his humanity. To heal Erebos he must be a deity, a superhero, to do this he must again become the Shadow Monk. To do this he must wither away the fabric of his being, identify with the deity within, which is revealed by the lines:

I have peeled away layers of my humanity
No longer a being, the core of entity
For each layer reveals the key to the gates of the multiverse


As he peels away layers the Monk states that he is traveling back through the gates or stages of the system of the Order of Kur. Traveling forward through the gates he becomes a multidimensional being, a deity. When he travels backward he takes on more and more of his humanity.

Through the doorway of a shaman's reality
A universe within the skull


I always thought of the Hermit as a shaman. He is the character that exposes the Monk to multiple modes of perception and awareness. In a sense, he shares his reality with the Monk and allows him to see the universe with a new perception. Is perception reality? If so do we not all inhabit a universe that exists only within our skull?

The Hermit’s wisdom is more organic and rebellious than that of the Order of Kur. His magic relies more on intuition and anarchy then rules and regulations. For him reality is personal, which makes it an individual universe in which we are all creators through our observations of that reality. If taking the physics concept of the uncertainty principle into account where the mere act of observing reality is what actually forces the field of infinite possibilities to collapse into observable form as matter with measurable characteristics then we are the gods of the universe in our skulls and that the Ultimate God is the first/final, Alpha/Omega observer. He is the one that must exist for states of matter to take form. For without this ultimate skull there was a time in which no observations could exist and therefore matter was a formless soup, the void. Let there be light could be translated into, “Let me observe something,” and as a result the whole of existence took form under the creative direction of the first observer. We therefore perceive what we project and as the memory glass of the unicorn shows us, we see only the past.

Alas I stand at the threshold of dimension
The macrocosm has revealed itself as a towering serpent spire
The past has shattered...eons subsist only in countless shards
The myriad cast of the vale; a thousand fold reflection

For the Monk the 13th Gate represents the threshold of dimensions. It is the veil he must pierce to awaken a new perception, giving him a new understanding of the tower and its Anthem. Once he penetrates the Gate the past shatters and there is only the future. But we are also reminded of the past by the memory glass. The magical, hardened feces of the Lady of Erebos which reflects only the past, containing eons of history in its shards, but even the past is modified by our perceptions and that all history passes through the lens of the observer, forever changed by it.


Selves We Cannot Forgive by Black Crown Initiate

Belie the Machine

A species was chosen to lie for.
A species was chosen to tame.
A brain stem, emotion, and devastation; logic suppressed, spirit stripped away.
A human was told what to stand for.
A human was told who to blame.
No questions for answers that retch for freedom; consumed in fire, mortar, and scorched clay.

When I listen to this song I imagine a group of gods sitting around a table having a conversation about how they are going to create a new species to act as pawns in a game in which the paws will be told a lie (that this is real) and the gods are going to use that lie as a means to tame and control them. They build a brain, fill it with conflicting logic and emotions which drive us towards devastation, suppressing rationalization and causing us to forget the truth (that this is all an illusion) stripping away our spirits. When they are done, they tell these game pieces what to care about and to invest their hearts and passions into these fallacious, useless things. Then, when what they care for is stripped away, they turn to the gods and demons for answers or to pass blame. This fabricated reality and its associated emotions are nothing more than a game that humans are told to invest in and take seriously for the fate of their very souls hangs in the balance.
The other character that always comes to mind when I listen to this song is the Architect in, The Matrix, which is more fitting when taking the following lyrics into consideration.

Belie the machine that hurts you and you are ashamed. 
Belie the machine that breaks you and you are to blame. 
Here lie all the lives deserted, kept from the light.
 

In the reality of this song we live in is a machine generated virtual reality disguised as reality. It hurts us and we lash out against it and are ashamed. We can’t accept our anger or this feeling that something is not right. This is an emotion that both the Monk and Unicorn can identify with. They know something is wrong but feel only shame that they cannot accept Erebos and its transfiguration. It breaks them as the machine breaks us and we feel we are to blame. This keeps us in the shadow of the lie, hidden from the light.

Black sky above and infinite below, manifestations we no longer know. 
This is not a dream; this indignity. 
Writhe internally. 
Wake eternally. 
Feign grace, save face at all cost. 
Now take our place with all that we’ve lost. 

We must go internal to find the light. The outer world holds darkness above and below. Our true manifestations hiding within, the one place we dare not look. We tell ourselves this is not a dream, that to even think such a thing is insanity. If we make it past this to believe that this world is illusory, others tell us the thought is insane. We writhe but this writhing, this facing of the uncomfortable can lead to an awakening. But we must not show it, we must act as if we have been graced by the powers above. We are not special, we are not gods, we are only human and this attitude saves us from recrimination and being branded as insane. We must hide within the world of the normal, taking our place with the lost.

Belie the machine that hurts you and you are ashamed. 
Belie the machine that breaks you and you are to blame.

Vicious Lives

There is a scene in the novel where the unicorn is reminiscing about the long history of Erebos. This is the song I listened to while writing that scene.

Pouring out of you. They’re reaching out to you. 
The hands of love, the hands of liars; those that warned of this loss. 
Running next to you. 
They’re surrounding you. 
The other sides of vicious lives, the spirit of longing and loss. 
This spirit walks along a borderline. 

The Monk is the hand of love and in a special sense so is Erebos and the Norja. The Norja has transformed the unicorn and all the inhabitants of Erebos. It is interesting that these same hands belong to lovers and liars. Do we lie to ourselves to believe we are in love with our lives? How is love tied to lying? Good question. Or are we lying that this love can go on forever? That love is all important, universal and eternal? If we are to believe that these loving and lying hands are ours then are we just blinding ourselves to those that have warned us of the inevitable loss of love. And as we come to heartache do we finally see that these others warning us of loss have been running next to us, surrounding us? These others represent the other side of these vicious lives. We are propelled to new heights by love only to experience its loss and then long for its return. It is this spirit that is most associated with that of the unicorn as she walks on the borderline between these two worlds. She is both lover and liar trying to fool herself and others that this world is perfect that it is not vicious but at some point she can no longer deny the sorrow she feels. She had believed that love was forever, telling herself the lie that there was no growth, no transformation, no death.

But there is nothing worth changing. 
Erase us. 
Erase us. 
But there is nothing worth changing. 
Erase us.
Erase us. 
Please, there is nothing worth changing. 
Erase us. 
Erase us. 
Please, there is nothing worth changing. 
Erase us. 
Disgrace us.

She begins to understand that maybe things can’t be changed. The circumstances can be changed by the actors in this drama, but the vicious lives will remain. The system is corrupt, the infection is systemic, infecting everything with this realization of viciousness and as a result there is only on option; erase us. Start again. Annihilate and rebuild from uninfected material. Because that means that nothing survives, because it means that these vicious lives in the end come to nothing, the end becomes the ultimate disgrace. We are failures. Erasing us, disgraces us!


Becoming by Mustard Gas and Roses

This album was influential in the pacing of the novel. Most of the songs had this slow buildup to a dramatic finish which I mimicked in many of the scenes, especially those surrounding rituals of some type which would begin with the clearing of the mind, the defining or re-defining of the will, and then the act that would modify existence in accord with the will of the wizard performing the ritual.

Let It Roll and Closer were two such songs that create a rhythm that allowed me step into the flow the characters were trying to harness. Let it Roll, begins and ends with a clean guitar rhythm that is hypnotic. This is often how the Monk starts most of his journeys into the mystical. He often feels uncomfortable with entering new dimensions of sensation and consciousness. His only excuse for this is that he has been away for many years from Erebos and has forgotten himself and the wisdom that he had once possessed as a member of the Kur Order. Therefore, he seems to need this warmup period. He walks into these new dimensions slowly but when the shift occurs he enters the flow of a new perception and we find him performing super-human feats with ease, the ease that only comes when he identifies himself with the deity within, the Shadow Monk.

Threshold, has this type of jumbled tempo and time signature that I felt matched the chaotic moments that occurred while the Monk was in the process of transformation from one mode of consciousness to another. He is walking into a new mode of consciousness but there is this strange chaotic shadow state that exists between one dimension and the next, a type of mental and spiritual limbo which he must cross. The beat at the beginning of Threshold was the sonic backdrop for the stroll through this misty limbo. Right after that erratic tempo there is a frenetic but steady rhythm that matches the thoughts and actions of the Monk once he has entered the flow state. He is lost to this rhythm allowing it to channel his actions, muscle memory taking over and directing him.

Threshold also represented being at the jumping off place where you become willing to take that leap of faith. At some point you realize, “I can’t get there from here.” You can’t hold onto this branch and grab onto the next, the gap is too wide. You must take the leap, let go, and trust. This is a situation that many of the characters of the novel find themselves in. In some cases, they are literally standing on a precipice deciding if they are ready and willing to take that leap, and at other times it is metaphorical and they need to come to grips with the fact that to move forward they must abandon their previous beliefs and attitudes.

I listened to the song Closer while imagining the states of consciousness that one of the Engineer’s lab rats must go through after receiving the Engineer’s rage elixir. The song starts out with the slow psychedelic beat that sees joy in motion but as the Engineer weaves his spell, worming his way into the darker recesses of the Wastelander’s mind, that joy is quickly turns to anger. That anger become a fire that must then be extinguished and the only way to extinguish it, the would-be-assassin is told, is to complete the Engineer’s task. The way this song builds, creating a sonic wall of multi-layered guitar at its crescendo, reminded me of the way in which the Engineer would invoke his spell and then finally release this hatred-by-proxy into the world through his manipulated emissaries.


Eyes Wide Opium by The Dali Thundering Concept

This band puts out some great music with blazing, technical guitar work and thought-provoking lyrics. In particularly the concepts explored in the song Damocles resonated with me and the ideas I was trying to shed light on in the novel. For instance we have the lyrics:

In this fortress you call system our dreams will fall, even if all
We’ve asked for is freedom, our fear has grown walls.
We are spied and controlled, burning our soul.
We’re tide and expose, free food for the fucking crows.

First, I thought of this from the perspective of the citizens of Gull, whom we are led to believe, live in blissful ignorance of the forces providing them with the comforts they enjoy. Although this may be true most of the time even the Engineer is forced to concede the fact that citizens must often play mind games in order to convince themselves that they have no role in the destruction of Erebos. They started out believing that this system was what would make their dreams come true. There was nothing wrong with the lives they had but suddenly someone had convinced them that they needed more, deserved more. This led to a system of more, a system that self-perpetuates, giving in sprinkles but demanding in floods. In this process, they forget what they had originally dreamed for, which was simplicity, happiness, and completeness. These were all qualities they had until the system took over. Now that system has built walls with bricks baked from the belief that acquiring more will lead to happiness. These self-constructed walls have enslaved them and the citizens are trapped by their own self-propagating, unquenchable, circular needs. It is a system that they themselves bred and fed and now must continue to feed. Those walls are now so tall they can’t see over them to the place they once were, and it is daunting to even consider scaling them.

Secondly, I thought about this in terms of our main characters, the Monk, the Unicorn and the Engineer. This trinity also suffers from systems. The Monk believes in the system of the Order of Kur, the Unicorn in the system of sacrifice and reward, the Engineer in the system of the status quo, believing that if it works today and you don’t change anything, it will work tomorrow, that the status quo can be maintained no matter what it demands. These systems also have their enslaving walls separating each character from each other and from the citizens of Gull. All they can understand now is their own wants and desires. Which bring us to the next set of lyrics:

This world is sucked in the abyss,
All events are major crisis.
And here we are mesmerized,
And here we are fucking hypnotized.

Erebos is being lost. As the forces at work tilt out of balance harmony disappears and chaos becomes the order of the day. At this point all events do become a major crisis because everything is out of proportion. Even while all this turmoil is raging the characters in this drama are mesmerized by their own expectations and desires. The citizens of Gull shrug their shoulders in blissful ignorance as they sell their trinkets and mushroom tea to tourists and gather for the playing of the dark Erebos Anthem. They are hypnotized, finding comfort in their own destruction.


Varahtelija by Oranssi Pazuzu

This is twisted, surreal, atmospheric-metal at its best. The bass drones in like a heartbeat to begin most songs, swallowing you into a trance to prepare you for the delivery of the epiphanies that are coming. The lyrics are in Finnish and I at first was tempted to find a translation, but as I listened I began to be taken in by the otherworldliness of the songs. Each became the scene of a tale that brought one to the edge of darkness, through the blackness of insanity, and then finally revealed the light of wisdom. The foreignness of the language increased these feelings in me and I realized that not all experiences can be transferred in words. I listened to much of this album during the various rituals that take place during the novel. They were perfect for setting the tone ushering in periods of trance like visions that the characters were entering. The otherworldly sound effects, the wavering of guitar filtered through wah, whammy, or flanger embodied the psychedelic surreal, transporting me into the scene. In particular, this album played a key role in the Norja Revelation ritual and chapter where our main character, the Monk, can only listen in awe to the strange utterings and chants of the Norjan Cult. This further pushes him into the dark unknown, awakening new levels of consciousness. For this reason, I decided to not read the translated lyrics for I wanted to maintain the mystical air that these songs so richly embodied.


Memorial by Russian Circles

This was another album that helped me to set the pacing of scenes while also infusing me with visions of the surreal places being visited. This whole album has an atmosphere that paralleled what I felt when traveling through Erebos with its moment of darkness and light, of sadness, joy, and awe. The songs I chose for the playlist, however, were Burial and Memorial.

Burial has a consistent rhythm which I always associated with the Monk beginning some ritual or event. The Monk continually likes to dip his toes into the familiar before embarking on a new path. He pokes fun at ritual and systems while embracing them. He sees himself as a rebel and as separate and different but it is impossible not to notice throughout the novel that he consistently engages in acts that he may not even consciously have a purpose for but feels compelled to complete anyway. The funny aspect of this is that he seems to purposely blind himself to the hypocrisy of these actions. But then something always happens which propels him into a new state of consciousness where he does tread new ground and becomes an alchemical anarchist. It is at these moments that he experiences peace. The other thing he experiences is a state he thought he would never feel again, awe. In the song, there is a moment where the pace picks up and there is this sound in the background that slowly rises like an alarm. To me this sound represented the energy of the universe, or in context of the novel, the energies of the Norja. It would whisper to the Monk at times but he would ignore it or shrug it off. Slowly, it would get louder, saying look at this, feel this, but again he would obfuscate and ignore. Finally, the energy would rise to a level he could no longer ignore and it would shift his entire perception, leaving him in a state of awe. In this state, he would understand that he had been deaf and blind to the Norja’s previous attempts and call himself and idiot, but would then frustratingly repeat the process. That is how this song spoke to me as I wrote the scenes revolving around the Monk and his inability to see the forest for the trees at times.

Memorial has a pastoral feel. This is the song I used to channel the feelings and emotions of the Lady of Erebos. There is a female voice singing softly in the background and it always conjured up visions of the lonely unicorn resting her head on the meadow grass or near the babbling brook of Unicorn Valley, reminiscing about the way the world had once been filled with magic and promise. This was, however, a utopia built upon the bones of her family and friends. Therefore, this reminiscing is always tinged with sadness. There had been a time of natural simplicity that was then disrupted by the addition of new beings which had brought in an era of peace and magic, and then the Engineer had issued in yet another era of technology and “prosperity” for which she also laments. In each era, she sees pain and is the only character in the novel with the history to understand such sorrow, which makes her feel alone. That is what this song inspired in me.


The Ape of God I by Old Man Gloom

This was another one of those albums that added to the dense dark atmosphere of the novel. Similar to Mustard Gas and Roses, I used this album for the pacing of rituals, but these were the torturous rituals of the Engineer. Songs like Simia Dei (Monkey of God) set the mood for many of the dark brutal rituals the Engineer performed in his lab. The title of this song is apropos here as well, for the Engineer is on a conscious quest to become a God. He associates God with the ability to transform or create other beings, steering their biological evolution. He built mechanical minions that are coded to protect and serve him, but more importantly there are the Wastelanders that he believes he has evolved through his chemical manipulations of the air surrounding the Waste. The Engineer may unknowingly, however, be the monkey of the Norja, the dark deity that reigns on Erebos. The more control he feels he has, the less he actually has.

Shoulder Meat, has a dark mood. It was the song I listened to when writing about the first time we accompany the Engineer into the bowels of his lab to learn of the awful experiments he is engaged in with memory glass and the Wastelanders. During the start of this song I picture the Engineer descending dark stone steps to the bottom of a dank basement where fires burn casting an eerie orange glow over damp stones. A scream echoes in the distance as the Engineer picks up a hammer and begins to pound it against glowing steal, the rhythm matching that of the ongoing terrified screams.


Polaris by TesseracT

Hexes

This is the song I listened to while writing the final chapter of the novel. At a general level the song is speaking of the hexes that history places on us. How our history can confine and cage us, believing that it defines us and that our present choices and actions are results of the past. But is that so? Can we not at any moment decided differently?

Is there something I should know
Of the colors that you show?
I remember those words
In the back of my mind
There is an old phantom

Come close. Don't be afraid,
It's stranger than you think
Desperately opiate, weary
Feverish host to us, teary eyed
History hexes us
History hexes us

The use of the word Hex here is significant for it is saying that history, both our global, local, and individual histories have placed a spell on us. Through its lens, we see a distorted sense of ourselves and our role in local/global history. This forces us to judge our actions and potential choices through this lens, which is a mistake as it further entrances us, robbing us of our power to choose differently. But every time we try to shake off the chains, we hear a voice in the back of our mind, the old phantom telling us we cannot overcome the hex of history. In a strange way this hex becomes familiar, it becomes an opiate that simultaneously calms and controls us.

It isn't a secret this mind's shrouded in history
It isn't a secret this mind spirals in disarray
It isn't a secret this mind shudders in mystery
It isn't a secret I find terror in memory


I think it is a secret that our minds are shrouded in history. The use of mystery, memory, and disarray are the tools used by the mind to allow us to keep it a secret, walling our conscious selves from this truth. If we saw it, we may examine it, which may not change what we do or the actions we take but it may make us aware of the defense mechanism employed. The downward spirals of our mind ensnare us in it whirling centrifugal insanity which leads nowhere as we shudder beneath the mystery of ourselves and our place in history until finally we find only terror in memory.

I live and breathe again
These gory locks, don't you dare forget them
Don't you dare.
Don't you dare.
History hexes us
I breathe again
History hexes us
I live again

Memory haunts us. It is what is used to make us fear change. "Last time I tried to change I got f***ed." "Don’t fly to close to the sun or you’ll get burned." This is the age old wisdom handed down that enslaves us while masquerading as caution, rationality, or responsibility. But there is a way to remember these events, these gory locks, and still move forward and that is to have faith that things can always be better. You may fail this time, but if you are persistent you will win, you can fly to the sun and back allowing all of us that observe to understand how history has hexed us and in witnessing your breaking of that curse we can breathe again, live again.

Phoenix

I must change because I've been chasing shadows
Change. Immersed in the night, desperate and taken
Change. Run with the pride of a lion

This is a song I listened to while writing of the Monk’s encounters with the Weevern. These mystical forest creatures are pure energy that take form using the rocks, sticks, stones, and dirt of the island, similar to the golems of lore. These creatures revel in the bliss of nature and will only interact with those who have entered the flow of the true energy of Erebos. When the Monk is allowed to run with them he feels pure joy and realizes there is so much more to this life than darkness and shadow, that there are revelations hiding in the light as well. He must change. I picture him smiling joyously at that instant, running with the Weevern, a tear falling down his cheek, as he is awe struck by the miraculous moment in which he realizes he is exactly where he was meant to be, doing exactly what he was meant to do. There are few better feelings than that. 




That is it! The novel is complete, releasing March 21st 2018 on paperback with the e-edition close on its heels. I hope you have enjoyed this journey, exploring the various music and concepts that inspired the novel. Horn and Dagger was a strange artistic journey for me filled with many pitfalls. It was the music that led the way through the darkness and inspired new visions that got me over the humps and kept the fantasy generation machine that turns in the deep darkness of my mind oiled and churning.  I thank all the artists and musicians for their courage, dedication and inspiration.

This serialization and releasing of various volumes of DarkTunes while going through the novel creation process, was also new. I explored and dissected the influences of the various music in real time even though I did not always release the next volume till much later. I really enjoyed that aspect of it. For many of you that have read my blog and other novels you may remember that I penned Horn and Dagger prior to, In the Shadow of the Witch, but the complexity of the novel demanded deeper attention and I decided to complete, In the Shadow first. Therefore, this has been a two-year process (a lot has changed in that time) and has allowed me to really dissect my creative process and hopefully recreate it at will. With that in mind, I am also working on a series of blog posts called, Invent Creativity, that I will be releasing this year to demonstrate the various tools I use to put myself in a place where I am ready to receive the message of the muses and then do something with them. Stay tuned!

Finally, I encourage you to check out the Horn and Dagger playlist and listen to it while reading the novel and feel free to reach out to me with new ideas for song selection or placement. Till next time.

Enjoy!


    
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Horn & Dagger Playlist

Chapter 1 - Reflection
And Heaven Begins to Fall, Shokran
Ritual Bell , Mouth of the Architect

Chapter 2 - Absent Sun
Shadow, Vildhjarta
Celestial Effigy, Agalloch
Nihil Sine Causa, Eths
DeathGrip, Fit For a King
Belie the Machine, Black Crown Initiate
Let it Roll, Mustard Gas and Roses

Chapter 3 - Dagger
The Priestess, Mouth of the Architect
Nostrum, Mushuggah
Dagger, Vildhjarta
Traces, Vildhjarta
Beyond Mirrors, The Dali Thundering Concept

Chapter 4 - The 13th Gate
Saturaatio, Oranssi Pazuzu
Threshold, Mustard Gas and Roses
Air on a G String, Johann Sebastian Bach
Harmaguedon, Eths
Ze Nigmar, Rotting Christ

Chapter 5 - The Fox and The Black Book
Burial, Russian Circles
Confusion, Through Lifeless Eyes
O.D.D, Live Conform Die
Temptation, Through Lifeless Eyes
Phoenix, TesseracT
Shoulder Meat, Old Man Gloom

Chapter 6 - The Lady of Erebos
Eat the Unicorn, Threshold

Chapter 7 - The Waste
Benblast, Vildhjarta
Monstrocity, Meshuggah

Chapter 8 - The Hermit
Doorways to Irkala, Melechesh
Dystopia, TesseracT
Damocles, The Dali Thundering Concept
Vales Beyond Dimension, Agalloch

Chapter 9 - Transfiguration
Candle Goat, Sun O)))
Cry for the Weeper, Sun O)))
Vicious Lives, Black Crown Initiate

Chapter 10 - The Engineer's Assassins
Simia Dei, Old Man Gloom
Nefas, Eths
Clockworks, Meshuggah
Nojja, Vildhjarta
Deceit, Vildhjarta

Chapter 11 - Horn & Dagger
When No One Walks With You, Vildhjarta
All These Feelings, Vildhjarta
Closer, Mustard Gas and Roses
Serpents, A Wake in Providence

Chapter 12 - Glass Monsters
Born in Dissonance, Meshuggah

Chapter 13 - The Anthem
Masstadens Nationalsang, Vildhjarta
Ostpeppar, Vildhjarta
Phobon Nika, Vildhjarta
Dark Matter Gods, Agalloch
Memorial, Russian Circles
Vasemman Kaden Hierakia, Oranssi Pazuzu

Chapter 14 - The Lab & The Final Warrior
The Astral Dialogue, Agalloch
Birth and Death of the Pillars of Creation, Agalloch
Through the Eyes of a Traitor, A Wake in Providence
Lahja, Oranssi Pazuzu

Chapter 15 - Norja Revelation
Varahtelija, Oranssi Pazuzu
Hypnotisoitu Viharukous, Oranssi Pazuzu
The Lone Deranger, Vildhjarta
Eternal Golden Monk, Vildhjarta
Devadevam, Rotting Christ
Les Litanies De Satan, Rotting Christ
For a Voice Like Thunder, Rotting Christ

Chapter 16 - The Gathering Army
Entropy, Extinction Level Event
Nasty, Live Conform Die
Cycle, Live Conform Die

Chapter 17 - Extinction Level Event
Extinction Level Event, Extinction Level Event
Apage Stana, Rotting Christ
Violent Sleep of Reason, Meshuggah
Serpents, A Wake in Providence
The Pendulum Speaks, Melechesh
Multiple Truths, Melechesh

Chapter 18 - The Red Book of Erebos
Hexes, ​TesseracT


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