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

Horn & Dagger  is nearing completion. Scheduled release is March 21, 2018!

New Horn & Dagger page with short stories, images and more coming soon!

    
"For there is only a subtle difference between stagnation and stillness. But one is poison and one is peace."    
- Horn & Dagger
  

Updated 11/09/17

Horn & Dagger - Dark Tunes


Available Spring 2018

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

   




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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