A Journal Of The Dark Arts
I’ve recently discovered the comic book series Revival, written by Tim Seeley and drawn by Mike Norton. Not sure how many of you are aware, how much cross-pollination there is, but i’ve recently been reviewing a bunch of horror comics, over at the Amazing Stories blog. I’ve discovered a grip of fascinating new, dark art, that has reignited my bloodlust for the sequential word and image.
I was looking for something to listen to, as I sat down to de-compress, and read a few issues from the first arc, and noticed a mention to a soundtrack, at the beginning of the comic, with a bandcamp address. Well, it doesn’t get much more convenient than an officially sanctioned soundtrack for a work, and I was curious how Seeley imagined this “rural noir” might sound like.
Revival is about a small town, Wausau, Wisconsin, that has an outbreak of resurrection. People just won’t stay dead, one day. They climb off their slabs, or out of their coffins, and return to their regular lives. They’re not exactly zombie-like, although some don’t handle the transition of returning back to life very well. Most just can’t handle the lack of escape. They were promised heaven! Now it’s just more of the same.
I’m only two issues deep in this series, so far, but i dig it. First, and most importantly, it’s ACTUALLY SCARY. There’s scenes of a bloodless howl ringing out over a dark forest, as dog and owner listen in panic, all senses on edge. That’s true horror right horror, knowing something is out there in the dark, and not knowing what it is. Feeling small and frightened. Secondly, the returned-to-life, the “revivers” become a new kind of sub-group, banding together, lending community support. The in-depth characters, and the society of the dead that springs up, allows a lens to look at philosophical and cultural issues.
The Cleveland, Ohio band Sono Morti, is described as “Spaghetti Western Inspired Horror Rock”. That’s not back; they play a dusty American desert rock, that is laced with lysergic doses of spookshow organs and goth vocals. Sono Morti play a brand of post-punk, good ol’ deathrock, the likes of The Sisters Of Mercy, The Chameleons UK, Nick Cave, Magazine, but over a foundation of biting Western guitars, like The Handsome Family, mentioned above.
The songs on this EP explore the insides of the returned, what it is like to be without hope, without something to strive for. This can be seen on the track “Cumulus Crown”, where the singer wonders what kind of heaven they’re supposed to dream for? It’s also my least favorite track on the album, as it’s a little shrill and glammy for my bloody, but it’s short, and it’s not a deal-breaker.
I dig the carnivalesque organs on here, which give a colorful sheen to the dirt-brown earth tones of your standard desert fare. My favorite thing about this short EP, however, is the flanged vocals of “Intro To Revival” and “Undying Mystery”, which manages to sound truly psychedelic, full of yearning but still adventure, and the future. I love post-punk psychedelia! “Undying Mystery” is my favorite track on here, and a legitimately good song, i think. It’s a primitive, plodding post-punk ballad, sung from the experience of someone who’s lived and died and lived again. It’s the sound of walking in the night, looking for yourself, your own kind, trying to find somewhere where you belong, looking to quiet your own mind.
For some of us, we feel like remnants or shadows, even in the daytime. Sometimes it feels like you’re always peeking in windows, watching happy families eat dinner, while you have no place to lay your head.
Revival is a cool series, so far. I’m into it. It strikes me as a cross between the French TV series Les Revenants (where are you, Les Revenants? Come back!), a little bit of Twin Peaks, a little bit Night Of The Living Dead. It has the potential to explore some philosophical issues, while not being afraid to get very, very bloody.
I am so grateful to be rediscovering the wonders of good comic books, and series like Revival and Junji Ito‘s Tomie. It’s reminding not only of why comics are awesome in the first place, but some strengths of the medium, and how they may be taken advantage of, in the comics medium. Because you get these full-page panels of bloody monstrosity, rendered on glorious sickening color and detail. Or you can play with suspense, by leaving things out, between panels. Comics are a cool intersection of novels, movies, animation, and fine art, that not enough people full take advantage of.
Sono Morti’s soundtrack will take you back, if you’ve ever been a goth kid, or death rocker. If you ever felt an outsider. If you’ve ever worn a long, black coat, and felt misunderstood. Both goth and comic books were super important in my striking out on my own, and finding a world and a culture where I could fit in and belong, so it’s nice to be transported back to that place, on one sunny Saturday afternoon.
Both comic and soundtrack come recommended! Especially together.
Like i said, i’ve been getting into a lot more horror comics and manga lately, and i’ve been branching out, to write other kinds of reviews, more than just music. Looking at all the many, myriad ways the dark side intersects, and reflects, our culture.
Other horror comics you love? Soundtracks you think we should hear? Have you read Revival? Let us know in the comments!