A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Long before mankind existed, the Old Ones trod the Earth. They worshipped the Elder Gods and served them as slaves. In time, the Old Ones gained the power of dark magick and dared to use their sinister powers against their masters. The wrath of the Elder Gods was merciless and terrible, and those that rebelled against them were banished to distant dimensions and imprisoned deep within the darkest recesses of the Earth. In deathless sleep, the Old Ones dream and lie in wait for the time when they shall rise again. For when the stars come right, they shall awaken from their aeon slumber, then shall they return to hold dominion over our world once more, bringing woe and destruction unto mankind.
What would a monthlong trawl through the darkest recesses of the musical underground be without a visit from Nox Arcana, the world’s second most famous purveyors of weird sonic fictions?
For those that don’t already know, Nox Arcana is a neoclassical dark ambient project from influential dark fantasy artist Joseph Vargo. Like the other favorite Halloween band out there, the Midnight Syndicate, Nox Arcana albums are built around a central storytelling concept, being designed as atmospheric music for Halloween Haunts and role-playing games.
Unlike many of the releases featured in the Horrorscores series, which are terrifyingly real, transforming yr bedroom or living room or grocery shopping trip into an eye-popping, face-melting haunted ordeal, Necronomicon is delightfully, cheesily uncanny. That is to say, this is a simulacrum of horror, not a re-creation.
Joseph Vargo works with a limited pallet of synthesized instruments, in this case gothic choir, suspenseful strings, and ritualistic percussion. There was a time, when we were younger, when we would have turned our nose up at such obviously plastic fare, which can have a tendency to sound dated, not to mention cheap.
A decade-and-a-half of listening to absolutely everything via the Internet, from Southeast Asian field recordings to HD pop, Nox Arcana’s crepuscular synths and funereal percussion sound welcomingly authentic in their inauthenticity. Necronomicon sounds straight off a grimy Lovecraftian VHS, perhaps something starring David Carradine. As most of us know, most Lovecraftian cinema isn’t that good, and yet it has its charm. Back in the day, before Cthulhu had become a pop cultural icon, it was all that we had, anyway, so we were bound to watch, taking what pleasures that could be found.
Above and beyond the dungeon synth atmospheres, Necronomicon is also a very useful primer and overview of Lovecraft’s Mythos, which can be confusing and hard to navigate for the beginner, and even when you’ve been untangling the threads for a while.
The quote at the top of this text is taken from album opener “Mythos”, which sets the cosmic stage for the battle between the Great Old Ones and the Elder Gods. We are reminded of how excellent Lovecraft’s mixture of sci-fi and Horror can be, resulting in Cosmic Horror, that most 20th Century of phenomena. Taken out of context, we almost feel for Cthulhu and Dagon and Yog-Sothoth, as some kind of celestial freedom fighters. Until we remember that bit about “holding dominion over the Earth”.
As with most Mythos texts, Necronomicon begins by leading us into some forbidden place, namely, “The Nameless City”, for unholy rites to commence. “Alhazred’s Vision” is a lovely, psybient Middle Eastern trance-out, with some ritualistic dark ambient percussion that makes this release stand out from the hordes of atmospheric haunting recordings out there. If yr haunt or theme night involves something exotic, Necronomicon will make a glorious score.
Once the ritual is underway, the pantheon of Great Old Ones is unveiled, one by one. Each deity – Dagon, Azathoth, Yog-Sothoth, dread Cthulhu, Nyarltheotep – features a short vocal introduction and a piece or two of instrumental music. Not only does this make for excellent score material, it also serves as a useful sonic touchstone as a way to relate to and identify the various oddly named ghastly horrors.
If you are reading Lovecraft, this October, or are hosting Mythos-related haunts, parties, or game nights, you NEED Necronomicon in yr library. And also consider picking up Nox Arcana’s first album Darklore Manor, which features some Lovecraftian elements as well.
What other horror-related works would you like to see us cover this October for 31 Days Of Horror? We’re trying to cover as much horror media as possible. I’ll be posting at all and sundry places that i write for, so stop by the FB page and follow us on Twitter for more updates, and various horror-phemera, all month long! You can post yr favorite seasonal delights on the FB wall, or tweet @ #horrorscores, and we’ll share the love! We want to cover as many dark and speculative wonders as possible this month!
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