A Journal Of The Dark Arts

You Are Not Who You Are: Isobel Ccircle~ – Save Karras album review

dark ambient album review

In my teens, I eyed my adulthood with trepidation, as if stalked by a stranger – one who would seize control as if by demonic possession and regard my fledgling incarnation with contempt. – Lionel Shriver

“Whatever made me the way I am left me hollow, empty inside, unable to feel. It doesn’t seem like a big deal. I’m quite sure most people fake an awful lot of everyday human contact. I just fake it all. I fake it very well, and the feelings are never there.” – Jeff Lindsay, Darkly Dreaming Dexter

“Trapped within the confines of his mind, he is too aware of every thought passing through it, as if he were outside, looking in. At night he often lies awake ruminating endlessly about what’s wrong with him, about death, and about the meaning of existence itself. At times his arms and legs feel like they don’t belong with his body. But most of the time, his mind feels like it is operating apart from the body that contains it.”  ― Daphne Simeon, Feeling Unreal: Depersonalization Disorder and the Loss of the Self


It is assumed that Father Karras, the young priest from The Exorcist, dies at the end, after hurtling himself to a cold, self-imposed death at the bottom of a Georgetown stairwell, after inviting the demon Pazuzu to leave Regan and take him instead. That is, in fact, not the case.

Turns out that Father Karras is one of the main characters of The Exorcist‘s spiritual successors, the film The Exorcist III and its counterpart novel Legion. In both the movie and book, a detective is investigating a series of murders, modeled after the real-world Zodiac Killer, who had expressed an admiration for the original Exorcist. In the sequels, “The Gemini Killer” is a disembodied spirit that possesses Karras after Pazuzu departs, decamping his body each night to go kill with a fresh pair of hands.

This development totally turns the tons of the original Exorcist on its head. Instead of an ending which is, ultimately, heroic if tragic, with a man of God choosing to take his own life to save a young girl, instead we find one of his most faithful servants left to languish in the shadows and gloom, tormented, possessed, mad, forgotten. A fitting end for one of Jehovah’s favored sons, no?

The Exorcist alternate soundtrack

instead we find one of his most faithful servants left to languish in the shadows and gloom, tormented, possessed, mad, forgotten. A fitting end for one of Jehovah’s favored sons, no?

This feeling, as well as the inspirational texts, serve as the starting point for the newest transmission from spectral sound sculptors Isobel Ccircle~ (previously responsible for one of our favorite Dark Ambient depictions of haunted and ruinous spaces The House on Harbor Circle).

horrorscores Save Karras functions as both an alternate soundtrack for both The Exorcist III or Legion as well as a shivering, disorienting slice of drone and dark ambiance in its own right. Save Karras‘ titles all borrow from some of The Exorcist III‘s most iconic moments, like “It’s a Wonderful Life!” drawn in blood on the walls of one of The Gemini Killer’s victims, so the connection is obviously intentional. In this, you can hear Save Karras as a much more minimal, atmospheric Dark Ambient/drone evocation of the subject matter, to tease out the inherent, latent dread in its shadowed atmospheres and psychological dread.

This image of Karras the Possessed speaks to a long literary tradition of Gothic Doubles, from Mr. Hyde to The Wolfman. For more modern (and even more relevant) examples, Father Callahan from Salem’s Lot and, most importantly, Inspector Cooper from Twin Peaks.

Both were penalized for doing the right thing. They are both, to quote another Gothic classic, Bram Stoker‘s Dracula, “God’s madmen.” Yet they are both forsaken, thrust into the pit, cast out from the light, without even the sin of Pride or rebellion to blame for it.


On Possession, Identity, and Anxiety

This theme of Possession, of doubles and doppelgangers, also speaks to a primordial fear that is all-too-contemporary – the loss of self and loss of control. Depersonalization disorders occur due to extreme trauma, like sexual abuse, while loss of control is one of the most common causes of anxiety as well as being one of the foundations of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Even with so many intellectual, theoretical, and philosophical advances in the last 60 years, we seem to be struggling with some of these inherent contradictions. Critical theory frameworks illustrate the permeability of “the Self,” exposing structures like privilege and the ways they undermine things previously felt solid.

And yet, on the other hand, it seems this idea of “Self” is sacrosanct, inviolable, raised up to its religious peak due to Identity Politics. These investigations seem to, at beast, complicate one another if not offer an outright contradiction.

Considering the unease of Save Karras it seems we are struggling under the strain, pulled in separate directions. In truth, NONE OF US are immune from external influences. We are all possessed, and our demons are Legion. So be brave and head out into the gloom. Today, after all, is an excellent day for an exorcism.

Save Karras is out now.


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