Thursday, March 22, 2012

Blood and Bone China: A Gothic Tale

I am the daughter of Lilith--a demonic remnant--a creature of the night. I am demise and decay. I am the infinite darkness. I am the Reaper incarnate--goddess and monster--oblivion and paradise--silence and rebirth. I have forsaken all humanity to feast on the blood of mortal vessels and revel in eternal youth.--The words of Lady Victoria to Doctor Richard Howell

The year is 1897; the place is the municipality of Stoke-On-Trent, in Northwest England. Doctor Richard Howell, played by Simon Hooson, has reached some startling conclusions resulting from important research he has been conducting. Although he desires secrecy and fears that his communication will be intercepted, Doctor Howell writes a letter to an investigative journalist, requesting that she meet him the following evening at midnight.

As he awaits his rendezvous at the appointed time and place, Doctor Howell is confronted by the beautiful Lady Victoria (Lara de-Leuw) who, after revealing to him her true nature, describes herself as noted above. Fearing for his life, the incredulous doctor flees; but his flight is in vain. 

Three days later, in the countryside surrounding Buxton, Doctor Newlyn Howell, a veterinarian and brother of Richard, meets a somewhat mysterious man in the person of Alexander Pyre, who informs Howell of his brother's death and convinces him to return to Stoke-On-Trent.

After their arrival in Stoke, the two men team up with investigative journalist Anna Fitzgerald, with whom Richard Howell had intended to meet on the night of his demise. Soon Newlyn Howell and Ms. Fitzgerald find themselves in the manor of the unnerving but successful pottery baron, Linus Hemlock. From this point on, the story takes the viewer on an ever-escalating journey of  horror and intrigue. The danger is vampires and they are many.

Blood and Bone China, created by Chris Stone, is a twelve-part web series that takes place in Victorian England. Although I make no claim to being an expert on Victorian culture, my opinion is that the series depicts the time period quite well in both style of dress and general effects. As with the old-time serials of the past, each segment of this production ends with a cliff hanger. Even so, the tension continues to build as the tale moves inexorably toward its climax and a surprising conclusion.

Although Blood and Bone China was apparently, not meant for either television or the big screen, I found the acting quite convincing with Anthony Miles playing the role of the unheroic Newlyn Howell, Rachel Shenton as the inquisitive Anna Fitzgerald and David Lemberg as the almost frighteningly reserved Linus Hemlock.

If you enjoy Victorian dress and settings this production is for you. If you're into vampires you might want to watch this. If you enjoy surprise endings and love being kept on the edge of your seat, take some time to watch this series through to its finish. I know that I really enjoyed this production. Hopefully, you will too.

You can find Blood and Bone China's YouTube Channel by going here.

Here is the theatrical trailer:

Sunday, March 18, 2012

One Lovely Blog Award

Wow! Earlier this morning I checked the comments in this blog and found that I have been offered the One Lovely Blog Award by Saphire Rainforest, the owner of which is an artist, water painter and designer. Thank you so much for offering me this award. According to the rules, I now need to list and offer the award to 15 other blogs and detail seven random things about myself. The random things about myself will be easy but offering the award to the other blogs is problematic; especially since I only visit a few blogs, most of which have already received the award or are participating in something very similar. 

Things being as they are then, I've decided to list and link to my favorite blogs, which don't come close to numbering fifteen, without sending the actual award. After all, why send it to someone who has already received it or whose blog is currently inactive? So then, without further ado, I present my list of blogs: 

Stripy Tights and Dark Delights - This blog, formerly called The Ultimate Goth Guide, is a wonderful piece of work maintained and regularly updated by Amy Asphodel, a super-neat young lady who has a keen interest in Goth and alternative culture. 

DOMESTICATED - Hailing from the Scottish Highlands, the HouseCat, as she prefers to call herself, delights in discussion of crafts, aret, fashion and culture from the dark side. She also offers an abundance of photos from historic sites of interest to members of the subculture.

Holly's Horrorland - Holly deserves a lot of credit for allowing so many of us to participate in her Vampire's Day Soiree, which took place this past Valentine's Day. A self-described collector of creepy curiosities, Holly seems to reelish in the promotion of unique events such as April Ghoul's Day and the upcoming May Monster Madness. Her blog is filled with opportunities for both reader participation and creepy information.

The Gothic Tea Society - This colorful and popular blog, maintained by Wendy Black, results from the efforts of several regular contributors who remain vigilant in their efforts to present a wide variety of topics to their readership. I have to credit the Gothic Tea Society with making me aware of Robert the Doll's existence. 

Daughter of Death - I used to love going to this one. Daughter of Death is maintained by Chloe Noir, a young lady from Košice, Slovakia. Chloe's blog, which discusses a variety of subjects, is also filled with beautiful photographs--photos not only featuring Ms. Noir herself, but of local cemeteries and historic places in her community. Unfortunately, she has not posted since shortly after Halloween of last year, but I'm hoping that she'll resume her blogging activities soon.

Okay, that takes care of the blogs that I regularly visit and recommend. Now comes the easy part; listing seven random things about myself.

1) I love Van Helsing's hat (from the movie) and have got to find one just like it.

2) Although I now live in the south/central United States I was born on the east coast in southern New England.

3) Although I do listen to old-school and current Goth bands, I spend most of my time listening to metal; particularly, real Gothic and doom metal.

4) Sometimes I like to wear blue jeans.

5) I'm not sure which I like more, Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles or her stories about the Mayfair witches.

6) The cottage I live in is almost surrounded by cemeteries.

7) I really dislike Daylight Saving's Time because I have to wait an hour longer for it to get dark.

There you have it! Sorry I didn't make a list of fifteen blogs, but it's like I said; I only visit a very few on any regular basis. 



Sunday, March 11, 2012

An Interview With Minnie d'Arc

My original intention with this post was to discuss the musical genre known as Dark Ambient; but as I started thinking about a few of the artists I wanted to highlight, I realized that there is one particular virtuoso worth mentioning whose material doesn't seem to fit neatly into any single classification; yet, I would most definitely define her melodic creations as dark or Gothic. In keeping with my desire to make this blog somewhat unique, and with my never-ending struggle to come up with interesting topics, I decided to request an interview with Minnie d'Arc, who recently finished work on a new EP entitled Eris Unbound; and I'm very happy to report that she has accepted. Here then, is a discussion with a person whom I would most certainly call one of the United Kingdom's more distinctive and creative composers/musicians. 

Minnie d'Arc, I welcome you to the Gothic Embrace.  

M.d'A. Thank you. It's a great pleasure to be here!

 I'd like to start off by asking, when did you first realize that you wanted to create music and how long have you been composing, playing and recording?

M.d'A. Goodness... I first started getting seriously interested in music when I was about 14. I was listening to a really eclectic mixl; a lot of glam rock, and some more esoteric material. One of the first albums I owned was the first stage version of of The Who's "Tommy", which was released about half-way between the original 1969 concept album and the Ken Russell movie. I was awestruck by the orchestral arrangements on the album, and I dreamed of a time when it would be possible to record music like that. The logical progression was to learn to play an instrument, and when I was 16 I got my first guitar. By that time, punk had really started to happen in the UK and a lot of people were realising that you didn't have to be a technical genius to be able to get up and make music, so it was a great time to be learning how to play an instrument. I didn't start experimenting with recording until the end of the millenium, however - prior to that, the whole process was far too expensive to even contemplate.  

Have you ever performed in a group setting, or have you always preferred being a solo artist?

M.d'A. When I started, working on your own as a solo artist was almost - and I stress "almost", because I'm aware there are some important exceptions - inconceivable. So, I worked with a number of different groups, but to be honest I didn't really fit well at that time into a group environment. By the end of the 1980s I'd pretty much had enough of playing, and consequently did nothing almost for another 10 years. Then, a friend of mine showed me what you could do with a computer and music editing software - and that was that; I realised I'd come pretty much full circle and could make the music I wanted to make, either by myself or with the help of friends if they were available. I didn't need to be a part of a fixed line-up any more.    

Listening to to Eris Unbound, the music first transported me back to a scene from a Vincent Price movie called The Abominable Dr. Phibes, during which the mad doctor sits in a rather large room playing gloomy music on his organ. By the time I got to the album's title track, I was enjoying a piece that I can only define as Goth Rock or Dark Wave. This begs the question, how do you define and categorize your music?

M.d'A. (Laughs) I tend not to! I think that if you categorise your music you create a pigeonhole for yourself. Okay, I'll go as far as calling it "gothic", and certainly, I see myself as a goth musician. However, I think the gothic subculture thesedays is far too splintered - there are so many different sub-genres. Once, it wasn't like that - you could listen to Dead Can Dance,, Fields of the Nephilim, Alien Sex Fiend or Bauhaus and it was all "goth". For better or worse, I try to make my music a melting pot of a number of different genres; however, my main focus - certainly at this time - is to try and combine the beauty and introversion of neoclassical music with the passion and energy of gothic rock.   

Can you describe your composing and recording process for us? Do you start out with a defined piece of music in mind, or does it come about as a result of experimentation?

M.d'A. Almost always, I'll start with a brief melodic phrase running through my head. In most circumstances, I'll keep that phrase in mind for anything up to four or five hours before I can get to an instrument - ususally a synthesizer - to start working it out; at that point, I'll start asking myself, what instrumental sound I should be using. Once I've figured it out, that idea usually becomes the main motif of the piece, and the rest then comes down to arrangement - adding in countermelodies, rhythm and percussion, and decorative phrases. By the time I start to record, the main motif is ususally quite well defined, but additional instrumentation will often be the result of some calculated experimentation - I may, say, want a particular reed sound for a particular line because I know the sound will work well with what I already have, but while I may have some idea of the exact line, it isn't usually until I've tried it against material I've already recorded that it starts to take on a definite shape. Then, once I've recorded the first minute or so's worth of music, I have more or less a complete picture of how I want the piece to develop, and what I want it to sound like, and I then work to that mental blueprint until the piece is finished. 

I thought that I heard some bass and guitar on one of your songs. Do you perform with these instruments on your recordings or do you accomplish their effects with keyboards or some other medium?

M.d'A. No, you're absolutely right - when a piece calls for guitar, I'll use a real guitar. Bass... It depends whether I think a piece calls for a bass guitar or whether a synthesizer bass line is more appropriate. I admit, I love the warm, full sound of a bass guitar, but they're more difficult to record than a synthesized bass - they have a greater frequency range and they can take a lot of work to get to sound good. A synth bass doesn't tend to be as powerful in the overall sound, but they're a lot easier easier to deal with - often I hardly need to do much with them at the mixing stage, other than raise or lower the levels. 

 I understand that you've recently been collaborating with a video production by providing music to accompany Midieval Fantasy's poem, The Ghost of Emily Malone. Would you like to talk about that?

M.d'A. That's definitely a work in progress. I read the poem about a year ago, and I absolutely loved it. I'm in absolute awe of Midieval Fantasy's ability to write epic works which are nonetheless incredibly intimate. It was therefore a real shock, and a massive honour, when one day out of the blue she asked me if I wanted to set it to music. It's been slow going, and I've been distracted by the need to issue other material, but I'm still working on it and I hope that it will see the light of day before too much longer. Ideally, I'd like it to be the centrepiece of my first full-length album.Midi has made videos to accompany some of my other pieces, too. She made a beautiful video to accompany "October's Dance", my first public release, although chronologically speaking the first she made was for "Elizabeth", my second recording. She also made one of the video trailers for my first EP, Eris Unbound. It's an ongoing collaboration, and one which I hope will last for many years to come.

From which musicians, bands, vocalists, song writers, etc. do you derive your musical inspiration?

M.d'A. Although there are a lot of bands I really love, I actually try not to be overly influenced by anyone - at least, in musical terms. That said, if there has been any influence on me, it's come from Sopor Aeternus and the Ensemble of Shadows. I love the way Anna-Varney uses heavily classically-styled arrangements but manages to incorporate modern instrumentation. I also love her use of chromatic percussion - bells, chimes, etc - and her arrangements for woodwind and reeds. A good example is All Good Things are Eleven, from Dead Lover's Sarabande Face One

What are your plans for the future?

M.d'A. I'm working on a second EP, which will carry on very much where the first left off so that anyone listening to both feels that it's actually an album in two parts. However, I also want to release a full-length album during the coming year.

How can a person buy or download Eris Unbound, and do you have any other musical offerings available to the public?

M.d'A. Eris Unbound is available exclusively from the website of my very good friends, the Angels of Liberty ( I really must, at this point, publicly thank Voe and Scarlet of the Angels for their support and encouragement, and for giving me a chance to release Eris on their label, Secret Sin Records. Elizabeth and the other videos mentioned above can be found on YouTube, and I have a couple of very early recordings on my website, I also regularly post on Facebook, and you can find me at!/pages/Minnie-dArc/204942902889352.

Minnie, I thank you very much for giving this interview and I wish you the best with your musical endeavors.

M.d'A. Thank you for inviting me! It's been a pleasure!

The following video contains Minnie d'Arc's rendition of XIII Stoleti's song entitled Elizabeth. 

Top photo source: Author unknown.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Full Moon Rising

What is it about the moon, especially the full moon, that inspires us to walk along deserted beaches at night--that prompts us to watch it slowly rise from behind a patch of woods--that inspires us to share passionate moments of romance beneath its pale light? 

For those of us who enjoy the darkness, this nighttime companion offers us sufficient luminance to navigate without the use of artificial light; yet, it obscures the mysteries that lie just beyond the nearest sand dune or wooded patch just a stone's throw away. It leaves us to wonder what lies in the shade of the forest that its light cannot penetrate. We are forced to contemplate what might be watching us as we traverse in the moon's dim luminescence. Certainly the nocturnal ones, the creatures of the night are keeping vigil over us; but is there more? What of the nature spirits? Perhaps, a sensually-adorned woman will suddenly emerge from the shadows --a huntress who uses her keen powers of seduction to ensnare her victim; one who discovers too late that she desires his very essence--his blood. 

A couple of nights ago I was invited to my next-door neighbor's for dinner. She lives a little bit farther up the mountain, a short but pleasant walk along a wooded dirt road. It was when I started on my return home that I saw it; a nearly full moon rising in the east, the leafless trees appearing as shadowy silhouettes in its pale radiance. I stood quietly for a moment, gazing into this nocturnal landscape --imagining--imagining that the dark goddess of my dreams might reveal herself in this magical place. 

At a certain time of the year the rising moon casts its first light into the small burial ground that lies east of the road. On these special nights the monuments and grave markers cast long shadows across the ground, inspiring a feeling of desolation--of death itself. 

Yes, the moon is an inspiring nighttime companion. It will be full tonight. Come walk with me. 

Photo Source Gothic Pictures Gallery. Author unknown.