Sunday, April 29, 2012

Three Live Gothic Performances

Truth be told, I've been experiencing a bit of writer's block these last several days and therefore, have had my brain working overtime in order to come up with a new blog post. All of this however, has come to no avail. So, I've decided to take the coward's way out of the dilemma by posting a few of my favorite videos featuring live performances by Goth bands. 

Admittedly, I ordinarily listen more to metal than Goth rock, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy the latter and the truth is, there are some Goth and dark-wave bands that I listen to quite often. I hope that you'll all enjoy the performances that I'm including here.   

The first video features London After Midnight performing their song entitled Shatter. While I don't know where or when this particular performance took place, it features Tamlyn on the keyboards and therefore, this concert likely took place before she left the project some time in 2003.


Next, I'd like to present an old favorite; at least for many. Fields of the Nephilim, the creation of vocalist Carl McCoy, has been around, in one incarnation or another, since the 80's. I have long considered this band's musical style quite unique; and I like how its members took on sort of a western look while staying well within the Goth rock genre. It's interesting to note that the name Nephilim is taken from a biblical reference to an ancient race of giants--descended from fallen angels.

 During the 90's, the band's creator split from the rest of the original group, which soon changed its name to Rubican. McCoy went on to form a new musical manifestation known simply as The Nephilim. By the early 2000's a new incarnation of Fields of the Nephilim had been resurrected and and it continues to exist to this day. At the present time, Fields of the Nephilim performs only few concerts per year and only have three scheduled appearances for this year, with the next one set to take place at the Mera Luna Festival in Hildesheim, Germany on August 11. Still, although I've accepted the fact that they may never come to play here in the United States, I'm just glad to see that the band is still somewhat active. 

Here then, is a wonderful live rendition of At the Gates of Silent Memory: 


According to the group's Facebook page, Demona Mortiss was formed in 2007 by Russian-born composer and vocalist Elena Vladimirova. The band, which incorporates various influences into its music including metal, industiral and Goth Rock, has managed to remain fairly obscure in spite of its Los Angeles roots. The same Facebook page points out that the ensemble  is currently in the studio working on its first full-length album, which will be entitled Angelic Parasite. The following video, which features a live performance of Demona Mortiss' Lost, is currently the only one I know of that features any of their songs in its entirety. Still, it was enough to more than wet my appetite and I'm looking forward the up coming release of Angelic Parasite. Enjoy!      


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Peggy Goo

Over to your car
Peggy will skate
Serving her favorite dish
Your brains on a plate 

Although I never played with them, I've always had a certain fascination with dolls--from a distance, at least. I always thought it was interesting to watch how girls would play with them, dress them, nurture them and treat them as if they were alive and invited dinner guests. One lady friend, whom I used to visit regularly, had a small collection of dolls that she kept behind a glass encasement. The figurines, which had apparently been passed down from mother to daughter for generations, were destined to one day fall under the care of her own child. Within my friend's doll collection were examples of marvelous craftsmanship, style and elegance from years gone by. No wonder she wanted to keep them safe until her daughter was old enough to appreciate them!

Last year, I joined a local tea society that meets in a room at our public library. At these gatherings we generally sit around, drink tea, eat munchies and talk about our various creative endeavors. The interesting thing about this group is that several of its members are involved with Japanese Tenshi Dolls. They make them, outfit them, give names to their creations and sometimes, even create histories and mythologies for their favorite marionettes. Several of these dolls clearly walk on the dark side as is evident from their style of dress and antics. One of my favorites is a rather tall young man who delights in holding a chainsaw--its tip drenched in blood! It's often the case at our monthly gatherings that the dolls, which also sit at or on the table, often outnumber the humans. Well, at least they don't eat the food; or do they? Hmm...sometimes I do wonder about that as our scrumptious tidbits seem to disappear quite quickly when we're not looking. 

A few years ago I discovered a website called New Age Dolls, which I link to from this blog. The owner of the site, a Canadian artist named Jade Perez, delights in the creation of a very bizarre assortment of creepy dolls. I laughed out loud as I browsed through her galleries and viewed a variety of tortured souls she had hand crafted. There was one particular figurine however, that really caught my eye. Her name was Zee and I liked her so much that she served as inspiration for one of my short stories entitled Jessica, which tells a tale about a creepy doll and her uncanny boyfriend. At the time, my intention had been to request a Zee remake so I could be the proud owner of such an unusual but magnificent marionette. As it turned out however, I suddenly found myself without a regular job and...well you know, the best laid plans and all that.

More recently, while at the local mall, I noticed that one of the retailers I frequent had a small collection of Living Dead Dolls. One in particular caught my eye and her name was Peggy Goo. By looking through the clear plastic box covering I could see that she had soft black hair, which barely covered up a missing eye and the subsequent blood oozing from its socket. She wore a short black dress, which was partially covered by a bloodied white apron. The information on the packaging indicated that she was a car hop--a dead one I might add!

Although I wanted to buy Peggy right then and there, I knew that I couldn't justify the purchase as finances were going to be a bit tight for a few weeks. Sadly and reluctantly, I put her back down and left the store, determined to return another day. On my next trip to the mall just a couple of weeks ago I went back to the venue where I had first found Peggy. At first, I didn't see her as I scanned the small shelves of the living dead that faced me. Disappointed, I began moving the front specimens around, just to see who or what might be lurking behind their coffin-like boxes and suddenly, there she was; hiding in the very back! I couldn't believe my luck; because of the several Living Dead Dolls present, she was the only one selling at a discount--50 percent off! What a deal!

The next day was the monthly meeting of our tea party and Peggy proudly took her place on the table with the other dolls. She was a big hit in her roller skates holding a bloody brain on a serving platter. She's a most welcome addition to my home and seems quite at ease standing on the top of the cabinet with various other representatives of the macabre.

As for Zee, I still hope to acquire her; but in the meantime, Peggy has certainly filled an empty space in my heart.

Please note that the beginning poem in italics is not my own but rather, is likely the intellectual property of Mezco Toyz.    

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Man Behind the Cross and the Crow

Since the time that I started this blog, even in its earlier manifestation, I have used an attractive graphic of a crow sitting upon a darkened cross with an approaching storm in view as my avatar. I love the photo and if memory serves me correctly, a potentially dangerous thunderstorm was approaching just as I finished putting up the photo and my first blog post. On that night I shut off and packed up my laptop, grabbed a few other valuables and headed off to safer places until the storm passed. The synchronicity that took place that night has really inspired me to enjoy that particular photo and to use it to identify this blog for so long. 

That said, when I visit or comment on other interesting blogs, I notice that almost all of the bloggers and commentators use an actual photo of themselves as an avatar. I have long been an odd man out in this matter so to speak; and truth be told, I'm a very reserved person who fiercely guards his privacy; this, during a time in which many people publicly offer the most intimate details of their lives for all to see on Facebook or other social media. That's just not the way that I care to do things, however. Another point is that I simply don't like to see pictures of myself; that being the case, I find it difficult to consider sharing my photos publicly and it's only the valued opinions of friends and other acquaintances that sometimes give me a moment of pause. 

I have noticed that many of the ladies, such as Amy Asphodel of Stripy Tights and Dark Delights like to include pictures detailing their new outfits or their latest creative fashion idea. I enjoy these photo sets immensely and appreciate their creativity and the work they go through in order to look so darkly stylish. There have been times when I have made comments about my own style of dress without ever giving many of these folks a visual clue as to how I actually present myself. 

In spite of my personal inhibitions ,I recently decided that something needs to change and yesterday, I had a friend come over to take some new photos. I've been thinking that some of my readers might just be wondering who really lurks behind the cross and the crow. Now you'll get to see.

These are not expert photos by any stretch of the imagination. As a matter of fact, they were taken with a cell phone camera and therefore, are not all that clear. Further complicating matters was my inability to upload them to my computer in the larger,original size in which they were sent to me. Instead, I had to expand them by 50 percent, which further blurs the images. Quite honestly, as I sit here typing this entry, I don't know how they'll turn out here or what size they'll be. I'm afraid that they may yet be too small. Still, I'm ready to give it my best shot; so here goes:  

This first photo shows my most recent hat acquisition, which was made by the Great Australian Hat Company. I found it in a local resale shop at a good price. Also included is my favorite dress shirt and Vampire Moon T-shirt from the Anne Stokes collection. The photo was taken in a cemetery situated just a couple of hundred feet from my front door.


Next, I'm wearing a white shirt. This is very unusual for me but I thought it a nice touch for whenever I might actually want to appear a bit dressy. It's also my best attempt at looking Victorian. I know, it really doesn't come close but I'm trying. The vest was bought at the same shop as the hat.


Finally, I present to you my more casual self, which is how I appear to the world most of the time. Of course, the trench coat serves me well in cooler weather and is really not appropriate for summer, but I love it anyway. I've had this particular hat for about ten years and originally bought it at the Garden of the Gods Trading Post in Colorado. It's my favorite but admittedly, I have to resort to a straw hat when the summer heat is upon us.

At least for awhile I'll probably join the world of the living by changing the avatar here to one of these photos. I may change it back again one day as well, but at least you know now who's behind the cross and the crow.

A.D. Vick

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Music: Dark Ambient and NeoClassical Dark Wave

Music plays an enormous part in Gothic subculture. Still, when the discussion turns to music it often revolves around the traditional bands, such as Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division, The Sisters of Mercy, etc. or the more current industrial, dark wave or Goth rock bands. Of course, there's also the never-ending debate about where, or even if metal has a place in the subculture at all. As a person who listens to metal more than any other type of music...well, on second thought, I don't even want to start stirring the contents of that cauldron. In any event, there are a couple of other musical types that merit honorable mention; yet, they rarely seem to enter into the discussions. These include Dark Ambient and Neoclassical Dark Wave.

Dark ambient is a cousin to industrial music in that it is produced mainly as electronic music. As the name implies, this genre involves the use of minor chords and scales, dissonance and atmospheric sounds, which when combined, induce feelings of foreboding, melancholy and even dread. The Encylopedia of Electronic Music describes it this way: 

"Dark menacing soundscapes, very abstract, sometimes mechanical, but with no rhythm per se. Deep murky sounds and rumbles, devoid of any melodic structure, except for some short snatches of melody from time to time."

Although I might want to debate somewhat the encyclopedia's claim that the music generally has no rhythmic or melodic structure, it's description of Dark Ambient gives the newcomer a pretty accurate idea of what the music sounds like.I recommend listening to it after lighting a candle in an otherwise dark room. Just sit back and enjoy; let it take you where it will. 

Some Dark Ambient artists include Midnight Syndicate, Black Funeral and music from Mark Harvey's Pumpkinland series, which can be found here.

One of the best-known artists of this musical genre is Nox Arcana. The video below features a Nox Arcana piece entitled Night of the Wolf. The video itself is taken from EVIL, a Russian film directed by Oleg Fesenko.       

For quite a while I considered Dark Ambient and Neoclassical Dark Wave as virtually the same; and it's not unusual to find the two linked together. Still, my assumption was somewhat inaccurate. I suppose that my less-than-realistic believe resulted from the fact that both genres share some symphonic characteristics. Still, there are differences, and I now believe that Neoclassical Dark Wave should stand as a sub genre in its own right.

The New World Encyclopedia describes Neoclassical music in general as "a twentieth century development, particularly popular in the period between the two world wars, in which composers drew inspiration from music of the eighteenth century." It further defines neoclassicism as "a trend in which composers sought to return to aesthetic precepts associated with the broadly defined concept of classicism..." In other words, Neoclassical is music that can no longer be considered Classical simply because the period from which it derives its name ended in the early nineteenth century. Still, it is very similar in sound and musical structure to the great music of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.     

Last FM defines Neoclassical Dark Wave as a "music genre within the Dark Wave movement...characterized by the use of ethereal atmosphere and angelic female voices," which also "adds strong influences from classical music." It is not unusual then, for Neoclassical Dark Wave to incorporate influences, not only from the Classical period, but also from Baroque, Romantic and Impressionistic styles, all of which are often loosely referred to as Classical music. 

When considering Neoclassical Dark Wave, the important thing to remember is that although Classical in style, the music is dark--oh so dark. As with Dark Ambient, Goth Rock, Dark Industrial, and yes, many forms of Metal, this music incorporates the contrast of dissonance and angelic vocals; beautiful and ethereal arrangements quite capable of inducing feelings of despair and melancholy. 

Artists skilled in the creation of Neoclassical Dark Wave include Arcana, Autumn Tears and Dark Sanctuary. For your listening pleasure, I am including below the nearly twenty-minute version of Dark Sanctuary's Funeral Cry. 

In wrapping up this post I just want to point out that while the two above-mentioned styles may not necessarily fall under the auspices of so-called Goth music, they certainly are, in my opinion Gothic--and darkly beautiful.