Sunday, September 29, 2013

In August: Good Music From Norway

Those of you who are regular readers of The Gothic Embrace may recall a recent post I published entitled, Mira: The Empress of Darkness. Mira, also known as Miramariann, is a very compelling Gothic model living in Norway whose fashion style and overall demeanor closely resembles my original vision for a character I'd created and made central to a few of my earlier short stories. Since publishing that post between mid and late August, I've been keeping up with Miramariann's ongoing activities through Facebook. After all, my philosophy is that when meaningful connections are made between people of like mind, staying in touch is usually beneficial for all involved. In the case of what I'm about to discuss here, I can honestly say that I have once again, benefited from our acquaintance.

A few days ago, I found a video that Mira had just posted in which she and  her "darkling" had taken part. Since she is no doubt, my favorite Gothic model, and since I was curious about her taste in music, I put the video on right away. By the time the song had progressed beyond the first few bars I was already having trouble containing myself. "Oh my God!" I said to myself. (explicative) "Damn!" (another explicative) "This is really (explicative) good!"  In other words, I already loved the song on the first listening---and that's exciting.

Categorizing music can be a tricky affair, but I would refer to the type performed by In August as female-fronted metal, something that in and of itself, adds an interesting dynamic to a musical genre, which until fairly recently, was male dominated. The group's current lineup includes Lady August doing the vocals, Kjell providing the guitar work, Tom playing bass and Morten on the drums. On the song, 1000 Words, which is the title track of the video, friend and guest musician Roger Wollan provided the piano work . The band formed about a year ago as the result of friends regularly playing together and others, as Lady August puts it, "because of common interest in both metal and music with strong melodies."

Though not the first song the group has recorded, 1000 Words is the first video it has produced. In my opinion, In August chose wisely in starting off with this one because, while maintaining some metal influences, it is a bit slower than the group's other songs, very melodic and showcases not only Lady August's impressive vocal abilities, but the band's understanding of rock n' roll fundamentals. I cannot say how very refreshing it was for me to hear an already captivating song segue into a really good lead guitar solo. In my opinion, this is a technique that rarely fails to please but is one too often missing in today's metal, a musical genre still dominated by that instrument. 
While the chords and tonalities found in 1000 Words do not strike me as particularly Gothic, the video itself keeps reverting back to dark imagery containing flashes of Mira and her partner; this, as well as visions of a man in a top hat serenading his lover in the dark with his violin. I'm not sure if the violin segments feature Mira and her friend or not, but this is imagery that I always find both romantic and compelling nevertheless.  

In August recorded three other songs this past January. These include Frozen Fear, Dad, and You'll Never Know. While these are a bit heavier than 1000 Words, they do maintain melodic quality, interesting tonalities, chord structure and more high-quality guitar work. For the time being however, you'll have to either visit iTunes or Spotify in order to hear them. 

Although the band is still somewhat in flux as it is looking for a rhythm guitarist, it is a testimony to the group's creativity to know that its members write, record and produce all of the material themselves. Additionally, In August has begun playing gigs in their native country and is looking to the future by beginning work on some new songs for an upcoming album; this, with hopes that other doors may open, thereby opening the possibility of performances abroad. 

All in all, these folks are doing quite well for a group that has only been in existence for a year or so. All I can say is keep up the good work! I'm looking forward to hearing more from you in the future. Oh! And Lady August, I love your hat!    

Here's their video entitled, 1000 Words. This video and accompanying photos appear with the permission of Lady August and the band, In August. 


In August's Official Website


Monday, September 23, 2013

Another Tale of the Supernatural: The Top Hat Man

A couple of weeks ago I was at our local farmer's market when, deciding that I had a few minutes to kill, I took a seat on a bench directly across from one of the local street musicians who was playing some rather nice sounding slide material on his Dobro. No sooner had I made myself comfortable however, before he stopped playing, looked at me and said, "I've been wanting to talk with you. Judging from your attire, I'm curious about something."

At that moment I figured that I was going to have to confess all; yes, I'm a Goth and no, I'm not a devil worshiper. As it turned out, that wasn't what he wanted to talk about at all. Instead, he told me that I dressed like someone who would know about the Top Hat Man. At this point, he had most definitely garnered my attention, and almost embarrassingly, was forced to admit that I'd never heard of the fellow.

"Well," he began, "he's not a real man; he's a spirit that has been seen all over. I think he might be a defender of children because he seems to come around when something happens to them."

The musician went on to tell me that he was sharing this information with me because I looked like someone who might be interested in what he had to say and wouldn't scoff at him. He went on to describe the Top Hat Man as always dressing in a long, black coat, having long hair and of course, a top hat. He filled me in on encounters people  close to him have had with the mysterious man and those closely associated with celebrity as well. "Look it up," he told me, "you'll find plenty of information about him."

Well, I did look it up and as my new acquaintance suggested, I did find quite a bit of information on the subject.

The first impression I got from my research is that my musician friend was spot on regarding the Top Hat Man's dealings with children. For whatever reason, it seems that it is mostly youngsters who have initial encounters with the entity. It would be easy to discount the various sightings as the product of young imaginations, but that neither explains how kids hundreds of miles apart manage to describe remarkably similar experiences nor accounts for the fact that upon growing into adulthood they continue to stand by their childhood stories. Additionally, older people sometimes see him as well.

One young adult described his first encounter with the Top Hat Man this way:

"The first time I saw the Top Hat Man was my freshman year at Eastern Oklahoma State College in my hometown of Wilburton, Oklahoma. I was walking from the library to my dorm and I saw a man wearing a long black coat, shiny black boots, a top  hat and sunglasses. He had long black hair anc carried a wooden cane with a silver handle. 

"The apparation scared me to death and I told my roomate about it. She said that she and some of her friends had seen the man as well. They weren't sure what he was, but believed that he was a demon closely related to shadow creatures." 1 

Another account tells of a ten-year-old boy named George who, while living in Alaska, heard his friend's mother discuss her personal encounter with the mysterious man in a top hat. According to George, she referred to him as death. A few years later, the young man made the claim to have encountered the entity himself. He didn't tell everyone however, and it was not until after he and his family had moved to Texas that George's mother mentioned having a vision of the man staring at her one night from the foot of her bed.

From Arkansas and Oklahoma to Alaska and even the north coast of France, people of all ages have reported seeing the shadowy man. Some consider him to be pure evil while others think him harmless and perhaps, even a protector of children. Reports such as the ones mentioned here are difficult to verify and perhaps, quite impossible to believe for some. Most of the information about this phenomenon is found in forums or on websites that discuss the unexplainable; and admittedly, these are not necessarily the most dependable sources of information. Still, there's enough similarity between accounts across the miles that there may very well be something to his story. If that's the case, then we must ask, who is this mysterious shadow man who walks the Earth in Victorian attire and a top hat?    

1. About dot com. Paranormal Phenomena: The Top Hat Man

2. From the Shadows


Monday, September 16, 2013

The 3rd Annual Ravenwood Gothic Reunion

On Saturday night, I had the privilege of attending The 3rd Annual Ravenwood Gothic Reunion, an event that I'd missed out on in the past and was very much looking forward to finally attending this time around. I knew that on the night of September 14, there would be assembled, in a nice venue known as Teatro Scarpino, a group of individuals that represent the core of Northwest Arkansas' Goth community. Some of these folks I already knew, but there were also those considered central to Ravenwood Manor that I had not yet had the opportunity to meet. It goes without saying that this past Saturday was going to be a big night for me--and it didn't disappoint! Not only was it a night for the making of new friends, but it was a time for enjoying the company of those I'd recently made through Darkness Ressurected Dance Nights and other events over the past several months.  

 Before I begin talking about my experiences on Saturday night, I think it's only right to begin with a photo of this man. He is Al Thompson, the founder of Ravenwood Manor and a person very much loved by all in the community. He is also one of the folks I had the great pleasure of meeting for the first time.

I got to Scarpino's a little before the doors opened. As some of you regular readers know, I really don't like featuring photos of myself--and this is why! Believe it or not, I scared the heck out of myself when I later looked in the mirror during a run to the restroom. While one lady actually complemented me on my makeup, it occurred to me that I had maybe gone a little over the top. Then, for one fleeting moment, I considered the possibility that Batman might mistake me for the joker. Since I didn't want any problems with him and much preferred to stay at the reunion, I eventually decided to wash off the makeup; or at least, do the best I could with hand washing and paper towels. Of course, the fact that some of it was running into my eyes helped make the decision a little bit easier. At any rate, some of you wanted to see photos of me with my new top hat. This is the first of them.

Once the music got going and people had settled in, there were very few times when no one was on the dance floor. Here, some of the ladies are pictured doing a very graceful dance. Music was provided by several deejays, which included Dr. Ford Fitch, D.J. Durandal,  D.J. Anthony Bale, and Oklahoma City's D.J. Morbid Kitty. The deejays presented a good mix of material ranging from electronic to more old-school stuff such as the Sisters of Mercy, a group that never fails to get me dancing. What made my night however, was when D.J. Durandal played Type O Negative's Bloody Kisses. Little did he know at the time that he had chosen to play what I consider my own personal
 Halloween theme song. Good job Durandal!

This is a shot taken with Chris Brown, aka D.J. Justy. I first met Chris on a cold night last December, when we did a group viewing of The Hobbit. It can truthfully be said that The 3rd Annual Ravenwood Gothic Reunion was Chris' baby. He organized it and created it. 

Here, I'm fortunate enough to be pictured with Lilith Marek, The Dragon of Ravenwood. Like Al, she was another of the people I'd long wanted to meet and finally did. Not only is Lilith a graceful dancer, but she did a lot of the publicity work for Saturday's event.  

I had a great time at my first Ravenwood gathering and can honestly say that it was well worth the months-long wait. What I saw there however, goes beyond just another fun night out on the town. It wasn't a large gathering; we didn't fill up the venue, and I know that there were some folks who wanted to be there but for various reasons were not able to attend. What I actually found however, was a community of people bound together by common interests and experiences. The Ravenwood Community considers itself an extended family; one that takes great joy in getting together and sharing the experience.  It was a pleasure taking part in it all Saturday night.

I, and maybe a few others, left a little before things came to a close at 2:00 a.m. When I departed, I was considering my hungry state and only wanted to grab a hot dog or two out on Dickson Street while the grabbing was still good. It didn't cross my mind that a group photo might be taken before everyone went their separate ways. But that's what happened. This last photo features the majority of those who were in attendance. If you ask me, it was an attractive group indeed!


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Goths and the New Russian Reality


Sometime around 2008, word began spreading around the internet and elsewhere that the Russian Duma, which is that country's legislative body, was in the process of passing legislation designed to ban forms of Goth and Emo music as well as Goth fashion styles from schools and public buildings.
At the time, Russian authorities were allegedly calling the subcultures a threat to national stability and a dangerous teen trend."

There seems to be some confusion in the west as to whether or not that legislation ever became law. Further, most of the online sources providing information about the proposed ban were not exactly the most credible. Still, that country's RT News Network ran a story (in English) on the topic of Goths and the proposed ban around the same time that the legislation was reportedly being considered. RT has proven itself credible over the years and it's reportage on the topic lends one to believe that anti-Goth legislation was, at a minimum, in the works during that time. A video of RT's broadcast is provided here. 

Also disturbing was some of the dialog about Goths both leading  up to and beyond the proposed legislation. In the September 15, 2008 edition of the Telegraph
its Moscow correspondent reported on the arrest of several Goths who were arrested for allegedly murdering and eating teenagers in a satanic ritual. In June, 2011 an independent online newspaper known as the Moscow News reported that a court in southern Russia had sanctioned the arrest of three Goths  suspected of destroying some 40 tombs in the city of Rostov-on-Don during the month of April. 

While none of us have all the facts in these cases we can probably agree that murder, cannibalism and the desecration of graves are not activities condoned by the Goth subculture or its individual members, most of whom are quite peaceful in nature. Still, stories such as those mentioned above can easily incite fear in the general population, thereby paving the way for the acceptance of repressive laws and even violence. 

Monday afternoon NPR's Here and Now radio-talk program ran a disturbing segment about the rise in anti-gay/lesbian violence in Russia since President Putin signed legislation earlier this year, which forbids the dissemination of any information about homosexuality. The segment goes on to report that the legislation has led to the rise of vigilante violence against the gay and lesbian community. Some of the accounts related on the program seem hideous in nature, and it is clear that the legislation and any propaganda preceding it have paved the way for sociopaths to hold an unobstructed field day against those deemed unworthy by the state. 

Taking the current situation a step further, it's not difficult to imagine those using violent behavior against gays, lesbians and transgender folk extending it a bit further by lashing out against Goths; after all, do we not wear a lot of jewelry, makeup, dress differently and in general, support equal rights for all regardless of sexual persuasion?

While certain restrictions against the Goth lifestyle may or may not have been put in place during 2008, it is certain that draconian measures are being taken against Russia's gay/lesbian community and their supporters. The psychopaths, feeling that they have a green light to commit violent acts are on the move--and there's no guaranteeing that they won't target the Goth and Emo communities as well.  

Further references: 

Here and Now - Russian Activists: Anti-Gay Violence on the Rise

The Guardian, June 30, 2013 - Russia Passes Anti-Gay Law

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A New Hat Acquisition

In just a little under two weeks I'll have my chance to attend, for the first time, the 3rd Annual Ravenwood Gothic Reunion. In my mind, this is the big one. It's an event that I have heard about and long believed was somehow central to the local Goth subculture, but always managed to miss the boat on in previous years. I suppose I can lay the blame for missing out on my somewhat introverted nature, but this time I was invited and I'm planning to attend. 

When someone, in reference to such an event says, "get your Goth on," the question that first comes to mind is, okay, what am I going to wear. And even though I have some neat stuff to choose from, I usually end up thinking that I need to find something new anyway

That was my dilemma this past week when I developed this nagging feeling that I should go to the mall. So Wednesday, I did just that and my intuition payed off; for no sooner did I pass through the entrance of one of the stores I frequent there, than I saw a top hat sitting on a shelf to the right. I tried it on and it fit--perfectly!  This is something that I have needed for awhile, so I was very glad to take that fine specimen of a hat home. It will most definitely have its debut at the reunion on the fourteenth. 

The truth of the matter is, I've been wanting another head piece for awhile; not a replacement for what I generally wear, but more of an "in addition to" type accessory. I have long coveted the Van Helsing Hat, which is a replica of the one worn by Hugh Jackman in the movie of the same title. I have found one company that manufactures and sells this item, but their price of $1,400-plus is a bit steep for me. More recently, I have found another outfit that sells a similar Witch Hunter Hat. Its appearance is a bit more western, but I have been assured that if I request this item with a wire inside of it, I'll be able to shape it to my liking. Although the price is still a bit above what I think it's wise to spend at the moment, it's much more affordable than the Van Helsing Hat and is still on my list of must haves. 

I'm happy with the top hat though, because it's something that I have needed for a while--and the price was right. Like so many others, I do indeed enjoy the Victorian look and I've at least taken a step in that direction. Sometimes the wheels of progress turn a bit slowly, but they continue to turn. 

I have no hat photos for you tonight, but more likely than not, I'll be able to cajole someone into taking one or two at the reunion. I'll likely post a picture or two after that. It may not be my typical hat style, but I don't think it looks too bad and I'm happy with it. That's what counts.