Tuesday, 27 August 2019

The Unquiet Void - Where Black Stars Rise.

Album: Where the Black Stars Rise
Artist: The Unquiet Void
Label: Self-released
Catalogue no: N/A

     1.      The Yellow Sign
     2.      Twin Suns Sink
     3.      Strange Moons Circle
     4.      In Dim Carcosa
     5.      The Tatters of the King
     6.      Song of my Soul

Astute readers, upon glancing at that tracklist, will immediately recognise the references to Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, a series of short stories first published in 1895. Most of these stories, barring two or three, are classic tales of the weird and macabre, and the first four of which are loosely connected as they all mention the King in Yellow, a play which engenders madness in readers (cf. Lovecraft’s Necronomicon by the Mad Arab Alhazred). HP Lovecraft, August Derleth, and even Alan Moore have incorporated elements of Chambers’ mythos into their own stories.

Given this, it isn’t any wonder that someone should have recorded and released a dark ambient collection based around these narratives. After all, the two media (word and music genres) would appear to share much in common. I haven’t read the book in an age, the last time being over ten years ago, but I remember being distinctly unsettled by that first quartet of tales in particular. These stories predated HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos cycle by some three decades, but one can easily see where the off-kilter and disconcerting atmosphere of those later stories originated.

And so we come to this six-track album by The Unquiet Void (aka Jason Wallach), an attempt to recreate the eerie and disquieting modes of Chambers’ King in Yellow stories. It gets off to a good start on ‘The Yellow Sign’, heading up with a distant rhythmic cracking sounding like the footsteps of some unhallowed creature before a deep roaring drone hits with the force of a hurricane. This is the opening of the dread portal, the chaos erupting through the agency of the Yellow Sign. Unbridled madness ensues, with a maelstrom of voices and alien bellows swirling around a central point of gravity, accompanied by a cacophony of blood-black insanity. Catastrophe and cataclysm are our mortal lot from this point on, an irreversible descent into collective dementia.

Even the sky has been changed, a second sun joining the one we already know. This one, however, steals the light of the original orb, sucking its energy and turning it pale and dim. It hangs malevolently, its face a blood-red, a malignly glaring eye staring balefully at the ruined world below, an unholy reminder that the day has been claimed for anarchy and disarray, that the civilisation that once succoured us has now gone, and will never return. Night and darkness in all its manifestations reigns supreme, and that pity and compassion have no place here. And in that dark sky, the stars are all wrong, and there are new unfamiliar moons up there as well. ‘Strange Moons Circle’ is a broody, cancerous skein of black moods, oppressive weightiness, and sickly diseased influences, joined by nuclear blasts of sheet noise and the lone beat of a drum made from human skin. This is industrial-scale Armageddon visited upon us by entities whose only purpose is wholesale destruction, an unstoppable barrage of atom-smashing disintegration, reducing not just to ashes but to individual atomic elements. Continents are altered beyond recognition, and even the earth itself is moved from its accustomed orbit. It’s a choreographed ballet of seismic shifts demolishing mountains, tsunamis crashing through lands in a cleansing flood, hellfire, thunder, and lightning raining from above, and rivers of lava welling up from below.

And out of the midst of this calamity stands Carcosa, a dreaming city whose architecture and pale inhabitants constantly shift, with monolithic and cyclopean buildings assuming new shapes and colours with no discernible pattern or rhythm, whose streets shift and dissolve in a perpetual cycle of decay and malignant growth, and whose pedestrians echo the metamorphoses of their surroundings in a misshapen parody of natural evolution. Skin sloughs and reforms unceasingly, without any discernible principles or intentions, while bones dissolve and recombine into hideous forms. The songs sung here are of pain, despair, and spiritual degradation, mixed with pleas and wails. It’s a place of inhuman desires, inhuman scale, and an utter repudiation of anything that the normal run of humanity would call sane.

The King in Yellow himself sits in his palace on his throne, garbed in tattered robes, a caricature of majesty and nobility. “The Tatters of the King’ show us for what he is, a stinking black mass of rotting flesh with a putrid mask adorning his face, and his mind a seething, coiling and writhing lump of wormlike matter. His eyes reveal nothing but an endless void, a place of infinite emptiness, and his voice rattles like coarse sand in a tin can. He has nothing to offer us, because we are below him, and we are nothing.

‘Song of my Soul’ sounds like a sustained scream, a prolonged ache to be released from pain and filth. The soul here is degrading, or being degraded. There is nothing redemptive here, and nothing edifying. But the soul endures despite its vicissitudes, as it must, until either the end of everything or it’s freed. It’s wrapped in a thick miasma of black, a stifling blanket that denies any ingress of light.

It’s quite an aural experience, listening to this. Massing waves of deep drones, subterranean drums, sweeping chords, and dank atmospherics have converged to produce a set of pieces that outlines a dimension where the rules of our reality no longer hold sway, a realm where the merest glimpse sends one into a catatonic shock, and where angles and planes defy interpretation and understanding. Multiple viewpoints appear in the same place, distances both far and near occupy the same space, and colours disorient and confuse. Reigning overall in pallid and bilious majesty is the King in Yellow, a vessel of the Void, a vehicle for the endless Nothing, a being whose emptiness is greater than the universe itself. This is sublime in my book.

Digital download available here:

Psymon Marshall 2019. 

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