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Moss – Carmilla / Spectral Visions

Stone Tapes

Moss - Carmilla/Spectral VisionsThe Dark Is Rising

When it comes to art that is inspired by the horror genre, it can fall into two camps:

1. Art that references horror tropes and classic works of that genre,
2. Art that seeks to recreate the sensation of watching, reading, or listening to those works.

With Carmilla (Marcilla)/Spectral Visions, from purveyors of classic British doom, Moss, the band goes more for the former, setting classic Gothic Victoriana to crushing, distorted guitar riffs and monolithic drumming. If Moss’ masterpiece Cthonic Rites was the sound of crawling through a darkened thicket to arrive at some blasted hilltop surrounded by sacrificial megaliths, this EP might be seen as a filmic version of the same events. While it might not be as soul-crushingly terrifying as Cthonic Rites, it stands to reach a wider audience.

For an illustration, compare the influential black metal/dark ambient film Begotten, from director E Elias Merhige, with the Technicolor splatterfests of ’60s Hammer films. While the image of God disemboweling himself on his throne is infinitely more disturbing, actually making you feel as if you were crawling through half a mile of sewer tunnels on yr hands and knees, this will always appeal to a very small, select group of unholy miscreants. In comparison, the campiness of Christopher Lee and Peter Sellers seems kind of light, one might say, entertaining. The difference lies in Olly Pearson‘s vocals. Gone are the primeval banshee wails from Cthonic Rites, replaced by clean, nearly intoned vocals, like something from a Pentagram or Candlemass record. The effect is one of high camp, rather than high ritual.

Unless you were reared by blighted satanists from the nursery, you might not immediately gravitate to the infernal wonders that lie in store for explorers of the dark art. We must remember, after all, what Clive Barker said about horror being essentially a form of inverted spirituality, being an offshoot of the fantasy genre. It deals with metaphysical questions, like the nature of life, death, and the afterlife, not to mention being an updated form of pagan nature worship. For those who seek such unholy miracles, for those that just have to know, at whatever cost to their sanity, you will have to wade through a LOT OF BLOOD AND SHRIEKING DEMONS to get there.

That’s where art like Carmilla/Spectral Visions comes in. It’s dark and pummeling, to be sure, two slabs of satisfying crunching classic doom that are still approachable enough to lure in newcomers. The throb and pulse of distorted bass frequencies, from the guitar and bass, are almost soothing, while still being menacing. On “Spectral Visions”, Pearson chants, “Can you feel it taking over your mind?” and “through communion reached through the dead,” which brought to mind a short story by Aleister Crowley, “The Testament Of Magdalen Blair.” In “The Testament…”, the heroine is a clairvoyant that shares a psychic bond with her husband. Her husband ends up damned and dying, with most of the story being a blow-by-blow account of her husband being consumed by Hell, as his mind and soul are trapped inside of his cadaver. It’s a truly unsettling, blasted work, that really gets inside. Carmilla/Spectral Visions is like Magdalen Blair, sitting shiva with her deceased love. On the surface, there’s nothing much, but these infected cosmologies take root like alien spores, deep in your subconscious, and begin to spread like black mold.

Not everything you find in horror is worthwhile. There’s a lot of wanton bloodlust and filthy, diseased spirits. Horror can also be a gateway to more ancient traditions; classic paganism and nature spirits, witchcraft and feminism, as well as an understanding of The Other. We’ve come to a time when instinctively labelling something as demon, monster, or witch is dangerous. We must peer through the darkness, and attempt to perceive what spirit we are working with. How many women were burned, just for being women? How many have been labelled crazy, just for seeing the world a little bit outside of the status quo?

There are demons that are very real, walking the land, these days. Unclean spirits of racism and sexism, and a million unresolved imps of personal psychology. When we come across these ghosts, we must banish them directly. But can you say the sensation of being in the woods at midnight is unwholesome? Awesome and terrifying, perhaps, but not evil.

All of these thoughts and more come out of this short but satisfying slab of vinyl, the first release on Moss’ new imprint, Stone Tapes (bonus points for classic hauntological reference). The time has come to party with the goat, to dance with the devil in the pale moonlight.

-J Simpson-

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