A mystique of magic has lurked around books since the first scrolls were inked. Today a well made tome can hold just as much fascination. The one I hold in my hands casts a hypnotic spell as it looks back over the history of what has been termed the dark scene or dark culture. Editor Alexander Nym argues that the differences between the various subcultures surrounding industrial, gothic, darkwave and black metal music are all superficial, and that they share a number of common aesthetic positions. Looking through the 800 plus photographs in this book, many published here for the first time, it is easy to see that this is the case.
I don't read German, but the editors assistant was kind enough to send me the English versions of thirteen of the texts included in this gravestone of a book. I had planned on writing about it anyway, because the photographs alone make this a worthwhile addition to any collection that touches upon the genres mentioned above. It is a comprehensive reference and sourcebook whose contributors include John Murphy, Mike Browning, Genesis Breyer-P-Orridge, Klive Humberstone, Dr. Pete Webb, and a slew of others, over 70 all told. Broken down into five broad sections such as "Fashion, Aesthetics, and Cultural Life," "Genres and Subgenres of Dark Music and Culture," and "Developments since 1990," it covers everything from the origins of this broad scene to current discourse within it. Over 400 glossy pages are set in a hard quality binding giving the subject the lavish treatment it deserves. No longer just a bunch of kids, the dark scene has grown up.
John Murphy, in his piece, sets the record straight regarding the Equinox Event (which took place on the summer solstice of 1983), filling in the gaps David Keenan left out of England's Hidden Reverse. Dogs Blood Order, Nurse With Wound, and Ramleh among others all shared the stage at this meeting of warped musical minds. His tale is the origin story of that nexus of ferment and takes the readers on a stroll through the streets of Antwerp to the home and studio compound of Club Moral, who provided the necessary inspiration, and also played the gig. The event developed in part as a way of bringing Club Moral to England. Murphy writes of his tumultuous relationship with Mary Dowd as well as the organizational issues they had to contend with and is a ringing endorsement of the D.I.Y. ethic.
Genesis P-Orridge tells the story behind his song "I.C. Water" in a text titled "Ian Curtis Remembered" taken from a chapter of an ongoing autohagiography, titled Genesis-The Book of Last Creation. As a starting point Genesis looks to the place where they were both born: the "post-industrial slave vortex of Manchester, England." P-Orridge speaks of a similarity with Ian in that they both pursued their musical and artistic visions without having any of the usual skills, but driven on by their idealism, nonetheless created an "aesthetic jihad." Their kinship was most succinctly stated thus, "What was so fatally affecting us, the exposed morbidity of our onstage, on record personas, was dismissed all to conveniently as affectation. They were so close to the open wounds they couldn’t eve address them."
Michael Moynihan takes an in-depth look at the story behind Bobby Beausoleil's soundtrack for Lucifer Rising, the 1972 film by occult maverick Kenneth Anger. Those who have the re-release of the soundtrack from the Ajna label that came out a few years ago will be familiar with the text, as it comprised those liner notes. The Cthuluh Mythos and its relationship to music is tackled by Mike Browning, former drummer for Morbid Angel and Nocturnus, currently heading his own group Afterdeath. He writes of rituals of blood an sacrifice performed for the Ancient Ones before playing music "that we felt pleased their alien ears and stirred up the chaos that was necessary to awaken them."
Alexander Nym is the perfect editor for this book. A cultural and media scientist Alex has spent plenty of time in the trenches of the European scene, from playing in the legendary Gerechtigkeits Liga, to following Current 93 on tours, and running a distro for the likes of Death In June and Sol Invictus as well as filming various gigs. He is also a member of Orgonautic, Germany’s premiere purveyor of surrealist electro-trip-hop. In putting together this book of dazzling darkness he has been very resourceful, weaving all the pieces at hand into one coherent work with great aplomb.
It was kind of the publishers to send me the dozen plus original English texts that were translated into German for the book. This gave me a good opportunity to be able to read a bit of the content myself. But as someone who doesn’t speak or read German I am still happy to own this beast. Filled with reproductions of flyers, shots from shows—onstage and off—full color as well as black and white spreads Schillerndes Dunkel is a visual treasury, a feast for the eyes. Hopefully a full English translation of this important work will be made available in the future.