NEW DARK AGE – Nov 2019

Filed under: New Dark Age Monthly — doktorjohn November 7, 2019 @ 10:26 pm

New Dark Age – Nov 2019

Dia de Muertos – Day of the Dead

Nov 1-2, 2019

This year we decided to do something really special for Halloween. Well, let’s just say for the Halloween season. Because the Mexican Dia de Muertos – Day of the Dead – is a distinctly different holiday that occurs right on the tail end of Halloween — extending from Nov 1 through Nov 2.

One day is dedicated to remembrance of departed children, and the other is for deceased adults, usually ancestors. It traces its origins to the Mesoamerican, indigenous holiday, when Aztecs and other Nahua people celebrated this feast honoring the dead as far back as one or two thousand years ago. As with so many pagan traditions, it became appropriated by the Roman Catholic colonization by Spain, i.e., it was made to coincide with All Saints Day, celebrated by Catholics around the world. Now it is a national, public holiday in Mexico.

Dia de Muertos is not to be confused with Halloween although distinctions have blurred in recent years. Day of the Dead is celebrated with colorful remembrance and displays of fearless love for departed relatives, whereas Halloween is a dark, macabre event evoking horror and mischief. The ubiquitous displays of skulls and skeletons – however joyfully presented – has created a false convergence of the two holidays in the minds of many observers, and not just those north of the border.

Even some Mexican celebrants don zombie attire and makeup that more reflect the latter rather than the former. Mexican children have incorporated trick-or-treating on Halloween that continues through the next two says of Dia de Muertos.

Pre-Columbian/ Mesoamerican Day of the Dead

To prepare for what we were about to witness, we toured the Anthropological Museum where we found ample evidence of a death-centered religion including death by human sacrifice. The museum is filled with artistic representations of skulls and skeletal remains of sacrificial victims from pre-Columbian civilizations that flourished long before there was a Mexico. We climbed the steep, monumental Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan and walked the Avenue of the Dead connecting it to the nearby Pyramid of the Moon, both thought to have been the sites of human sacrifice.

The Offerings Altar

The central element of modern-day Dia de Muertos is the construction of household altars with flower arrangements and food items tailored to the special likes and tastes of departed relatives being honored — parents, grandparents and others — whose photos are posted atop the edible offerings. Special, sweet, delicious bread – the pan de muerto — is always included. The dead are remembered and are thought to return in spirit to enjoy the consumption of their food favorites by their living descendants.

In Mexico City’s main square, we observed the construction of enormous, temporary structures to house over-sized, public versions of the altars that are universally set up in virtually every home.
Costumed individuals, their faces made up as skulls in stark black and white strolled amidst colossal, colorful skulls and skeletons present on every corner, in the streets, in stores, hotel lobbies and parks.

Indigenous performers danced in the street to the rhythm of native drums and conducted healing rituals amidst clouds of fragrant incense. Three-dimensional representations of Calavera Catrina, the elegantly dressed skeletal lady in 19th century attire with her wide brimmed hat, were everywhere, coming in different sizes, ranging from monumental to miniature.

Venturing out into the rural environs, our host drove us to the village of San Andres Mixquic where spectacular displays in the local church, its courtyard, the local school and cemetery had drawn crowds from around the world to join in the festivities. Food and souvenir stands lined the path leading to these church-based attractions. Households along the way offered their backyards to provide parking spaces and opened their homes and allowed use of their bathrooms by the public for a nominal fee. As a measure of their profound hospitality some invited us in and offered us pan de muerto or other treats while we viewed the family’s altar.

Once we had passed through the rows of merchandise and food stands, we joined the crowd of revelers, many of whom wore costumes or skull-face masks and makeup, as we walked from attraction to attraction in and around the church and cemetery. The cemetery and its graves were decked out with candles, incense burners, bouquets and carpets of marigold flowers.

Besides the myriad family tombs, there was a nameless pile of bones dignified with a crucifix to commemorate the native people killed during the Spanish conquests. There were cheerful altars — big and small — everywhere we looked, with food offerings, flowers and photos on exhibit. We dined in a makeshift restaurant set in the schoolyard of the local kindergarten.

A stage was set up where comedy routines, song and dance were performed with a traditional, folkloric Mexican flavor. The overlap with American country & western, cowboy music was unmistakable.

The whole experience was mind-blowing as well as enlightening. We could see how the ancient, Mesoamerican religion, so obsessed with death, served as a substrate for the equally death-obsessed elements of Christianity and Catholicism. Both worldviews focus on immortality and concern themselves with the mortal remains of ancestors, but the Mexican-based approach is cheerful, and jubilant, whereas traditional European Christianity takes a more somber and solemn approach. These two morbid traditions clearly complement each other, and with their synergy have produced a uniquely intense celebration of life and death.

Gothic Vampire Cruise
Oct 19, 2019

On a Saturday night in mid-October, electro-industrial band The Sedona Effect hosted a 2-hour cruise on the Hudson on a fully-rigged, 150-ft schooner. When the crew hoisted sail, guests were treated to a comfortable tour of New York Harbor, passing near Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, plus the gorgeous views of lit-up Manhattan. DJs Mike Stalagmike and Aengel with sound engineer Chris Savo provided ambient and atmospheric music between live acts. That included a performance by The Sedona Effect, namely charismatic vocalist Kai Irina Hahn, Joe Dallarda on guitar and Nicole Eres on keyboards.

The ever-present and ever-contributing Madame X served as stage manager. Statuesque actress Katherine Crockette, performing as Lily Langtry, put on a riveting, one-woman dramatic ballet. Both the performers and the audience of guests were decked out in Victorian or Steampunk attire, creating the atmosphere of a 19th Century gothic novel.

Live theatrical performances included interactions among Dr. Van Helsing (Victor Noirlocke), Sir William Gull a.k.a Jack the Ripper (Drew Nardone), the Prince of Wales (Zen Mansley) and Sarah Bernhardt, played by Kai herself. Socializing, watching the shows and imbibing kept guests well entertained the entire evening.

The bar served standard beverages plus hot cider and hot toddies. Cameras were everywhere, and photos as well as videos by Swav Jusis, Jesse Kleitman and Dario Valdivia are to be seen on the event’s Facebook page.

Oct 18, 2019
Bowery Electric

New York-based quartet the Ritualists, brought their latter-day glamrock/stadium rock sound to the Bowery Electric on this mid-October Friday night. Frontman for the band was vocalist and hyperactive stage performer, Christian Dryden, whose feet were seen to leave the floor more than once during the show. They performed the eight tracks of their debut album Painted People to a notably packed audience.

Opening with “Rattles,” the first track from the album with intensely plaintive vocals layered over sweeping, symphonic elements, they moved next into “She’s the Sun,” that has melodious, wailing vocals and middle-eastern-flavored accompaniment. Frontman Christian Dryden’s amazing vocal range became apparent as they transitioned into the new, third song, ”Queen of Dolls,” distinguished by its driving bass-line and Dryden’s facile falsetto vocals. The slowed-down, ballad-like “Starry Night” followed after giving Dryden another chance to showcase his strong and impassioned voice. Then came “Ice Flower,” the hook-laden, emotional and vocally-challenging first single off the album.

The sixth song, “Forbidden Love,” presented alternating styles between the feel of Black Sabbath and that of Duran Duran, and may be the best track on the album. Dryden justified to the Gen-X crowd his reaching back to the doo-wop era – in deference to his own mother in the audience – with the Elvis cover “One Night,” a stroll-cadenced retake of “One Night of Sin” by R & B singer Smiley Lewis. Both versions are worth searching.

The show concluded with the raucous title track, “Painted People,” and mash-up with the Bowie ”Heroes” medley, leaving the audience emotionally fulfilled.

Aeon Sable
Solar Lodge Records

Aether is the sixth release by this deep, dark, gothic rock band out of Essen Germany. We first ran into them when they took the stage at Castle Party in Poland, the Dark Alternative Music Festival in Poland where they were the most outstanding act of the whole event. Aether was released in 2018, but we feel sure that it is new to most American audiences.

Consisting of only seven tracks, it is nonetheless over one hour in length, featuring a couple of monumental pieces.

The first track, “Hand of Glory & The Nihilist,” opens in a wind-swept fantasy environment and is largely an instrumental dirge that lumbers along at a funereal pace, with groaning guitars to accompany Nino Sable’s melodious cries of desperation. From then, on, there is one irresistible song after another, with ringing guitars that reappear in several tracks as a kind of signature sound of the band. The rhythms are compelling, and will have one eager to get up and move freely on a dance floor. Nino’s vocals are distinctly confidant and the lyrics, persuasive.

A couple of tracks slow ominously down as guitars wail, growl and mingle with Nino’s impassioned vocals, but most set an irresistible pace out of which clear vocals rise mournfully and the guitars respond sympathetically.

The fifth track, “O Senhor Do Medo (The Lord Of Fear)” is a ten-plus minute work, sung in Portuguese. One doesn’t have to know the language. It is built on a repeated minor key arpeggio that climbs deliberately up and then relentlessly back down, which translates to inevitability in any language.

Several tracks feature ponderous, plodding cadences with restrained, despondent, echoic vocals and eerie background sounds giving a mystical, mesmerizing effect. Eventually these sonic elements gather and merge into a crescendo before reaching an exultant conclusion.

The seventh and final track is a monumental 17-minute opus that runs the gamut from soft, wistful vocals to harsh cries, angry, belching guitars, driving rhythms and soaring symphonic elements. It features a false conclusion at around 11 minutes, but then undergoes resurgence and concludes with an unmistakably Middle Eastern melody-and-rhythm conclusion.

The album is available on Spotify, Bandcamp, Youtube and as a CD from Aeon Sable’s website/Facebook page. It captures the gothic musical aesthetic feel like few other collections, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.