Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Total Skull: Hellbound Heart, Elderflower and Gin, Mandrakes

Things that brought me delight in April 2018:

Clive Barker, The Hellbound Heart
The opening image of Frank working at the puzzle box is an image of a starving man striving for an answer or a solution. This is, of course, classic dissatisfaction. The mirrored interior of the box does not reveal Frank’s totality of self; rather, the reflection shows him to be ego-fractured, morally deformed, a slave to craving. The building, layered tune played by the puzzle box is deft metaphoric foreshadowing of the unbearable, heightened palimpsest of pleasure Frank will endure at the hands of the Cenobites. It’s the fever pitch that erases melodic pleasure. The Cenobites are ill-suited to be Frank’s salvation from the mundane: they are demons of pleasure, but they represent a spirituality of the flesh that transgresses the idea of the body as unclean, base matter. Frank's flaw is that he is incapable of a wider view. The ritualistic backdrop of this scene underlines the sanctification of the flesh but Frank doesn’t see it; he is surrounded by objects of abject defilement, but fails to realize that the Cenobites come to sweep it away as a purifying fire. 

When the Cenobites arrive, they are not what Frank expected; he has an infantile understanding of pleasure and cannot imagine beyond the boundaries of his ego. He expects...harem girls. You can almost feel sorry for Frank when you see what he imagines is the reward. But the Cenobites are beyond bodies, beyond physicality and the work of cultural coding—their wounded flesh, their ambiguous gender heralds that the abject can transcend abjection. All along, Frank’s quest has been that of the jaded aesthete; his hedonistic life has inured him to mundane pleasures. He hasn’t bargained on the pain that heightened sensation brings, or the crossing of the boundary between pain and pleasure. Frank is, ultimately, a tourist. The brilliant transition between all of this occurring in the first chapter and the ultra-mundanity of Rory and Julia having a suburban tiff at the start of the next chapter is a masterstroke.

Fentiman's Elderflower + Gin Lane 1751 Victoria Pink
You can tell the end of the semester rush is on because my leisure reading is at an all-time low, but my adult beverage consumption is on the rise. Traditionally, I've not been much of a gin guy, so this is a whole new world for me and I have no regrets with this particular combination.

Mandrakes and Personal Scapegoat by Goblinfruit Studio
Look at these cute lil roots that were plucked screaming from the unhallowed earth! And look at there little friend the scapegoat! You can, and should,  purchase wonderments from Goblinfruit Studio here.

Nile, In Their Darkened Shrines
I saw Nile back in the 90s before they blew up on the strength of their debut album, Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka--they played at a local sports bar (The Strike Zone!) and were clearly too talented for the venue, but such are the early days of being a touring act. Since then, Nile's always been in my peripheral vision; death metal is not what I usually reach for, even when I want a brutal listen, but they're always had enough of their own idiosyncratic style to keep their discs in occasional rotation. Of their now-extensive back catalog, Within Their Darkened Shrines is my favorite. The mix of technical death metal and delicate ancient-Egyptian-themed embellishments is pretty much perfect on this one.

Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout
Holly Conrad mentioned this beer on a Youtube video and her description of it absolutely sold it. And you know what? This beer has measurably improved my life. I love stouts, but this one is a great overall experience: slightly sweet and chocolaty to start, then a pleasing bitter finish. And the alcohol content stands up to you, won't take any of your nonsense.

Rasputina at the Haunt in Ithaca
I've lost count of how many times I've seen Rasputina live (or even the number of times I've seen Rasputina live at the Haunt) but I've never been disappointed. This time the lineup had a single cello, percussion, beatboxing, and keyboards; the different instrumentation definitely felt unusual, but it was nice to hear a song like "Gingerbread Coffin" or "Thimble Island" live.

Honorable mentions
Tanith Lee, Dark Dance (which we did a podcast episode on here)
Kentaro Miura, Berserk vol. 7
Steve Niles and Damien Worm, October Faction vol. 1
Monte Cook, The Planeswalker's Handbook
Pauline Reage, Story of O
Ancient, Det Glemke Riket
Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz, Elektra: Assassin
Lychgate, The Contagion in Nine Steps
Black Mirror, series 4