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John Rossi (Somers Point, NJ United States)
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Majesty, in melody personified
, January 1, 2013
Golden, orange and red leaves rest upon the earth, as far as
mortal eye may see. Branches clad in them for the nonce are barren.
Frigid air caresses me from every side. Despite frigidity, a crisp
refreshment brings me comfort. Autumn's end is come, and a joyous
thought comes to my mind. Deep within, I know that the red and
golden leafed realm in which I stand is soon to become a wondrous
world bedecked in ivory petals robed in white radiance. The thought
beckons me, as if inviting me....to come back home. My heart is warm
as mightily blazing winter's hearth, as deep within I know that
soon I will be back in Ebonshire. I will be back home.
All about, glorious melody fills not only the air, but my senses.
Yea, my entire being is sated with it. Heavenly chorals flow through
my heart, mated gently with tender trickling piano, music-box chimes,
and regal tolling bells. Upon the air, they bear the hope of a king.
They bear great AQUILON'S WISH*, of peace on earth, and good will
toward men. My heart smiles all the more, as within my mind's eye I
behold King Aquilon seated upon his throne within a majestic hall of
pure crystal. I am not there yet, but it comforts me to know I will
be. The beautiful canticle I hear is a lovely reminder of that coming
Even now, it is begun. Summer's azure sky is no more. Nay, The
heavens' hues have turn to gray, as ivory petals commence their fall
unto the Earth, soft as ivory teardrops, cascading to the earth Soon,
the very land will be thus blanketed. Gently gliding guitar, flowing
violin, and soft chorals blended wonderfully with piano fill my heart.
A song, to draw me ever closer to my home. Within, TRANQUILITY is
the only word that describes what it is I feel at this moment.
Oh, happy time! What a blessing it is to be here! The gentle tears
of heaven, wept with snowfall, are no longer a trickle. The are a
glorious winter waterfall, washing the land, cleansing it , robing it
in beauty. Flowing piano, trickling chimes and soul-soothing chorals
fill my being. Oh, how happy I am! How I feel like dancing! Dance, I
will, through these beautiful WHITE WOODLANDS.*
My journey has not ceased. Even soul, in my very soul I rejoice.
Though the golden orb of heaven, is falling into his nightly slumber,
I am at peace. My heart is full of stately melody. Tender guitar,
soaring chorals, and stately piano are the craftsmen that have built
it, along with tambourine's aid. Through white-clad forest sentinels
has each awe-filled stride carried me. The sky's clothes are crimson
and lavender, falling into the majestic raven hue of dusk I now stand
before a quaint domicile. Cottage-like, yet large enough to house any
that wish to take up residence within. Bedecked in glorious ivory
light, Fashioned mightily of ever-standing oak, Its roof is bedecked
in icicles that shine like the stars on a clear moonlit winter's eve.
A hearth fire crackles musically within. Blessed indeed am I, to have
come unto this SECRET SANCTUARY.
A night of peace is spent, and a new dawn is come. With it, I
know, the time for me to journey on is likewise here. Journey,
therefore I will make, through whatever I must, to reach the home that
calls to me across the snow-clad landscape. Majestic pipe organ,
tolling bells and flying chorals drive me on, as Heaven's breath is
colder still. Power. The very breath of a King. Eyes closed, as I am
driven on, my heart requests of the sovereign.... SUMMON THE WIND*
...to carry me home
Happy is the soul upon whom a king bequeaths his favor. I know
now, that I am among the favored, and unto me a new peace is come. A
new vision blankets my eyes. Distant, yet clear as the very first of
glorious days A village, dusted ever gently in heavenly white. My
village! Oh, how I long to complete the journey. How joyous I am
within, at that very contemplation. Soon, I will be home again. A
minstrel comforts my heart, with a tapestry of guitar, angelic
chorals, tambourine, and tolling bells. The sight of SNOW IN THE
SHIRE has always brought me peace, and it still does.
Night is come anew, and even amidst the soul-soothing peace I
feel, new visions make their way unto me,as again, the minstrels play.
Waltzing piano,nay...marching a stately promenade. Tolling bells,
majestic harpsichord, tender chorals and soaring strings are its
mates. Distant, yet ever nearer, ever beckoning. Vistas more
glorious than many a mortal eye will ever see. Ivory-armored
sentinels, soldiers, both on the march, and keeping watch over a royal
home. Maidens, fair is any ever written of by ancient minstrels
dancing through torchlight, robed in gowns of snow. The jewel of
it....? A palace fit for the greatest of kings. A realm unrivaled
covered in winter's snowy jewels. A CRYSTAL KINGDOM, whose grandeur is
My village now behind me, celestial heralds bear me on. Urged by
piano's gentle tears, trickling chimes, and chorals that soothe the
heart, tender as lovers' whispers. More beautiful than mortal beings,
clad in garments fashioned of winter's wind. Queenly maidens, one and
all, SOLSTICE SPIRITS. Those beholding them indeed do have the favor of
the king. Blessed am I indeed then, as are all who see.
A quaint place of rest. To here have the maidens guided me. Much
like the secret sanctuary to which I was earlier granted entrance, it
is nonetheless even grander in scope and size. Better still I am not
alone. Many herein are gathered together. Gentle fires blaze in
warming hearths, and all about me are the joys of conversation and
song. Roasted meats, fresh bread and stews, and fine and filling
ciders and ales. Guitar, piano, chorals, and strings are the tools of
the bards' trade, as a group of them weave a soul-soothing tune for
the patrons within this much welcomed SHELTER FROM THE COLD.
With bellies full of fresh bread, hot stew, and roasted meats,
all are gathered without. Behold the smiles on all the patrons faces.
Hear the joyous melody of tender piano, gentle strings, and heavenly
chorus. How beautiful. See all the children of the kingdom. Hear the
music of their laughter. How happy they are. Their exuberance
unrestrained and without boundary as the play together. How pure, and
innocent. How carefree we were at their age. Do you remember? I do.
What joy! What fun it would be... This is their time, which they
graciously allow us to remember, and rejoice together. Rejoice, all ye
sons and daughters of Ebonshire, in the revels of these beautiful
ANGELS IN THE SNOW*
With every autumn's end, legend says that a knight good and brave
and true returns unto the blessed land that in life he called his
home. Now. beckoned alone back into the place where a meal was shared
with many, I bear witness to the truth of that legend. Once again, a
minstrel plays, accompanied by a maiden most fair providing chorals
and violin work without equal. Tolling bells and tambourine join them
well and fittingly. His mastery of the guitar, and voice of gold will
never meet their match. Will I go, he asks, to SCARBOROUGH FAIR* on
his behalf to speak to his love? Will I ask her to think back upon younger days? To follow the path to the shire where her own heart's true desire awaits? Yes,
good knight, have no fear. I will go back for you, to tell her to
gather three lilies of white, to place at your headstone beneath the
moon's light. Thus will be proven a love that stands eternal.
Behold, my journey is urged ever on. With song in my heart I am
borne aloft by joy that even the greatest poet on Earth may need to
struggle mightily to express it well. Across glacial ivory landscape
I behold them. They are the most glorious equine specimens ever beheld
of mortal eye Behold the freedom, the grace, the power with which
they run. Verily they seem to fly across the wintry land, even the
heavens themselves. Beautiful piano, flying chorals and soft
percussion are the taskmasters that drive them on. Blessed am I to
behold the majesty of these wondrous IVORY STEEDS*, and even more
blessed, that one should deign to carry me.
Another place of rest greets me, bidding me take respite from my
travels. Garbed in in winter's white vestments, hearth's fire glowing
warmly within, it is impossible that I should should resist it. The
knight's request of me comes to mind, for my own love awaits within.
At peace with her I take my rest, in this quaint but glorious WINTER
HAVEN, expertly crafted by tender trickling piano, guitar, and chorals
soft as a lover's whispers. Herein, within her comforting arms, true
sanctuary of my heart is found
Hearken! Gentle canticle is woven once again. It seems, verily,
to be a gift from the heavens unto me. Celestial chorus, blended with
gentle chimes and the dulcet tones of the music box are the bards that
have scribed this song of peace. I sense change upon the air, a
herald of grand things to come. Yet, I am comforted, for in order for
the new to awaken, the old must fall asleep. Indeed, as I pay heed
unto a gentle FOREST LULLABY*, my very soul is filled with joy.
At last mine arduous trek hath borne happy fruit. I am back...in
Ebonshire. I am home. Every face beholding me bears a smile. Ever pair
of arms bears a hug as a gift. A joyous melody, crafted of piano,
harpsichord, and gentle chorals fills the quaint cobblestone streets.
Torches burn brightly in ornate sconces before every home. All is
right within the world. I am returned unto a place where family, love,
and honor are all that matter. It is where the simple joys of life are
it's greatest treasures. All is as it ever should be. All is once
again as it was, in blessed DAYS OF OLDE*.
Bidden am I anew to join my kin. Great bonfires burn throughout
the land. A stately promenade is begun, turning into a festive dance
wherein with every maiden fair is joined a fellow of noble
heart. Our song of revelry fills the land with happy strains of
guitar, flute, violin and tambourine. Applause dances through the tune,
an echo of our own hearts' joys. SATURNALIA* once again is upon the
realm, a custom ancient and beloved, wherein a hymn to the land we
love rings out clear and true from every soul.
All ye sons and daughters of Ebonshire, hearken and behold. This
is the herald's cry! Heed me well,and gather near! Rejoice, for thy
king is come! The truth of these words is borne upon maestic
canticle. Born of soaring pipe organ, stately snare drum, tolling
bells and ever-soaring chorals, the summons is impossible to resist.
Behold the joy on every face, dressed in their very best attire, as
the royal procession draws nigh! Exquisitely garbed, flanked by ivory
armored guardsmen, with Winter's Queen at his side. Both ride upon
ivory steeds as the one that once carried me. Rejoice, people of
Ebonshire! Rejoice, THE COMING OF THE KING is at hand! Behold, he is
Blessed am I among men. Thus I verily do feel, for privilege of
which I have not felt worthy is mine. With King Aquilon and Queen
Celestia, I stand, right alongside them, surrounded by the glory of
the very winter itself. Everyone in Ebonshire it seems, is there. A
torch burns not only in every hand, but that torch's light, it seems,
burns brightly in every heart. Minstrels play peerlessly upon
exquisite piano and splendid soaring violin, as from every throat a
soaring song erupts. We are a blessed choir of earthly souls, lifting
to the very heavens a hymn unto WINTER'S MAJESTY*, celebrating the
beauty and glory of a beloved season. Verily do I rejoice as well,
for as that blessed hymn is sung, unto me do I hear both King Aquilon
and Queen Celestia say "Welcome home, my son."
As within my mind's ear a new hymn is played upon exquisite
guitar and keys, I behold a trio of wayfarers, making a pilgrimage
upon which there very hearts and souls demand they embark. Bells,
chorals, piano and tambourine bear them on as well. "Whence art thou
bound?" I inquire. With a smile, one of the trio of royal figures bows
to me. "WE THREE KINGS are bound to visit the one foretold, to be the
King and Savior unto all the world, He that is to be a gift from
Heaven unto earth."
"Let me travel with thee, then, that I may see Him too."
Arduous and long, it seems, is any journey from the home. Yet home
remains nestled forever in my heart, along with every precious memory.
Piano and soft chorals echo in the mnds and hearts both of me and
those that travel at my side. Their gentle melody brings us comfort.
Never fear, for no matter how bleak and cold any journey, as long as
the light of POLARIS is our compass, we will always find our way
back to the warmth of home.
Within the castle I once called home I lie. Before me, a gentle
fire burns within the hearth of the great hall. I am home again, in
the land of my birth. Beside me, sit the queen and king, my beloved
mother and father, and my dear beloved wife. My heart is full of light.
It is not for myself I grieve, but for them. I see the tears they weep, for the journey back to them has made me frail, but I did make it. I made it.
From the great beyond it seems, I am called unto a greater realm.
Within my ears, my heart, my very soul, there sound the celestial
strains of soaring violin, tender trickling piano, gentle bells and chimes and Heavenly choirs. The music of the angels is heard by mortal ears."I love thee dearly, mother...father and wife. Weep not for me, for I have found eternal, FINAL PEACE*, and one day, you will be with me too, We will be together again. Forever. I am grateful to have seen my beloved Ebonshire one last time, and eternal peace is mine."
Scrawled humbly above, is the tale born within my own soul's
muse, upon hearing Nox Arcana's "Winter's Majesty" It is the
culmination of a glorious journey to a beautiful winter kingdom, begun
many years ago. Now and forever, all who wish to may listen, and each
time be brought back to a beautiful place. To me, it is easily the
best of Nox Arcana's three winter jewels, and easily the most
beautiful. May we never forget that memory is precious, that we have
the power to make reality of hopes and wishes, and that it's the
simple things, the little joys of life that are its greatest and truest treasures.
* - A favorite track of mine.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Journey Back To Vasaria
, February 27, 2012
Every so often in life, there are books that a reader will come across that will do one of two things. They will either make a reader love to delve into a certain genre of literature, or they will remind that reader of why they fell in love with that genre of literature in the first place. In the case of Beyond The Dark Tower, for me, it has accomplished both feats.
I will not attempt to compose a tale by tale breakdown here. To do so would, I feel, perhaps spoil the joy of discovery for potential readers The world of Vasaria and the tales of the lives of its denizens are places and tales that compel you to discover them for yourself, and take in all the atmosphere, terror and wonder on your own.
I will, however, happily endorse the book thus. One of my favorite horror tales of all time is Bram Stoker's classic novel Dracula. That tome has, in my mind and my humble judgment, finally met its peer in this one. With all of the skill for which he is known world wide as an author and a scribe of macabre tales, Joseph Vargo returns to the ancient realm of Vasaria together with his brother and his sister in arms Jospeph Iorillo and Christine Filipak, to give us a deeper exploration and understanding of the lives, loves, and tragic histories of beloved characters first glimpsed in the first volume of Dark Tower lore. It is an exploration I am glad and grateful to have taken. Not only is the realm alive, but so are its denizens, and I felt genuinely for each and every one of them.
I mentioned Dracula in this review for a reason. Not until this book have I found one that matches it for pure intensity of atmosphere and for the ability to paint pictures in the mind of a reader, both of dark landscapes and the inner journeys into a character's deepest emotions. Horror novels rarely wring tears from me, and this one did it more that once. This book and the entire Dark Tower series has proven to be a radiant example of exactly how and why Gothic horror and romance can be absolutely beautiful to read when it is done right. Mr. Vargo, Mr. Iorillo and Ms. Filipak have done it right here, and I heartily salute them all for their efforts here.
If you are a reader like me who loves great tales of Gothic atmosphere, horror and romance that will pull you in and never let you, leaving you hungry to revisit there world over and over, you will not, in my humble judgment, find a tale to peruse that is better than this one. Happy reading, and God bless. :)
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The Ultimate Gothic Music Experience
, October 31, 2011
For eight years now, the quintessential minstrels of the night have taken us upon many great and fantastic terrifying auditory expeditions. Whilst many are exquisite homages to classic legendary tales resting proudly in the hallowed halls of Gothic literature, their original nocturnal symphonies are likewise brilliant jewels that glitter no less darkly with macabre radiance.
Journey now , if you dare, with the revealers of night's most beautiful musical mysteries. Accompany Nox Arcana to the ancient realm of Vasaria. Behold a darkly decadent domicile long believed to be a place of unimaginable evil, haunting mystery and heart-stopping tragedy. Fix your gaze, if you be of courage, for over you now falls the shadow of:
The Dark Tower.
1. Darkness Rising - Hearken, for the tolling of midnight's vesper cries out. Hear the thunder of your own skittish heartbeat echoed by steady timpani. Pay heed to the alluring call of the siren's choral summons. Mated with gripping string vibrato and the ghostly whisper of the pipe organ, a tapestry of irrestibly drawing melody is woven upon the canvas of our minds ear. Hear the account of an ancient and unfortunate tenant, as he makes known what awaits all who venture near.
"Born of the night, they lurk in the shadows. Gargoyles of living stone. Lost souls who wander mist-shrouded cemeteries, and vampires who dwell deep within forbidden crypts.They are the spirits that haunt the blackest wells of midnight, trapped between the realms of the living and the dead. Forsaken and cursed to forever dwell beneath the shadow of the Dark Tower."
2. Born of the Night - Do you feel that? It is a mortal heartbeat, growing ever faster. It is the warmth of blood rushing through the head of a listener. Timpani are once again their echoer, buoyed by a six-beat string passage. Tempestuous pipe
organ, tolling vespers, blended chanting choirs, and an undercurrent of cello ostinato combine in a regal waltz. Feel the rush of an otherworldly power. Know the thrill of how it feels, and what it means to be "born of the night"
3. Crimson Thirst - Deep bass and piano dance with tense string vibrato. Punctuation is provided by tolling vespers and a noctural vixen's choral cry. Bass drums echo the pounding of all mortal hearts who have ever ventured here, Behold for you have dared to enter the domain of the tower's prince. Do you hear him, deep beneath the musty blanket of the earth. Beware, for his time of rising draws night, and an ancient hunger will be answered, though it will never be satisfied.
4. Vasaria - Bass drums and ominous strings blend here anew with alluring choral majesty. Skies once robed in sunlight's matchless glory now slumber trapped forever under the shroud of midnight, as a blood red jewel flickers out Thunder's royal bellow shakes the earth as lightning rends the heavens, a celestial javelin. Countless in number, the minions of an ancient prince pay heed to his summons. He comes to welcome you, to a place from whence few have ever escaped.
5. Vesper Tolls - Hearken, for funereal bells beckon thee forward. Do you hear them. Is theirs not a beautiful canticle. Hear how beautifully they blend with the siren's seductive song. Beware however. That ticking you hear? It is more than the tower's ancient timepiece. It is the scribe of what remains of your own time as a mortal being By pipe organ's ghostly whisper are you also drawn, ever closer to the tower from which few have returned.
6. Path of Shadows - Faster! Faster! Don't worry, it's just your heartbeat. Relax, it will go easier if you don't fight it. Don't bother with fear, it's too late to resist it. Gripped are all who venture near, by the drum's noble thunder, blended expertly with organ's regal call and choral cries. Ghostly moans upon the wind couple with trembling strings. Heed them, and walk in the steps of many who have gone before you. Dare, if you be of courage, to probe into the tower's deepest and darkest mysteries.
7. Banshee - Shh.... Do you hear her calling? Isn't she beautiful? Foolish mortal, it is already too late for those who catch even a whisper of her presence, for she is, as legends tell, the herald of grave misfortune and the end of mortals' journeys in our world It's not her pets you have to fear. No. Those dark avian summons and lupine howlings are only a prelude to the lovely terror you have stumbled upon. Let her speak now of herself, in her own words:
"Wolves and ravens share the night, an omen for the morrow. The wind carries the banshee's cry, to foretell coming sorrow."
8. Ghost at the Gate - Behold the regal maiden's tears, cascading ever down her spectral face. Hear how the weeping piano and harp arpeggio echo her own eternal lamentation. An everlasting rainfall of mournful melody that can in one breath forevermore grip and break the heart of mortal beings.
9. Nightwatcher- Pipe organ, bass drums thunder, and choral majesty are his heralds. Eternal silent vigil he doth keep over his post, a rock-hewn guardian. Beware, for though he be but stone, he is in truth far more. Do you see? Placid stone eyes are open, their corner's a vivid crimson. Do you know the place upon whose threshold you stand? It is this granite sentinel that bids you welcome, and with that same baleful gaze forbids retreat, for you are now canopied by the shadows of:
10. The Dark Tower - Lift your gaze, mortal traveller, and behold. Tremble at the scrawlings upon stone's surface. Therein lies tidings that have crushed many a heart before your arrival here. Behold the darkly decadent majesty of Lord Brom's keep, ravaged by time, and yet ever standing in haunting nocturnal glory. Heed the decree of your own destiny, written upon the stone above your eyes and "abandon all hope, ye who enter here" The salutation once heard upon the tower's bells, in a whisper, is now declared by all Vasaria, in a darkly majestic melody. Thunderous timpani, chilling strings and blended chanting choirs are the composers that gift us with this glorious heart-gripping motif.
11. Haunted - Thunder's rumble and ghostly nocturnal breeze's whisper mate not only in your ears, but in your very heart. Hearken to the haunting trickle of harpsichord and piano as they dance with gliding pipe organ, gentle music box, and soaring choral voice. Now within the tower that shall forever call you its tenant, candles are your only light, save for the lightning the splits the sky at all too infrequent intervals, as the domicile itself dares you to venture ever further in.
12. Vampire's Kiss - A four-note string waltz couple with low bass beckons you forward, Heare the insistent call of the vixen's soaring voice Behold the eyes of night's monaarch, as they command and implore you to dance ever with them, to the haunting, rapid strains of a piano's rainfall, punctured by bass drum's thunder and pipe organ's insistent driving melody, creating an irresistable promenade . Give in, don't fight it any further. Taste the rapture, of the vampire's kiss.
13. Undying Love - Do you hear it? It's the trickling rain of the piano's dance, but it seems to be, slower than what you heard only a few moments hence. Does the tinkling of the music box call to mind the innocence of the childhood, indeed the mortal life you have lost? Do not cry, dear child of the earth. No, no tears. Look instead, into the eyes of the ivory monarch of the night who adores you. Hear the choral majesty the echoes her sweet eternal devotion. Do not grieve the world that you have left behind, for you have found undying love among the shadows.
14. Masque of Sorrow - Follow the regal step of the regent of eventime. Behold the gaily bedecked chamber, all arrayed in crimson, ebony and lavender. Grasp the hand of your nocturnal paramour and join in the revoltions into which all here are coaxed by intoxicating blending of vespers tolling, haunting chorals, pipe organ and strings. Only pay heed, the heaviness that you feel, will ever be companion to you, as it is to all the gathered. From the windows to all souls gathered here, shall crimson tears forever freely flow.
15. King of Fools - Hear ye now the allure of music box and chorus, and the melancholy call of violin vibrato. Hearken to the piano's haunting tears and vesper's tolling. Behold the tragic wonder standing afore you as you sit upon a lavender velvet throne. Arrayed in jester's livery is one who dared make mockery on an ancient queen of night, she whom legends tell once called the tower home. Do you see his headwear, it is not a jester's bell-draped hat, but a rusted crown laid askew upon his brow. 'Tis fitting though that he should wear such, for any who would dare make mockery of Mara, may rightly be called the king of fools.
16. Something Wicked - Hearken to the whisper of ghostly breezes. Beware the distant rumble of the coming tempest. Upon the chill night air, hear the warning of an ancient tenant of the tower, echoing a line once scrawled by a legendary scribe, as many tales recount: "With every breath the air grows stale. Deathly cold winds howl and wail. Raging thunder pounds like drums, when something wicked this way comes."
17. Sinister Forces - Lift your eyes, imprisoned mortal. Hearken to the raven's cry upon the spectral night air. Hear ye how the moans of countless ghosts blends with them Hear the heraldry voiced by ethereal chorus coupled with pipe organ's insistent call, vesper's toll, and urgent strings. Feel the thunder of your own heartbeat become a raging tempest as a martial melody commands you to bear witness to the gathering of the Tower Lord's armies. Let all Vasaria beware, for ever shall the lord of the keep seek for to add unto his numbers.
18. Immortal Fire - Let the boundless nocturnal bliss course ever through your being, like the ever dancing tendrils of lovely moonlight-flame depicted by piece's namesake. A pounding storm of piano, violins, chorals and driving percussion, it bears a command to revel in the nature of kindred. Embrace the power, the passion, and the night itself, for though the fate of all within the tower is one of restless lamentation, forever shall the allure of the dark continue to be an irresistible beacon unto mortal beings.
19. Sorrow's End - Behold, one like unto thee. Spectral, yes, but beautiful as ever she had been in mortal life. Do you not feel for her? Does the echo of your heart not ring forth for her sake. Behold the moonlight tracing the pathways taken by her tears, flowing forever down her beauteous countenance. Witness her in eternal genuflection, ghostly gaze turned Heavenward in repentance, sending forth a cry for mercy. Crying piano, tolling vespers, wistful choir and the whisper of the pipe organ are the audible echoes of her silent tears.
20. Dark Desire - The urgent trickle of piano mirrors a tempestuous rainfaill, through which the azure nocturnal moonlight still clearly glows. Hearken to the urgent call of ethereal chorus, tolling vespers, and urgently weeping strings that soar forever upward into the night sky. It is the canticle that calls you forth into the arms of a vixen of the eve. Walk with all the will you have, oh mortal wanderer, into her waiting embrace. Clasp her near, and forever dance through the glory of the night. Fear not the last knell of the vesper to signal the dawn, for upon day's slumber, with the coming of each and every eve, thou shalt forever dance in nocturnal bliss.
21. Noctem Aeternus - Brave art thou, oh mortal soul. Yet will many in future times call you foolish, to have ventured here. Hear the insistent cry of pipe organ, haunting choir, urgent strings and timpani's thunder mated with vesper's toll. Listen to them, and pay heed, for they decree your fate and sentence. The hour of eternal night verily rests forever upon thee, and like many before you, you shall now call the Dark Tower by a new name. You shall forever call it...home.
Be certain not to hit stop when Noctem Aeternus fades briefly to silence. The two hidden gems on this disc provide a terrific bookend for this wonderful musical odyssey. With The Dark Tower, Nox Arcana has crafted what is in my humble view the ultimate Gothic music experience and a brilliant soundscape of beauty, melancholy, terror, and tragedy that is easily worthy to stand alongside the greatest cinematic scores of our time. It encapsulates within itself, from first note to last, everything that defines the word Gothic to its very core. Whether you are a long-time or a new fan of Nox Arcana, you owe it to yourself to experience this masterpiece, and embrark upon the ultimate Gothic musical journey.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A haunting and thrilling musical gem in honor of All Hallow's Eve
, October 22, 2010
Once again, as days grow crisper and shorter, and foliage puts on garments of gold and red instead of green, the world prepares to welcome the eve wherein legend says the lord of the dead would allow the souls of the departed to roam the mortal realm once more for a single night. In homage to that night and that season, we are treated to a new splendid dark symphony courtesy of Jeff "Buzz" Hartz of Buzzworks, teaming once again with Joseph Vargo of Nox Arcana. Join them as they take you on a journey to the:
House of Nightmares
If I could describe House of Nightmares as anything, in any terms., I would call it the perfect tribute to the night to which it pays homage and also to the genre of classic horror. Whereas Zombie Influx was to me like a tip of the hat to classic George Romero zombie films, House of Nightmares is a gripping journey into the tension evoked not only by well put together haunted attractions, but also by classic-time tested horror films of the 50's and 60's as well as further back.
Tracks like the title song "House of Nightmares" "Night Closes In" "Darkness Rising" and many others perfectly capture that old-time feel of ancient dread and tension. Others "such as "The Descent" "The Forgotten Crypt" and "The Nether Realm" are purely atmospheric jewels that again grip the mind and heart. "The Ruins" and "Well of Souls" fit right in with them.
Of course, House of Nightmares is also full of thrilling, heart-pounding macabre energy too. Tracks like "Devil's Night" "Dead Time" "Ancient Evil" and "Shadow Dwellers" are evidence of this. I particularly love the relentless driving bass line in Shadow Dwellers, the beautiful strings in "Ancient Evil", and the haunting blend of pipe organ and harpsichord in "Hallow's Eve". One track, "Unleashed" puts me in the mindset of the theme from Jaws, not in the sense of the melody or anything like that, but because I believe it perfectly captures the spirit of a feeling of being hunted both endlessly and without remorse. I also want to say that the Latin chanting in "Book of the Dead" is genuinely chilling, and that Joseph Vargo's narrative voice work in The Summoning is some of the best he's done in years.
In closing I will say that if you want a great homage to All Hallow's Eve, haunted attractions, and classic horror movies, you would be very hard pressed to find better than House of Nightmares. Jeff Hartz and Joseph Vargo collaborate here for the second time and they give us a jewel more than worthy to stand proudly beside Nox Arcana's own brilliant nocturnal symphonies because of how well it evokes the feelings of tension and heart pounding thrills that it is going for.
Pick it up and give it a listen. I think you will be glad you did. I know I am. Peace.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A magical CD of unequaled power, sit back and enjoy the show.
, July 31, 2010
This word begins a mystifying and compelling journey. Often used by performers on stage to tell of the beginning of an entrancing performance, it is put to its most effective use here. The bards of the night once again paint exquisite musical pictures on the canvas of the mind . Drawing back the ornate curtain, they beckon us to behold a performance unfolding before the eye of our psyche. With another jewel in their crown, Nox Arcana take us once again deep into the darkest corners and depths of our imagination. Follow if you dare. A great and alluring spectacle is about to begin. Welcome to a place where dreams and nightmares come alive. Welcome to the:
Theater of Illusion.
1 - Abracadabra- An ancient incantation, intoned in a deep, gripping voice, is carried by a chilling violin melody that positively shivers with tension as it joins a deep bass bed of male choir mated with female voice mystical harp undercurrent. Acting as a macabre "master of ceremonies, the voice of composer Joseph Vargo bids us pay heed and indulge in the wondrous mystery we are about to behold.
"The realm of illusion is steeped in centuries of mystique and darkness. The sorcerers of ancient times were believed to possess arcane knowledge that granted them supernatural powers to command and control the forces of nature. There are those who yet practice these lost arts, performing spellbinding feats to mystify and astound mortal eyes, and if legends are to be believed, there exist an elite few who have unlocked the mysteries of the universe, to discover the untold secrets of true magic."
Blackness dances in my mind's eye, pierced by an image of mist and smoke, rising up out of the air, unveiling a long road down which we are summoned to tread. Behind it, in the darkness, looms a building ravaged by the hands of time, yet it has lost none of its nocturnal majesty Standing within that curtain of mist, an ancient figure cloaked in black takes his hat off and raises both arms as if summoning the mist, and beckoning us all to behold the wonders he will perform before us this night. The mix of violin and harp utilized here with touches of choral work, and one of the most darkly alluring and and spellbinding I have heard in years.
2 - Cobwebs - The namesakes of this piece are unveiled to our eyes by a heart-beat paced dancing piano melody, joined by a deep bass pulse, and whispers of pipe organ that call to mind an ancient succubus daring us to give in to her seductive calls to our hearts. Dared are we to brush the silken strands aside as we come closer to the grand building we had seen a glimpse of earlier, that we might get a better look at the wonders it holds. Down the ancient road, past columns that are formed of the mist through which we are walking, brushing the cobwebs aside like thick grey draperies.
3 - Nostalgia- We go hear from the tense and gripping to the hauntingly beautiful, touched with tendrils of bygone innocence. A music-box melody mixed with tender female chorals and strings do the honors. Closer yet we come, moving along a road steeped in blackness, but lighted more and more by mist, moonlight and columns of white and blue-grey smoke. In but the blink of an eye then, all is transformed, into a once beautiful and pastoral estate, the centerpiece of which is a majestic domicile nestled in beautiful gardens replete with every kind of wonder a child wold find captivating....but is it real, or all an illusion...?
4 - Forgotten Dreams- Low keyboard passages dance with creeping, then trickling piano and wistful female voice once again. Tolling vespers grip the heart. Trembling violin strings join in as the piano notes become like a rainfall, washing away the gardens, and turning them to ancient caverns through which we walk as if in sleep. The ancient building looms before us still, closer, just as majestic, but darker in look than ever. This is a place we've seen before, or so we think...but...where? Yes, in our dreams.
5 - Edge of Darkness- A pulsing, throbbing bass line glides into our being, joined the soft rumbles of thunder-like timpani, calling forth and mimicking the sound of our own heartbeat. Seductive female vocal work sings to us, daring us ever on. Even in the dark, there's a grandeur to this place that we can't draw back from We are bid through an ancient double door as we come at last to the entrance to the building we had seen before.
6 - Phantom Theater - Wistful piano and keys are joined tolling bells, choir and strings. Once we get past the door, again we are surrounded not by decay, but by ornate elegance. Called to mind for me is the opulence of a great theater with all the majesty of a cathedral with colored crystal windows, but no chapel is this. It is the place within which we will behold wonders never seen before. Bid to recline in plush crimson throne-like seats, we soon hear the master of the evening's revels.....as just for a moment, once again, everything goes black...
7 - Hypnos - A slightly moan-like choral sound floats into our ears. Joined by the soft trickling of a music box melody reminiscent of a glockenspiel or a xylophone, it carries the voice of our host, bidding us to give in to his will, and open our minds to the spectacle that will soon unfold before us. All we see at first is a pair of glowing blue eyes, like pools of dazzling but soft and subdued moonlight, but we hear him, and we cannot help to be taken in:
"Look deep into my eyes. Surrender to the sound of my voice. The world around you begins to fade. Darker... darker... gone. You have entered the shadow realm, a mysterious dimension hidden between time and space. Two grand doors stand before you, and as you approach, they open to reveal a magnificent stage, cloaked in darkness. Welcome to the theater of illusion, where dreams and nightmares come alive."
8 - The Curtain Rises - The ebony blackness to which we've been subjected now gives way with a suddenness, as if lightning had struck without a thunderclap, or perhaps with one, as light and fire for a moment touch our vision, banishing the darkness that had kept us cradled. Drumrolls and the thunder of deep percussion mix with tense vibrating strings and blended chorals to paint the picture. A bright vermilion drapery trimmed in gold stands before us, and is ever so slowly lifted, parting as our black-clad host raises both hands, and then steps back a moment.
9 - The Crimson Hourglass- The blackness in which we were draped gives way to mist and light, crimson and silver blended to illumine the place where we now sit transfixed Dancing through the light before our eyes as the title's namesake, twirling before us like a hypnotist's medallion, transfixing our senses, as a rapturous melody swirls through our being, made with tinkling chimes, and soft children's choir Tolling bells appear again, as do soft strings, lovely female vocal work, and a nice piano melody as well.. It's a beautiful arrangement that takes me back to my own younger years.
10 - Sinister Cabaret - Strings are the star here, starting with a seven-beat cello passage, mixed with violins. Percussive piano and absorbing choral work dance through the piece. This number is very much reminiscent of a ballroom promenade. The curtain is up and now our black-clad magician has put on his best and is dancing with a troupe of ghostly spectral females across the stage. Amongst the specters though is a living mortal woman beckoned from the audience and it is she whom the magician dances with. The end of the piece marks the end of her mortal life as we next see the work of the:
11 - Necromancer- A lovely, quick piano melody mixes with soaring, sweeping strings, choral mastery, tolling bells and powerful "hits" on strings. Chimes dance with the piano through the work. Now the magician stands over the body of the woman called forth from the audience, weaving his magic with elaborate hand gestures reminiscent of pantomime, as he dances and moves alone through a curtain of red mist, beckoning the girl to rise and join the troupe. She, of course, cannot resist.
12 - The Mask of Arcana - Pipe organ takes center stage hear, waltzing beautifully with soft drums, cellos, choral work, violins, and a bit of harpsichord in places. The stately promenade continues, but now, one by one, members of the audience are getting up from their seats, falling prostrate on the stage, then rising to join the dance themselves.
13 - Shadow Play- I love the bass strings in this, it calls almost a piece of rock music to mind with its tempo. It's a rapid dance of piano, bass, strings and tambourine. Through the blackness that once again cloaks the grand theater, we now see flashes of blue lightning, and the fiery forms of dragons, phoenixes and other fantastic creatures flying through the air above us, their passage lighting up the theater enough that we see shadows dancing across the stage before us.
14 - Voodoo- Tribal drums are key players hear, along with tambourine, and deep low ethnic chanting blended beautifully with mixed male and female chorals. Blackness gives way to light and mist as we are transported to an ancient jungle locale, mist dancing through lush greenery as we behold either living or undead cannibals dancing within rings of torches, around huge cauldrons heated by big bonfires.
15 - Mysterium - We go back to the stately route here. Again, a heart-beat like bass mixes with steady strings , female chorals, chimes, strings, thundering timpani, tolling bells, and a gliding harpsichord. We are whisked away from the jungle just in time, but we are still under the spell of our macabre magician host, captured by a vision of a glittering treasure room, that looks like it might belong to an ancient temple. As we sit transfixed by the beauty of it all, we are pierced anew by an even lovelier vision.
16 - The Swords of Kali- Plucked strings and tambourine mix with tribal drumming and entrancing choral work. The whole thing has a distinct and great Middle Eastern flair to it. Before our eyes there dances a lovely troupe of maidens dressed in silk of ever color of the rainbow, moving with careful but perfect barefoot steps as they dance, each step landing next to but not on the blades of ancient swords arranged in the shape of giant wheels, and glowing with the energy and heat of fire. Garbed as priestesses, they dance with great passion and reverence as their goddess of power looks down from above them, her form like bronzed flesh illumined by dancing flames.
17 - Smoke and Mirrors - Compelling, rhythmic bass mates with piano, tolling bells, blended male and female choirs and pounding drums. Soaring strings whisper through the piece too. The priestesses have retired, and now through a curtain of mist we are gifted, by the titles namesakes, with visions of the grandeur and beauty of the world we are leaving behind as we know it. Through these crystalline mirrors, images of our past grow ever more distant. Though we will remember, nothing will ever be quite the same again.
18 - The Prestige - This is one of the strongest melodies, to me, that Nox Arcana has composed to date. Birthed by an epic, instantly memorable piano passage, joined by strings, bells, and chorals...it is a majestic opus that speaks to the hearts of the theater's audience. Time, as we know it, may be drawing to its close, but we are drawn ever closer to a transition. We may, in time go back to the world we knew, but we, and it, will be forever changed.
19 - Black Fire- The title's namesake is easily painted by nearly franticly paced piano, drums and strings. Choral work, tense strings, and tolling bells dance through it. With every second, we know, somehow that are time is closer. Again, the magician and spectral female troupes clad in grey are onstage, surround by great walls of ebony flame. It is through it that in time each and every beholder of this theater's wonders must pass.
20 - Dark Destiny - The beginning of the piece, played enchantingly on piano, with its quietude seems to call to mind a haunting intermission, as blackness again cloaks the stage, but a subdued moonlight soon bathes it all, as upon the stage there stand ornate wrought iron gates flung wide ajar. One by one, each audience member must rise, and leave their seats, to come forth and pass through the gates, welcomed by the troupe of beckoning ghostly females in white or blue-grey misty gowns that stand on either side of the gates. Our destiny awaits us on the other side of them.
21 - Lord of Illusions - Driving, urgent violin, drums, and choir mix with piano and tolling bells as the curtain rises one more time for this, the finale of a grand performance. The black clad magician who opened the show is back, and now, not only are the troupe with him, so are we all. Gesture for gesture is the magician matched by each and every one, as again the fiery dragons, phonixes and other creatures are called forth. Only now, it is we who do it, under the supervision of our host. It is we who lead the specters' dancing, commanding them with majestic gestures, before the curtain goes down, and with a bow, we are beckoned backstage, to go beyond the stage. It is here, within a cavern hidden deep underground, we join all who have gone before us. Given robes of mist an shadow, we take our own place forever among the performers we have witnessed this night.
The hidden tracks here are well done to say the least. A beautiful music box melody pairs with a mysterious and solemn recitation by composer Joseph Vargo to bring this magical CD to a close. It is a brilliant story, told in music splendidly by Nox Arcana, the undisputed masters of macabre majesty and epic mood music. Do not miss it, it is a show that you will never forget, a truly stupendous performance that I just simply must applaud. Pick it up, and I daresay you may grow to love it too. Nox Arcana once again works magic with their music, magic that is forever unequaled.
To Other Lands, and to Ancient Times
, June 16, 2010
The title I chose for this review, I used because these places are where this CD takes me in my head and my heart. This is terrific solo debut CD from Jeff Endemann , whose voice and guitar playing I am convinced the world needs to hear plenty more of.
It's difficult for me to get poetic here and do a track by track rundown here, but that is chiefly because I feel that Mr. Endemann's guitar playing and melodies are some of the best I've heard, and his voice is that of a bard penning and delivering lyrics that are no less than pure poetry for the soul.
The Serpent Speaks to me has a Middle Eastern feel and drips with mysticism that that I love.
Goodbye To Avalon is a tearjerker if I've ever heard one, and I've heard plenty of them in my years on this Earth. It has me in tears as I write this, a beautiful ode to a lost and mourned way of life in a different and simpler time.
Falling Leaves seems to be a song of searching for the self, going by the chorus. The melody is lovely and though it is not a "country" song it does put me in mind of of balladeer or cowboy singing from the heart, and singing from the heart is a beautiful thing
Shadows of Sherwood Forest is another jaunt back to the days of yore. Exotic percussion, guitar and lute or mandolin or perhaps both do a happy dance with bardic vocals to put me in mind of an ancient troubadour. Lyrically and melodically this one is a heart wearmer that puts a smile on the face and a spring in the step.
The Funeral Procession of the Gypsy Queen is a somber march, played out ancient percussion, mournful guitar and voice. Images of robed figures, perhaps Druidic, come to mind, carrying torches as they traverse a forest, bearing the body of their beloved Queen to her final place of rest. Music that can paint pictures in the mind as Mr. Endemann can do, is a wonderful thing to experience
She Lies Beneath the Rose is my other favorite on the disk, with Goodbye to Avalon being the first. I love songs that to me hearken back to ancient days, and I hear one of those right here. Again, the guitar melody is a thing of beauty, as is Mr. Endemann's delivery of poignant lyrics depicting the parting from this world of a beloved soul, and perhaps also the passing of an ideal.
Winter is a pleasing, warming ode to the coldest of seasons, delivered with a warmth that is felt in the heart for me. It paints, for me, a picture of either a loved one, or perhaps the Earth itself. Hints of the cyclical nature of life and death dance through the piece, going from there to the return of life, and back. It is a picture that is beautifully painted.
So Far to me is a perfect piece of road music. I don't say that because of tempo but because it puts me in mind of someone driving across the country through the open road during the evening time, watching the sunset, moon and starlight as they ponder the human condition. Images of campfires on beaches come to mind too. Lyrically, it makes me think. Melodically, it's gripping, and vocally, it is beautifully delivered
Lullaby (The Sun Is Slipping) is a piece that touches the heart and drifts through the soul in a way that few things I've heard have done for me. The beauty of the guitar and vocal melodies make me joyful for those out there who are fathers and call to mind what a blessing parenthood is, also making me thankful to God for the man He gave me to be my own earthly father. For that, I am grateful, as the song is a reminder of true blessing, and one of the greatest joys a man can ever know on this Earth.
In closing, I do believe the world needs to hear more of Jeff Endemann, and if you haven't, do yourself a favor and try this. If you allow yourself the courage to be touched, your heart will be touched by this release.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Step two of what is shaping up to be a legendary journey...
, January 29, 2010
Mass Effect 2. Two years after the original Mass Effect game's smashing success, here it is. What can I say that has not been said? I don't know. All I can say is how I feel about it, and I love it.
In terms of production value, graphics and sound, this thing is a behemoth, easily rivaling the biggest and best science fiction and science fantasy movies. The sense of immersion in the world and universe that Bioware has created is nothing short of stunning.
I really like the combat in Mass Effect 2. It is very strategic and intense, sometimes nail-bitingly so. You cannot simply charge in, guns blazing. You have to analyze, prepare and think, pay attention to ammo and use cover effectively. Thankfully, using cover and directing your squad mates is very easy, intuitive and fun. Every firefight feels like a chess match, requiring thought, and I say that in a good way.
Exploration is even better than in the first game. Every side mission means something. They feel much more important. The clunkiness of driving the Mako, which I did grow to like in time, is gone this time. Exploration is therefore much easier, and the side mission feel more gratifying.
To me, the real strength of Mass Effect 2, though, is both its characters and its story. Without going into specifics or posting spoilers, I can honestly say that I grww to really love my squad mates and the tense nature of the tale of the quest that we faced together. There were moments throughout the story that were very touching, genuinely touching. I loved learning about my squad mates and taking the time to talk to them and to get to know them. The amount of thought and care that Bioware put into carrrying things over from the original Mass Effect unfolded into an incredible world that remembered my decisions in tons of satisfying little and big ways that really impressed me and made the game very emotional and personal. By the end, for me, there was was both a great sense of accomplishment, and a great sense of anticipation, for whatever may come next.
In short, I love Mass Effect 2. No more needs to be said, though much more could be. Bioware has given us a breathtaking universe, story, and characters that I am proud to have experienced. This is one of the greatest role playing experiences that has ever been created. I can see myself replaying this any number of times. It's just that good, and I, for one, cannot wait for the third game in the trilogy, God willing, whenever it comes out. Bravo, Bioware. Mass Effect 2 is, quite simply, a masterpiece. It is a towering achievement, and my hat is off to you.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Thou Art Beckoned.....
, December 17, 2009
Unto an enchanted Kingdom which doth rise anew with every blanketing of the earth within her pristine ivory garments. Respite be hereby granted us by beloved minstrels of eventime's deepest reaching lore. Aye, here we are bid to walk a gentler path. Come, be ye of good cheer and of courage. Walk amidst the wonders of a snow-laden paradise. Breathe the crisp cool air... and bathe your ears, eyes, mind, and heart, in the wonders of the Ebonshire forest . Walk with Nox Arcana once again unto that blessed realm, and know ye, one and all, the peerless splendor of:
1. The Messenger- Hereby are our ears gifted with canticle sweetly intoned. Heavenly choral summons bid us venture forth, to seek shelter for our hearts as the frigid winds whisper through our being. Indeed, shelter we do find, for the Kingdom of Ebonshire doth indeed bid us welcome via choral melody rich and warming. Blended male and female voices lead us to an unspoiled haven clothed in cloud-like hues of flawless white. Further greeting, and counsel is given here by the White Queen of Winter (voiced beautifully by Christine Filipak) as she bids us pay heed to the value of willingness to believe in wonder, and to embrace it, via the following:
"The cold winds of change bring the first frost and snow. As twilight descends upon the earth below. Dreams come to life for those who believe, in the spirit and wonder that surrounds winter's eve
2. Frozen Memories - Trickling piano begins a stately cascade, a dance of beauty through the skies. It is like unto the drifting of tiny ivory petals to the earth. Snowflakes lit by the crescent moon. Tender choral melody and bell-like tones blend in . In like manner gripping strings do sweep o'er our hearts Unto Ebonshire we have returned, a place we have called beloved and still do. It is unchanged by time, and beautiful as ever it was
3. Magic And Moonlight - Piano, bells and chorals waltz anew. Lunar luminescence bathes a vista few mortal hearts could resist Distant fires bring to light a promenade, as white garbed maidens dance in a circle, In their midst doth stand the Monarch, the Lady Of Ebonshire dancing unaffected by the cold. Regal are her steps, and timeless ....as she doth lead the dance, at its end bending, to plant, and to bid us to look upon:
4. The Rose of Winter - Gentle colors painted with the beautifully crying strings of the guitar mate with the soul-stirring call of female choir and drifting piano to paint the flower that is the namesake of the piece 'Tis truly a heavenly blossom, unblemished and pure, standing alone amidst frigid cold and desolation. Ivory petals bravely unfurled, it is the gift of the Queen, and a reminder to everyone that will look upon it, that even in the darkest times, there is still beauty to be found, and there is always hope.
5. Enchanted Realm- Another picture is hereby painted upon the canvas of the heart. Piano, bells, chorals and keys are the brushes used. Bare are the tress of all cover, as deeper into the forest we have gone, but still there is wonder, for upon a distant hill there looms a magnificent castle, veiled in ivory, covered in, or perhaps made of snow and ice, Shelter may be found within, but it is in and of itself a marvel that draweth many a mortal eye.
6. Ides of December - Another regal dance of piano, chorals and bell like tones depicts here unto mine ear the beauty and fury of the winter with rapid melodic runs The steady weight of snowfall, and of blustery winds are beheld . Find ye quickly what shelter ye may. Cling to hope though, for it shall not abandon ye. Beauty abounds, as does hope. Go ye home, for within this snow-clad paradise, thine love awaiteth thee, for to keep thee ever warm.
7. Gifts of the Magi - Exotic beauty be here personified, with Mid-Eastern flavored percussion floating over a meadow adorned with the flowers of dancing guitar and chorals. Making ardent journey are the wise ones of ancient days, through the white clad landscape, for to pay homage to the One promised to bring life and hope.
8. Season of Wonder- Once again do piano and music-box like tinkle of bells drift around us, like a gentle blanket of winter snow, warming the heart with it's beauty. Chorals drifts softly through the piece, the gentle whisper of a lover to an adoring heart. Ah, the joy of holding a beloved's hand, and gazing with gratitude into the beauty of a winter sky shedding it's beautiful petals of ivory.
9. Solstice Dance- Festivity, joy, true gaiety of heart. Kiss of flame upon the skies, giving warmth unto all near. Anew 'round thee do many step lightly, to the beat of tambourine, soft strings, and frolicking guitar, with exultant choral cries. Anon doth the Queen of Winter dance, ladies in waiting gaily clad keeping perfect step, all crowned with ivy and winter berries.
10. The White Queen- Piano, strings and chorals unite in this a stately procession. The gaiety of joyful dance is done. Now the Monarch of Ebonshire Kingdom moves with stately stride over all her domain, casting gentle eyes over that which is left in her charge. Fixing each and everything into her memory, that it may be preserved without blemish when the time is come.
11. Winter's Eve- Regal and wistful guitar melodies and heart-gripping chorals blend with the golden bardic voice of guest vocalist Jeff Endemann Called to mind is a young minstrel with ancient soul, singing a canticle of love and hope, present in even the darkest of days. Life will endure, as will love, and hope, despite any hardship, and in even the deepest darkness, there is beauty to be found.
12. Starlight Serenade- Gentle piano and chorals float into the ears, and into the heart. Waltz-like in tempo, the "brushes" of the melodies paint upon the canvas of the soul a beautiful tapestry...of dancing with a beloved one over the frozen suface of a moonlit winter lake. Seeing starlight reflected in their eyes, and holding the loveliness of their smile forever burned into the heart, as the dance of life, of joy, and of true bliss endures, even despite the cold. Joy, and love, live on.
13. Greensleves- Guitar, soft drums, gentle strings and tolling bells weave a timeless bit of musical fabric for us here. The genius of King Henry the VIII is given new and vibrant life in an arrangement that pays reverent homage unto a melody that has been, and continues to be beloved of millions. Never has it been done like this, and I thank God Almighty that I have ears that work, that I may ingest the splendor, a splendor that brings a smile to the face, tears to the eyes, and joy to the heart. A song of love, beautifully performed, and ever remembered fondly.
14. The Longest Night - Piano, chorals, and tolling bells sing for us here with gently sweeping strings. Once again, warmth is called to mind, the shelter of a lover's arms. Sharing time, and the warmth of a fire, seeking to keep warm as the night of the Winter Solstice is endured.
15. Pax Terra - Given exquisite life here, via the mating of tolling bells, the soft yet regal thunder of timpani drums, and the heavenly soaring cry of blended chorals, is the most beautiful anthem Nox Arcana has woven for us to date. Robed in white, a woman crowned with long flowing hair of burnt copper, dusted with snowflakes, walks with regal step through an ancient chapel, its clear crystal windows bathed in moonlight that catches her form. Eyes the blue of the blemishless skies are in turn lowered reverently, and gazed Heavenward in faith, and hope.
16. Winds of Change- Joyful guitar and piano blend here with soft strings and chorals . Winter is seen, but this time, lovers are at play. Both smiling, running happily through winter meadows falling into each others' arms, and even pelting one other with snowballs on occasion. Happiness abounds, in a tune that will bring another smile to the heart.
17. Fading Embers- From joy, we go headlong to wistful grief. Piano here weeps both for and with us. Its mate is a string melody that will tug on any heart that hears it. Before a flickering fire sits an old man, white haired like the snow, shivering under a blanket with a cup of tea that has gone lukewarm. Before his eyes, ever present, is his wife's grave, and the ghost of her smile. The warmth of the fire may die out, but her memory never will. I must cry too, for I see his own tears, and I feel them. My own heart is weeping.
18. Crystal Chimes- The tinkling of xylophone-like music box tones blends with tolling bells, soaring strings and chorals to paint in my mind the very essence of the beauty of icicles. Ever vigilant they stand, a testament to the beauty and power of the winter season, both adored for their loveliness to the eye, and respected for the cold that brought them into being
19. Serenity - Guitar drifts over the soul, with chorals and tolling bells drifting along in step. Stillness, the calm of a winter morn, shared with one dear to the soul. This be the vista lain before mine own' heart's eyes. The joy of being able, to just...be still, and take in the beauty of nature, no matter the cold.
20. Winter Rhapsody - The piano that here dances over the meadow of the heart is rapid in its pacing. Coupled with soft yet soaring chorals and the tolling of a solstice vesper , it is joined by tinkling bell tones to paint ....as it were... perhaps a moment in time, and the ecstasy that may be felt at beholding the very essence of beauty itself. The pace, the loveliness of the melody... yes, it tells me of one thing, the ecstasy of the soul, at seeing what it considers beautiful.
21. Time Slips Away- The gentle tinkling of bells is joined by regal, stately piano , soaring violin strings and choral tones that stretch forth bravely as if to reach into the highest heaven. It Is not a somber piece, but reflective is a fitting term. Again I see the beauty of Ebonshire Kingdom in all her splendor, but I am reminded of the transitory nature of this life, and that the moments we value within it should be held dear, and precious, for they are fleeting. Still, even in the darkest of times, the light of hope shines, like the rose that blooms in winter time.
Do not hit stop when Time Slips Away goes quiet. The bonus track to be found here is a truly beautiful instrumental canticle that brings the CD to a close in a more than fitting way. In my mind, it makes one recall the cyclical nature of life, but it also reminds me that we will see beauty if we are willing to look, and we will have hope and love, as long as we are willing to hold onto them. Don't lose hope, and don't give up on love. Time is precious, as is life, and all the moments in it we hold dear. Ebonshire Kingdom stands, a testament to beauty even in times of greatest darkness. Shall we pay heed to the words of the White Queen of Winter, and believe in wonder? Yes, I hope so
In closing, I can say no more than this. Nox Arcana's Winter's Eve is a masterpiece. It is a beautiful tapestry of melody that is sure to speak to the heart of any listener. It is a testament to the power of music to touch the soul, bearing a message of hope, of light, and of warmth. The minstrels of the night speak most ably of the beauty of the night, but also of the warmth present in the heart during even the coldest of seasons, if we will only hold on to hope. Will we hold on? Yes, I hope we will.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A novel atmospheric gem
, November 6, 2009
Many,I'm certain, have grown up loving atmospheric horror stories and tales of the walking dead ravaging the land of the living. Here, we are gifted with a great tale of that nature. In the vein of the classic radio drama "War of the Worlds" Buzz Works' Jeff Hartz and Monolith Graphics founder Joseph Vargo team up to bring the world Zombie Influx, an opus that to me personifies tension and paints vivid mental pictures for any that will listen.
For me, favorite facets of this sonic jewel were "Ravenous" "Dead Life" "Doomsday" "Warning Signs", "DefCon Six", "Creeping Death", and "Dead Run". I loved the tribal feel I drew from Creeping Death in particular. For me the quality of ambient sound in this symphony of tension is a major strong point, able to place vivid colors on the canvas of the mind.
The narrative work of Mr. Hartz I found to be well performed, and progressive rock feel in the musical offerings was a pleasant surprise. This CD has brought a many smile and grown all the more with time. Where novelty drew me in, quality has kept me drawn. Hartz and Vargo have teamed to show the world a fresh compelling auditory "look" at the horror of a zombie infestation that has not seen this kind of quality treatment since the legendary "Night of the Livind Dead" films. I salute Mr. Hartz and Mr. Vargo for this effort. Most heartily, my hat is off to them both. Pick it up if you love zombie tales. It will be well worth the acquisition.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Beyond the Threshold of Madness....
, June 26, 2009
... is where thou art dared anew to tread. As unto many other locales, allow Nox Arcana, if you dare, to be your guide once more on a tense and heart-gripping journey into the macabre. Behold, the doors of the nefarious Blackthorn Asylum have been opened to the public. Do you dare to step into it's unhallowed halls? Come..be thou one of courage, and step this way.... Visiting hours are begun.
1. Legacy of Darkness- A booming thunderclap is our herald of the beginning of this new and captivating journey into the macabre. It is mated with beautiful female choral vocal work, unearthly cries and moans, and sinister laughter all intermingled. Somber piano and tolling bells creep through the opening dirge as well, as does gripping and subtle pipe organ, as the voice of Joseph Vargo takes on the role of the warden of the institution speaking to us, the listeners:
"Dementia. Horrific delusions. Psychotic paranoia. Violent sociopathic behavior. These are but a few of the torments that plague the wretched souls confined within these walls. And though modern science has discovered ways to rationalize and treat certain mental disorders, there are still some extreme cases that defy explanation or cure. During your visit, you shall bear witness to shocking depravities of the human mind, as well as monstrous abnormalities of the physical body. Tragically incurable, these tortured souls spend their dire existence plagued by a nightmarish reality, that mercifully eludes those who cling to their sanity. For the essence of evil lies in the deepest shadows of the mind, and the gateway to revelation lies beyond the threshold of madness."
In the recesses of my own mind, I see when listening a storm blackened sky and rain illuminating an ancient structure offering shelter from the downpour but warning of things within that are worse than any tempest.
2. Blackthorn Asylum- This titular canticle is a grand and hauntingly beautiful, slightly tragic mix of trickling piano, bells, chorals, keyboard and strings. Here is a closer view of a grand domicile once meant for the good of mankind, that..having fallen to darkness, became something much worse, and a cruel inhuman parody of its original intent
3. Sanitarium Gates- Tense violin vibrato, somber horns, crying chorals, heart-beat like drums and more combine to in my mind paint a picture of an endless parade of despairing, hopeless and tormented souls being shepherded to a place of unspeakable terror against their will.
4. Abandoned- Piano and chorals partner again.This time their joiner is deep male choir, vibrating violin strings and a solitary female voice. Pained in a mind is a poor soul gazing with grief and longing out the barred door of his padded room, rocking slightly back and forth, lamenting the truth that he has no way out of where he is.
5. Threshold of Madness- The rainfall of piano is a bit faster here, mixed with a drum-laden heartbeat, somber pipe organ, tolling bells and chorals and strings and more. Whomsoever is holding their head, praying for escape, is now doing so even more fervently, for their hold on themselves is ever so surely slipping away from them.
6. Tapestry of Decay- The star of this piece is a lonely, lovely harpsichord passage. Female chorals, tolling bells, and other instruments partner beautifully with it. There's a kind of dark nobility and tragedy in this piece as if perhaps this haven of terror was once meant for a grander and more altruistic purpose, and is perhaps in mourning that that purpose has been twisted, turned, and lost.
7. Hidden Horrors - Tolling bells, deep low strings and choir mix with pipe organ and sinister vocal chanting to paint a picture of the things that go bump in the night within the unhallowed halls of Blackthorn Asylum once the midnight hour is upon us all.
8. When Darkness Falls- A steady, descending piano passage is mixed with violin, keys and female voice. Melodious bell like tones dance through the piece as well, painting a portrait of the coming of nightfall, a blood-red sunset giving way to eventime's raven hue, as nocturnal horrors prepare anew to strike fear into mortal and long gone spectral hearts.
9. Shock Treatment - Electrical current and agonized screaming are the stars here. No music is present in this one. It's a mood-setting, scene-painting piece and quite effective. It is easily among the most disturbing pieces on the entire CD. I pity the one who had to be strapped in and subjected to such horror.
10. Fractured Memories- Mournful piano, slightly disonnant and off-kilter but still haunting, paints the portrait of this piece's title. Tolling bells and chorals join in doing the honors It's easy for me to see someone silently mourning the loss of all they once held dear in their mind.
11. Phantasmagoria- My favorite piece on the CD is right here. Intense choral work, the best Nox Arcana has used to date, is paired with tense, urgent strings , somber horn melodies and thunderous percussion. Thunder rumbles dance through the piece. To me, this is a portrait of what terror in its purest form would look like, if terror itself could take a physical form of its own.
12. Creeper- Rain and thunder start us off. Mixed in are mournful tense piano, strings female chorals, and maniacal laughter and moaning. Another picture is painted here, with the 'crying' female choral voice taking the role of one who desperately seeks escape, and the male voice a role of mockery to her. The dynamic they present is almost operatic in a way, with a tragic flavor put into it. The thunderclap at the end is a fitting close.
13. Sanity Slipping- Slow and steady trickling piano and melodious bells dance with female choral voice, gliding pipe organ, and what sounds a bit like music box tones mixed maybe with a harp or other plucked strings. I picture a patient desperately trying to cling to a sound mind, and ever so slowly losing the battle.
14. Dementia 13- Thumping piano hits and plucked strings dance with tolling bells and plucked strings and percussion to take us here. All is not right, and may are on the verge of running among. Choral wind-like moans float through this one adding a nice touch There's a relentless nature to the steady pace that paints a portrait of the title's namesake taking over the mind.
15. Solitary Confinement - Mournful piano and vibrating violin once again dance for us. Partnered with male chorals and bell-like tones. They show me the grief of what it might be like to be really alone, cut off from the world in a place I don't know, with no one left that I held dear to help me cling to the last vestige of rationality.
16. Frenzy- The title of this one says it all. A galloping piano dances for us here. Accented by tolling bells and female choral voice, it shows me an image of what happens when the entire asylum runs amok, the inmates throwing themselves against the bars of cages, and one of them, their "leader" running madly through the halls, seeking to find the way out, if indeed there is one.
17. The Condemned- This piece is very big, almost epic in its scope. It's sounds martial, or a bit militaristic in its nature. Comprised of thundering drums and strings and horns along a 'waltzing' pipe organ and a gripping chorals, to me it shows a gathering of unfortunates being 'marched' to their fate, whatever it may be. It is easily as memorable and powerful as John Williams' Imperial March, with it's relentless driving energy.
18. Spiders in the Attic- Piano dances for us anew, slightly off kilter and demented in it's steady cadence. Vibrating violins float over them, mated with melodic chorals. There is a steady weight to these melodies, suggesting perhaps either the title's namesake, (gathering spiders) or maybe the weight of painful memory.
19. From Beyond- This is another sound effect piece, a mood setting scene painter. I get from it the sense of a kind of machine being activated and tuned, followed by a voice speaking from another plane, maybe....as if a form of contact has been made with another life form, and a macabre message delivered. At first I didn't no what to make of this one, but it grew on me and is quite effective and unnerving in it's own way.
20. Essence of Evil - Again tolling bells and steady, urgent strings dance with Latin chanting performed by mixed male and female choirs. Invigorating drums and violins waft through the piece with gripping low horn melodies. This is a favorite of mine, painting once more for me the form of malice and giving it a tangible appearance in melody.
21. Fade to Black - This is another gem to me, one of my favorites on the CD. A dancing piano arpeggio broadens into a steady, urgent and heart-gripping piano melody that is interwoven with epic chorals, tolling bells and the thunder of thunderous timpani hits. It pays a grand homage in a way, I think, to John Carpenter's Halloween theme, not in the sense of being derivative, but in the fact that it has the same kind of energy, but is uniquely a stirring Nox Arcana canticle that warms the blood with adrenaline and grips the heart. Every bit as memorable as the aforementioned piece, but even more appealing to me. It is something greater than that to which it pays respectful homage in a way, and is one of Nox Arcana's strongest pieces to date. It's brilliant.
Don't hit stop once Fade to Black goes quiet. The bonus pieces included here are a tense and fitting closure to Nox Arcana's eleventh masterful opus in six short years. It is another jewel in the crown of the undisputed kings of the gothic horror and gothic fantasy musical sound scape. Once again, Nox Arcana reigns supreme, taking us on a dark and twisted journey into the deepest recesses of a own fears and warped imaginations. It's a journey I've loved taking. Pick it up if you get the chance. You just might love the journey too. I'll see you...within the halls of Blackthorn Asylum... if you dare to enter.