Saturday, 16 March 2013

The Beginnning And The End

The Beginning And The End by GothicNarcissusInside this cold heart is a dream
That’s locked in a box that I keep
Buried a hundred miles deep,
Deep in my soul, in a place that’s surrounded
By aeons of silence.

And somewhere inside is the key
To everything I want to feel,
But the dark summer dawns of my memory
Are locked in a place that can never be.

Can someone please show me the way?
Can someone please help me?
‘Cause I cannot see and the silence is raging.
Silence is raging, ooh!

Silence, silence, fade into silence.
Silence, silence, fade into silence.
Memory, memory, inside is the key to a
Memory, memory, inside is the key to a memory.

[ The Beginning And The End – Anathema ]

This song was the introduction for Weather Systems, as it was released before the album itself as a preview of its general sound. Ever since the first time I heard it, I immediately related to it and realised it’s one of that songs that seem to have been written especially for me. I find a lot of myself in its lyrics, they do really describe a period of my life I’ve been through recently, so I was eager to give it a visual rendition. Damn, it mentions a key to inner feelings and I constantly wear a key necklace which reminds me to keep my feelings as clear as possible.
I already mentioned how this was a weird and slightly frustrating afternoon. Interestingly enough, this was the photo that shook it up and brought us the right creative mood from which eventually These Woods Breathe Evil sprung, which is very fitting with the lyrics. Taking the self-portrait was not too much of a big deal as I had BriarRose and Nytrogen’s help (in particular for the shadow on my eyes), while for the companion photo I opted for shot of the sun through the branches of the trees. Although it was actually sunset, it had a very warm light which reminded me of a beginning, something like an awakening like a deep slumber much like that of the wintery trees. To get the best effect, I was particularly careful to set the focus on the foremost branches in order to give the whole photo a neat, sharp look – yep, that’s the secret about it.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

These Woods Breathe Evil

These Woods Breathe Evil I by *GothicNarcissusI grasp the soil from this tomb
And cover my face, this face of a murderer.

Serpents betrayed me.
They crawled in my head and betrayed me.
The old woods, they misled me,
Cut my face and misled me.

The owls are not what they seem.
They made me do it,
Am I a ghost amongst them?
But this blood is real, that stains my hands.

Tortured by these voices
Like flies around me.
They chased me here
And you invited me in...

These woods breathe evil!
Rust on the ground and the arches of fire.
These woods breathe evil!
Here in the circle of eerie winds,
Towards the black heart of magnetic north.

Black lodge and red rooms of insanity.
Here I reached the point of no return
With my hands around you.
They chased me here,

To this hotel of ghosts,
And they showed me this room,
This doom with a view,
And you invited me in...
These Woods Breathe Evil II by *GothicNarcissusTortured by these voices
Like flies around me.
They chased me here
And you invited me in...

These woods breathe evil!
Rust on the ground and the arches of fire.
These woods breathe evil!
Here in the circle of eerie winds.

These woods...
They led me back here,
To your buried body...

[ These Woods Breathe Evil – Swallow The Sun ]

Kind of back to my roots, am I not? Very murky, gothic imagery, but (I hope, at least) with the polished, magazine-like look I’m constantly striving to achieve lately.
These two photos were the result of a very weird, up-and-down afternoon that met an old stray idea I had about a year ago while I was discovering Swallow The Sun’s music and going through a very gory phase, which I noted down on my “Stray ideas” text file saving it for a better moment.
As usual, I’ve been looking forward to a photoshoot in the woods around Trieste since ages, but I don’t have a car, nor a driving license: as I had to depend on someone with a car, my plans ended up screwed up each time BriarRose came to visit me. Actually, we were supposed to be shooting another very important photo for one of my projects, but despite our best efforts it just didn’t work out. The light, the place, the pose... well, nothing turned out like I had figured it out, so I gave up and focussed on other stuff. I was starting to feel very frustrated when finally I got a self-portrait right, which set me in the right mood for further shooting and exploring this concept.
There is a sort of romance or seduction going on in the songs, but it ends very bad: that was my standpoint. A deadly romance would suggest vampires, but they are so last decade (just joking, but I’m quite done with them for now), so I decided to keep it all human and, if possible, even more morbid. I’ll leave it up to you to decide what happened, let’s just say I put a lot of blood in it to suggest that it’s not just a quick, little bite on the girl’s neck.
Things went better than I expected: the light was perfect for what I had in mind, the forest bokehed into a disturbing, twirling texture and both Nitrogen and BriarRose did an amazingly good acting job. Which (I’ve notice now) got me another Daily Deviation on deviantART, for which I’m very grateful.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013


Unspoken by GothicNarcissusThings will never change
And our hearts will always separate.
Forget about you, I’ll forget about you.
The things we never say
Are better often left alone.
Forget about you, I’ll forget about this time.

But it’s the same old situation,
We made it through this far, ooh.
We watched the rockets kiss the sky,
I saw the flames burn out in your eyes.

Nothing that I do
Will ever be enough for you,
Whatever I do, whatever I do.
Take me as I am,
I’ll never be the other man.
Forget about you, I’ll forget about this time.

So won’t you save this conversation
And find a better time, ooh, ooh?
Don’t you ever understand
That if it hurts I’ll do whatever I can?

And if it’s set in motion,
I’ll watch it all pass by
And leave the rest unspoken:
I’ll never change my mind.

I’ll leave it unspoken, leave it unspoken,
Leave it unspoken, leave it unspoken now.
I’ll leave it unspoken, leave it unspoken,
Leave it unspoken, leave it unspoken now.

I’ll leave it unspoken, leave it unspoken,
Leave it unspoken, leave it unspoken now.
I’ll leave it unspoken, leave it unspoken,
Leave it unspoken, we’ll fly away tonight.

So just let me go, I won’t change my mind:
I’d rather be lonely than be by your side.
And nothing you say can save us this time:
I’d rather be lonely.

[ Unspoken – Hurts ]

Unspoken is one of my favourite songs on Happiness, in particular its live version (which can be found on the Live In Berlin DVD). Nevertheless, it was one of the last songs from the album that inspired me with a possible visual rendition. The theme of this song is breaking up, pretty much the same as Blood, Tears & Gold, but Unspoken is different in that it doesn’t have a visually immediate title and has a very subtle approach to the theme. Rather than a very heartbreaking story, it tells how a relationship can simply die off, regardless of what one might try to say and do. No drama, no blood, no shouting: just leave some things unspoken because you know they won’t do any good and walk away. To some extent, this is even more heartwrecking.
The idea to represent such an emotional situation with two chronologically ordered images in a diptych was quite immediate, as was the black and white, grainy appearance. The rest of the image, like the location and the specific weather conditions, came quite easily: the Molo Audace in Trieste is a rather romantic place, but it gets melancholic with gloomy weather. Also, on a cloudy day the that light is also less dramatic and the sea very bright, which gives the scene a somewhat more peaceful ambiance. Indeed I wanted the drama to come from the models’ pose and acting.
This choice was quite simple, too: I wanted BriarRose in it because this song is very meaningful for her, and I wanted to be in it because I like how well we work together in this kind of photos. The combination of the very specific location, weather conditions and models forced me to postpone the shooting for several months until now. Finally, beside the three right conditions, I also had the assistance of Nytrogen Frostrhyme, which was extremely helpful given my lack of a remote control. I could set my camera on a tripod with the right angle and stuff, but the timing could prove to be very tricky give the distances from the shooting to the modelling points, and the second photo would be nearly ipossible anyway. Things went smooth and I’m very satisfied with the photo. I hope you like it as well.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

The Infernal Lords XXII: Azazel

An army of ambition is moving
And it shakes the ground:
Ten thousand hungry hearts with iron heels.
Burns and rapes, sucks the earth dry,
Cuts and slays all that gets in its way.
Mighty forces of destruction way beyond control:
Nothing sleeps tonight.

We are the hounds of hell:
You will kneel, you will bend.

[ The Gate – Tristania ]
Azazel by *GothicNarcissusDuke Azazel is the Ambassador of Hell on the Earth. As the General of the Earthly Troops of the Infernal Army, he ranks among the military elite of the Third Demonic Level and is highly respected by his own soldiers. He was formerly the Chief of Principalities, whose duty is to bring orders from the First Angelic Sphere to the Third one and the Sublunar World, and maintained his role after the Great Heavenly War among other Fallen Angels who still faked loyalty to Yahweh. After his Fall, caused by an altercation with Great Angel Metatron, he was appointed as the General of the Earthly Troops of Hell thanks to the huge experience of the Sublunar World he had made while falsely serving Heaven. He’s a major connoisseur of mankind, and while other Demons – in particular the Seven Satans – often wreak havoc with their Sins just for the sake of annoying Yahweh, he plans more capillary and delicate actions and tries to direct the Satans’ and other Upper Demons’ efforts into less spectacular but more productive deeds. For instance, he was the one who suggested that Duke Belial teach women the art of beautifying their body, that Princess Lilith extensively use her powers over the Black Moon to increase the Mortals’ sexual appetites and let them fall prey to Count Asmodeus and Marquis Rosiel’s influence, that Marquis Leonard and Marquise Naamah teach them the use of wizardcraft and divination respectively, that Duke Xaphan grant them the knowledge to advance their technology, and that such concepts originally only present in the Heavenly and Infernal Courts as corruption, careerism and lust for power and knowledge be introduced to the then newly fallen-from-grace mankind. He did this to set the ground for his masterpiece: the Goetic Deals, contracts in which Mortals sell their soul in exchange for knowledge or powers granted by the Goetic Demons. Indeed, it was his idea to purchase human souls to steal them from Yahweh’s control and increase the ranks of the Infernal Army.
Beside being an Astral Demon in charge of the power of Saturn, he’s the de facto Leader of the Third Demonic Level and commands pretty much the whole Infernal Army since the Supreme General, Prince Abaddon, slumbers in meditation to gather more power before the Armageddon, and the higher-ranking Prince Absinthion still resides undercover in Heaven; thus he often works with Archduke Beelzebub and Marquis Leviathan from the First Level to supervise the occasional battles against the Heavenly Troops. He works closely with his Lieutenant, Count Mephistophel, while taking care of his embassy duties on Earth, which basically means he has to present men with the advantages of siding with Hell, while it’s Count Mephistophel who ultimately gets the contracts signed. The two are rather close, as the latter was his fanatically loyal Second-In-Command before the fall. He also holds in great esteem fellow Third-Level Demon Marquis Nergal and the two often work together in coordinating the patrols at the borders of Hell. Right after Archduke Beelzebub, Duke Azazel is the most loyal Demon to Emperor Lucifer so he carries his own duties with zeal and diligence, while still enjoying the mundane life of the Court whenever he can.

Azazel: development and symbolism

Photo, concept, manipulation, frame design: GothicNarcissus
Model, hair, make up: Uriele
Styling: Uriele and GothicNarcissus
Additional resources: Amptone-stock (texture), Thy-Darkest-Hour (wings)

Azazel is one of the most infamous Demons of the Abrahamic franchise and is featured in a form or another in all three derived mythologies. While mutually very different, the three interpretations agree about him being a very powerful Demon, to the point of being often identified with Satan himself (in modern Hebrew, the word “azazel” means “hell”), and specifically a tempter who meticulously corrupts men in their everyday life. He’s so infamous that, beside being featured in such grimoires as Colin De Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal, he’s been included in several fictional works, from John Milton’s Paradise Lost up to the TV series Supernatural.
Azazel from the Dictionnaire Infernal
Azazel from the Dictionnaire Infernal.
In Jewish mythology, Azazel is mentioned in several different sources, which are not entirely consistent with one another and are generally rather vague: the Bible mentions an episode that provided the basis for the rite of the scapegoat, in which two goats were sacrificed, one to Yahweh, while the other was left “for Azazel”, which meant it was sent out into the desert; scholars debate what the meaning of this rite was, and whether Azazel was a definite entity, either a Demon or a deity, or not. The Book of Enoch mentions Azazel as one of the Angels who kept residing in Heaven despite being fallen; he was the one who led the fallen Grigori into seducing humans, and when he opposed Metatron’s rise to power he was cast out of Heaven, taking the blame like a scapegoat. Islamic mythology is partly consistent with this view, as Azazel, beside being simply identified with Lucifer, is also said to have advised that two fallen Angels teach mankind the secrets of wizardcraft to actually corrupt them while passing the ordeal out in the eyes of Allah as an experiment to see how adamant men were in their faith. The Christian sources are more scarce: Azazel is simply linked to the scapegoat, goats in general, and is appointed as the standard-bearer in Milton’s Paradise Lost, which is consistent with his representation in Colin De Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal. Several Satanist sources identify him with the Baphomet, an androgynous goat-headed idol widely featured in Satanism, and with the planet Saturn.
The Baphomet.
When developing the idea for the work, I tried to keep in mind pretty much all of the above both for the character and the aesthetics. Firstly, I decided to exploit the Baphomet idea for the model’s pose, but making it somewhat more alluring and including the standard-bearing thing. I thought that, given his temper and schemes, Azazel would be something in-between an army general and a diplomat, so the styling would retain a military feel with the hat I had purchased for the series and my grandfather’s medals. As he was depicted as particularly meticulous in bringing about evil among mankind, I decided he would coordinate many efforts including the Faustian pacts (which I called “Goetic” because of the Ars Goetia thing). Similarly to Nergal, I blended the Seal as a decoration on the hat. The theme colour of this work is olive green, similar to Nergal’s asparagus, because it’s widely used in military clothing. The Gate by Tristania was chosen as the theme song because of its amazing lyrics and dark mood, which I gave to the photo itself.
All these things were already clear since a couple of years – indeed, the idea for Mephistophel was developed on Azazel’s basis – but the photo had to wait because choosing a model proved to be quite a challenge. I wanted Azazel to look somewhat “sharper” than most of the other Demons, with a more masculine look. I tried to approach a couple of guys but things didn’t work out until I met Uriele, who agreed to the idea, bringing in his ideas for the styling (such as putting the hat on his leg for a more “relaxed” attire).

On a side note, this is the first Infernal Lord I shot with my Canon EOS 5D and edited on my Macbook: while I feel the improved technical quality shows, I’m glad it did not make the image much different from the rest of the series. This is the fourth year the project is going and it’s really plain to see it hasn’t lost its identity despite the changes in my style and aesthetics.
The next Demon is already shot, but postproduction is proving to be more complicated than I first thought, so it will take a while. In the meantime, enjoy this work, which marks the first time I complete a Demonic Level, the third.