Shadows On The Wall, self-release 2018
You might remember Benjamin Fouché as the man behind Spookinite Valley. This year marks his debut novel, Shadows On The Wall. This year also marks his musical debut with a tie-in album for the novel under his side project, Morbus Tenebris. It’s a story of a haunted house-themed sideshow attraction called “Gravestone Manor” whose facade artwork delivers exactly what it promises. Sadly its monsters and supernatural beings are all too real…and all too deadly. They also have the ability to leave the attraction! It has claimed many unsuspecting victims as it materializes in various carnivals and fairs and the novel tells of the protagonist’s life being forever changed by three beings from the attraction: The spectral Funereal, the monstrous Odious and the vampiric Luminita. I’ve only had a chance to read a little of it and it’s kind of like if H.P. Lovecraft got sick of tentacled horrors beyond imagination and decided to write about a haunted attraction that’s truly haunted.
The version of Shadows On The Wall I’ll be reviewing is actually the remastered reissue. The original was released earlier in the year with different artwork, different mixes and even a few different tracks. Mr. Fouché eventually came to the conclusion that the artwork was too cartoonish and he became dissatisfied with the quality of the music. It took some time and money (and a new artist), but he was pleased with the final results. He even created some new tracks to replace those he felt couldn’t be salvaged. These new tracks are “Sanguivoriphobia”, “Nocturnal Wandering” and “Gravestone Manor”. I only bring this up as an interesting bit of trivia, as this sort of thing is far from unheard of in the world of haunting ambient music. After all, both Prelude to a Nightmare and Verse 13 have replaced cover art and swapped around tracks for their old albums. But I’m getting off topic…
Creepy organ music takes us into “Lost at Midnight.” It offers lots of variations until it briefly stops and takes on a grander (and vaguely circus-like feel). The use of soft wordless female vocals and the constant tolling bells near the end were great touches. “Shadows on the Wall” also has a grand feel thanks to its soft piano work, mysterious strings and pipe organ work. Tolling bells briefly join in to contrast with piano. Fans of string work will particularly enjoy this track, especially the solo segment. This eerie track is perfect for a haunted mansion. “Mural of Horror” uses mournful strings and wordless female vocals to create a creepy, almost mystical feel. There’s also some nice use of heavy piano work towards the end. But don’t think you’re limited to using this with scenes involving witches and wizards. Halls of portraits and graveyards would also benefit from being paired with the track. You could also use “Midway Memories” with a graveyard scene due to its sad and dismal feel. It’s a combination of both heavy and light piano work mixed with violins and occasional blasts from a pipe organ. Its circus midway feel isn’t “in your face” and sometimes vanishes from the track, so let’s use it in an area where that works to its advantage: a haunted sideshow. After passing the signage and ticket booth, guests enter a room with several displays. In addition to the “FeeJee Mermaid,” they can also see exhibits like strange fossil, a skeletal human spider, creepy things in jars and a caged gorilla. Said gorilla’s cage is directly across from the exit so it can chase people into the next room when it escapes. The dark tones and interesting string work of “Sanguivoriphobia” remind me of a predator surveying the area. Although the title refers to having a fear of vampires, you can use it with any monster scanning your haunt for victims.