Miasma and the Carousel of Headless Horses is what you might call a niche band. But that doesn’t only apply to their listeners – in fact I’d go so far as to say there’s no definite reason why it should. Their music isn’t necessarily tailored for a very select group of tastes, having instead something quite universal and generally seductive, enthralling… tempting one might say. No, by “niche” I mean the fact that they create their music drawing inspiration from a very fertile, albeit limited, source – the iconic Gothic horror novel and the profoundly grotesque, quintessentially paranoid short story the likes of which Gustav Meyrink, H.P. Lovecraft, E.A. Poe and the likes used to produce. What you see is what you get, from the name of the band to the titles of their tracks. Now, if what you see are occasionally inexplicable, haunting, destabilizing images of some arcane horror from beyond the reaches of sanity, you’re really starting to get it.
Music for devils to dance to, for pacts to be signed in blood, for stumbling across diabolical or simply demented cults performing their rituals, music to feed the childhood panic of eyes watching from the dark corner of the room and of forgotten gods to rise from their slumber. Music for carnivals, for families etching out a living for themselves for generations as circus side-show attractions, lobster boys and turtle girls, snake charmers and fortune tellers, charlatans and genuinely unnerving folk who can terrify with a certain look and mesmerize with another. Music for mass hysteria in a ballroom where Mephistopheles makes it rain money and where clothes and sanity vanish in a flourish of his fingers. Music for murder and for disturbed children to count to as they play hide and seek with the shadows. Miasma and the Carousel of Headless Horses draws inspiration from these images and transmogrifies them into music – a closed circle which opens only once every five years, on a full moon, to let the occasional sleep-deprived listener in and toy with him until morning.
The point is obvious, isn’t it? Their music is performance in a theatrical sense. They’ve embraced this ingrained cultural fascination with the grotesque and made it work spectacularly as music and as a visual persona for the band. Their Myspace page substitutes a normal description for the band with a piece of prose, limping and flawed but functional, which feels like it’s been torn from an unfinished Lovecraft manuscript. Their band photographs look like dress rehearsals for a show based on “The Master and Margareta”. The characters which give title to their tracks would be just as at home in Goethe’s rendition of the Valpurgis Night. And, as one would expect at this point, the music incarnates all the unspoken terror and unavoidable attraction and sexual magnetism of Charles Robert Maturin’s “Melmoth The Wanderer” and Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”.
I’ve always felt that these writers of the weird could never really convince me. There was always this wall of convention I couldn’t get past when it came to their visions, this intellectual detachment which kicks in every time I open one of their books. I suppose they’re just too safe, too far removed from the senses to really make a dent and engage my suspension of disbelief. There’s always that allegorical quality which keeps my emotional involvement at bay. Or maybe I’m just not as attuned to writing as I am to music. What I’m trying to say is that Miasma and the Carousel of Headless Horses brings it home for me. This music makes me get it, makes me able to experience the sensual dread the books themselves can’t really convey.
“At the Mountains of Madness” needs this EP as a soundtrack! I wanted to embed it all but, alas, the second track is nowhere to be found online. So I’ll leave you with the first and last tracks of the album and allow the missing piece in the middle to become part of the mystery. Perhaps finding it would explain why the band has completely vanished during the last four years. Why everyone who even mentions them suddenly goes