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We shall see that at which dogs howl in the dark, and that at which cats prick up their ears after midnight.

H. P. Lovecraft, From Beyond

"Sorcery and sanctity," said Ambrose, "these are the only realities. Each is an ecstasy, a withdrawal from the common life."

Arthur Machen, The White People

Weird literature. Before Stephen King there were H. P. Lovecraft, Arhur Machen, and Algernon Blackwood. Before David Eddings and the rest of the horde of would-be Tolkiens there was Lord Dunsany. These authors wrote their works in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a time before horror, fantasy, and science fiction had split up into clearly defined, separate genres. Permeating their works is a sense of fear and wonder of the unknown, a sense of the fluidness of the border between real and unreal—and a kind of fearful passion for delving into the weird. Lovecraft himself, in his essay Supernatural Horror in Literature described the "The true weird tale" as having
something more than secret murder, bloody bones, or a sheeted form clanking chains according to rule. A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present; and there must be a hint, expressed with a seriousness and portentousness becoming its subject, of that most terrible conception of the human brain—a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only safeguard against the assaults of chaos and the daemons of unplumbed space.
A fragile reality. In the more tendencious of these stories the idea is put forth, or hinted at, that commonplace human existence is but a bubble or an island of appearant coherence and consistency within vast abysmal oceans of writhing infinite madness and slithering chaos—and that persons, objects, or circumstances within the realm of human experience can express this state of things, thereby threathening the very concept and existence of a comprehensible reality. Stories where where such conscepts are clearly put forth include Arthur Machen's The Great God Pan, Algernon Blackwood's The Willows, and of course a multitude of stories by Lovecraft. As examples of the latter can be mentioned Hypnos, From Beyond, and The Haunter of the Dark. Incidentally, similar patterns of thought can be found in several of the world's ancient mythologies and religious systems, and reversedly weird tales often draw upon mythology and folklore.

Alienation, fear, and wonder. Stories set to the backdrop of such a world-view needn't necessarily be explicitly frightening or horrible. In classical fantastic fiction the fleetingness of the seemingly solid world about us has spawned plots of many kinds. There can be romance, suspense, fantastic adventure, to name but a few of the currents within weird fiction. Good examples of this are the stories of Lord Dunsany, which seldomly are intended to be frightening to the least, but yet are very weird in character. One might speak of a kind of alienated wonder before the world.

All that horror, wonder, and weirdness is what Ultharine is about—to recreate these nighted sensations in music and lyrics. How this is attempted practically is further discussed in the next section.


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