Posts Tagged ‘DarkFoulLight’


Continuing from last week…so, how did I come up with the story itself, what with the song being pretty vague? I always start with place and setting. Carcass is from Liverpool, so there we are. We’re in Liverpool. I have been to the UK numerous times, but I have never been to Liverpool. My closest connection to Liverpool is my third-great-grandfather , from Holyhead, Wales, having left from Liverpool to get to Canada. That’s it.

Follow my thinking here: Liverpool’s industrial history reminded me of Pittsburgh’s (where I live), and when I think Pittsburgh & painting, no, I do not think Andy Warhol, though I know you probably do. No, I think of the murals of Maksimilijan “Maxo” Vanka in St. Nicholas Catholic church in Millvale.


He was a Croation-American artist who painted these 25 murals in 1937 and in 1941, which are considered his most important works.


Maxo Vanka

There is also a story of a phantom priest associated with St. Nicholas. Take a little bit of all of this and you have a Liverpudlian painter haunted by a ghost while he refurbishes a church’s murals. So, now, to relocate the church in Liverpool…this was easy.

St. Luke’s — aka, “The Bombed-Out Church” — really stood out. It’s bombing, along with the Vanka murals, gave me my time period, in addition to a key plot point. The Liverpool Blitz began in August 1940 and ended in January 1942. St. Luke’s was hit by an incendiary bomb on May 5, 1941. Vanka may well have been working on one of his murals the moment St. Luke’s was hit. It was gutted, but the stone structure still stands as a memorial.

St. Luke’s was more ornate woodwork and stained glass than murals. If you go here, on the left you’ll find pictures — count down to the sixth pair. These are of the main altar, and I don’t know if the designs here are painted, or tile work, but I used them to model Geoffrey’s painting:

Another pause, and Geoffrey only stared at the segment of mural directly above his head, the IHS of Christ’s name, the frame around it, the crown it wore, repeating all around him. Its curved plan invited an almost serpentine quality that seemed to slither over the arris of the vault and down between the large stained-glass panes.

Oh, names. Two characters, Geoffrey the painter (Jeff Walker — bass, vocals) and Bill Geoffrey Steer — guitar) and the priest, Father Owen (Ken Owen — drummer when Heartwork was recorded).  Easy-peasy.

Then it’s just a matter of reviewing a few historical sites about Liverpool and studying maps — make sure, especially after a few years of bombing, that you’re looking at a map contemporary with the events, or you’ll end up with streets that exist today, but didn’t then. I have no idea who the hell would catch this, but, you know…nice to be as accurate as possible about a place and time you’ve never been to or experienced. You’re bound to screw up, misinterpret, or miss something altogether, so at least try to minimize it.

Take these elements, hammer them together, and create an outline. Put the song on in the background on loop, and then ignore it, because you’re writing now and you’re in the zone.

Metal songs don’t necessarily have to translate directly into a crazy story full of typical metal tropes, though it’s fine, really, if that’s what the writer wants to do (I’ve really enjoyed some of those…😆). After that stint editing Despumation with open submissions, I can tell you, the vast majority of stories derived from metal songs tend to be exactly that — literally derivative. And that gets really old, really quick. Also, when you fall back on just being as metal as you possibly can, the prose tends to suffer (I don’t know why, because there’s really no reason, but that’s what I was seeing, repeatedly) — there’s little attention paid to language, which, considering the lyrics are a huge part of this whole process, losing sight of the language is kind of inexcusable. And it doesn’t matter how intelligent or, frankly, meat-headed the lyrics are — when you start looking at ways to interpret them as a fully fleshed out story, once you enter the creative process, there’s always something you can do with it to set the story apart and above.

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Dark Foul Light Cover

In April of 1941, Geoffrey is a Liverpool painter still healing from wounds incurred from a recent German bombing raid, and haunted by the memory of one of the many who didn’t survive. Since then, the colors he uses seem dull and lifeless. In an effort to reclaim his former artistic drive, he takes a job refurbishing the ceiling mural of St. Luke’s Cathedral. But something is with him, always, and, high upon the scaffolding, he unwittingly straddles the veil between the living and the dead.

This is the blurb for a short story I wrote a while ago — approximately 5700 words — based on the lyrics of “Heartwork” by Carcass. You can read it here.

I guess the first thing I do is give a good, thorough reading of the lyrics. Early on, Carcass was known for their (Jeff Walker’s) fifty-cent forensic vocabulary, which absolutely worked with what they were doing, but as the albums unfolded, so did Walker’s scope. The fact is, if you look back — even all the way back to Reek of Putrifaction, you will find that Jeff Walker has a refreshing (in the world of grind core) grasp of language and how to use it for effect in a literary sense (though it becomes more apparent with Symphonies of Sickness and more refined as one moves up their discography).

What I like about the “Heartwork” lyrics is that they are both concrete, but ultimately indefinable. That’s not to say it’s vague – there are adjectives galore, which gives a very strong sensory experience of the words, but the fact is that the most concrete we’re going to get is “work of art,” and most nouns support that theme. But, it’s not specific in fact. Just extremely specific in feeling. I also appreciate the word play and the variance of phrasing, though not entirely, keeping some of it intact, within the repetition. It’s a great way to retain a recognizable song structure (with the reiteration of verses and choruses) while also shaking it up.

So, all in all, it’s not so specific that the story writes itself, or that your story is going to end up being just a heavily fleshed version of the song. Not a lot of room for creativity when that’s the case, though, I wouldn’t knock it. Sometimes the story of a song is interesting enough to fill it out and see what’s lying deeper within. Here, though, there’s a lot of room to move around. Explore the space.

In this post, you’ve got a link to the story to read in its entirety (which, I suggest before reading the rest of this post), a link to the video so you can have a listen, and a link to the lyrics (shit spelling notwithstanding). So, all I’m going to do now is just show you how I used the lyrics, just in terms of the words themselves.

Works of art, painted black

Magniloquent, bleeding dark

Monotonous palette, murky spectrum, grimly unlimited

Food for thought, so prolific

In contrasting shades, forcely fed

Abstraction, so choking, so provocative

  • monotonous, contrasting shades

“All the color rushed from Geoffrey’s world, and in its place, a monotonous shade enveloped his hearing, his taste and smell, his sight, and even numbed his nerves so that the crumbled brick around him felt only a buzz beneath his hands.”

  • palette, murky spectrum, grimly unlimited

“He watched them, then let his gaze trail up the bland buildings opposite his and to the grey sky—all seemed so drab, a tedious, lifeless palette, murky and grim.”

  • forcely fed

“He breathed deeply, feeding the air forcibly into his lungs, which seemed to contract further with every explosion, far and near.”

  • so choking

“He recalled the arch of broken cement overhead, what remained of the railroad bridge, pieces of stonework crumbling into his mouth. So close, too close. Choking.”

A Canvas to paint, to degenerate

Dark reflections – degeneration

A canvas to paint, to denigrate

Dark reflections, of dark foul light

  • A canvas to paint

“When he could carry his easel, canvas, and paint box to the docks with one hand on his cane, he sought to begin again.”

  • Dark reflections – degeneration

“Once he began on the ceiling above the altar, he was able to put most of the raid out of his mind, his eyes narrowing on the canvas above him, denigrated and degenerated with age. In the wet paint, he’d note the dark reflection of his own eyes looking back, creased and distorted with the shape of the dull smear.”

  • A canvas to paint, to denigrate

“Not an easel on the dock, not a denigrated canvas of faceless, failed portrait after portrait.”

  • Dark foul light

“Everything was there and everything was what it should have been, but the pieces, upon looking back through them, seemed fouled darkly, their hues corrupted, the light polluted.”

Also, here we have our title.

Profound, aesthetic beauty

Or shaded, sensory corruption

Perceptions, shattered, splintered, mirroring

In deft taints, diluted, tinted

Spelt out, in impaired color

Denigrating, going from paints to pain – not a pretty picture

  • Profound aesthetic beauty

“The grey light outside filtered through the massive stained-glass windows, each brilliant color diffusing profound beauty onto the pews and choral stalls.”

  • In deft taints, diluted, tinted

“He followed the lines, deftly respected the previous structure of the design, though the tint seemed tainted.”

  • Going to paints to pain

“He looked around himself, at the colorful glass figures posed in a variety of pious formations, the mural slithering between, pane to paint to pane.”

Works of heart, bleeding dark

Black, magniloquent art

Monotonous palette, murky spectrum, grimly unlimited

Prolific food for thought

Contrasting, fed with force

Abstraction, so choking, so provocative

Works of heart

“It’s not the most creative work, granted,” Father Owen continued. “It can be better described as a work of the heart…”


“Geoffrey’s heart worked double, triple, his chest pounding, the brush that stuck to it vibrating with each pulse.”

Bleeding works of art

Seething works so dark

Searing words from the heart

  • Searing words

“…someone whistling—or was it a bomb dropping?—searing ever closer to impact.”

Also, not so literal, the “bleeding” is here, without using the word:

“He moved his head slowly, up and around, taking vague note of the protecting arch above him, then directing his gaze all the way over to his right side, where a woman in a red silk blouse and a tweed skirt lay buried from the ribs up beneath some heavy-looking fragments of the bridge.

Again, no particular thought came to him, only hazy notions of certain details. There was not a single run in her stockings. She was missing one shoe. The blouse she’d put on that morning had not been red.”

Also, the last line in the poem by Michelangelo:

In front my skin grows loose and long; behind

By bending it becomes more taut and straight;

Crosswise I strain me like a Syrian bow:

Whence false and quaint, I know,

Must be the fruit of squinting brain and eye;

For ill can aim the gun that bends awry.

Come then, Giovanni, try

To succor my dead pictures and my fame;

Since foul I fare and painting is my shame.

There was a lot to work with, so a lot of perfectly great words that could have worked anywhere, really, but I didn’t want to overdo it — I guess I didn’t want it to seem obvious or overbearing, but that seems silly now — as if the population at large is thoroughly versed in the lyrical content of any Carcass song, let alone this one in particular. I could have put it all in, but there it is.

Next Monday, I’ll talk about how the story itself came about. Cheers.

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Dark Foul Light Cover

Just a couple of quick announcements;

First, I’ve got a three-part short story up on Wattpad this morning, Dark Foul Light:

In April of 1941, Geoffrey is a Liverpool painter still healing from wounds incurred from a recent German bombing raid, and haunted by the memory of one of the many who didn’t survive. Since then, the colors he uses seem dull and lifeless. In an effort to reclaim his former artistic drive, he takes a job refurbishing the ceiling mural of St. Luke’s Cathedral. But something is with him, always, and, high upon the scaffolding, he unwittingly straddles the veil between the living and the dead.

This story is based on the song “Heartwork” by Carcass. Fun Tip: Take a moment to to give the lyrics a quick read before dipping into this 5700-word story. This is a one-off!

FM9 (5.1)

Second, the first part of Florida Man’s Chapter Five is up. Florida Man is updated Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

1 Economy


And, finally, as of yesterday, Dread Confluence (short story collection) now has one full novelette up (in five parts): The Poison Spring.”

Dread Confluence is a chilling collection of tales — from the uncanny to the downright ghoulish — based in and around the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.*

The first tale begins in 1873, in the town of Economy, where the unsuspecting Paul Gaffey taps into the underground river for a community well…also tapping into something more ominous.

This gets updated 2-3 times a week and is currently planned for six stories total.

DC Cover


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