Black Banners by Ulrike Serowy (Audiobook)

Pages: 18
Released: 2020
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“A Grey Chill and a Whisper” by Beltez

In accompaniment with the new album “A Grey Chill and a Whisper” by German black metal group Beltez, a short story audiobook has been added to illustrate the world portrayed in the bleak and melancholic blasts from the band.

“Black Banners,” written by the German author Ulrike Serowy, is an 18-page speculative tale telling of a gloomy and lonesome city under the painful control of an ambiguous class of beings who have shrouded said city in eternal darkness and sorrow.

Our tale, read by Dan Capp of Winterfylleth and accompanied by Corinne Henderson, begins with a morbid description of the lonesome city. Then we are told of the faceless band of despots who live in a fortress towering into the clouds and exert their mystical power over the city by parading through the streets like 17th-century flagellants.

Soon we are introduced to our nameless hero, known only as The Youth and his accomplice known only as The Friend. Both young men are natives to the city and have known no other way of life, but once Youth finds that Friend is to be taken away and indoctrinated into the nameless ones, he decides to save his companion out of sheer compassion.

The ensuing journey to keep his friend in human form takes Youth and Friend outside of the city to experience unknown pain and suffering, and back into the streets where sorrow and loss are illustrated by the Friend’s family mourning his passing.

Eventually, Youth follows Friend into the fortress and the tale is brought to an end one can only describe as simply ambiguous – which is how I would describe all the main elements of this tale.

With such vague and to-the-point descriptions of the black banner carrying beings, Serowy illustrates a thought process that can only come from the minds of people who have known no better their whole lives. Setting the story in a city cut off from all civilisation and where ritualistic oppression through a quasi-religious order can wreak havoc on human psychology, which Serowy has done in a somewhat Lovecraftian manner.

Dan Capp’s voice is sombre and ghostly, giving a fine image of a dark and lonesome world where the average human can be easily driven into madness by anything out of the ordinary. I was also reminded a lot of Gothic literature in how Serowy illustrates the towering fortress of the black banners, and the simplicity of the prose is reminiscent of horror tales that can say so much with so few words.

Overall, this is a tale to read or listen to if you like horror or suspense which can play on the mind and have you questioning all you have just read. I was left with a hollow feeling of melancholia which a good suspense novel can do, so give this one a try if you enjoy books which pique your nerves.

Beltez also offer backing music which blends into a good melody and crescendo when the story reaches its climax, so a good move there for a band who want to include literature in their repertoire.

You can find this audiobook as a free addition to the new Beltez album, so give it a try if you are left intrigued by Beltez’s music and want a gateway into a universe they have conjured with their tunes and Serowy’s excellent grasp of suspense.

Review by Demitri Levantis