New Daily Grail post: Alton Towers’ Wicker Man and Ye Olde English Theme Parks of Doom

The Wicker Man and The Beornen

Today (January 8th, 2018) UK theme park Alton Towers has made a somewhat unexpected announcement. Spring 2018 will see the opening of a new attraction at the Staffordshire based park: Wicker Man.

Wicker Man is the UK’s first new wooden rollercoaster experience in 21 years and comes with a globally unique twist – bringing together wood and fire for the very first time. A Wicker Man structure standing at 57.57ft (17.55m) tall – the height of a six-storey building – will dominate the very centre of Alton Towers Resort, appearing to burst into flames as the wooden track races three separate times through the structure.

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New article on Daily Grail: How to Make a Homunculus

Originally published on back in September, my piece on the modern YouTube phenomena of Homunculus videos us up now at

Gazelle Amber Valentine interviewed about Spirits of Place

Gazelle Amber Valentine of Jucifer Live by Hillarie Jason

Gazelle Amber Valentine is one half of sludge / doom / death metal two piece Jucifer, formed in Georgia, USA in 1993. For more than seventeen years Gazelle and her bandmate (and husband), drummer Edgar Livengood, have adopted a nomadic lifestyle. The pair live, tour, rehearse, and sometimes even record in their Winnebago, towing the literal wall of amplification Valentine utilises on stage in a trailer behind them. The duo describe this life as an endless tour, and they can easily find themselves playing live shows in twenty or more countries in a single year.

Jucifer’s music can be (and usually is) harsh, aggressive, and loud, but its subject matter and lyrical content are not necessarily what people might expect. 2008’s L’Autrichienne was a concept album based around the French Revolution accompanied by extensive historical notes, while 2013’s За Волгой для нас земли нет (“There is no land beyond The Volga”) dealt with the Soviet Union and WWII. Equally though, there is a strong sense of Americana embedded in much of Jucifer’s music and lyrics; dark folk sounds and sensibilities; finger-picked banjo and violin strings, and dissonant, melancholic melodies. Nowhere is this side of their work more apparent than in Gazelle’s solo album Devil’s Tower I, released in 2013.

All of this – the nomadic life, the artistry, the power and intelligence of her writing – made Gazelle Amber Valentine someone I was very keen to approach as a contributor to Spirits of Place. Her essay, entitled “I Have Trod Such Haunted Land”, ended up being the first in the book and remains one of my favourites. Even though her internet connection can be intermittent as she and Edgar continue their never ending tour, Gazelle was kind enough to answer a few questions for me about the book and her contribution to it.

Read the interview at