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The Witness Of Kitab al-Azif review

Rating – 5 Brains

Back when I was a (relatively) new scholar of esoteric subjects, I would trawl the internet for any new nugget of information I could find. On one site, the name of which escapes me now, Someone had asked for the “best example of ritual magic in fiction” (or something, again, my memory is vague). The best recommendation was for a story titled the “30 Trials Of Ix And The Angels”.

It was a tale of a man’s self initiation into occult practice. And it was that strange and rare combination of being both accurate, and well written. A more recent, and well known comparison would be the film A Dark Song. But anyway, with that rather odd and rambling introduction to this week’s post. Here is my review of the inaugural tale by Side Street Stories. The Witness Of Kitab al-Azif.

So what’s it about?

The story follows the unnamed “witness”, and his author friend John. John is both an ambient musician, and student of the occult, and he soon merges the two in true Lovecraftian fashion. Through John’s magickal workings, the two frie…aquaintances* embark on a truly horrific and mind melting journey across the universe, consciousness, and reality itself. Over the course of 16 episodes, there is no esoteric, psychedelic or “unnameable” stone left unturned. What starts out as a rather (if I’m honest) run of the mill horror story unfolds fractal like into a truly mind-bending occult story.

If you are at all au fait with the work of H.P. Lovecraft, then there will be plenty of familiar ground covered. This show goes so far beyond that though. As the episodes develop you truly start to wonder what the hell the writer was on as he constructed this story. Apart from the horror, there are rather sophisticated occult concepts covered, as well as ideas on time, parallel universes, and spirituality.

I understand that this description is rather obtuse. That’s because I don’t want to spoil the story too much, and also because it almost defies description, as any true Mythos story should.

Is it any good?

If you are prepared to put the time in then yes, absolutely. This isn’t a story that you can put on in the background, because it deserves, almost demands your attention. It’s quite a hard ask though, because the sonorous voice of The Witness makes it easy to zone out. It has taken me over twice the running time to get through, simply because I am constantly rewinding after I get distracted by something. Once it gets you though, and it will, you will be swept along with little hope of regaining your sanity ever again.

As I have said in previous reviews, the term “Lovecraftian” gets bandied around an awful lot in recent years. This story however absolutely is Lovecraftian. I’d go so far as to say it is LOVECRAFTIAN. Not only because of the roll call of extra-terrestrial (and extra-dimensional) entities, but the sheer sanity shredding experience of the whole thing. Any fan of this stuff will know the term “Non Euclidian”, so much so that it has become something of a trope. There are only two stories I can think of that describe it with any great accuracy, and this is one.

At its heart, this is a psychedelic body horror story. But that’s not all. There are many elements and influences displayed proudly for those that care to look, from Tom Waits (particularly 9th And Hennepin), the Japanese film Tetsuo, Hunter S. Thompson, Clive Barker and of course “the Old Man of Providence” himself.

Final thoughts

I really like their alternative to the regular disclaimer on fiction podcasts. They profess that this is a true story, that the characters are based on real people, and you know what? I can almost believe it.

I mentioned the film A Dark Song in the introduction, and I didn’t do that lightly. That film was a pretty accurate portrayal of a serious ritual (the rite of Abramelin The Mage, if you want to know). This has that same feel. Whilst the story is pure Lovecraftian cosmic horror, there are elements here that do seem authentic. Whether that be because they are fans of people like Grant Morrison and have experience with this stuff, or because they did their research, who knows? I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Mainly because that adds a dimension to the story that makes me shudder.

I was going to title this review “The Un-bingeable Returns”, but I thought that was too flippant a title for this story. For Hastur’s sake, listen to this podcast immediately, and when it gets dark, please ignore the scratching at the walls.

You can get The Witness Of Kitab al-Azif here:


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