By Jess Charle
I own a music studio outside of New York City, and about a month ago I found a guy selling a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier for dirt cheap. I figured it must be broken or something, but still worth the trek out there just in case it was somehow real and in decent condition. When I showed up, I was greeted by a pretty normal looking guy, some middle-aged dad who was finally told to replace his old instruments and gear with things for the family. His home was a nice suburban house in the middle of a nice neighborhood with a garage full of useless shit. He seemed like a chill dude – he offered me a beer while I tested out the Mesa, and we chatted a bit about this and that. He was excited when I told him that I owned a studio, and even threw in another amp for only $50 more. Something called a BlackDragon. It was an alright looking tube amp and even though I’d never heard of the brand before, for $50, I couldn’t say no. I ended up purchasing both amps and told him to come by the studio anytime he missed his old gear.
I took the amps back to the studio and set them up so I could test them out a little more, get a sense of the sound in the studio as opposed to a garage. The BlackDragon’s sound was fucking incredible. No matter what range I threw at it, the tone was consistently crisp and sweet, like honey. Adding distortion gave the sound this heavy quality that not only filled the room, but your entire body. The closest feeling I can relate it to is that warm buzz you feel after a few beers but before you’re drunk. I fell in love instantly.
I had a recording session the next day, so I figured why not see if the band wanted to use it. It was a not-very-good local metal band, and they were impressed with the sound, so we mic’d it and damn if that thing didn’t make them sound actually good. Their improved sound certainly made my life mixing and mastering the song a hell of a lot easier. I’d never encountered an amp like it. It was if it was magical. Looking back, I probably should’ve been a lot more skeptical. At least a lot more nervous about what was happening. But at the time, I was stoked. I felt like I had discovered a magic lamp. I started using the BlackDragon for all of my recording sessions, eight in total this month, plus some recording for my own band. But… things are getting weird. Weirder than weird. Things are getting totally fucked.
The other night on the train, I was listening to some of my band’s newer rough recordings with my headphones for fun. I wanted to see if there was anything that needed adjusting that I hadn’t noticed, I thought maybe something would jump out at me if I came at it as a casual listener. As I listened, the familiar songs washing over me in my train-trance state, I absent-mindedly began to notice a soft scratching noise, like a fingernail scratching on wood. I assumed it was something in the train car at first, but the sound completely disappeared when I removed my headphones. I put them back over my ears, and there it was again. It was subtle, but once I heard it, I couldn’t unhear it. It was on every track. I don’t know how I could’ve missed something so obvious during or after recording.
Once back at the studio, I listened to the other session I had recorded the same day as my band, a solo blues guitarist (what can I say, the BlackDragon works on any type of music), and sure enough, there was the scratching. Listening through the speakers instead of my headphones, the noise sounded more….desperate. Like someone, or something, scratching to get out of the music. I listened to the next oldest session, and there it was. At this point, I was freaking the fuck out because these are tracks I’ve been sending to my clients. How could I have sent them this shit? How has nobody emailed me demanding their money back yet?
After hours of listening, I finally found a session without the scratching. The last session I had recorded without the BlackDragon. The scratching was obviously coming from the amp. I logged into my recording software, grabbed my telecaster, and threw up some mics. I started playing and it sounded more amazing than I could remember. I lost myself to the sound, playing much longer than the originally intended five minutes. I don’t really understand what came over me, but eventually I had to stop because I couldn’t physically play anymore. I remember looking down, shocked to find my fingers fucking bleeding.
I shook myself back to reality and went into the control room. I had been recording for two hours straight. I swear, I don’t know what happened. I don’t even know what I was playing. It’s like the thing hypnotized me. But when I stopped the recording and played it back, the scratching was overwhelming. Louder than it had ever been before.
Thinking it might be a bad connection, I plugged back into the BlackDragon using a different instrument cord, and started to play again.
I could instantly feel the sound trying to mesmerize me again, like it had just moments before, but I resisted. I turned to face it, and even though my fingers kept strumming, my stomach dropped and I felt sickness creep into the back of my throat. The sound was still coming out, as it should, but there was also this… black ooze leaking from the vibrating speakers. I looked closer, morbid curiosity pulling my face up to the sludge. It was slightly iridescent, making it look a lot like oil, but much much thicker. It squeezed out like pus, pushing it’s way closer to my nose. I forced my hand to stop playing, and the black ooze was sucked back into the speakers. My heart was pounding out of my chest and I vomited into the nearby trashcan.
I have never seen or heard of anything like that in my entire life.
I stopped for the night, totally freaked out of my mind, and texted my friend Brian. He’s the bassist in my band, and I asked him to come by and help me figure it out. Brian had been as swept away by the BlackDragon as I had, and agreed to come in the next night – last night.
Brian came in around eight, and I explained to him what had been happening. He agreed to play while I tested out some stuff to try and isolate the issue. I gave Brian the telecaster, and sure enough, the second he started playing the black liquid began to ooze out from the speakers, much like it had the night before, but faster. I tightened my mouth to prevent myself from gagging as I looked over at Brian, whose mouth was wide open. I knew he hadn’t believed me. Hell, I wouldn’t have believed him if our roles were reversed. His eyes were glued with horror to the black goo, but he kept playing. I checked the connections in the back of the amp, and everything looked okay. I told Brian I was going to go into the control room for a minute to check everything in there, but he didn’t react. He just stared as the liquid grew, his fingers never missing a beat. It’s too bad this amp is totally fucked up, because Brian’s not a very skilled guitarist and even he sounded pretty damn good.
I went into the control room, I couldn’t have been gone for more than ten minutes, but when I came back, Brian was gone. The telecaster laid on the floor and the BlackDragon still buzzed with life, but neither Brian nor that black ooze were anywhere in sight.
I’m seriously freaking out. I spoke with the cops, but they don’t believe me. I could see them roll their eyes to each other as I explained what happened. I tried to play them the recording from last night. After nine minutes, the guitar cracks into an ungodly squeal and then, I can’t describe it, but there’s this… slurping noise, and then nothing until I open the door seconds later. I told them I’ve never heard a guitar do that before, but they don’t care. I know they’ve gotten noise complaints about the studio before, so they probably assume that I had some guys over and we all drank too much, got out of control. They probably think Brian’s passed out on some park bench somewhere. That he’ll show up later today and I’ll forget I even spoke to them. But it’s been 19 hours since I last saw him. I have no idea what to do. I feel totally and utterly useless.
I listened to everything I’ve recorded the past few weeks, and the scratching is no longer there. It just… disappeared.
I had emailed the guy who sold it to me the other day, asking if he knew about the scratching and how to fix it, but I never heard back. Since Brian disappeared, I’ve called and texted him, but the number claims to be disconnected. I even fucking drove to his house this morning. I knocked on the door, but there was no answer, so I looked in the front window. The house, you know, the nice suburban one filled with normal middle class bullshit just a month ago, the one I had a beer at, was fucking empty as if no one had lived there for years.
Please, I’m begging you guys, has anyone ever heard of BlackDragon amps? Because I’m pretty sure one just ate my friend, and I’m starting to hear the scratching again, but this time, I’m not listening to any of my recordings.