Month: June 2017 (Page 1 of 3)

Conarium – Lovecraftian Videogame Review

Developer: Zoetrope Interactive
Publisher: Iceberg Interactive
Release date: 6 June 2017
Platforms: PC (Steam) / XboxOne / PS4

Conarium is a first person puzzle horror adventure game created by Zoetrope and Iceberg Interactive. Zoetrope previously known for their Darkness Within series have returned to the same genre with a much more ambitious title in Conarium. Conarium builds its background upon a framework of elements straight from the stories of H.P. Lovecraft. Incorporating much of his lore from use of settings to stories of the origins of our planet, Conarium becomes the perfect game for even the most dedicated of Lovecraft readers.

The game takes the perspective of Frank Gilman, one of a crew of scientists working to uncover some ancient hidden knowledge. The team has gone to Antarctica to follow in the footsteps of the ill-fated expedition that featured in the H.P. Lovecraft novella, At The Mountains Of Madness. Gilman and crew are searching for clues to unlock the secrets of an ancient device called the conarium. As the story progresses and the history of the device begins to unfold, Gilman finds himself in an elaborate and maddening set of circumstances.

Quite a few games throughout the years have been marketed as “Lovecraftian”, yet rarely do they go much deeper into the lore than calling some squid creature Cthulhu or imagining some world filled with other varieties of tentacled creatures. Zoetrope have proven that their understanding of Lovecraft’s lore goes much deeper than the usual fare. At every turn in Conarium there are numerous references to Lovecraft’s work. From something as simple as a fleeting mention of the Necronomicon to much more elaborate constructs. The story behind Conarium brilliantly builds itself around the concepts originally mapped out in At The Mountains Of Madness. We find ourselves in an era accurate depiction of an Antarctic scientific base. The developments that took place during Lovecraft’s novella have direct influence on the story of Conarium.

While the game clearly focuses most heavily on its relation to At The Mountains Of Madness, avid Lovecraft readers will find a plethora of references to other Lovecraft stories. Early in the game, we experience elements taken straight from The Whisperer In Darkness. Not just allusions to the story, but actual concepts that were laid out by Lovecraft directly influence Gilman’s adventure to uncover the ancient lost knowledge of the conarium devices. In other instances smaller details like statues of creatures which had been described by Lovecraft are brought to life by the game’s artists. Ancient civilizations from all over the planet are woven into the story, pulling lore from Lovecraft’s many settings all the while.

The game-play is almost entirely puzzle and story driven, a highly interactive walking-simulator. There are quite a few puzzles throughout the game to be solved. While I am utterly terrible at these sorts of things, Conarium manages to find a very nice balance, being challenging while not making the player want to scream in frustration. When the puzzles are completed it makes for a highly rewarding experience and certainly gives a feeling of accomplishment. I did look to walk-throughs on Youtube several times throughout the game. I probably could have figured each of these things out had I given it enough time and thought a little harder, but for me the story is much more important than the puzzle challenges.

As the story unfolds, Gilman crosses quite an impressive number of settings. Don’t expect to be constantly wandering around the same location throughout the entire game. Each new “chapter” of the game leads the player into a wholly different place, some indoors, where display cases are filled with replicas of weird creatures and libraries offer ample opportunity to read further into the story. Phonograph machines, strewn letters and journals, visions and other mechanics deliver an in depth back-story to Conarium. While other parts of the narrative take place outdoors, whether in the frigid Antarctic environment or in some lush otherworldly landscape. Many interesting tidbits will only be uncovered by searching deeper into each of the locations.

I completed the game, in about ten hours. It could likely have been done in 6-8 hours, maybe even less by more experienced puzzle gamers. But, as a fan of games like The Elder Scrolls series, I prefer to take my time, fully absorbing the locations and reading all the provided back-story at my leisure. Then there is the aforementioned fact that I am really slow at figuring out most puzzles, though they never truly drove me insane as has been the case with many of my other experiences in games with similar mechanics. There are several endings, only one of which I’ve seen so far. Uncovering roughly 75% of the content by my first completion, there are still many more secret items to uncover, and about 1/3 of the story left to read as I only found about 2/3 of the journal entries and other story elements. So there is still quite a lot of reason for me to go back through the game again in the future and dig deeper into these mysteries.

While the game was released in June of 2017, the graphics have enough flexibility to run on relatively low-end machines, where many current game developers are opting to push the limits of gaming technology, usually alienating those of us without a high-end PC. Yet, their use of the Unreal Engine 4 will still allow avid gamers to really push the graphics for a beautiful and immersive experience in this world that truly comes alive throughout the story. The ambient sounds are relatively well prepared, though on this front I did notice a few areas that could have been improved, such as the transitions from walking on dry stone or wood floors then across puddles or other forms of debris. But this was only a minor gripe and ultimately the sounds were quite immersive. I played 50/50 between using the mouse and keyboard or an Xbox 360 controller. Both forms of input were totally viable options, though I ended up preferring the Xbox 360 controller as it generally seemed to be a little more immersive for my slower play style.

Conarium doesn’t rely so heavily on the Lovecraft lore that players unfamiliar with his work would feel lost. The developers did a good job of building relevant Lovecraft references into the story in a way that felt natural. However, as a huge fan of H.P. Lovecraft and having read just about every story he’s written or revised at this point, I found the more subtle references to his works really added to my enjoyment of and immersion in the game. With this in mind, I would highly recommend Conarium to any gamers that enjoy reasonably complicated puzzle games and have a true passion for the works of H.P. Lovecraft. There are enough adventure elements and varied locations to hold the interest of those of us whom grow bored reasonably quickly without constantly stimulating content. It really seems that Zoetrope took all their experience with their previous games and built upon it, bringing their work closer to perfection. Instead of diving into some unknown game style, a habit of many companies, which often leaves their inexperience obvious for all to see, and can ultimately destroy the immersion and render the game-play lacking in depth, cohesion and/or playability. I hope to see more similarly styled games from Zoetrope in the future. They are certainly on the right track.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Encounters – Beneath the Forces of Contradiction

Artist: Encounters
Album: Beneath the Forces of Contradiction
Release date: Early 2017
Label: Primitive Temples

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Encounters has been around since 2013 when they released their debut, Houses, through Neon Doom Records. Beneath the Forces of Contradiction is their first release on Primitive Temples. This is only the second release on the fledgling label. Todd Watson, maybe best known for his work as Husere Grav (I reviewed their latest album here) is one of the faces behind the Encounters collective. He is also the owner of the Primitive Temples label.

While the label itself, as well as Encounters and Husere Grav may all be reasonably new names to readers, the man behind the mastering of the album, John Stillings of Steel Hook Prostheses and resident mastering tech for Malignant Records, should not be new to many. There are some people in the various parts of the music industry whom lend credence to a project, they give it an air of legitimacy, just by being associated with the project, no matter how great or minor the form. A comparison in similar genres could be made to Peter Andersson of raison d’etre. Peter’s name frequently arises as the mastering tech behind certain albums, and whenever his name is attached there is always a very good chance that I will love the music, regardless of genre.

Encounters is made up of four musicians: the aforementioned T. Watson is accompanied by Rajj Bhatt, Jason Pool and Brian Slaughter on this musical excursion. Beneath the Forces of Contradiction, true to its name, uses “encounters” as the basis for their musical vision. Encounters with the dead, to be precise. The album seeks to recreate or at least draw similar emotions in relation to encountering the dead, as they continue to traverse the Earth, awaiting their final rest. In the press release Encounters uses a quote from the 19th Century author E. Bulwer-Lytton, known among other things for his writing of The Last Days of Pompeii, documenting the destruction of the ancient Roman town by the carnage of the volcanic eruption on Mount Vesuvius.

“There may be intermediate beings of mixed nature, not deliberately evil nor steadily benevolent, capricious, uncertain, and only able to get at imperfect rapport with humanity.”

They also draw inspiration from the pet project of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. Doyle was heavily invested in collecting spiritualist photography. He was enamored with the idea of supernatural beings making encounters with humanity. His collection of photos are a sort of proof of these encounters, seeming to show the actual visitation of supernatural beings to the living.

While some of the album moves into heavily distorted death industrial territory, other tracks take on a much lighter and more dark ambient leaning sound. These variations in style seek to symbolize the differences in the ghostly apparitions. Some will be malevolent beings, angered by the circumstances of their passing or by their inability to make the full transition into the afterlife. Others will float through this sort of purgatory in a more somber or depressed emotional state. When the apparitions are angry, the music will soar to devastating heights, an onslaught upon the senses. Yet, the other, less aggravated, entities will exude an air of patience, the soundscapes taking on a hollow and at times almost meditative droning.

Beneath the Forces of Contradiction will be best suited to listeners whom enjoy their dark ambient with a harsher edge. Anyone familiar with the works of John Stillings should know this sort of balance of which I speak. The music never turns into that dreaded harsh noise wall format, it manages to lightly balance itself between dark ambient and death industrial. It has enough subtlety to keep the discerning dark ambient fan interested and at relative ease of mind, while it has enough aggression to satiate the demands of the death industrial crowd. Both communities should surely take a look at this well prepared and intricately detailed release.

Nota bene: While there is no sample of this release online, the digipak is selling for a mere $3 here. I have a copy and it’s just as well crafted as anything else in my collection. You really can’t go wrong with giving it a try.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Frozen In Time: Weekly News 26 June 2017

This week’s edition of Frozen In Time has a number of new releases to announce. There are also some interesting music videos from Ashtoreth and Evil Sex Party. Of extra special mention is the latest track by Halgrath, which will hopefully be a sign of more to come. As usual you can find at the bottom of the article the latest reviews, interviews and mixes posted on This Is Darkness from the last week. Thanks for your continued support and I hope everyone’s week is going well!

Music Videos

Ashtoreth – New Videos Released
“Dawn Rite” music by Ashtoreth video by Tim van der Schraelen

“Closer Distance” music by Ashtoreth & Eye. Spirit. Eye. video by Tim van der Schraelen

Evil Sex Party – Found Footage

New Releases and Preorders

Asath Reon – Teaser Released (Black Mara)
Buried Visions is a teaser for the upcoming album by Asath Reon which will be released on Black Mara.

Bonini Bulga – New Album Released
”Beyond theophany and behind revelation, they arrived. Bonini and Bulga. An unlikely manifestation, of being and unbeing.
They stood there. They bowed and they bent the room they had entered.
Behind the Hierophant’s mask, Bonini, with the power to know, to shift and to unveil. The paths of hidden light and eclipses turning inward. A cowled head, overlooking thought.
Behind the mask of the Other, Bulga, with the power to create, to root and to merge. All shapes there to inhabit, all geometries there to unfold. A crowned head, overlooking process.
And they sang. Sealed as one.”

The Dale Cooper Quartet – New Album Released (Denovali – Digital / CD / Vinyl)
“The Dale Cooper Quartet & The Dictaphones are returning with their 4th album called Astrild Astrild. Like all of the previous albums, the band recorded the seven pieces at home in Britanny during several sessions between 2013 and 2016.
The characteristics of this full-length are classic drone soundscapes mixed with deep tone saxophone parts that became the band’s trademark since the release of their debut album in 2006. Slowly paced, the new tracks are following the Quartet’s basic structure and classical sound. Apart from that the new full length conceals more live takes including guitars, bass and Rhodes keys and even piano sounds are haunting for the first time at the end of ‘Ocho Acenteur’. With these new elements the songs of Astrild Astrild are pushed further into a large tunnel of deafening rhythmic parts and field ambient textures.
Vocals are a major element of the Dale Cooper Quartet & The Dictaphones’ DNA since the second album Metamanoir (2011). Sometimes breathy, sometimes deep and often mysterious, Ronan MacErlaine, Gaëlle Kerrien and Zalie Bellacicco voices appear in the corners of the songs as ghostly figures or eerie characters.
The new album Astrild Astrild is a glimpse of the present live sound of the Dale Cooper Quartet: 50’s crooners singers, noisy guitars, atmospheric electronic and hypnotic jazz. All of these elements painted in monochrome black.”

Dawn Tuesday – New EP Released (Digital Only)
Moons of Jupiter is a long form space ambient piece by Dawn Tuesday. The sounds are as calming as they are remote and stellar. Great music for times when the brain needs a bit of rest.

Evil Sex Party – Album Released (Digital Only)
E.S.P. is what appears to be a long lost album from the early 90s. Information on the project is a bit cryptic and we must put the pieces together ourselves to fully understand what is happening here.

Halgrath – New Single Released (Digital Only)
“Mi Ashera” is the latest release by Halgrath. Anyone familiar with the Halgrath debut on Cold Meat Industry or her subsequent two albums on Cryo Chamber should be extremely excited to see some life from this project which has been dormant for the last few years. We can only hope that there will be a full album to follow in the relatively near future!
“The Pray to the Goddess, says about union of human and divine force. Let it go inside you.”

Harrogat – New Album Released (Digital Only)
Galeria is the debut album by Harrogat. The six tracks come in at exactly ten minutes each. Harrogat incorporates a nice combination of dronework, field recordings and vocals to build an album that seems to be telling us a story about the fall and return of a lost knight. Definitely worth checking out.

Intersonic Subformation – New Album Released (Lost Entity – Digital Only)
Space Project at Earth’s End is the first release on Lost Entity a space ambient label run by Last Day Deaf. The album is well prepared and can give us an idea of the many things to come from this new venture.

Jinthra – New Single Released (Digital Only)
Jinthra is solo project from Jindrich S. (Druhá Smrt, A Most Accursed). “Autarkia” is a premonition of the album (part of…), which will be released by Sombre Soniks Studios.

Kaa – New Album Released (Digital Only)
Tranquilla is an interesting combination of classical, dark jazz and dark ambient soundscapes. Kaa is a side project of the man behind Vortex, which last year released the brilliant album Moloch on Cyclic Law.

Marifa – New Album Released (ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ Records – Digital Only)
“The moon stays bright when it doesn’t avoid the night ~ Rumi
Qumrah – the beauty and the magical charm of the moonlight. Light, that unveils secrets of the night, still leaving everything untouched. A petal in the hand of God, eye of the nightsky, a blooming face of your beloved one…
In memory of Klaus Wiese (1942-2009), drone music pioneer and wise soul with exceptional feeling of Sound. ”

notnotice – New Album Released (Digital Only)
“The album Trasmutazione narrates the process of change in consciousness connected with spiritual experience. NotNotice uses a combination of noise with extended musical landscape in his tracks. Dark dreams allow you to see the colors. The combination of internal voices and whimsical looped melodies are introduced into trance… ”

Unsettled Dust – New Album Released
Return To The Nonexistence follows the November release of Formless Realm which was released on Black Mara. This latest self-released production is a gritty but beautiful dark drone ambient album which is certainly worth a listen.

Winterblood – New Album Released (Digital Only)
Foresta Incantata was recorded in 2016 with elementary analogue equipment. Inspired by an 8-bit videogame called ‘The Curse of Sherwood’, a survival horror game that I love so much still today. The lack of music of the game makes it almost eerie, and unsettling, and inspired me in making something strange that may fits with the atmosphere. Originally recorded directly on tape with no effects, now converted in digital by tape-deck to Tascam Dr-40 recorder, with few reverb added. All sounds very strange, and illogical… The thing I love of the 8-bit tunes and games is that unhuman atmosphere, that modern ones can’t reach. We need to escape while playing, not to recreate the same world. Enjoy!”

Other News

Father Dagon Podcast
Father Dagon – S01E06 – Vincent Abbott

Thomas Park Essay
“A Machine Music Manifesto” by Thomas Park

This is Darkness Week In Review

Cadabra RecordsThe Muse Of Hyperborea by Clark Ashton Smith
The Muse of Hyperborea, being a collection of totally separate and diverse poems, gave Theologian the freedom to focus wholly on atmosphere and emotion, and less on complementing a narrative. This often leads his sounds into eerie, other-worldly and down-right hypnotic territory. Some of the musical pieces will extend across several poems, slowly building and oscillating upon their foundations. Others will bring a specific mood to a given poem, taking its cues from the delivery of S.T. Joshi.”
Read the full review here.

God Body DisconnectSleeper’s Fate
“God Body Disconnect proves once again that they are producing cinematic dark ambient of the highest order. There are really few narratives out there that hit the mark so profoundly in so many different ways. So now the narrative has doubled. The story has given us quite a bit more to experience and enjoy. Sleeper’s Fate takes none of the allure away from Dredge Portals, while simultaneously proving that another year within the dark ambient scene, meeting and learning from his fellow label-mates at Cryo Chamber, has driven his craft to new heights. By this time next year, its hard to tell what sort of masterpiece Moallem will have constructed.”
Read the full review here.

Hoarfrost – Interview
Previously published on Terra Relicta in 2016.
“I caught up with Rafał Kopeć, the main artist behind Hoarfrost to ask him some questions about Anima Mundi and the history of his dark ambient project.”
Read the full interview here.

Near Eastern Dark Ambient Mix
Dark ambient mix using the near east as its theme. Tracks take listeners from the pyramids of Giza to Jerusalem to the ancient city of Damascus. Curated and mixed by Michael Barnett.
Listen to the mix here.

X-Navi:Et Machina Nova
“A tribal feeling is present here and there as it is Rafał’s trademark, just like this “neoprimitiveness”, a certain idea around which all Rafał’s projects are built. Like in the amazing “E System X” piece. On the other hand, you’ll get a jazzy trumpet in “Machina”. So… expect a mix of organic and electric, the ancient and the modern. And the unexpected.”
Read the full review here.

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Hoarfrost – Interview

Interview with: Rafał Kopeć
Conducted by: Michael Barnett

This interview was originally published on Terra Relicta Dark Music Webmagazine back in October of 2016. Tomaz has been kind enough to allow me to re-publish this interview on This Is Darkness.

Hoarfrost have been on the dark ambient scene for a few years. Their work has definitely moved some eyebrows in the past. But, this time around Hoarfrost have delivered an album which has been receiving an abundance of praise. Released on Reverse Alignment and accompanied by a brilliantly well done music video, their latest album Anima Mundi appears to be a career defining moment. I caught up with Rafał Kopeć, the main artist behind Hoarfrost to ask him some questions about the album and the history of his project.

Michael: Thank you for taking the time to join us for this interview, Rafal. First I would like for you to give a little background on Hoarfrost for those who may not be familiar with your project.

Rafał: Hoarfrost was born in the end of 2006. The first CD, Ground Zero, was released in 2008 by the big Polish label Zoharum. Next CDs by Hoarfrost: collaboration with Inner Vision Laboratory entitled Decline and album Puppets Of Divine Coroner, also appeared on this label. After a few years of Hoarfrost’s absence on the music market, a brand new album entitled Anima Mundi, was released in August 2016 by Swedish label Reverse Alignment.

Michael: Anima Mundi is heavy on vocals, unlike your previous albums. Would you please tell us a bit about why you decided to take this direction, this time?

Rafał: Before I have started to compose as Hoarfrost, I have been engaged in music, where lyrics have played an important role. This I missed in Hoarfrost from its beginning, but it was difficult for me to find the appropriate vocalist. I met Hekte Zaren, when I was finishing the stuff for Puppets Of Divine Coroner. The compositions were almost ready and there was not much space for the vocals. This is why Hekte appeared only in a few of the tracks. When we were working on Anima Mundi we felt comfortable, because the music was created intentionally for the vocals.

Michael: This is your first release through the recently resurrected Reverse Alignment Records. How has your experience been so far with Reverse Alignment?

Rafał: When I finished working on Anima Mundi, I sent the samples of the album to Reverse Alignment. I knew, that it is a good label from Sweden, which is one of the capitals of ambient music. I immediately received a request for more music. I sent one complete composition and in two hours I received the proposition of the contract. When Anima Mundi appeared and its promotion started, it became clear to me, that my cooperation with Reverse Alignment was a good decision.

Michael: You mentioned that this album is dedicated to a late friend of yours, who also contributed much of your previous album art. Would you like to tell us a bit about this person, and how they influenced Anima Mundi?

: Anima Mundi is dedicated to Amellia, a great Polish photographer, associated with Hoarfrost almost from its beginning. Thanks to her works and visions, the Hoarfrost album covers came into existence, visualizations for live gigs and video clips to the compositions from last album. Amellia died suddenly on the beginning of the production of Anima Mundi, when we had just started planning a visual concept for the cover. This tragedy delayed work on the album. I even consider for a moment, if my music activity as Hoarfrost still made sense. Eventually, I decided to finish Anima Mundi and dedicated it to Amellia.

Michael: There are a slew of guest musicians on Anima Mundi. How did you decide on who you would work with? Will you plan to have guest musicians on future projects?

: When I am planning, how my album should sound, I know, what instruments or tones I would like to hear on it. By this key I choose musicians. I like working with other musicians and I don’t exclude that I’ll invite some musicians for the next Hoarfrost albums. All depends, in what way I will plan the new material.

Michael: The music video for “Refracted In Illusion” turned out very well. Could you tell us a bit about the concept behind this video, and how it came to happen?

Rafał: The concept for the video was evolved by Paulina Mieczkowska, a Polish model, fashion designer and my friend, in cooperation with Jarek, the cameraman. My role was only editing the material. You should know that realization of this music clip, and problems which appeared during working on it, are an individual history. I could make a good horror about it.

Michael: Can we expect more music videos in the future?

Rafał: All Hoarfrost albums were promoted by one video clip each. There are also available on the internet a few very interesting videos made by fans for Hoarfrost compositions. Of course, if there will be an opportunity do make another video, they will appear, maybe not to tracks from Anima Mundi, but to future material.

Michael: I wonder, which is your favorite track from Anima Mundi, and why?

Rafał: I am looking at the album as a completeness, which has its beginning, developed view and the ending. Each track is an element of a jigsaw puzzle which has to match to another. So I couldn’t point to one favorite track. Anima Mundi is for me one 50-minutes composition.

Michael: Who are some of the strongest influences on your music? Which were your favorite bands from your formative years?

Rafał: It is a very difficult question, because I have always listened to many different genres of music. My first fascination was with punk rock, next there were metal, sung poetry, new wave, but, anyway, I never was interested in electronic music. At present, I also listen to many genres and many artists. The music, which I listen to, should have “something” which makes me go back to it again and again.

Michael: Do you have any rituals/customs which you incorporate into your recording sessions?

Rafał: Before I sit down to make sounds, first I try to ex-cogitate and prepare everything in my head. It helps me to go into some kind of trance. When I lose my inspiration during the work, I try to give my attention to other music. In this way I have made the album of my other project, Arbeit, which I composed while working on Ground Zero. Currently, in moments like this, I take my guitar and I play for a few minutes, trying to relax. I like to work with headphones in darkness and loneliness, because in this way I can be alone with the sound.

Michael: What is your favorite piece of equipment in your studio?

Rafał: I haven’t a favorite piece of equipment. Each thing I use, attends to the particular intention, so they are all important to me in the same way. The destination is the sound and everything is subordinate to it.

Michael: Do you ever perform live? What would be the perfect line-up for you?

Rafał: Hoarfrost is rather a studio project, but I had an occasion to perform on a few concerts and festivals. I like very much the Scandinavian scene, so my dream line-up should be created by Desiderii Marginis, raison d’etre, In Slaughter Natives and Peter Andersson with one of his projects. I have just realized, that all the projects, I have listed, are from Sweden, like my publisher Reverse Alignment. Ha ha ha!

Michael: What can we expect next from Hoarfrost?

Rafał: When I release the album, I don’t plan the next material. There should pass some time, so I can give it some distance. Each album is a separate message. It can’t be random. The music is an addiction. Releasing new album gives a satisfaction for some time. Later the requirement of creating comes again.

Michael: Do you think the apocalypse is coming? If so how do you think it will happen?

Rafał: The vision of the apocalypse has accompanied human-being for ages. History of our planet shows that in the past there took place events, which had characteristics of global catastrophes. Modern scientists also leave no doubt about the future of Earth. So if I should give a short answer, it is: yes. The apocalypse will come, but before total destruction, we would have to do with more and more powerful, disruptive phenomena which are human-induced.

Michael: Thank you so much for your time. I’ll leave the last words to you.

Rafał: Thank you very much for the opportunity to express myself in your magazine.

Hoarfrost links: Official website, Facebook, Youtube

Cadabra Records – The Muse of Hyperborea – Review

S.T. Joshi (Spoken Word)
Theologian (Soundscapes)
C.M. Kosemen (Art)
Album: The Muse of Hyperborea by Clark Ashton Smith
Release date: 13 February 2017
Label: Cadabra Records

List of Poems:
Side A
The Harlot of the World
Ode to the Abyss
A Dream of Lethe
The Tears of Lilith
From the Crypts of Memory
The Sorcerer Departs
The Touch-Stone
Side B
The Litany of the Seven Kisses
To The Daemon
The Nightmare Tarn
Memnon at Midnight
The Muse of Hyperborea
The Memnons of the Night
The Mortuary
The Traveller
Love Malevolent

Clark Ashton Smith was born and lived the entirety of his life on the west coast of the United States. In the foothills of the Sierra Nevada range Smith never ventured far from Auburn, California. Residing near San Fransisco, Smith found himself in a circle of poets that would be the center of the west coast’s literary scene for generations to come. Born in 1893, Smith was a contemporary of H.P. Lovecraft and a pupil of sorts to George Sterling. Sharing with Lovecraft an early discovery and love for The Arabian Nights as well as the works of Edgar Allan Poe, by the 1920s the two men would become close pen pals.

Clark Ashton Smith dedicated much of his early life to poetry. His first collection of poems, Odes and Sonnets was an immediate hit on the west coast, and while it wasn’t particularly well known outside the region, it drew the highest praise from many of the foremost poets of the period living in the region. He was drawn into the “Bohemian Club”, a group of respectable writers, by George Sterling. But upon contracting Tuberculosis and with little financial stability, Smith would never allow himself to become a frequent member of this circle.

Much like H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith would gain most of his broader popularity posthumously. As most of his works were only published in limited edition at local presses, the works of Smith would take many more years to fully spread his legacy around the western world. While, in particular, “The Hashish-Eater” found a broader audience and garnered wide-spread acclaim, by the time of Smith’s death in 1961 he was barely remembered and thus the even of his death went wholly unnoticed.

From the drastically increased popularity of H.P. Lovecraft over the last thirty odd years, the name Clark Ashton Smith has arisen more and more often. Smith and Lovecraft both frequently contributed to Weird Tales throughout the 1920s – 1930s. The two writers were in communication often through this period, which is evident in the number of times that they borrowed from each other’s mythologies.

Cadabra Records have taken the weird fiction of H.P. Lovecraft very seriously and have already released two beautiful albums of spoken art. With Andrew Leman reading the stories and Theologian creating custom soundscapes to fill out the atmosphere, both these works are delightfully well executed. On The Muse of Hyperborea, Cadabra Records moves into a bit different territory, yet continues to pluck at similar emotional chords.

The Muse of Hyperborea is a collection of Clark Ashton Smith‘s poetry. Equally distributed between metered poetry and prose poetry listeners are given a thoroughly diverse image of Smith’s styles and execution.

None other than S.T. Joshi, the man behind pretty much every leading treatise on H.P. Lovecraft, has this time recited the poetry of Clark Ashton Smith. His delivery is quite different from that of Andrew Leman, yet the eerie elements are quite pronounced. Joshi uses his deeper tone voice to his benefit and slowly delivers each poem in a way that best fits the format of each individual piece. The metered poems are delivered almost musically as he is easily able to translate the rhythm of the individual lines into the perfect aural space. The second poem on side A, “Nyctalops” is a perfect example of this almost musical delivery. In this way Joshi is able to fully immerse listeners in his readings.

The other half of the poems curated for this release are in the prose-poetry format. In which the poems are crafted much like a short story, but still manage to retain the literary depths and beauty of his metered poetry. On these poems, Joshi often takes on a more eerie style than on the metered. His words are each delivered with a trained precision that brings the stories to life in a way many audio-book authors could only dream. This is quite understandable, as Joshi has dedicated a good deal of his time to a thorough understanding of the life and works of Clark Ashton Smith, as he was such an integral element in the life of H.P. Lovecraft, the subject of Joshi’s ultimate scholarly focus.

The subject matter of the compiled poems is reasonably wide ranging. Yet, if there is a connecting theme running throughout, it is the dark and weird elements, which would later become part of Smith’s weird prose fiction that featured in the annals of the Weird Tales magazine. The following metered poem appears half way through Side A and is a brilliant example, in short, of Smith’s amalgamation of the romantic with weird and often occult themes.

The Tears of Lilith
O lovely demon, half-divine!
Hemlock and hydromel and gall,
Honey and aconite and wine
Mingle to make that mouth of thine—

Thy mouth I love: but most of all
It is thy tears that I desire—
Thy tears, like fountain-drops that fall
In gardens red, Satanical;

Or like the tears of mist and fire,
Wept by the moon, that wizards use
To secret runes when they require
Some silver philter, sweet and dire.

Side B delivers two fitting poems as opener and closer of this second half of the album. On “The Litany of the Seven Kisses”, a prose poem, Smith delivers a piece which is certainly the most romantic of these compiled works. As a stark contrast to the opener, “Love Malevolent” closes the album with the description of a love enshrouded in the macabre, invoking the imagery of graveyards and opiates, vipers and poisoned kisses.

Theologian proves once again that his dark ambient talents are a perfect match for the Cadabra Records template. Knowing Theologian best from his harsher industrial elements and his previous project Navicon Torture Technologies, it would be a surprise to find that he is able to also craft such toned-down soundscapes. Yet, anyone who has followed Theologian closely over the years will likely have expected his talents to run into such wide-ranging areas. Running the Annihilvs Power Electronix label, the man behind Theologian knows how to work with a broad variety of styles and even genres. His ability to find diamonds-in-the-rough is quite well known to his more intimate followers.

As Theologian explains in the liner notes, he had a totally different approach to The Muse of Hyperborea than he did on Pickman’s Model or The Lurking Fear. Especially with Pickman’s Model, the story was a direct narrative. It was literally delivered from the mouth of the protagonist to one of his fellow art enthusiasts. So Theologian had a need for creating a sort of soundscape to encompass the landscapes of the cafe in which the narration centers, or the cellar where one of the final scenes takes place. The Muse of Hyperborea, being a collection of totally separate and diverse poems, gave Theologian the freedom to focus wholly on atmosphere and emotion, and less on complementing a narrative. This often leads his sounds into eerie, other-worldly and down-right hypnotic territory. Some of the musical pieces will extend across several poems, slowly building and oscillating upon their foundations. Others will bring a specific mood to a given poem, taking its cues from the delivery of S.T. Joshi.

The Muse of Hyperborea is yet another absolute delight from Cadabra Records. It is quite inspiring to witness the product of a deep-seated love for the Spoken Arts medium. Cadabra Records cut no corners, leave no element of their product lacking. From the color variants of the vinyl itself, to the sturdy construction of the jacket, to the beautiful art of C.M. Kosemen commissioned specifically for this release, Cadabra Records give us another gem to add to our collections of their indispensable and steadily expanding catalog.

Written by: Michael Barnett

God Body Disconnect – Sleeper’s Fate – Review

Artist: God Body Disconnect
Album: Sleeper’s Fate
Release date: 27 June 2017
Label: Cryo Chamber

01. Sleeper’s Fate
02. Halls of Disintegration
03. Reservoir Dreamer
04. Lair of the Dormant Host
05. Flesh of a Ghost
06. Drowning with God
07. The Portals Evolve

Last year God Body Disconnect released their debut, Dredge Portals. Here was an artist, on their first delve into the world of dark ambient, taking everyone by storm. Musicians and listeners alike found Dredge Portals to be a riveting tale of a man trapped inside his own mind. Crisp field recordings, dreamy guitar drone and Hollywood worthy narration gave listeners a story in which they could become fully absorbed, if only for an hour of their time. As the weeks after release turned into months it became obvious that this experience extended well past the first listen. A year on and Dredge Portals is still drawing praise.

Sleeper’s Fate takes us back into the mind and narrative of Dredge Portals protagonist. We arrive on the scene just as the gun shot rings out. We hear the victim gasping for air as he chokes on his own blood. Police sirens are heard as they arrive on the scene. So we are getting a bit of a recap of the first album here in these first few minutes. Or, more so, a reminder of what went down that night on the streets of what I must imagine to be New York City. Bruce Moallem is back at it in full force. The narration is again, not only praiseworthy, but I can honestly say Hollywood worthy. As I described with Dredge Portals, his style of narrative and even his accent give a strong vibe of Good Fellas. With that being one of my favorite films of all time, the comparison does not come lightly. Nor does it really seem that he’s trying to directly mimic that style. It honestly sounds like this is the natural way for him to tell his tale.

While the theme and execution of Sleeper’s Fate are very similar to Dredge Portals, the biggest difference this time around seems to be in the depth of these field recordings. From the album blurb it seems that Moallem has either upgraded his field recording equipment, or just taken it into new territory. The promise of binaural field recordings is quickly proven to be noteworthy. While the first two tracks focus on drawing us into the narrative, “Reservoir Dreamer”, coming in at almost eight minutes length is the first track to fully absorb us. The brilliantly realized guitar drone-work is the perfect foundation for an impressive breadth of field recordings. The mind can truly run wild on this one. Faint voices echo off the walls, literally bouncing from ear to ear. Are we hearing children playing outside an open window of the hospital or are these the memories of our protagonist? The answer can be chosen by the individual listener, either direction taken proves to be part of a generally heartfelt and moving experience.

“Flesh of a Ghost” is another noteworthy track (among the many). We begin by hearing the beeps of a life monitor, which seems to be inside an elevator, before moving out into a crowded and noisy room. A hundred conversations happen at once, but the protagonist is a bystander, an observer from a distance. He might feel and hear the abundance of life in the room, but his part is only as the sleeper. Where this track really gets interesting is around the three minute mark when the post-rock influences show themselves more than at any other point before. The field recordings and sweeping bass drones never let up, but a pronounced drum beat comes front and center, with the guitars moving into their most traditional territory. With a post-rock delivery of this caliber, we should be thankful that Moallem is able to control his urges and bring us right back into the atmosphere of the rest of the album. A fully dedicated post-rock album with these sorts of moments would likely stand up as a worthy competitor to some of the best in that scene. But we are here for dark ambient, and to the dark ambient foundations “Flesh of a Ghost” returns as quickly and naturally as it departed.

“Drowning with God” features another moving vocal performance. Much like the closing chapters of Dredge Portals, “Drowning with God” gives us a sort of conclusion which still leaves plenty of room for individual interpretation. The sleeper thinks back to a lesson once learned from his father, having a bit of a somber revelation in the process. As we move into the last track, “The Portals Evolve” it seems that there could still be plenty of room to come back to this narrative once again, or it could be just as likely that this is the end of the story. The moment when the sleeper fully succumbs to his fate. As with any great cinematic dark ambient album, enough questions are answered to give us a well framed sense of direction, but there is still enough ambiguity to keep us second guessing our conclusions. Honestly, whether we believe we’ve discovered the truth to the narrative or not, there is enough musical talent here to draw us back into the mind of the sleeper many more times, if for nothing more than the atmosphere and precise execution.

God Body Disconnect proves once again that they are producing cinematic dark ambient of the highest order. There are really few narratives out there that hit the mark so profoundly in so many different ways. So now the narrative has doubled. The story has given us quite a bit more to experience and enjoy. Sleeper’s Fate takes none of the allure away from Dredge Portals, while simultaneously proving that another year within the dark ambient scene, meeting and learning from his fellow label-mates at Cryo Chamber, has driven his craft to new heights. By this time next year, its hard to tell what sort of masterpiece Moallem will have constructed.

Written by: Michael Barnett


X-Navi:Et – Machina Nova – Review

Artist: X-Navi:Et
Album: Machina Nova
Release date: 16 May 2017
Label: Eter Records & Beast of Prey

01. Machina Nova
02. Neo Primitiv
03. Weltschmerz
04. Pseudo
05. Nonsens
06. Fiasko

X-Navi:Et was born as a side-project of Rafał Iwański, one of the members of HATI collective. Although I’m not sure if I should still use the term “side project”, as currently X-Navi:Et seems to be more active than the main project. Rafał focuses on it in terms of both recording new material and playing live. The last HATI album was released in 2015 – in the meanwhile we got Vox Paradox material, an full length album called Technosis and now Machina Nova, a CD including also Vox Paradox, which was previously available on tape only.

HATI is a three person ensemble, so it is sort of the sum and essence of three ideas and views on music. With X-Navi:Et we have an insight into a single artist’s creative mind. But I have to admit that – on the contrary to Dead City Voice or Brain Overloaded – this CD gets pretty close to the HATI spirit. First of all, this time he travels far from the (dead) cities. Far from the turbulent, modern world. The music on Machina Nova happens to be turbulent as well, but more in a tribal, atavistic aspect. It all starts with the flute imitating the singing of the birds and then turns into the struggle between the drones, the ethnic instruments and tribal drums. This first track, Machina Nova has a strongly Eastern feeling, however weirdly it may sounds, but it’s like the primitive ritual, yet delicately saturated with Orthodox traces. It’s like living in a village, having your own primitive gods and beliefs, yet you see the towers of the first church that has just been built on the horizon. Machina Nova. The New Machine.

I love how the folk and ethnic sounds intermingle with the electric, drone textures, as they go hand in hand. A struggle, yes, but fair and balanced. Both parties have the same chances, you don’t have the feeling that one aspect dominates over the other. Also it has to be said, that Rafał doesn’t use the ethnic elements in the typical way, you know, like many others do, in quite a cheesy manner reinterpreting on synths the simple melodies they’ve heard somewhere. The melodies on Machina Nova may not be very sophisticated either, but they’re something different – they’re filtered through a modern and creative soul of a person not only having different, wider technical possibilities (because a lot of sounds have been created using real instruments, not electronic surrogates, just like folks were doing many centuries ago), but also having an open mind and awareness that the music is timeless. Some sounds may seem old, but if you use them in a proper context, this fact becomes insignificant.

All this refers to the first six compositions, forming the Machina Nova segment. These are probably the most catchy pieces from X-Navi:Et so far, just check the melodies on “Weltschmerz” or “Neo Primitiv” (what an apt title). Of course it is all based on adding loops until the track reaches its climax, but it sounds really cool. The compositions 7-12 are taken from a tape released by the Wounded Knife label in 2015. These are closer to cities, but quite vague ones, suspended in time and space. You get a bit of industrial harshness here, without any extremities, obviously, but you’re not on a forest meadow anymore, around a bonfire, rather you are in the sewers under a dystopian megalopolis, where ancient rituals are still practised. Yeah, I know I’m simplifying here, but you get the idea. Still, a tribal feeling is present here and there as it is Rafał’s trademark, just like this “neoprimitiveness”, a certain idea around which all Rafał’s projects are built. Like in the amazing “E System X” piece. On the other hand, you’ll get a jazzy trumpet in “Machina”. So… expect a mix of organic and electric, the ancient and the modern. And the unexpected.

Written by: Przemyslaw Murzyn

Near Eastern Dark Ambient Mix

A dark ambient mix using the near east as its theme. Tracks take listeners from the pyramids of Giza to Jerusalem to the ancient city of Damascus and many places in between. The idea for this mix was inspired by the recent release by Ager Sonus of Book of the Black Earth. I wondered how many near eastern themed tracks I could find, the answer is: a lot. Narrowing this down from over 9 hours worth of music to just over two hours, the mix starts with some more conventional dark ambient takes on these themes. As the mix progresses the theme becomes more and more pronounced. The latter half of the mix drew heavily from the Sombre Soniks compilation Dark Ambient Vol.8 which used an ancient Egyptian theme as its shared foundation. The Muslimgauze and Penjaga Insaf tracks brought some great field recordings into the mix. You can find links to all the albums in the track list below the player!

01. 0:00:00 Thomas Koner – Jerusalem (Hour Nine)
02. 0:04:45 Atrium Carceri – Jerusalem I
03. 0:07:20 Ager Sonus – Through the Desert
04. 0:13:10 Creation VI – Desertsong
05. 0:22:30 A Cryo Chamber Collaboration – Nyarlathotep (excerpt)
06. 0:27:10 Hymnambulae – Sandkornen
07. 0:32:30 Thomas Koner – Damascus (Hour Six)
08. 0:37:10 Kammarheit – The Excavation Site
09. 0:45:40 Nubiferous – Temple of the Sun
10. 0:54:30 Herbst9 – Ereskigal, Rise From Your Throne
11. 1:03:20 Xerxes The Dark – Omniscent
12. 1:11:00 Ager Sonus – Osiris’s Courtroom
13. 1:16:40 Druha Smrt – In The Desert Inside
14. 1:23:50 Tehransmission – Leaving The Planet
15. 1:28:40 Uzbazur345 – Through the Sand of the Sahara
16. 1:33:10 Muslimgauze – Gulf Between Us
17. 1:36:20 Nagual Art – Fatima
18. 1:40:40 Penjaga Insaf – Keinsafan
19. 1:45:40 Gaznesh – Kult of Osiris
20. 1:49:50 Muslimgauze – Narcotic 3
21. 1:54:40 Ambient Blackhearts Division – Asar
22. 2:01:20 Catacombs of Doom – Hathor Rising
23. 2:09:00 Herbst9 – Birds of Sorrow are Building Nests on these Flanks

Frozen In Time: Weekly News 19 June 2017

On this weeks edition of Frozen In Time you will find a few teasers that I have been highly anticipating. There is a nice variety of artists announcing or releasing new albums, I have included several upcoming Cadabra Records releases which I highly recommend if you are even remotely interested in spoken word art. Previously released interviews from Terra Relicta are continuing to be re-published here on This Is Darkness by the grace of Terra Relicta’s boss-man Tomaz, so another thank you to him for allowing the re-publication of these.

A correction from a review last week is in order: Svartsinn – Collected Obscurities is a joint release between Old Captain and Cyclic Law. I initially only credited Cyclic Law as the release label. You can find a link to that review and the rest of our weekly publications at the bottom of this article.

Wishing everyone a great week and I hope you will enjoy this weeks segment!

New Releases and Pre-orders

A Bleeding Star – New Single Released
Their (apparently) weekly single has just been released. Check out “It Never Ends​.​.​.​So Hence Comes Again Haegl’s Resurgence With the Crone’s Bonechillin’ Presence”. It is ‘name your price’ so no excuses!

Altarmang – LP Released
Altarmang, which consists of Kenneth Hansson and Pär Boström of (Kammarheit and Hymnambulae) have just released the LP version of their debut album Void, which was previously released on tape in a very limited number of copies. Void is now available on vinyl through Autarkeia here. Here is the teaser video for the LP!

Aura Negativ – New Album Revealed
Oddity Moon is the latest by Aura Negative. The space ambient album is due for release on Obscure Dungeon Records in July.

Bonini Bulga – Teaser Video Released
Bonini Bulga is the latest project unveiled by Hypnagoga Press. Sealed consist of bleak, minimalistic music made by Pär Boström (of Kammarheit and Cities Last Broadcast fame), using synthesizers, effect pedals and loops. The physical cassette is only included in The Solar Zine, issue 3. Receive a digital copy of the The Solar Zine for free on the day of the release – by signing up for their newsletter, The Lunar Letter, here.

Cadabra Records – New Album Announced
Cadabra Records is proud to introduce the ultimate audio adaption of H. P. Lovecraft‘s Fungi From Yuggoth. Masterfully ready by voice actor Andrew Leman are 36 sonnets of pure nightmare as only Lovecraft would write. Accompanied is a beautiful and haunting soundscape by Theologian who draws you into a dream world of horror and imagination. Fungi From Yuggoth, originally written between 1929 and 1930 and remains one of the most iconic and nightmarish collection of poems ever written.
Fungi From Yuggoth is read by Andrew Leman, a partner of the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, a professional actor with years of stage, screen, and audio performances, his voice capturing the proper terror, dread, suspense, and madness of Lovecraft’s stories.

Cadabra Records – Pre-orders Available
The spoken/horror arts curators at Cadabra Records announce the label’s most ambitious project yet, with the upcoming release of ROBERT W. CHAMBERS’ The Yellow Sign, the cult classic which inspired the acclaimed HBO series, True Detective. The story has here been professionally recited by popular filmmaker and actor, Anthony D. P. Mann, the LP featuring extensive notes by weird fiction scholar S. T. Joshi, and a brilliant and haunting score by composer Maurizio Guarini, of Italian prog/horror ions, Goblin. Purchase here.

Cruithni – New Album Released
Chronicle goes back to the era of the ancient and mythic landscapes of pre-Christian Scotland where the mystic Pictish tribes and Druids reigned across a primitive homeland. To feel the primal pull of ancestors and the long forgotten DNA of tribal connections. A time when man lived in tune with the Earth and her cycles. A known reverence for the land was common and a natural spirituality steeped in native animals, sacred hunts and rituals that took place year round.Throughout history, these Picts have been shadowy, enigmatic figures.From the outset, they were regarded as savage warriors but by the time the Norsemen were compiling their sagas and histories, the memory of the Picts had degenerated into a semi-mythical race of fairies.Theories abound, although these days it is generally accepted that the Picts were not, as was once believed, a new race, but were simply the descendants of the indigenous Iron Age people of northern Scotland.”

Dungeon Synth Compilation – New Album Released
Artifacts From The Shadow Realm is a ‘name your price’ dungeon synth compilation curated and mixed by Kaptain Carbon, a big player in the dungeon synth Facebook community and beyond. This is a great place to get an idea of what dungeon synth is all about if you haven’t yet delved into the genre, or maybe haven’t since way back in the Mortiis CMI days. While most of these artists are up & coming in the genre, you will have a wide range of sounds and a good idea of the genre from this compilation.

Enearth – New Album Released
New experimental Dark Ambient album, The Gray Lights, from Enearth (Sycanthrope Project)

Hypnagoga Press – New Issue of The Solar Zine Announced
“The Summer Solstice issue of The Solar Zine, 2017, will be released on June 21st.
This issue marks a new phase for Hypnagoga Press. During the past months we’ve begun a mapping process, as a part of deepening the work done through Hypnagoga Press. A mapping of the inner worlds we wish to journey and manifest, and of the places and projects connected to them. This issue presents a first version of this map. Included in the issue is also the album Sealed by Bonini Bulga, a cassette limited to 50 copies. Bleak, minimalistic music made by Pär, using synthesizers, effect pedals and loops.
We look forward to sharing all this with you.
Receive a digital copy of the The Solar Zine for free on the day of the release – sign up to our newsletter The Lunar Letter on our website:
The physical zine comes both with a cassette and a download code to a digital version of the album. *The digital zine doesn’t include a download code.*”

Jarl – New Album Released
“Without taking as much as a short break, Jarl is returning with the new production Hypnosis Colour, mastered by fellow musician Peter Andersson (Raison D’être) and arts crafted by Karolina Urbaniak.
Continuing from where Amygdala Colours – Hemisphere Roation ended, Jarl takes us on a 47 minute trip further into the psyche of human mind.
Hypnotically coloured sounds that evolves into a mixture of acoustic and electronic sounds are to be expected. Disturbing and beautiful.”

Kalpamantra / Malignant Records – Massive Compilation Released
Recrudescence is the latest collaboration between Kalpamantra and Malignant Records. This massive compilation features tracks from artists on the Malignant roster, some well known artists and others who have yet to release their Malignant debuts. This is a fantastic way to quickly and easily learn more about the breadth of music released by the esteemed label Malignant Records, compiled in a digital only, reasonably priced format.

Las Paccariscas – New EP Released
The Voice Of W​.​A​.​R. Part II is an EP by the Ukrainian dark ambient artist Las Paccariscas. I first was introduced to his music last year on a Kalpamantra release. He would soon after contribute an excellent track to the Terra Relicta compilation I curated and released last year, which you can find here. Definitely an interesting and underrated project to follow.

Paragraphs – New Album Released
The Children Are Orphans Now is a follow up to I Went Outside, I could Hear The Houses Breathing, They Were Alive. This album is everything I intended the first album to be. It is heavier, gloomier, more experimental, and instead of focusing on the bittersweet and potentially poetic aspects of depression, this album focuses on the inescapable, thrashing desperation of various mental illnesses. Once again, in this album I attempt to fuse, dark ambient, shoegaze and post-rock. This time with a bigger emphasis on gloom and lo-fi production. All purchases of this album will come with a bonus package which includes artwork, diary extracts and poetry.”

Vacant Stations – New Album Announced
Clones is currently in production and is due to be released at the end of summer 2017. Winter Light are very excited about this release from this relatively new artist based in London, UK. Having previously released one digital album on Bandcamp, Vacant Stations will now be gracing their roster of artists over at Winter-Light. The full album of over 60 minutes of music, spanning across 13 tracks, will put a new slant on the dark ambient genre with additional experimental touches, tinged with dark and doom laden elements. Check out the details here.

Other News

Father Dagon
This is Father Dagon S01E06 Vincent Abbott. Written by Victoria Snaith, produced by Dread Falls Theatre. Original soundtrack by Seesar. For more information, or to donate, please visit or

This Is Darkness: Week In Review

New MixDark Forest Reigns
Travel deep into the dark and malign forests. The birds sing, but the song is wrong. The rains fall, but the Earth they touch is distorted and perverse. Let this combination of nature and darkness enshroud you in the mysteries of the ancient woodlands, where daemons and faeries dance among the flames of ancestral fires.
Listen to the mix here.

MortiisThe Unraveling Mind
The Unraveling Mind is highly enjoyable and entertaining from beginning to end. Leaving me a bit surprised that Mortiis hasn’t put more attention into this area of his sound, which seems to fit him quite naturally. This certainly is not the usual Mortiis fare. Whether you are a fan of his Era I work, his later albums or neither, The Unraveling Mind is certainly worth a listen. I thoroughly enjoyed this side-step of Mortiis and would be pleased to hear him create more music in this vein over the coming years.
Read the full review here.

Ager Sonus – Interview
Ager Sonus is a dark ambient project out of Germany. While he has had several previous self-released albums, Book of the Black Earth is his first major label release. Releasing through Cryo Chamber immediately drew a lot of attention to his music and it seemed like the perfect time to get in contact with him and find out more about Ager Sonus. Thomas talks to me about some of his inspirations, recording techniques and the history of his musical career. As always, I hope you’ll enjoy the interview and definitely give his music a listen!
Read the full interview here.

Black Mara – Interview
Black Mara Records is a relative newcomer to the genres of dark, ritual, and drone ambient. They have been able to quickly solidify their position as a premier Russian label. Including albums from Ad Lucem Tenebratum and Ugasanie, as well as compilations with some of the most promising new artists around the world, Black Mara has set themselves apart. Each release has its own unique packaging, coming with magical stones, herbal-teas, and various box-set formats filled with goodies. I had plenty of reason to get in touch with Dmitriy the owner of the label. We spoke about his mission for the label, along with the subjects of the gods, and some of his personal tastes. Enjoy the following interview conducted from opposite sides of the globe.
Read the full interview here.

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Mortiis – The Unraveling Mind – Review

Artist: Mortiis
Album: The Unraveling Mind
Release date: 15 March 2017
Label: Omnipresence

01. Virosus – Silentium
02. Hollowed
03. Submit
04. Submit (Flux)
05. The Unraveling Mind
06. Redeemer
07. Submit (Subdued)
08. Surge
09. Zotheca
10. Thrall
11. Virosus – Amentia

Over the years Mortiis has become a very relevant figure in the industrial / post-industrial scene. Releasing some of his first albums through the Cold Meat Industry label, Mortiis was one of the pioneers of the label and the scene. While his music has made several huge shifts in content and style, his fan-base has more or less stayed consistent through the years. Always managing to pick up new listeners as others drop out.

Mortiis started his career in, what one might consider, the worst way possible. Joining the group Emperor in 1991 as their bassist, by the end of ’92 he had already been ejected from the band. What came next was quite unlikely in the grand scheme of things. Mortiis released a handful of albums over the next few years which would leave the record industry scratching their heads in confusion. Mortiis delved into a style which he called, dark dungeon music. The sounds were seemingly elementary in their depth. Using little more than some basic synth Mortiis managed a sound that was at once unique, basic, and dark.

While he may have left this style of sound behind following the release of The Stargate, almost two decades later, there would still be a massive following of his early (Era I) albums, and a whole genre of music blooming with Mortiis as a de facto trailblazer. What is now known as dungeon synth has been revived in a big way. Many labels are cropping up all over the world looking to get involved in this new wave of interest. With the cassette as their format of choice, dungeon synth fans are proud of their collections beyond the imagining of outsiders. Many of these outsiders still scratch their heads in confusion at what draws hordes of fans to this genre.

For the last twenty-ish years Mortiis has retained and gained popularity with a more generalized industrial rock sound. His goth meets Tolkien image and his creepy yet catchy vocals have done him well over the years, and it would seem that he has never looked back in regret upon this massive change in direction.

The Unraveling Mind hits us as sort of an anomaly even within the career of such an anomalous artist. The album is fully instrumental, but there are plenty of instruments and a fully developed industrial sound. And yet sometimes these sounds will slow to a crawl and mirror most closely to something that could be considered dark ambient. While this isn’t the norm for Mortiis, he seems to navigate this territory with just as much confidence and skill as he has in any of his other endeavors.

Part of the reason for such a different album comes from its original intended use. The Unraveling Mind was created as a soundtrack to the film Broken (2006). While the film used some of the music, many of the tracks never saw the light of day. Eleven years later, it is finally getting a proper release.

The Unraveling Mind is available in the digital format. But, the pride of this release can be seen in its vinyl pressings. There are no less than 5 variants produced, with a host of purchase options, including 5 test pressings and 13 copies which include original art by lauded dark artist Stanislav Krawczyk. The remaining 150 copies are divided evenly between red marble, clear yellow and dark blue. The first 50 red variants are hand-numbered in Mortiis own blood!

The music itself is unsurprising when considering that it was meant as a soundtrack to a horror film. There are some tracks like “Redeemer” which are quite upbeat with industrial drum tracks and distorted guitars. Some tracks, such as the opener “Virosus – Silentium” take on a more dark ambient vibe, coming close to something that could almost resemble a more active track by Atrium Carceri. “Surge” is one of the most subtle tracks on the album, with much of its focus on atmosphere and little attention to “musical” content. The rest of the album will fall somewhere within these extremes.

The Unraveling Mind is highly enjoyable and entertaining from beginning to end. Leaving me a bit surprised that Mortiis hasn’t put more attention into this area of his sound, which seems to fit him quite naturally. This certainly is not the usual Mortiis fare. Whether you are a fan of his Era I work, his later albums or neither, The Unraveling Mind is certainly worth a listen. I thoroughly enjoyed this side-step of Mortiis and would be pleased to hear him create more music in this vein over the coming years.

Written by: Michael Barnett

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