Month: June 2017 (Page 3 of 3)

On the Periphery – Summon – Anumals – Review

Artist: Summon
Album: Anumals
Release date: 21 October 2016
Label: Self-released

01. FR13NDS (feat. Aleister Crowley)
02. ON3WAY (feat. Sapience Christ)
03. OP3NBO0K
04. M3MO(R3)BO0T
05. SNAKE~FOOD (feat. Goldmonki)
06. SNAKE~V3NOM 666
07. SK.INK (feat. Neila)
08. VO1C35
09. A1M
10. thaMONSTA
11. COLD & FA1R (feat. Omen20012)
13. DANCE of DEAD (feat. Aleister Crowley)

Editor’s Note: As the first review in the “On the Periphery” section. I should first explain a bit about this section. Dark ambient is one of my many loves in the world. The purpose of This Is Darkness is for it to be a hub. A place where dark ambient fans from around the world can find news, interviews, reviews, mixes, etc. all pertaining to things that they, as dark ambient fans, would find interesting. The second goal is to bring in new dark ambient listeners. This second goal will be possible through devoting some attention to things outside the dark ambient genre, but still very relevant to, hopefully, the majority of its fans.

This release is not dark ambient. It is not ambient at all. It is in fact a rap/hip-hop album. However, aside from the actual genre of the music, there are a lot of glaring similarities to be made. While this may not always be the case in the style and execution of the music, it is fair to say that these similarities are constant in the subject matter.

I first stumbled across the sounds of Summon probably two years ago. At this point, I honestly have no clue of exactly when and where I made the discovery. But the music sounded really unique and had that edge of darkness for which I’m always looking. As is usually my habit, I immediately began to follow the man behind the music. It became quickly apparent how many things we had in common. From musical interests like Sigur Rós, Chelsea Wolfe, CocoRosie, etc. to film directors, David Lynch in particular.

When Summon released this album last fall, I was not in a position to review it. My old stomping grounds of Terra Relicta, was not exactly the place to cover occult-themed hip-hop music. Upon founding This Is Darkness, it became possible for me to branch out in any direction which I saw fit and relevant, so here we are!

Since around 2011, Summon has been creating his form of “dark hip-hop”. I’m not talking about sounds like the trap-kings Three 6 Mafia, nor is this like the artists Bones of more recent fame. It is especially unlike the clowns in ICP! Summon immediately struck me as having a sincerity and depth that went well beyond a love for horror films or some gimmick to separate him from the flock. The music flows from the soul, and it’s immediately recognizable as such. While this does a lot for an artist’s integrity, it often doesn’t do much for their fame.

A guy in Albuquerque, New Mexico rapping about subjects such as Aleister Crowley or H.P. Lovecraft is not exactly in a position to take the hip-hop industry by storm. Yet, what Summon has done is to slowly solidify himself as the backbone of the Albuquerque music scene. Summon always features plenty of local talent in his albums and never forgets to give due credit to his fans and supporters. Along the way, he’s poured his heart and soul into the running of music promotion for his local clubs.

Now, I should get specifically into the sounds of this Anumals album. As afore mentioned, Summon has a great deal of interest in the occult. The album opens with an audio clip of Aleister Crowley speaking. If there were ever a moment of question about what the kind of subject matter we would find in this album, it is immediately answered.

As we move into the following track, “ON3WAY” (feat. Sapience Christ), we get into some of the actual music. Sapience Christ sings in a very unusual and quite interesting manner throughout the track. Summon contributes the verses, which on this track show some of the similarities between his style and those of some other underground rappers such as Sole and Doseone. His lyrical flow is fast paced, yet constrained and always intelligible.

The next two tracks “OP3NBO0K” and “M3MO(R3)BO0T” are easily comparable for me to hip-hop greats Wu-Tang Clan. The production has that 70s cinematic feel to it, similar to the sounds that brought RZA to fame.

If comparisons to other artists must be made, which in the case of writing reviews I see it as necessary more often than not, Summon stays relatively consistent in his similarities between early Anticon Records artists and those of the Wu-Tang Clan. But these comparisons don’t reflect an artist who is taking the style of others and attributing it to himself. He often moves from rapping to singing and back again. He is similar to some sounds of other artists at one moment, then his next verse will take on a style, totally unique to himself.

Anumals is a truly unique experience. If you hate hip-hop, I doubt you are going to be swayed. But if you do enjoy this genre or at least the occasional song within it, you should find a good bit to love about the dark/horror/occult themes on Anumals. While the sounds themselves are often far from those of dark ambient, the themes, samples, and lyrics of the music should be welcome content for dark ambient fans with an open mind.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Editor’s note: With this being the first “On the Periphery” review, I would be very pleased to hear as much feedback as possible. What do you think of the concept of “On the Periphery”? Do the sounds of Summon resonate with you in any way as a dark ambient fan? Does this development make you happy or are you reading this thinking WTF?

DeepDark | Xerxes The Dark – Inner Mystery – Review

Artist: DeepDark | Xerxes The Dark
Album: Inner Mystery
Release date: 15 June 2017
Label: Black Mara

01. DeepDark – Alone
02. DeepDark – The Sacred Ash
03. DeepDark – The Doomed
04. DeepDark – Untitled
05. Xerxes The Dark – Apperceive State
06. Xerxes The Dark – Transmute of Mind
07. Xerxes The Dark – Catharsis
08. Xerxes The Dark – Perpetual Discernment

DeepDark and Xerxes the Dark are two dark ambient artists I’ve been following for quite a while. Both are rather prolific in their pace of releases. Both seem to be just on the cusp of something huge, yet continue to lurk in the shadows. One seems to have as much talent as the other. Both seem to have more talent than a great deal of artists in the genre of dark ambient. So when I saw that they were releasing a split through Black Mara Records, to say the least, I had high hopes.

DeepDark hails from the northern expanses of Russia, in the city of Kirov, no less than 900 kilometers east of Moscow, the heart of the Russian world. Known only as Dmitry Dark in dark ambient circles, the man is a bit mysterious. I know from the occasional contact with Dmitry over the years, that DeepDark is not his first foray into the music world. Yet, the genre of dark ambient does appear to be his calling, and his true passion. DeepDark never comes up short on inspiration for new albums. Yet, the rigor with which he releases those albums never ignores quality.

Xerxes The Dark was the first dark ambient artist to broadcast their music out of Iran. The homeland of the illustrious Persian Empire provides fertile grounds for archaic and mystical inspirations. The man behind the music goes by the name of Morego Dimmer, most likely a nickname, much like his collaborator Dmitry. Dimmer borrows the name of his project from one of the greatest rulers throughout the history of the world, the fabled God-King Xerxes of the Persian Empire, well known by history buffs and fans of the movie 300 alike. Dimmer has been in the dark ambient scene a bit longer than DeepDark, and his initiative has paved the path for many other experimental artists of the country to gather recognition from the outside world; the most recognizable of these others being Alphaxone of Cryo Chamber.

I am often wary of reviewing split albums. I often find that the theme gets lost somewhere between the two artists, and the EP worth of material from each artist isn’t enough to fully delve into the minds of the musicians. Yet, on Inner Mystery, I get the feeling that I might be hearing the best work yet by both artists involved. Furthermore, with a loosely based concept like “Inner Mystery” as the basis for the album, the musicians are able to relax into their comfort zones, and focus on creating some genuinely creepy dark ambient music.

The first half of the album comes from DeepDark. Here we can expect to hear a brilliant display of rumbling dronework complemented by field recordings. There is a primal nature to these tracks. A dark nature which terrifies listeners from the shadows, never emerging to show its true face. The opener, “Alone”, is probably my favorite work yet by DeepDark. There are many nods to the genre’s ancestry here. The cathedralic chanting vocals are reminiscent of early raison d’etre, while the simplistic and repetitive piano section screams of Burzum in his heyday. This is topped off with field recordings of a thunderstorm which brings the whole thing together into a beautifully dark and sinister force.

Moving into the second half of the album, Xerxes The Dark provides listeners with a more industrial leaning set of sounds. The thematic elements still hold true for both halves of the album, but XTD takes on a more hollowed synthetic sound. As if we are wandering through the remnants of a dilapidated factory, which still holds the energy of sinister deeds long forgotten. On the track “Transmute of Mind” XTD is looking to evoke a strong and direct reaction from listeners. The track is brooding and bellowing yet keeps a conservative sense of restraint on the overall soundscapes. A third of the way through this eleven minute track a wall of harsh white noise violates the senses of the listener. This is the dark ambient equivalent of a horror film jump-scare if I’ve ever encountered one! The first time I heard it, I frankly had no idea what to make of it. I was looking around the room to figure out what had happened to elicit such a cacophony of noise. On the numerous proceeding playthroughs I continued to jump at this moment, but definitely appreciated the concept for the reaction it drew.

The content provided by both artists on Inner Mystery is top notch dark ambient music. This is the first split to be released on Black Mara, and it seems obvious that the label’s owner knew a gem when he saw one. Inner Darkness is dark ambient for any discerning fan. The sounds are well prepared, well executed and well packaged (thanks to the efforts of Black Mara). Inner Darkness is an album that may only provide a few overtly memorable moments, but it is consistently solid, quality work. This is music for the darkest of souls, wanderers of the night, those who would always prefer to lurk in the shadows. If one is new to the sounds of DeepDark and/or Xerxes The Dark, this is the place to make their discovery. It is a fine collection of tracks, by two of the most underrated dark ambient artists in the genre.

Written by: Michael Barnett

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Randal Collier-Ford – Interview (repub ’16)

Interview with: Randal Collier-Ford
Conducted by: Michael Barnett

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

In August of 2016 I conducted an interview with the dark ambient artist Randal Collier-Ford. He was fresh off the release of Locus Arcadia, a collaboration between himself and three other Cryo Chamber artists. Not too long before that he released his second album through Cryo Chamber, Remnants. He talked about some of the behind-the-scenes of the Locus Arcadia as well as his plans for the future, among other things. Here you can get to know a bit about the man behind the music. Enjoy!

Michael: You have just recently released a collaborative compilation with Flowers For Bodysnatchers, Council Of Nine and God Body Disconnect, entitled Locus Arcadia. Congratulations on the great feedback the album has been receiving. I can’t really say I know of any other albums which fit within this frame-work of four separate musicians telling a tale through an album. What led the four of you to decide to take this direction with the album?

Randal: It was a bit of a spur of the moment thing, after releasing Remnants. I read a couple of reviews from different media sites stating my obvious turn to a more “spacey” feeling with the music, and yes, I do admit it, releasing that I had an itch to do a more literal album concept based in a sci-fi theme. But when I thought of moving forward with it, I also knew that I wanted to finally work with other individuals on the album, people who at one point or another, have stated they would like to collaborate on a track or two, maybe even an album. So I reached out to the others with this idea, since we’ve all said to each other that it had to happen eventually, that I wanted to work with them on something different. And immediately, I had responses from all of them just stating “yes”. And they all seemed enthusiastic about it, which made me very happy.

Michael: This particular direction taken on Locus Arcadia seems very similar, in its style at least, to the Sabled Sun 21xx series. There is the same focus on a protagonist, and we (the listeners) are placed directly inside his mind, hearing and feeling everything just as he does. Obviously, we have a totally different story and each of your tracks hold the distinct characteristics of each artist, but was the idea of creating a sort of stylistic connection to 21xx done consciously?

Randal: As far as style goes, not exactly. We all wanted to bring in our distinct styles of music to the album, to give each “chapter” a musical theme, but we did want each experience to be very personal. So the similarities are there, but it was not intentional to make them. I suppose great minds think alike?

Michael: Was there a strong line of communication between everyone involved as you constructed your tracks for Locus Arcadia, or did you each take a base concept and come up with your own track privately?

Randal: Oh yes, we spoke nearly every day during the initial phases and leading up to post edits. Most of the communications consisted of jokes, though. And most of those jokes were my terrible dad jokes. I was booed quite often. Haha…

Michael: Bruce from God Body Disconnect came up with an awesome prologue text, which accompanies Locus Arcadia. This really gives the listener a lot to think about and brings us even further into the story. There is really nothing to give us a sense of when in history this happens. Do you consider it to be a “long time ago in a galaxy far far away” type concept, or is Locus Arcadia a near future, near Earth, scenario?

Randal: The story takes place in the future, but we would rather not discuss how far into the future it is. As far as it’s location, we’re not telling either. Not yet, at least. There’s been some talks behind the scenes lately, and some of these questions will be answered in a hint in the near(ish) future. But I’d rather not spoil anything.(Editor’s Note: That “neari(ish) future” secret would turn out to be revealed on the 4th Sabled Sun album 2148. The 6th track on the album, “Project Locus Arcadia” makes a concrete connection between Collier-Ford’s collaborative album and the 21xx Series by Sabled Sun.)

Michael: In my opinion much of “Into The Maw Where All Men Die” seems to take place in the mind of the protagonist, yet there are certainly bits of the real world coming through. Did you construct the track to move in real-time or to focus more on the emotional state of the protagonist?

Randal: Good ear! It’s a mix of both, actually. The music is definitely meant to give a sense of what’s going on in the mind of our protagonist while he moves through the first sections of the station in real-time. Some of the sounds used we’re meant to be a middle ground of field recordings turned into musical notes, to give a continuous feeling blending our character’s mind, emotions, and environment into one thing.

Michael: You seem to have quite a wide range of interests, which of these would you say are the most important to you, as a dark ambient musician and how do you see them affecting your musical output?

Randal: Too many to count, really. Growing up listening to electronic dance music, spending my later teenage and adult life listening to black metal, with jazz and classical music infused through out all of this, covers the musical side of things. As for other media, I think it goes without saying for anyone who has seen me on social media, I’m very interested in cyberpunk, space themes, futurism, and a slew of other nerdy things. Haha. But before this past year, I was just known for my interest in the occult. Which was also what I mostly focused on in my music, and to a degree, still do. Picking just one would be impossible for me, because I try to find a way to use as much of my influences as possible.

Michael: I know you have worked on some previous albums under different monickers, one of which, The Temple Of Algolagnia/Funeral Mantra split, was recently re-released in cassette format. Were there any other previous projects that you would like to mention?

Randal: Hmm, I do have a list. Mors Universa, The Temple Of Algolagnia, Black Sun, Singularity (O), Grey Light Shade, as well as some time in production with The Seven=Crowned.

Michael: Which of these projects were the most important to you, as a growing musician?

Randal: I would have to say that The Temple Of Algolagnia would have been, because it was my first step into making dark ambient/drone music. And with the great reception it got, it kept me motivated to show the music to the world in my first years and try to grow in production methods.

Michael: Will any of these see a possible future release, or are you solely focused on Randall Collier-Ford albums?

Randal: Currently, I am focused on my named work, as it has taken up all my studio time. But I do have a desire to see Black Sun and The Temple Of Algolagnia release a new record, when time and inspiration permits.

Michael: You have a playlist on Soundcloud, Random Piano Debauchery, do you have plans on incorporating this material into an album one day, or is this just a lighter musical outlet for you, through Soundcloud?

Randal: I do have some hopes for it, and I had a plan to move one or two tracks into Remnants or the new one, but when I created that public playlist, I thought I’d just wait for responses from others to see if they would enjoy hearing such a thing in a more dark ambient album. But it’s starting taking its own turn into a general outlet for that style of music and other demos.
(Editors note: That playlist would become the basis for his recent release on Kalpamantra Net-label, Piano Movements.)

Michael: You are one of the few dark ambient artists that I know of performing live shows in North America. As I live on the opposite coast, I’ve yet to personally attend one. How is it for you playing this type music in U.S. and Canada? Are the crowds who have never heard it before generally receptive to the style?

Randal: It’s been phenomenal, and the people in the crowd have been very receptive, giving me kind words I’d never expect. When people tell me that my music takes them to a whole new world, or that I am painting a picture for them, or that they are given such shocking, unnerving feelings that lifted their spirits (yes, I’ve heard that one before), it makes me feel like a million bucks. Like I’m doing exactly what I set out to do. I had one woman approach me once after one of my shows to buy a CD with her boyfriend, and she wanted to hand me a vertebrae she had found in her area of Oregon, and this was a big deal to me because this was during a time when I would hand out bones to the crowd during my sets. But when she gave it to me, I felt like I couldn’t take it. Not without giving something back that I felt was as valuable as what she was giving me. So I gave her a mostly intact deer spine that I used for my stage set up, and she then cried saying she couldn’t take it. This, in turn, made me cry a bit, because I thought it was so sweet and both of them were so kind and receptive to my work, so I gave her a hug and urged her to take it, because I cherish her act of giving me a gift like this. I also remember a child once, who was at an all-ages metal show that I opened for in this tiny coffee shop that was packed front to back, and outside, with people here to see the bands perform. During my opening set, the child was running in and out of the front door, which was to my left, and she was always staring at me. I thought it was adorable that she was so playful and happy. People would come up to the stage and take a bone, sit down and listen, chat among each other, and so on. And after my set, the mother of the child came to me with the child and told the child to take one of the bones as well. She giggled and ran between her mom’s legs to hide, so I handed the mother a large rib bone for the child. The child smiled and the mother told her to say thank you, and she did, which was the cutest thing I had ever seen. Moments like these, the interactions with people after my sets and during, seeing people on the floor meditating, even on their knees (that one was weird to see), make what I do feel all the more worth it. To truly give with my music, a feeling that can last years for individuals, to inspire and mold minds to reach for something new or something strange. To not follow the flock and find wonder on their own terms. To me, that’s the greatest feeling in the world to hear someone say that I’ve done that for them. And that feeling never gets old for me, just makes me want to keep trying harder and harder to move forward.

Michael: I was lucky enough to catch Northaunt, Svartsinn, Visions, and others last summer in Philadelphia for the APEX Fest by ANNIHILVS there was a lot of incense in the air and the crowd, especially the ones who had been to this type thing before, just sat down in the middle of the floor, which I thought was awesome. What type of things do you like to do at your shows, if you’d like to speak a bit about your set-up and anything else you incorporate into your sets?

Randal: I used to hand out bones to the crowd, or have them come up and collect them on their own time and terms. I would create an altar before my set, bones bathed in my own blood, in ashes, and burn candles with them, as well as incense from time to time. My set up started this way because my sets would start with an opening sermon where I could interact with others to take something to latch onto, something physical, to pour all their emotions and memories into during this, to pray to their Gods during the sermon, then the show would begin when the crowd felt invested. This sort of thing has stopped lately, as it has been troublesome lugging a suitcase of bones by myself for long distances, but after gaining a merch hand/stage hand, this has been put back into motion with creating a stage altar again. We’ll see if handing out bones becomes a thing again though…

Michael: Who has been your favorite act to perform with so far?

Randal: Haha, too hard to choose. I’ve played with acts I never thought I would perform with, from classically trained musicians to heavy hitting metal bands. Too many of these bands and acts are considered as friends to me, so I couldn’t say which one was better. It’s just a joy to share the stage with friends.

Michael: What can we expect next from Randal Collier-Ford?

Randal: A deep dive, down into something… unnatural. There is a solid plan for the next studio album that will tie together both, The Architects and Remnants, to form a trilogy. Musically, it will take a different direction, but the theme will not only be personal to my life experiences, but personal in the aspect of the “protagonist” that will be created. But info on this album and how it ties together will come at a later date, so no spoilers quite yet.
(Editor’s note: As we have yet to see this release, there’s a good chance that we can be expecting it in the near future.)

Michael: What has the experience been like working with Cryo Chamber?

Randal: Strong, connected, filled with like minds and more jokes than I care to count. Haha. The label is more than just a label, we are our own community, we trade between each other, talk, share ideas, make new ideas, bring our experiences, and form new ones. It’s like our own family with Simon Heath (Atrium Carceri, Sabled Sun,…) overlooking all of it (and always smiling about what he sees). It feels like home, and I couldn’t ask for anything more. We’re always taken care of.

Michael: Are you in communication with many of the other artists on the label?

Randal: Most of them, yes. Some, more than others, but not everyone on the label is on social media that often. Due to location or personal reasons. But we always find reasons to chat with each other, or ask each other if we’d like to work together or give input to each other in our private online groups.

Michael: And how has it been working with Simon Heath?

Randal: A dream come true. Not just because I can get feedback from him and generally just talk about everyday life, but actually spending time with him in the studio, or grabbing lunch to swap stories, it’s almost surreal. He’s been my main influence with creating music, and to have a chance to see the magic behind the scenes, to hear his advice, to have hands on sessions with production. I’m happy like a little kid and I take in every bit of knowledge I can.

Michael: What is it like working on a Randal Collier-Ford album? Do you have any recurring rituals for your studio space?

Randal: Usually I start off with a bottle of sake, or a nice stout, then curl into a ball and begin to cry. After about 2 hours of this, I’ll start messing with new sounds until I’ve destroyed them enough to see what new and interesting ways I might be able to use them. Then I cry again when I can’t think of anything to do with them, and suddenly an idea would hit me and I will sit behind my computer for roughly 14 hours until the track is completed. Then repeat the process until I have a coherent album. Sad thing is, this is mostly true. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which parts are true and which are not.

Michael: I feel like there are a lot of differences between The Architects and Remnants, can we expect to see another stylistic change for the next album, or are you leaning more toward something similar to one of these?

Randal: Oh yes, as stated before, there will be a dramatic shift in musical styles/genres for the third album. But I’ll leave this as a surprise for a later date.

Michael: If you had to choose one artist as the greatest inspiration for your music, or for you becoming a musician, who would it be?

Randal: As stated before, Simon Health. And I’ll leave it at that, to not sound too much like a fan boy. Haha

Michael: Thanks so much for your time, its been great having the opportunity to speak with you and find out more about the man behind the music. I’ll leave the last words to you!

Randal: I’ve said this before in a past interview, and I’ll say it again now: Never stop pushing forward with your passions and dreams. Even if you think you’ve accomplished them or feel comfortable where you are, keep pushing forward and growing beyond your limits and your own expectations. Never give up, even when you think you’re never going to achieve them, or if you think you can’t compare to others, find what makes it special for you. Put your signature in your work, try something new, push the envelope, and dedicate yourself to what you want to put into it and get out of it. In time, you will gain it. Don’t let anyone tell you that what you do isn’t worth it, or try to compare you to others, don’t ever try to carry the fire set by those who have come before you. Be a new fire, and burn brighter than you ever have before. And watch yourself outshine the sheep and parrots who fill the world around, all on your own terms that you set for yourself. Or, you know, what ever feels right for you. That works too.

Randal Collier-Ford
links: Facebook, Bandcamp

Black Box Memories – Transmissions – Review

Artist: Black Box Memories
Album: Transmissions
Release date: 12 May 2017
Label: Sumatran Black Records

01. Black Box Memories
02. El Trabajo del Diablo
03. “Your only chance is to leave with us.”
04. “I suppose you’re wondering…”
05. Interlude – Night Landing
06. La Danse de la Séducion
07. Numbers
08. “What’s exciting about fires?”
09. Mauve Träume

The UK born, Istanbul resident, Peter Reeves of Sumatran Black is the man behind Black Box Memories. This project, while still relatively young seems to have a good bit of further potential. With the varied approaches of its creator, the future of Sumatran Black is likely to be illustrious and quite unique. Black Box Memories is the first of many such experimentations with different styles and structures of music. With plans to release more of these various side projects, Reeves started the label Sumatran Black Records, a place to house whatever sounds may come down the line.

The album starts with “Black Box Memories”, a track with sweeping pads, a repeating synth line and the distant chatter of air traffic radio transmissions. The track shares some distinct similarities to Circular in its faster than usual pacing and lightheartedness, which still manages to keep its darker edge. Though there are parallels between these two artists, there is little reason for one to assume that Black Box Memories is an attempt at following or recreating that Circular sound. The album is taken into many varied directions, bringing along some surprises throughout the journey.

The following track, “El Trabajo Del Diablo”, translated to English as “The Devil’s Work”, is another indicator of what to expect throughout Transmissions. As on the previous track, there is a looped synth line used as the foundation. The most prominent addition to this loop is a sample of a deep voiced male. He repeats intermittently throughout the track, “Tonight we do the Devil’s work.”; or shortened to just “The Devil’s Work”. The final layer to this piece is a more versatile use of analog synth to create a mystical and dark atmosphere, inviting the mind to ponder the idea of what this “Devil’s Work” may be.

The rest of the album continues on in this way, with many varied uses of vocal samples, all from sources of which I am not familiar. The theme stays relatively consistent throughout the album. There are constant indicators of a darkness and an incomprehensible presence mingling with humanity. This alien presence takes its most direct form on “Your Only Chance Is To Leave With Us”. A rather self explanatory title. The track features a voice repeating this phrase. This sets the extraterrestrial vibe into a certain framework. The track in particular really brings to mind comparisons to the side-project of another artist, Stuzha. His project Black Wanderer, the latest release of which was also reviewed here, uses a similar set of tools to create these dark tales of interaction with celestial beings. Again, this isn’t to say one is copying the other, but just a nice comparison to guide readers toward similar projects which (particularly the case with Black Wanderer) are equally obscure.

Transmissions gives listeners a lot to love. According to Reeves, the album was compiled in an effort to shore up rogue tracks, tracks which didn’t properly fit the framework of the Sumatran Black sound or his recent In The Dread album. With this in mind, it is quite surprising to hear how well this album fits together. Transmissions doesn’t seem like a compiling of loose ends. It feels like a proper full length, given all the care and planning with which such a venture usually entails. There is no lack of interesting moments on Transmissions. Black Box Memories may stick to a familiar palette throughout the album, but it never stales. By the end, it is quite reasonable to still hunger for more.

On all fronts, Transmissions is a successful side-project. There are certainly dark themes present, whether that is the devil or extra-terrestrial beings. The sounds are consistent and interesting. The album stays active enough to definitely hold the attention of listeners throughout every moment. The loops giving a meditative foundation, the vocal samples adding a sort of life and story to the project. Yet, there is still a passivity to all this, giving readers and scholars enough distance from the sound that they can focus on their tasks. Reeves seems to have tapped into something really promising here. Keeping in mind that this was not a planned album, it seems likely that the next outing as Black Box Memories will be even more interesting, and will take the sound to a more focused and story-driven destination.

Written by: Michael Barnett

A Cryo Chamber Collaboration – Azathoth – Interview (re-pub ’15)

Interview with: Randal Collier-Ford, Neizvestija, Darkrad and Simon Heath of Atrium Carceri and Sabled Sun
Conducted by: Michael Barnett

This interview was originally published on Terra Relicta Dark Music Webmagazine back in October of 2015. Tomaz has been kind enough to allow me to re-publish this interview on This Is Darkness.

Azathoth was unleashed on the world in 2015. The collaboration by the Cryo Chamber collective was the second in their series of Lovecraft albums. The series started with Cthulhu and in the time since this publication Nyarlathotep has also been added to the series. The following interview gets some insights about the Azathoth album from a few of the artists involved.

Michael: Were you very familiar with Azathoth going into this project?

Neizvestija: Yes, I have read a lot of Lovecraft, but not incorporated it into my work prior to the Cthulhu album.

Randal Collier-Ford: I want to say that I have held some sort of influence from the work of H.P. Lovecraft in degree, I have always had such atmosphere tied together with other inspirations for individual tracks here and there. Just nothing solely taken from his work.

Michael: How did you find inspiration for the sounds you would use?


Neizvestija: The image of darkness and desolation in outer space.

Michael: Do you have a favorite H.P. Lovecraft themed film or video game?

Randal Collier-Ford: Oh yes, Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of The Earth. It was the first game I owned for Xbox when I was a teenager, and it scared the piss out of me within the first hour. So I knew it would stick with me forever in a great way, and its atmosphere helped me realize what I loved in dark atmospheres.

Michael: Did you use more of your own sounds or did you pull heavily from others’ collections?

Neizvestija: Mostly my own. Main theme of my track is borrowed though.

Randal Collier-Ford

Randal Collier-Ford: I pulled mostly from other people, because I wanted to challenge myself to do something I had no control over creating. Additionally, it was so exciting to see and play with the raw materials from people that I respect to no end, and I look up to as artists (I did feel a little bit like a fan boy while working with these sounds).

Michael: This was quite an experiment, collaborating with so many artists in this way, did you enjoy the overall process?

Darkrad: Absolutely. I have never collaborated with such a large amount of artists at the same time. In fact, I don’t collaborate much at all. I was always a loner on my creative path. It’s not easy to find the right person, the right mood that matches what you have inside, and it’s not easy to trust something very personal. I have done some remixes and live sessions with the other musicians, but never anything similar to this kind of project. But despite my sometimes isolated and self-centered approach to art, I always search for the new ways and I open my mind to anything that might be interesting and that will allow new discoveries. The process of this collaboration was fantastic, very well organized and highly interactive. It was exciting to listen to the work of the others evolving and elaborating into a finished piece. I’ve already known some participating artists personally, but I was also able to discover the art of musicians, who I didn’t know before.

Randal Collier-Ford: It was a dream come true, the thought of working so closely with such fantastic artists, men and women who are carrying the torch for a new generation of Dark Ambient artists, as well as veterans I grew up listening to, its mind blowing. I couldn’t ask for anything else.


Michael: Did this large collaboration bring something extra out in you as an individual artist you weren’t expecting?

Darkrad: I definitely enjoyed this kind of work, when it’s not just one or two musicians getting together to record a joint piece, but it’s a whole team of individuals, with their own thoughts and approaches, from different parts of the world, merge their skills to create something beautiful and remarkable. I thought of this project as something global from one side, but very intimate from the other. I could feel this intimacy from the sounds of the others and I could feel it speaking out in myself too.

Michael: Was it more chaotic working with so many artists this time around, or did everything synchronize smoothly as you envisioned?

Simon Heath

Simon: With more artists, there is a lot more work to be done on my side when trying to orchestrate it, it also adds considerable time to the process since some artists are out playing live so the synchronization can be an issue. It took 3 months longer compared to Cthulhu to complete Azathoth.

Michael: Will you do more H.P. Lovecraft themed albums in the future, or are there other mythos you would like to delve into?

Simon: We are already in the pre-planning stages of something for next year. Lovecraft as it turns out is a huge inspiration to all the artists and is something that binds our sounds together very well. As for other mythos, I would like to explore the cradle of civilization with other artists, Sumerian or Egyptian mythology. But that is not something we are currently planning for.
(editor’s note: The album he alludes to here would later form into what we now know as Nyarlathotep which pushed the limits even further with more artists involved, culminating in a three disc 3+ hour album.)

Michael: You have been part of a lot of collaborations recently: Onyx with Apocryophos and Kammarheit, Cthulhu with 13 artists, Sacrosanct with Eldar, is this becoming your favorite way of composing music, or do you still prefer to do things on your own often?

Simon: I love to collaborate with other artists if we are on the same page. As for Onyx, Kammarheit and Apocryphos turned out to be very easy to work with. We shared many philosophies on sound design and we separated our egos enough from the project that each one could let his strengths shine and let other artists carry each other’s weaknesses. Mutual respect creates good collaboration and when I am in a space where I can share my accumulated studio knowledge with someone that is on an equal level, it makes things very interesting when they come back with their own knowledge and share it with me. It results in all of us progressing in our fields faster and more importantly creating spectacular art. I do like to produce as a solo artist a lot, and it’s a completely different approach I use for that.

Michael: Does Azathoth sound as you originally envisioned or did it evolve into something none of you were expecting?

Simon: Not at all and that’s the beauty of such a behemoth of a collaboration. I may be orchestrating Azathoth, but I function more as a guide in the process and we have a very open line of communication on the label about both collaborations such as this and the label in general. We function more as a collective with me at the helm of the ship trying to get us to our destination.

Cryo Chamber links: Official website, Facebook, Bandcamp

Enmarta – Interview (re-pub ’15 )

Interview with: Enmarta aka Siegfried (Der Leiermann)
Conducted by: Michael Barnett

This interview was originally published on Terra Relicta Dark Music Webmagazine back in September of 2015. Tomaz has been kind enough to allow me to re-publish this interview on This Is Darkness.

Back in 2015, Enmarta had just landed on the dark ambient scene. His debut album Sea of Black took listeners into a brilliant world of dark ambient blended with authentic classical instrumentation. The album quickly became a lauded addition to the Cryo Chamber label. Since this interview, Enmarta has released his sophomore album, The Hermit which went even further in realizing this neo-classical / dark ambient amalgamation.

Michael: Where exactly are you from, and how does that influence your music?

Siegfried: Well, I’m from Reggio Calabria (South Italy), a small city for “small” people. It is easy to be imprisoned in yourself here and that’s because there’s no one who could understand your message. At least I have some friends with the same interests, but try to imagine a society who couldn’t catch what you have to say – even if you play indie or pop rock, now try to imagine it interfacing with dark ambient… This says it all.

Michael: What instruments did you play yourself for Sea Of Black? How did that effect your take on a dark ambient album?

Siegfried: My gear consists of a simple midi keyboard, a simple handmade Indonesian flute, a glockenspiel, bells and my viola. Everything treated with FL Studio and Reaper. This is what I use for Enmarta. I think I will expand my gear to different other instruments. I was just thinking about a string quartet for my second work! But we will see, I need time to study this combination.

Michael: Do you compose in any other genres?

Siegfried: Yes, of course. Actually I’m working for a black metal project of mine, but at the moment I’m too busy with my music studies that keep me in hours of seclusion. I also play keyboards in a melodic death metal band called Memories Of A Lost Soul.

Michael: How did you discover dark ambient music?

Siegfried: I have listened to black metal for a long time, since I was younger. Between songs we would always find some dark/obscure interludes and I think you must be wondering on how this could focus on my discovery of dark ambient music. Through time I just did some research and I just discovered that it was simply a genre within a genre. That’s how I discovered dark ambient music.

Michael: Do you ever perform live? Do you see live shows as a fitting way to spread the word about dark ambient, and your own album in particular?

Siegfried: I never perform live and it’s a pity. Of course it is a wonderful way to spread the word, my word. I can’t do anything here, I’m just locked, but I hope to make something great happen in the future. Maybe a performance for closer friends, who knows?

Michael: How did you come in contact with Cryo Chamber?

Siegfried: I just wanted to introduce my music to a large number of bright and able people. Cryo Chamber seemed the most suitable way to spread out my passion. At first it seemed a dream to me, but then I just asked Simon Heath if it could be possible to make this dream come true. Now I’m here.

Michael: How has your experience as an addition to the Cryo Chamber roster affected you?

Siegfried: It has been a joy to see my name and my face alongside those of many other composers who have given something very relevant to the world of music and I’m still very excited about it. It is not so easy belonging to a particular group of people.

Michael: Did you have a specific concept in mind, when starting this project, or did the concept and feel of the album change as you produced the tracks?

Siegfried: I just started this project as a bridge to my soul. I try to express what I have inside through a language that helps me a lot, MUSIC. I find no other way to make you understand how much I hate mankind and how I wish to see it rot. All my tracks have a specific message inside, but it is up to you to figure out what kind of message.

Michael: How do you feel about the dark ambient scene as a whole? Has it seemed very welcoming to you or has it been a struggle to gain recognition amongst so many veteran musicians?

Siegfried: It was not difficult to open a way in the scene, I thought Sea Of Black would have been a flop, and instead I received hundreds of compliments even from very important people in the scene and now everyone asks me what’s in store. I think it is a very warm welcome.

Michael: What are you currently working on musically? Do you have another dark ambient album in the works, or will you be focusing on other areas of your life?

Siegfried: I’m currently working on new sounds. I think I’ll bring this project with me, in my grave, one day.
(editor’s note: as fate would have it, this project did not follow him to his grave. Here’s a track from his most recent album, The Hermit, also released through Cryo Chamber.)

Michael: If you could tell fans one thing about yourself that you find interesting and they may not know about you, what would it be?

Siegfried: I am a fetishist.

Michael: Do you have a strong connection to ancient Italian civilizations? Do you ever visit ruins, which ones if so? Does this deep Italian history play any role in your music?

Siegfried: I have a strong link with the past of my nation and its traditions. I live on the same land where the first Greeks set foot to give life to what was once called the Magna Græcia, now called Calabria. The same land that for us has become synonymous with corruption for them became a land of hope. Many ruins and tools were still preserved in the best possible way, many others lost forever or simply not brought to light yet. We still have a lot of ruins scattered throughout the region: Caulonia, Gerace, Locri, Vibo Valentia, Nao and so on. I suggest that you visit these magnificent places, it’s a real ancestral throwback. In conclusion, my final answer is YES: my music is dedicated to my ancestors, as well as the stars which combine themselves to give life to a new galaxy. Our ancestors gathered with all their forces to give us a future, a floor to rest our feet and all my prayers and passions are devoted to them.

Enmarta links: Facebook, Cryo Chamber

Winterblood – Waldeinsamkeit – Review

Artist: Winterblood
Album: Waldeinsamkeit
Release date: 30 May 2017
Label: Self-released

01. I
02. II

Polar ambient has always been one of my favorite sort of sub-genres within the confines of the greater dark ambient genre. I’ve used this term in the past to describe works by artists such as: Northaunt, Ugasanie and Vinterriket. Winterblood, in many ways, could fit this classification as well. The music certainly begs of isolation and a cold despair, akin to those feelings brought on after many months cowering in a chilly cabin, waiting out the dark winter season. While the aforementioned artists take their inspiration from the far northern regions, Winterblood finds his in the mountainous regions of northern Italy.

Where Winterblood truly captures my interest is in the way he seems to effortlessly meander between dark ambient and that ever growing, often notorious, genre of dungeon synth. Winterblood takes on a minimalistic approach to his music. Most often incorporating little more than a layer or two of synthesizer. This stripped-down approach helps promote those feelings of isolation in the cold. In the past he has also incorporated field recordings, bringing that biting winter wind right into the mix.

Presently, on Waldeinsamkeit, Winterblood opts for one of his most minimal approaches to date. The first track, which is really the first part of what is considered to be one long-form track, split in two parts, is peaceful, slightly melancholic and simplistic. Older works of Burzum, on his first outings in the dark ambient / dungeon synth genres come to mind as a loose comparison. There is a gentle bass synth which creates a droning foundation throughout “I”. This is layered with a chilly sounding synth lead, which is often repetitive in nature, but manages to create the proper environment, and hold the listener’s attention over the entirety of its 20 minute length.

As the album moves into its second half, “II”, Winterblood adds a bit more complexity to the work. A continuation of “I”, we still hear that underlying foundation of a single deep note, the same crystalline notes layered on top. But, the dynamics of these elements are increased here on this second half. The bass has a bit more fluctuation, the lead synth ups its pace. While still holding us in that cold winter trance, the second half of the album has just enough of a shift to renew the listener’s attention and interest, just when that renewal may be most needed.

At the heart of Waldeinsamkeit is a simplistic approach to winter soundscapes. Fans of elaborate combinations of multiple instruments, pads and field recordings may not fully appreciate what Winterblood seeks to accomplish. Yet, those out there who find meaning and comfort in the stripped down elements of the dungeon synth genre, as well as much of the polar wing of dark ambient, will likely have a pleasant experience with Waldeinsamkeit. I, personally, found myself listening to this album on repeat for hours, which is no small feat when the content is so minimal and repetitive.

Winterblood, continues to slowly creep up the ladder of the collective consciousness of dark ambient and dungeon synth fans. With each album, he steps a little bit closer to his ultimate goal, which appears to be the creation of the quintessential winter soundscape. Waldeinsamkeit, for me, is quite probably the best work to date by Winterblood. The lessons he’s learned over the last few years have coalesced into this album, which bathes in a genuine simplicity, a simplicity which avoids the pitfalls of many previous attempts at this style. If one is looking to reminisce on those chilly winter months, which have recently drawn to a close, Waldeinsamkeit is the air conditioning unit for your soul. If one is in the southern hemisphere, then this album is dropping at just the right moment to be the soundtrack to the coming winter.

Written by: Michael Barnett

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