Release date: 16 June 2018
Label: Cloister Recordings
Andy Grant (The Vomit Arsonist), Mike McClatchey (Lament Cityscape), Stephen Petrus (Murderous Vision), and Derek Rush (Dream Into Dust).
01. Whittled Down By The World
02. Rough Hands Hew
04. The Banality Of Evil
02. A Rope Of Human Teeth
03. Seratonin Antagonist
04. Everything Is More Beautiful,
Because We’re Doomed
Theologian manages to find their way to the top of the list again with Reconcile. Since I’ve started This Is Darkness, Theologian has been in constant rotation here. Whether it is on the latest Malignant/Kalpamantra compilation, the latest Cadabra Records spoken art record, or his own proper solo release, Theologian manages to keep me entertained. I keep feeling like I am hearing something new, not returning to this artist, yet again, hoping for some variation in formula or style.
There are certainly many elements here of sounds that have been previously explored. But, we reach them from different places, and so they they feel refreshing. As I heard previously mentioned, Reconcile could be seen as the closest comparison to the first Theologian release, The Further I Get From Your Star, The Less Light I Feel On My Face. It has vast sections which are dedicated solely to dark ambient. Though, in the case of Reconcile, these can be seen more as extended interludes, between much more active tracks. Or, they are parts of these other tracks, drawn into a slow decay.
The album starts with “Whittled Down By The World”, which is a brooding intro with heavy industrial dark ambient reverberations. There is a deep foreboding darkness, but at the same time, a sliver of light, however dimly flickering. But reaching its close, it quickly descends into a chaotic maelstrom of noise. This is the first indication of more violent elements yet to be introduced. Entering “Rough Hands Hew”, Theologian builds from a gentle ambient intro, first introducing the dominant synth line, and then the industrial percussive undercurrents. As the vocals enter, performed by Theologian here, they are used as more of an instrument, than a tool for communication. Though, we are, thankfully, given lyrics to all tracks which incorporate vocals. [This is something I appreciate and wish would happen more often in genres where lyrics are hard to discern amidst the orchestrated chaos.] Theologian uses a combination of singing/screaming to build what doubles as an added layer of drone, a technique used throughout the second half of the track. We are then, again, cast into a solitary ambient darkness, though the industrial elements of this scene are not far distant. As “Tetanus” builds to its climax there is a constant singing/chanting that sounds to be a combination of male/female vocals (though likely just Theologian in different ranges as there are no female artists in the credits), reminding me of the style of his Some Things Have To Be Endured album, but also, in a way, of acts like Empusae or Arcana.
The second side (of the cassette, that is) is a generally more subdued experience. It opens with some dark ambient elements which develop into some more industrial territory, as percussion and distorted guitar/synth elements intensify. “A Rope Of Human Teeth” incorporates a glitchy beat oriented foundation accented by lighter synth elements. “Seratonin Antagonist” takes us back into some subtle dark ambient territory with heavy industrialized textures, showing both sides of his sound in stark contrast, yet perfect fluidity; often making it hard for the listener to fully register when shifts into new territory are occurring. The album ends on a sort of death-synth-pop note, with another seemingly effortless contrast between the harsh and the beautiful.
Hearing all the different soundscapes Theologian traverses on any given album, it’s no wonder his talents were tapped by the guys at Cadabra Records, to help orchestrate some of their greatest releases to date. Theologian moves between contrasting territories in a way that only a seasoned musician could manage. His willingness to show us equal parts beauty and crudity makes for an experience that doesn’t feel overwhelming in the way that many similar artists do for a portion of listeners. The devastation reaches its heights, abusing the listener along the way, but then returns to a calm, a respite before the next assault. In many ways this could be an analogy for life itself, brief moments of beauty and calm, amidst a sea of pain and hardship.
Written by: Michael Barnett