Category: Reviews (Page 1 of 16)

Decaying Spheres by Various Artists – Review

Artist: Various
Album: Decaying Spheres
Release date: 4 September 2020
Label: Decaying Spheres
Reviewer: Rich Dodgin

Tracklist:
01. Bonzaii – Life on a Blade
02. Hynta – Badlands
03. Ghost Signs – Let Fly Thy Vagabond Heart
04. SVR – A Promise
05. Volunteer Coroner – Fantasy in Flashing Lights
06. Eppu Kaipainen feat Embry お兄ちゃん – My House is Torn Down Every Evening
07. Employee Of The Month – Augur
08. Güsh – Gaunt
09. Σπαταλώ χρόνο – αδυναμία, έλλειψη, λεπτότητα, χαύνωση
10. Seed Faith – Projection Forecast

For their second release, Manchester based ambient / drone record label Decaying Spheres has assembled a stunning collection of tracks from some of their favourite international artists.

The opening track, Life on a Blade, by German artist Bonzaii, is a personal favourite of mine. When I reviewed the A Person / Life on a Blade EP back in June, I said “… discordant drones and low tempo synth patterns are expertly blended together to create something very special. This music provides the perfect soundtrack for reminiscing over days long past and remembering old friends… and maybe a spot of soul-searching…” It’s a wonderful start to the album, and sets the tone perfectly for the audio journey to follow.

Badlands by Hynta has a more experimental sound to it, but is no less impressive. Repeating glitches, sounds of static, and haunting not-quite-vocals gradually evolve into a mesmerising loop of eerie synths and electronic beeps. It’s beautifully done, and the resulting listening experience is otherworldly and hypnotic.

Let Fly Thy Vagabond Heart by Ghost Signs is a track of ethereal drone and synth sounds that relax and uplift as they wash over you. It’s beautiful stuff, and I found myself transported away from my surroundings as the music unfolded.

I’ve been a huge fan of Scottish dark ambient musician SVR for several months now, so I was delighted to discover the inclusion of this new, exclusive track on the album. And A Promise is another fantastic example of the minimalist electronic drone music this talented artist creates – with experimental lo-fi soundscapes so deep you can lose yourself in them.

Fantasy in Flashing Lights by Volunteer Coroner would be the perfect soundtrack to a post-apocalyptic movie. Eerie drones combine with the sounds of roaring flames and decaying tarpaulin flapping in the wind. Distant voices echo from the world left behind, a reminder of everything that was lost in the nuclear hellfire.

My House is Torn Down Every Evening by Eppu Kaipainen feat Embry お兄ちゃん is an unsettling track, in which slowly repeating electronic wailing is accompanied by desperate, terrified sobbing, and softly spoken vocals that somehow manage to be both soothing and sinister. It’s an uncomfortable listen, but a rewarding and strangely enjoyable one.

Augur by Employee of the Month is a minimalist track, with dense layers of drone subtly blended with electronic static and glitches. This is a wonderfully dark and eerie piece, imbued with an underlying sense of dread and otherness that stays with the listener long after it’s finished playing.

Gaunt by Güsh starts with the looping sound of whispering by someone in pain, before the synth and drones come to the fore, along with a repeating pattern of electronic glitches and disquieting tones. As the track develops, so do the feelings of apprehension experienced by the listener. This is powerful music that leaves you catching your breath at its sheer intensity.

αδυναμία, έλλειψη, λεπτότητα, χαύνωση by Σπαταλώ χρόνο sounds like the soundtrack to a terrifying sci-fi / horror movie. Haunting drones are expertly combined with strange alien echoes, subtle electronic beeps and noises… and the breathing of something distinctly non-human. There is a real depth to this track, with multiple layers of sound that mean that each play of it rewards the listener with something new.

The final track on the album, Projection Forecast by Seed Faith, begins with what sounds like someone – or something – walking through dank sewers, as an underlying sense of tension grows. Gradually, synths are added to the mix, and the track becomes more melancholic, and almost uplifting – though the unsettling nature of the track remains. It ends the album beautifully, striking the perfect balance between the darkness and the light, and leaving the listener touched by what they’re heard.

This is an incredibly impressive collection of tracks, and if you’re a fan of dark ambient, drone, or experimental music then it is definitely worth checking out. Decaying Spheres have done an amazing job of pulling together 10 tracks of such high quality, that each offer something different – I’ve had this album on repeat play since I first got it, and I cannot wait to see what this label releases next.

Written by Rich Dodgin

 

Links

Decaying Spheres label bandcamp

Bonzaii bandcamp

Hynta bandcamp

Ghost Signs bandcamp

SVR bandcamp

Volunteer Coroner bandcamp

Eppu Kaipainen bandcamp

Embry お兄ちゃん

Employee of the Month bandcamp

Güsh bandcamp

Σπαταλώ χρόνο bandcamp

Seed Faith bandcamp

 

New Risen Throne – The Outside – Review

Artist: New Risen Throne
Album: The Outside
Release date: 7 February 2020
Label: Cyclic Law / Old Europa Cafe
Reviewer: Rich Dodgin

Tracklist:
01. The Outside (I)
02. What We Have Seen
03. The Outside (II)
04. Corrosion Of Pillars
05. The Outside (III)
06. The Outside (IV)
07. Birth Of A New Disciple (II)
08. A Vision Of The Hidden (Sysselmann Remix)
09. Echoes From The Loss (Visions Remix)
10. Breath Of Growing Structures (Taphephobia Remix)
11. Humani Nihil (Phantom Ship Remix)
12. Sad Silent Prostrations Before The Monolith (Vestigial Remix)
13. Sigh Of The Soul (Apocryphos Remix)
14. Signs Of The Approaching Wastefulness (II) (New Risen Throne Remix)
15. Withered Regions (TeHÔM Remix)

With New Risen Throne‘s previous releases, project founder Stiehl (Gabriele Panci) established himself as one of the masters of the dark ambient genre, and we’ve been eagerly awaiting a full album of new material since 2011’s Loneliness Of Hidden Structures.

Well, New Risen Throne has rewarded us for our patience, because The Outside is a double album that clocks in at almost 2 hours!

The first part of the album contains 7 cinematic dark ambient / post-industrial tracks, continuing the conceptual soundtrack series that began with 2007’s Whispers Of The Approaching Wastefulness:

After centuries of isolation the human race begins a journey in search of the causes that led to the end of its world, and for the first time it approaches the Structures, new life forms that have developed and evolved in the emptiness of “The Outside”.

Opening track, “The Outside (I)”, is a claustrophobic number, with underlying deep drone sounds accompanied by the echoing of clanging machinery, and distant chanting and sounds of distress. It’s an unnerving start to things, and it lets you know what to expect for the rest of the album. Stiehl describes New Risen Throne as “…cold and desolate soundscapes that will leave you feeling utterly scared and alone…”, and listening to this first track it’s easy to see why.

“What We Have Seen” is less abrasive, but no less unsettling, with hypnotic, repeated soundscapes that wash over you in heavy waves. “The Outside (II)” begins in a similar vein, albeit at a slower, more brooding pace… before things ramp up significantly and all hell breaks loose – as the cacophony increases and becomes downright threatening – and then, mercifully, the noise ebbs away, leaving the listener with a temporary feeling of relief.

Fourth track, “Corrosion Of Pillars”, starts off quietly, but soon morphs into a brutally caustic sonic assault. It’s impressive stuff, and perfectly demonstrates Gabriele Panci’s talents, as he seamlessly blends dark ambient and post-industrial soundscapes together to create something special.

“The Outside (III)” and “The Outside (IV)” are more measured, with less variation in tone and pace. Yet the sense of dread and other-worldliness is as prevalent here as on earlier parts of the album.

The final track of the first part of the album, “Birth Of A New Disciple (II)”, finishes things off beautifully – the post-industrial elements gradually fade away, leaving us with more soothing ambient textures… and yet, there is a real sense that this is just the beginning of something…

 

The second part of the album features 8 older New Risen Throne tracks, revised and remixed by close friends and collaborators: Sysselmann, Visions, Taphephobia, Phantom Ship, Vestigial, Apocryphos and TeHÔM.

Each track has been revisited and re-interpreted, while retaining the underlying essence of the original version. And though these tracks originally appeared on four different albums (see end of this review, for more details),  Stiehl has ensured that they all perfectly compliment each other, as well as the first 7 tracks – meaning that The Outside feels like one whole complete album, rather than one of two halves.

“A Vision Of The Hidden (Sysselmann Remix)” is a slow, almost meditative piece, with chanting and the echo of industrial machinery providing an – almost – calming feel to things. “Echoes From The Loss (Visions Remix)” begins in a similarly mellow vibe, with subtle drone sounds and crashing waves… before the droning becomes increasingly harsher and urgent.

“Breath Of Growing Structures (Taphephobia Remix)” is a wonderful, if disquieting listen, like trying to make sense of shadows on the wall when you’re half asleep… more haunting nightmare than pleasant dream. Fortunately, the next track, “Humani Nihil (Phantom Ship Remix)” is a brighter ambient piece, with the sounds of waves breaking on the shore and uplifting soothing drone and synth sounds.

The next couple of tracks, “Sad Silent Prostrations Before The Monolith (Vestigial Remix)” and “Sigh Of The Soul (Apocryphos Remix)”, are both dark, brooding numbers, with a sense of underlying threat, and melancholy and sadness respectively. “Signs Of The Approaching Wastefulness (II) (New Risen Throne Remix)” is an eerie, minimalist down-tempo piece, that somehow manages to be both chilling and chilled-out at the same time.

Final track, “Withered Regions (TeHÔM Remix)” finishes things off nicely. A bleak tone underscores a number of disturbing elements – including drones, strings, echoes, and mutterings. It starts off relatively gently, but as as the track nears its end, things build to a climactic finale of anguished sub-human roars.

New Risen Throne has released another incredible album with The Outside – its dark, cinematic soundscapes providing an audio experience that is simply breathtaking.

If you’re a fan of intelligent, multi-layered dark ambient / post-industrial music, then you absolutely have to own a copy of this album.

Written by Rich Dodgin

 

Additional album information

  • A Vision Of The Hidden (Sysselmann Remix) – original version on 2011’s Loneliness Of Hidden Structures
  • Echoes From The Loss (Visions Remix) – original version on 2011’s Loneliness Of Hidden Structures
  • Breath Of Growing Structures (Taphephobia Remix) – original version on 2011’s Loneliness Of Hidden Structures
  • Humani Nihil (Phantom Ship Remix) – original version on 2009’s Crossing The Withered Regions
  • Sad Silent Prostrations Before The Monolith (Vestigial Remix) – original version on 2016’s New Risen Throne compilation album
  • Sigh Of The Soul (Apocryphos Remix) – original version on 2009’s Crossing The Withered Regions
  • Signs Of The Approaching Wastefulness (II) (New Risen Throne Remix) – original version on 2007’s Whispers Of The Approaching Wastefulness
  • Withered Regions (TeHÔM Remix) – original version on 2009’s Crossing The Withered Regions

Links

NERATERRÆ – Scenes From the Sublime – Review

Artist: NERATERRÆ
Album: Scenes From the Sublime
Release date: 20 March 2020
Label: Cyclic Law / Liberation Through Hearing
Reviewer: Rich Dodgin

Tracklist:
01. The Last Abjurer (feat. Phelios)
02. Fate Unveiled (feat. Dødsmaskin)
03. In Deafening Silence (feat. Phragments)
04. Thou, Daemon (vocals by Yann Hagimont from Cober Ord and George Zafiriadis from Martyria)
05. Passion Domain (feat. Mount Shrine)
06. The Unfathomable Lives Again (feat. Xerxes The Dark and lithophone by Yann Hagimont from Cober Ord)
07. Doorway to the I (feat. Alphaxone)
08. The Collapse of Matter and Time
09. Towards Oneiric Truths (feat. Leila Abdul-Rauf)
10. Virtues of the Dawn (feat. Shrine)

NERATERRÆ‘s debut album, The Substance of Perception, was a daring work featuring collaborations with some of the finest dark ambient, drone and ritual musicians. The album received rave reviews and quickly established Alessio Antoni as a rising star on the dark ambient scene.

Now, less than a year later, NERATERRÆ releases Scenes From the Sublime, a ten track album inspired by visual masterpieces from the world of art – as Alessio Antoni describes in his own words:

“The album is my personal tribute to some of my favorite painters, to their minds capable of channeling the sublime, to their masterpieces. I realized 10 audial visions, each track is an ode to a different painting.”

It’s a fascinating concept, spanning across over four centuries of masterpieces, with musical collaborations from Alphaxone, Dödsmaskin, Leila Abdul-Rauf, Mount Shrine, Phelios, Phragments, Shrine, Xerxes The Dark, George Zafiriadis from Martyria and Yann Hagimont from Cober Ord.

Opening track, “The Last Abjurer”, is dark, brooding piece – with a cinematic edge, and an underlying sense of growing dread – that wouldn’t sound out of place on the soundtrack for Bladerunner 2049. It’s an incredible start to the album, and when I first heard it previewed a couple of months ago I just knew I was going to have to buy Scenes From the Sublime on the strength of that one track alone.

 

“Fate Unveiled” starts in a similarly punchy vein and, as the track unfolds, it becomes increasingly unsettling and abrasive, before finishing with a more melancholic, almost soothing vibe. It’s impressive emotive stuff, demonstrating perfectly how NERATERRÆ is continually growing and developing as a dark ambient musician.

“In Deafening Silence” is an eerie, chill-inducing minimalist number. Listening to it, it feels like you’re waiting for something horrible to happen… for the horrors just out of sight to step out of the shadows and claim your soul… And in “Thou, Daemon”, with its scratching and screaming, and speaking in other-worldly tongues, it sounds like that is exactly what is happening.

“Passion Domain” is a more comfortable listen, with waves of delicate synth-work, overlaid with subtle clicks and glitches of distortion. “The Unfathomable Lives Again” is similarly chilled – though with a darker undertone – as an echoing soundscape and distant whispering merge together to create a sense of unease and unfathomable strangeness.

“Doorway to the I”, takes things even further, with the sound palette shifting into a starker aural experience provided by repeating drone sounds and shimmers. “The Collapse of Matter and Time” is a – relatively – warmer track, with its hypnotic ticking clock, and a soundscape of groans, industrial clanking and haunting chimes, but one that still conjures up a sense of claustrophobia of the disturbing unknown.

“Towards Oneiric Truths” begins with the sounds of waves breaking on the shore, before the melancholic piano and siren’s calls take over. The resulting track is a sad, thought provoking piece, that carries you along with it, deep in your own thoughts -before the music fades and the sounds of the sea return.

Final track, “Virtues of the Dawn”, finishes the album off beautifully – with an uplifting, inspiring ambience – as waves of synths wash over the listener, giving them a sense of hope that maybe, just maybe, things will be ok.

This is an incredible album, with so many textures and levels of detail that you’ll hear something different every time you listen to it.

Yes, the range of sounds and styles, and the large number of collaborations, does mean that at first, the album doesn’t seem to have an obvious overarching vibe or sound that noticeably links everything together.  NERATERRÆ‘s careful craftsmanship, however, means that with subsequent listens you do get a sense of the whole, as the subtle nuances that connect the 10 tracks begin to come to the fore.

With Scenes From the SublimeNERATERRÆ / Alessio Antoni has done an amazing job of surpassing the high bar he’d set himself with The Substance of Perception, and if you’re a fan of dark ambient you absolutely have to get yourself this album!

Written by Rich Dodgin

 

Additional album information

Produced, mixed and engineered by Alessio Antoni
Mastered by Kjetil Ottersen
Artwork by Anirudh Acharya
Artwork layout by Alessio Antoni

  • The Last Abjurer – Inspired by Zdzislaw Beksinski’s AA72
  • Fate Unveiled – Inspired by Hieronymus Bosch’s Visions of the Hereafter
  • In Deafening Silence – Inspired by Ilja Yefimovich Repin’s Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan
  • Thou, Daemon – Inspired by Francisco Goya’s The Exorcism
  • Passion Domain – Inspired by Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog
  • The Unfathomable Lives Again – Inspired by Johann Heinrich Füssli’s The Nightmare
  • Doorway to the I – Inspired by Zdzislaw Beksinski’s AE78
  • The Collapse of Matter and Time – Inspired by Salvador Dalì’s The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory
  • Towards Oneiric Truths – Inspired by Arnold Böcklin’s Isle of the Dead
  • Virtues of the Dawn – Inspired by Joseph Mallord William Turner’s Light and Colour (Goethe’s Theory) • The Morning After the Deluge • Moses Writing the Book of Genesis

Links

Council of Nine – Davidian – Review

Artist: Council of Nine
Album: Davidian
Release date: 13 August 2019
Label: Cryo Chamber
Reviewer: James Gardner

Tracklist:
01. Mt. Carmel
02. Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
03. Blood on your Hands
04. Revelator
05. Day 51
06. Davidian
07. The 7 Seals

 

On February 28th, 1993, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) attempted to raid the Mount Carmel Center ranch in Axtell, Texas, which was home to the Branch Davidians (a sect of the Shepherd’s Rod/Davidians who are themselves an offshoot of the Seventh-day Adventist Church) as they believed that the cult were stockpiling weapons and modifying them to have automatic fire capability. Four ATF agents and six Branch Davidians died during the initial raid. What followed was a 51-day siege which ended in the deaths of 76 members of the cult, including the leader, David Koresh, and several children. The compound burned to the ground after fires were started by Branch Davidians in three separate places. It is interesting to note that the grounds on which US Attorney General Janet Reno urged President Bill Clinton to allow her to raid the compound were that Koresh was sexually abusing children. The FBI Hostage Rescue Team later said that there was no evidence of child abuse discovered; either during the standoff or subsequently.

After stand-off at Davidian compound in Waco, Texas on 19 April 1993 .

As a British person, I find the all-too-frequent instances of mass-shootings and gun-related atrocities across the pond equally heart-wrenching and fascinating. The victims are almost always those who never handle guns in the first place – in the Waco Siege, these included children and the (presumably) peaceful majority of Branch Davidians who had been brainwashed by Koresh and his associates. I could get very political here, and rant and rave about how the positive correlation between gun ownership and innocent people getting shot is blindingly obvious, but I will refrain from doing so. I will, however, point out that on March 13th, 1996, Thomas Hamilton killed 16 children and one teacher at Dunblane Primary School near Stirling in Scotland before taking his own life. Within a year, the government had passed the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, severely restricting gun ownership in the United Kingdom; these laws were further tightened later the same year. Since then, there has been one single mass shooting (in Cumbria, the county immediately north of the one in which I live); the gunman was from an isolated rural area, which is where the majority of firearms ownership exists due to the genuine needs of agricultural communities. We have, on average, 2.3 gun-related deaths a year per million citizens (the US has 122.1) and it is hardly a stretch to suggest that ‘people not owning guns’ and ‘fewer people dying in tragedies such as this’ might just be linked.

But I digress. Interestingly enough, there are plenty of cults here too. I am inclined to believe that all humans are fairly similar and therefore, as long as contextual factors are also similar, will behave in similar ways; consequently, the actual idea of an isolated, extremist religious community is far more familiar to me than lots of people getting shot. Plus, they are really interesting; without true crime and weird cults, we probably would not have YouTube documentaries or podcasts. At least not the ones I like. So, with that in mind, I pre-ordered Council of Nine’s Davidian, keen to experience something that sound-tracked the human need to belong to something at almost any cost, and feasted my ears on the two pre-release tracks until the whole thing dropped.

Council of Nine sits just on the inside-edge of my dark ambient preferences. Whilst they are by no means space ambient, in the same way as Alphaxone or Sabled Sun’s Signals albums, there is certainly an astral, otherworldly element that is not present in more Gothic, dystopian-future, occult or nature-focused projects. This makes it something that I probably would not have bothered with, were it not for the fact that Cryo Chamber released it; indeed, it was only down to a sale that I picked up Exit Earth and realised on what I had been missing out.

This is the second of Maximillian Olivier’s cult-centric works. The aforementioned Exit Earth, which focused on the Heaven’s Gate gnostic sci-fi millenarianist cult, and his previous output, including hefty contributions to the excellent Tomb series and a stand-out track on 2016’s Locus Arcadia collaboration with fellow Cryo Chamber luminaries Randal Collier-Ford, Flowers for Bodysnatchers and God Body Disconnect, is definitely worth listening to. I would heartily recommend all of it. If you are new to Council of Nine or dark ambient as a whole, Davidian makes for a good starting point. It is classic dark ambient stuff – big on drones, ominous sub-bass and soaring pads that create a fully immersive experience. Not only is it classic dark ambient, it is also a classic Cryo Chamber album in that it is truly cinematic. The story of the Waco Siege is well known (and if you are not familiar with it, there is always Google) so, unlike ‘fictional’ albums, there was already a story here. All it needed was a score. For even attempting this, Olivier should be respected; multiple bands and artists I otherwise enjoy attempt to tackle sensitive and controversial topics and end up looking crass or irreverent. Not so here.

Unlike the sadness of wanting to leave an unkind world that flows through Exit Earth, the ghosts represented in Davidian’s seven tracks are full of anger. The Waco siege made people angry (none more so than Timothy McVeigh, who later carried out the Oklahoma City bombing) due to the inconsistencies in the testimonies of ATF and FBI agents, amongst other things, and this is evident throughout. I do not know whose hands are being referred to in track 3 (‘Blood on Your Hands’) but the rumbles underneath the airy drones are not pleasant sounds; to me, they are the sounds of people who truly believe that they have the answers, that a hitherto hidden truth has been revealed to them, and that the world is at fault for ignoring or ridiculing them.

The final three tracks are a tour de force. The sounds that build and swirl are (almost) choral in nature; hinting at, but in no way lifting from, raison d’être at his finest. I am well aware that this is something of a lofty comparison, but I think that it is deserved. To check that I was not just hyperbolically gushing, I switched from Davidian to Enthralled by the Wind of Loneliness by the aforementioned Swedish trailblazer and I stand by what I have written; this is very good indeed. Whether we will still be playing it in 25 years, I do not know, but I do know that if the genre continues to evolve as it has done in the last quarter of a century, we will be listening to something that still sounds fresh and exciting.

So, again, Cryo Chamber and Council of Nine knock it for six/out of the park (or choose your own geographically-appropriate idiom) with an album that fans of all different aspects of the genre can unite around and use to convert others who ask “what are those weird spooky noises you listen to instead of music?” Once you have done that, start a sweepstakes on which bunch of extremist fanatics Olivier is going to tackle next. You will have people hooked in no time.

Written by James Gardner

Ruptured World – Archeoplanetary – Review

Artist: Ruptured World
Album: Archeoplanetary
Release date: 2 July 2019
Label: Cryo Chamber
Reviewer: Michael Barnett

Tracklist:
01. Rituals of Attainment Through Time
02. The Revelations of the Cipher – Deciphering the Pictish Ogham
03. The Haven
04. Passages of Exposition
05. The Grim Repasts of Cullen Shores
06. The Enigma of St. John’s
07. The Aura of Drostan’s Well
08. Descent into the Underworld
09. The Portents of Crovie

Alistair Rennie, the man behind Ruptured World, was first introduced to the dark ambient community by Cryo Chamber with his debut album, Exoplanetary. He has now returned with the follow up, Archeoplanetary, which should be considered a prequel, in terms of the story’s time-line.

If you would like to find out more about Ruptured World and Alistair Rennie,  I highly recommend you check out our interview with him and our review of his previous album, Exoplanetary.

As on Exoplanetary, Rennie takes us back into his story of horrifying alien visitors to Earth. We follow Dr. Marcrae and the now-missing Dr. Tarknassus through their journey to discover the buried and forgotten secrets of Earth and the galaxy beyond. Borrowing heavily from the sort of cosmic horror present in the works of 1930s weird authors like H.P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton-Smith, Rennie hints at unspeakable cosmic horrors, alien races from far-flung corners of the galaxy, and the ancient texts of the ‘Pictish Ogham’ (in true weird fashion, creating his own sort of demonic text, similar to Lovecraft’s Necronomicon or Smith’s Book of Eibon).

Rennie illuminates the details of his story for us, through the use of found audio-tape recordings. These recordings are detailed documentation of Dr. Marian Tarknassus’ research from 5 years previous, before his untimely disappearance. As such, we experience Archeoplanetary through the vessel of Dr. Archibald Macrae, as he begins to piece together the story of his mentor’s disappearance, and the horrifying realities Tarknassus had uncovered.

Gentle drones and atmospheric soundscapes, along with the occasional melancholic piano, gently transport us from tape-recording to tape-recording. Along the way we are able to be instilled with a sense of awe, fear and general insignificance. Much in the same fashion of God Body Disconnect, Ruptured World is able to use the dark ambient soundscapes to perfectly sculpt the emotions of the listener. As we move from one narrative into the next, we are naturally transitioning between emotions.

Upon discovery of each tape, we are given a beautifully crafted moment. We can hear Dr. Marcrae pressing play, rewinding back to re-listen. We can feel his hopelessness as he progresses, likely realizing he’ll never see his mentor again. But also realizing, that we are far from alone in this universe, and possibly even on this planet. While it’s certainly not so, I like to think of albums like this one as side-stories to the stuff of Sabled Sun, as if this were yet another story, of another survivor, on another world. And, while the dark ambient soundscapes themselves might not be quite on the level of Simon Heath’s Sabled Sun (not to say they aren’t great, just not on par with the master!), the “found tape recordings” are dark ambient gold. The way Alistair Rennie conjures this voice and delivery-style feels like it’s straight out of a classic (1950s-’60s) horror/sci-fi film.

For me, Ruptured World is the sort of artist you want to share with your “normal” friends. While they may not immediately dig an hour of drones, they might be more inclined to sit down to a narrated story with first-class voice acting. For more seasoned dark ambient listeners, you’ll likely find the attention to detail on these recordings to be as utterly exquisite as I have. The music itself is above average, at the very least.

I would recommend picking up a physical copy of this one, if you have the means. Or even better, the 2 CD bundle, which also includes Exoplanetary. The reason being that both albums are connected in theme/story. But more so, because there is such attention to detail on these albums, one deserves to get the full experience, which includes the booklets from both albums that are full of images and information about these beings and places described by Rennie.

Excerpt from Archeoplanetary booklet.

Ruptured World is one of my favorite projects on Cryo Chamber in recent years. I have found myself returning to both these albums quite frequently, especially Archeoplanetary. If you are a fan of the Lovecraftian series through Cryo Chamber or weird fiction / cosmic horror, in general, I think you will love this project as much as I do. I will be waiting patiently to see if Rennie will continue to reveal more details about this story-line, or if he will travel into uncharted territory on his next release. In the meantime, we have a gem!

Don’t forget to check out our interview with Alistair!

Written by: Michael Barnett

In Quantum – Memory 417 – Review

Artist: In Quantum
Album: Memory 417
Release date: 23 July 2019
Label: Cryo Chamber
Reviewer: James Gardner

 

Here is a list: Ruptured World, a Dronny Darko collaboration with RNGMNN (who, it turns out, has been knocking out music for nearly two decades under various monikers), God Body Disconnect, Sphäre Sechs, Alphaxone, Metatron Omega, Ager Sonus, Flowers for Bodysnatchers, a collaboration between Ugasanie and Dronny Darko (again), Mount Shrine, Tomb of Ordeals and Dead Melodies.

What is it? It is a list of releases Cryo Chamber has put out in 2019 alone, alongside its annual ‘Dark Ambient of…’ installment for the previous year. The sheer range of styles is impressive too; compare Alphaxone and Metatron Omega, or any other two artists from the list above, and then make the oft-uttered claim that dark ambient is repetitive. The point I am making is that Cryo Chamber is probably the single most important label in the dark ambient universe. Certainly, the frequency and regularity of releases is surprising, but even more so when you consider the exceptional quality control and attention to detail for which label boss Simon Heath is famous.

On to this album then – Memory 417 by In Quantum. This is something of a rarity in that it appears to be the work of a brand new, hitherto unknown artist: one Eric Peterson. There are multiple Eric Petersons listed on Discogs, probably the most famous of whom is the founder of thrash metallers Testament. I doubt this is the same guy, but it would be very cool if it was. A new artist on the label is always intriguing because of the unknown quantity they represent; therefore, my ritual of pre-ordering and listening to the pre-release tracks was even more exciting than usual. The Cryo Chamber blurb was enticing too:

From the website:

This Cyberpunk Ambient album from In Quantum takes you to the mega cities of the future.

“Early Spring 2074
Some say the old days were different. Before cybernetics and the transhumanist revolution. Before the megacorps bought us and our nations, our hopes and our dreams. People back then did not live, work, eat and sleep their lives away within the towering megacorp arcologies. These days only the lucky do so.

Before the megacorps developed the semantic networks, there were us – soulless prototypes with imprinted memories and so cybernetically enhanced that we verge ever on cyber-psychosis. Due to our post-human DNA, programmed for resilience, we work and live in areas where Humans cannot – like Sector 417. A quarantined and irradiated zone where we protect and maintain the filtration, power and sewage systems of the Mega-City. The nuclear fallout from the conflicts of the 50’s is mostly cleaned up thanks to us, though you would never know it.

Water is scarce, and the first war over it is already brewing. We see, but lack the capacity to care. The word Humanity now feels on the tongue like some long-lost dream. A vision of freedom and serenity, turned to coarse sand on our pallets.

We see the riots from up here, red smoke and gunfire as anti-transhumanist chants peal through the city. Humans that are disenfranchised, without value in a new world where semantic networks connect the soulless, making them smarter and more effective. What is a single brain compared to thousands? Sometime recently we diverged from the evolutionary path of the many, and now seem land-locked into evolving into a single mind. A single mind at war with itself and all of creation. A single mind ready to disembowel itself to cut the cancer out.

To cut us out.”

Warm analogue bass, textural soundspaces and cinematic build ups combine for a unique look into the future of mankind.

However, this could be as interesting as it likes and it would not get read again, were the music not also really, really interesting. Luckily it is. The first track, ‘Anno MMLXXIV’, opens with a horrible groan and a distorted drone reminiscent of Dronny Darko’s terrifying Cryo Chamber debut, Outer Tehom. From then on in, the listener is treated to a lot – soaring synths, increasingly desperate spoken word passages, sub-bass, dark beats, weird arpeggios, sonic booms and the general sense that this is not the work of an inexperienced, new composer. It is assured and confident and refuses to stay safely within the confines of one sub-genre. It has the experimental nature of someone with enough behind them to take risks and also the expertise to pull it off in a way that makes you think ‘what was that!?’ at the same time as feeling that it all fits together seamlessly.

There are still some familiarities to hang on to – the aforementioned Dronny Darko and Sabled Sun to name a couple, but this is, more than anything else, a work that is absolutely bursting at the seams with originality. It is not background music; it requires concentration and repeated listening in order to be fully appreciated. It also reflects the story promised by the description above. The beginning is full of anticipation and it moves to a frantic middle before dropping into a despondent, moribund ending. It is, in short, fantastic.

I have bought all of Cryo Chamber’s releases so far this year and this is the best of the bunch, in my humble opinion. It is varied, wholly original and, what is more, would serve as a perfect introduction to the genre for the uninitiated. It also seems to be representative of Cryo Chamber in 2019 – varied and ultimately ready to break new ground whilst remaining true to its roots. More from In Quantum would be warmly welcomed – I suspect Eric Peterson is only just getting started.

*A quick note on the Sabled Sun connection – the story as detailed on the website suggests a possible link to Sabled Sun’s 21xx universe. This is uncannily similar to the link between Dronny Darko (yet again!) and protoU’s superb collaboration album Earth Songs and the aforementioned creation of Simon Heath. If so, this album would sit, rather interestingly, between tracks 6 and 7 (‘Singularity [2045 AD]’ and ‘Leaving Earth [2135 AD]’) of that Earth Songs album. This is borne out by the date given for this album, being “Early Spring 2074”. I’ll just leave that there…

Written by: James Gardner

Old Sorcery – Strange and Eternal – Review

Artist: Old Sorcery
Album: Strange and Eternal
Release date: 19 April 2019
Label: Garavluth Records
Reviewer: Matteo Brusa

Tracklist:
01. The Crystal Funeral
02. Fimbrethil
03. A Moss Covered Grimoire
04. Tears of a Dying Star
05. Tulessa Uinuva Kuningas

You put a spell on me

Hailing from Finland, Old Sorcery is a well known name in the current dungeon synth scene; its acclaimed debut Realms of Magickal Sorrow, an album which combined an old school approach with retro electronic music, drawing influences from the Berlin School, early ambient and trance (not the first of its kind – think of Grimrik‘s Die Mauern der Nacht – but still played out in a personal and engaging style), came out of nowhere in late 2017 and has since been released on tape, vinyl and CD by Garavluth Records, becoming a modern classic. After moving on towards a split with fellow Finnish act Haxan Dreams and an EP, both subtly adding ingredients to the formula, Old Sorcery seems to reach true mastery of spells with its sophomore full-length Strange and eternal.

Besides the extremely scarce liner notes, the first impression about the album comes from the monochrome, almost naively styled cover art by Sadist Stalker, depicting a castle in a vale. Fortunately, this is the only cliché Vechi Vrăjitor, the man behind Old Sorcery, chooses to indulge in, as the 11 minute long opener “The Crystal Funeral” immediately sets the bar pretty high: it is a masterfully written cinematic piece of music carrying an ambient, almost new-age-like feel, slowly evolving towards an epic buildup and finale, which wouldn’t sound out of place in Jim Kirkwood’s (maybe even in David Arkenstone’s) catalog. This stellar introduction is followed by the much shorter and concise “Fimbrethil”; based on a catchy keyboard riff and a simple structure, it showcases a more song-oriented side of Old Sorcery’s style. A trait which immediately catches the ear is the amount of care put in small details; the sound is built over layers of lush pads, dreamy synthetic leads, arpeggiated plucks and classic sampled orchestral instruments, each taking a carefully fleshed out role in the arrangement, never getting too dense and never over-playing each other; electronic music elements are subtly and tastefully employed to enhance the overall feel of the music, as shown on both the aforementioned first track and the hauntingly beautiful, evocative “A moss covered grimoire”, blooming with ambient flourishes over gorgeously deep pads and pulsating synths. The 15 minutes long final piece “Tulessa Uinuva Kuningas” (“The king sleeping in fire”) begins with a synthetic windy soundscape before turning into a dark, atmospheric and arcane sounding take on old school dungeon synth. While there are almost unintelligible vocals buried in the mix throughout the album, this specific track stands out among others because it features a very clean and forward-mixed recording of a poem written and recited with emphasis by Visa “Sikagowitch” Tikka, which perfectly complements the music, giving off a strongly epic and ritualistic feel.

“Strange and eternal” is a pretty fitting description to this album; the music is consistently excellent, written in the spirit of old school masters but with a creative flair, and it has an eerie, otherworldly and timeless quality, characters which sit well along with the genre’s tradition. This is a highly recommended listen; be sure to grab a tape or Digipack-CD copy from Garavluth before they run out.

Written by: Matteo Brusa

Bellkeeper – The First Flame of Lordran – Review

Editor’s note: As I continue to fight my way out of an unexpected and heavy depression, we luckily have Matteo keeping things rolling!  Here is his latest dungeon synth review! Enjoy and expect me (Michael) to be back to normal soon!

Artist: Bellkeeper
Album: The First Flame of Lordran
Release date: 6 February 2019
Label: Dungeons Deep Records

Not quite the first, but still hot

“In the Age of Ancients, the world was unformed, shrouded by fog. A land of grey crags, archtrees, and everlasting dragons. But then there was Fire and with Fire came Disparity. Heat and cold, life and death, and of course… Light and Dark. Then, from the Dark, They came and found the Souls of Lords within the flame. Nito, the first of the dead. The Witch of Izalith, and her daughters of chaos. Gwyn, the Lord of Sunlight, and his faithful knights. And the furtive pygmy, so easily forgotten. With the Strength of Lords, they challenged the dragons. Gwyn’s mighty bolts peeled apart their stone scales. The witches weaved great firestorms. Nito unleashed a miasma of death and disease. And Seath the Scaleless betrayed his own, and the dragons were no more. Thus began the Age of Fire. But soon, the flames will fade, and only Dark will remain. Even now, there are only embers, and man sees not light, but only endless nights. And amongst the living are seen, carriers of the accursed Darksign.”

Does anything of this sound familiar? Readers who are into role-playing videogames will instantly recognize it as the prologue of Dark Souls, one of the most acclaimed games of recent years, which constitutes the setting and premise for Bellkeeper‘s The First Flame of Lordran. I’m usually a bit wary in approaching RPG-based Dungeon Synth, which too often ends up coming off as a cheap soundtrack to shallow concepts, but what we have here is a far more inspired and charming affair. Within its short 28 minutes of length, Bellkeeper‘s debut manages to capture the spirit and feel of classic Dungeon Synth with enough variety and skill to avoid sounding like a mere imitation. While the sonic department is built upon rather usual fare, with the ubiquitous mix of synthetic and sampled orchestral sounds dominating the music (a very nice sounding pipe organ and bells being the most welcomed exceptions), the quality of compositions is top notch: through a skillful combination of repetition, layering and dynamics, each track succeeds in engaging the listener by recreating the atmosphere and moods of its source material, ranging from sinister and ominous to dark and majestic to decadently epic, evoking vivid imagery and creating a strong feeling of motion, which could connect with the protagonist’s quest. There is no real standout track or well-rounded album structure; the music finishes as abruptly as it kicks in in the beginning, more like painting a picture rather than telling a story; this sort of rawness, while perfectly adequate for the genre, makes the album, as a whole, sound a bit unfinished and lacking a proper closure, a minor flaw which doesn’t detract too much from the immersive listening experience, though.

To sum it up, The First Flame of Lordran is a powerful debut which can hold its own among peers in the scene, and will surely appeal to fans of raw sounding, yet well composed and imaginative old school Dungeon Synth. There is still plenty of material in the Dark Souls saga for Bellkeeper to write about, so we can only wait in excitement until the next chapter.

Written by: Matteo Brusa

Isegrimm – Ik Gihorta Dat Seggen – Review

Editor’s Note: We are very pleased to share with you the second review from the talented Matteo Brusa!  If you want to be notified of all our posts, be sure to sign up for email notifications, found in the right panel of the webpage (just scroll down and look to your right). Facebook is worthless for promotion these days and there aren’t a lot of other alternatives, so please consider signing up!

Artist: Isegrimm
Album: Ik Gihorta Dat Seggen
Release date: 18 January 2019
Label: Dark Age Productions
Reviewer: Matteo Brusa


This is what I heard, and it will blow you away

In the vast and mostly featureless landscape of contemporary Dungeon Synth, Isegrimm stands like a massive, towering fortress, one where travelers who dare to cross its path can always be sure to find a safe haven. Now reaching its third installment (plus a split with Irish fellow dungeoneer Argonath), Max Berger’s project has established itself as one of the most engaging and recognizable acts in the current scene, and Ik Gihorta Dat Seggen further consolidates its status.

As titles suggest, the album draws its inspiration from the poem Hildebrandslied, the only surviving written example of High German winileod (epic “folk song”) from the early Middle Ages. For those unfamiliar with the subject matter, the “Song of Hildebrand” (“Ik Gihorta Dat Seggen” being the first verse, roughly meaning “This is what I heard”) narrates of a father and son destined to fight each other to death, a recurring theme in Indo-European mythology: in the war between Theoderic king of the Ostrogoths and Odoacer king of Italy, two champions, named Hildebrand and Hadubrand, meet on the battlefield to engage in duel; Hildebrand, the eldest, soon realizes he is facing his long lost son and tries to reconcile with him, being rebuffed by Hadubrand. Bound by the ancient Germanic warrior code, he can’t reject the duel, so they begin to fight, Hildebrand lamenting his sorrowful fate. The manuscript ends here, but likely, as occurring in all other examples of the trope in European literature, the original poem would finish with Hildebrand prevailing and killing his own son, an outcome accordingly stated in the album’s final song “Hadubrantes Todliod” (“The death song of Hadubrand”).

With the aid of a number of guests, including Matt Seeb of the acclaimed Hedge Wizard, Daithí O’Mathúna of Argonath and Italian singers Paolo Ferrante and Chiara Gangemi from the experimental vocal act The Voices, Max Berger manages to create an outstandingly evocative and engaging soundtrack to such an epic and tragic tale. “Medieval ambient” could be the perfect description for the sound and feel of Ik Gihorta Dat Seggen: a sustained note introduces the listener to a masterful sonic representation of early Middle Ages Europe, which slowly unfolds through a variety of different atmospheres and moods, providing for an astonishingly immersive experience, greatly enhanced by Alex Crispin’s crisp (no pun intended) and polished mastering work. Arrangements are rich and dynamic, ranging from dense synthetic orchestral passages to quieter and sparser ambient sections; there is tribal chanting and drumming, full-on sampled horns heroically blowing, synthetic pads delicately weaving backdrops for piano and sampled woodwinds flourishes, and more. While the compositional style is mainly based on repetition and layering as is common in Dungeon Synth tradition, the use of vocals and percussions throughout makes this album really stand out: the vocals specifically are a highlight, adding a strong human presence and often taking the lead with choirs and chanting, giving off at times a distinct ethnic feel, at times evoking sacrality. Track number six, “Wettu Irmingot” (“God the Excellent testify”) is perhaps the most brilliant example: through juxtaposition of obsessive percussions with skillfully written, arranged and performed intertwining vocal parts, it manages to sound like a Gothic (literally) version of Enigma, yet in a way not so far removed from certain neoclassical darkwave (early Weltenbrand also comes to mind). Almost each song could stand as well on its own, but in the album’s context, they seamlessly fit together and complement each other, creating a very cohesive and tight opus. Even the closing track, which is kind of an oddball, being a slow atmospheric metal song with guitar, bass and drums, doesn’t sound out of place at all: on the contrary, it perfectly sits within the flow of the album, concluding it with a captivating change of pace.

By combining old school Dungeon Synth with progressive elements, Ik Gihorta Dat Seggen undoubtedly turns out to be Isegrimm‘s masterpiece, an album deserving widespread praise and recognition in the scene as an example of keeping things fresh while maintaining a strong connection with the genre’s roots and spirit.

Written by: Matteo Brusa

KORMORG – Dungeon Myths – Review

For this review, I’m proud to share with you the writings of a new associate of ours, Matteo Brusa, known to the dark ambient and dungeon synth communities for his work as Medhelan and La Tredicesima Luna. I’ve reviewed albums of his by both projects and I’ve also interviewed him. I know he has a much more thorough understanding of the dungeon synth genre than me, and therefore more authority to call a release good or bad. For this reason, among others, I hope he’ll be returning soon with more reviews for us of whatever albums he sees fit. Enjoy!

Artist: KORMORG
Album: Dungeon Myths
Release date: 14 March 2019
Label: Heimat der Katastrophe

Making Dungeon Synth great again

If you are into obscure dark and atmospheric music genres in 2019 and you’ve never heard of Dungeon Synth, you’ve been living under a rock. Since its inception as an offshoot of the Norwegian Black Metal scene in the early ’90s, the genre has gone through several phases, from its experimental beginnings in pure Black Metal spirit to its revival in the 2010s and subsequent growth, eventually gaining its current status of underground popularity, supported by an ever expanding international online community. This momentum, coupled with the relative ease of recreating a certain sound and aesthetic quality (albeit not necessarily the spirit), has produced in recent years an endless flood of mostly copycat Dungeon Synth projects, making it very difficult, with the notable exception of a few household names, to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Released in cassette format by the Italian experimental label Heimat der Katastrophe and instantly sold out, KORMORG‘s apparently unassuming debut Dungeon Myths first catches the eye thanks to its lusciously evocative hand-drawn artwork, courtesy of veteran artist David Thiérrée; a quick glance to liner notes on Bandcamp reveals some more interesting details: first, we are told KORMORG is a new project by an unnamed well-known artist in the current scene; moreover, the album incorporates samples from several established acts (including my own work), suggesting a rather uncommon sample-based approach to composition. The most astonishing part of it, though, turns out to be the music itself: opening track “Awakening the orcs” sounds gorgeously deep, crisp and clean, showing off a painstaking care for detail and sound architecture which is way more common in pure electronic ambient music rather than Dungeon Synth; most of the sounds appear to be crafted by heavily editing various kinds of samples, a technique especially evident in background soundscaping, drones and percussion parts. The ambient-rooted, sample-based compositional style shines even more brightly in the following track “Preparing for battle”, which builds up an epic, heroic soundscape over a simple drone-like structure, and in the highly atmospheric closing track “Crystal lights in haunted caverns”. “The lonely maiden at a distant shore” is the closest this album gets to electronic down-tempo music, with its lonesome and mystical feel somehow reminiscent of early Delerium, while “Return of a warrior” shows a distinctly cinematic edge juxtaposed with electronic beats (a recurring stylistic choice throughout the album).

What really makes KORMORG‘s music unique compared to its peers is how, while clearly being professionally produced and composed with an electronic musician’s mindset, it still feels very much like Dungeon Synth, evoking the same kind of spirit and imagery found in the genre’s milestones. Dungeon Myths is probably the greatest thing happening lately to the scene: by combining a skillfully original approach to a deep knowledge of Dungeon Synth’s tropes and themes, while maintaining a respectful attitude towards its roots, it comes off as incredibly fresh, engaging and brimming with spirit, a much needed infusion of novelty in a genre quickly becoming stale. Highly recommended and definitely a highlight of this year. Rumor has there will be a re-issue, so be sure not to miss it again.

Written by Matteo Brusa of Medhelan and La Tredicesima Luna

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