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Matteo Brusa (Medhelan/La Tredicesima Luna) – Interview


Matteo Brusa is the man behind the dungeon synth project, Medhelan, and the dark ambient project, La Tredicesima Luna. Hailing from northern Italy, Brusa’s cultural and geographical histories have played a big part in his identity as a musician. I was able to pick Brusa’s mind for this quite extensive interview, which will look into the background of the man, as well as the beginning and future of his musical projects. 

Michael: What sort of music inspired you to become a musician?

Matteo: I’ve been exposed to several music genres since a very young age, but if I have to name those which most inspired me to become a musician, I’d say classic rock, progressive rock and electronica. I discovered Black Sabbath at age 12 or 13, while Italian 1970s progressive rock is the reason why I picked up bass at age 14. At almost the same time I discovered electronic music from the 90s, especially European trance, minimal techno, downtempo and breakbeat, and developed an interest in electronic music production.

Michael: When you realized you wanted to start making music, how did things evolve leading up to Medhelan and La Tredicesima Luna?

Matteo: As mentioned before, I grew up in a very music-friendly environment. My father was an amateur keyboards player and used to own several different instruments, among which a prized Roland Juno-106 which is now in my care. As a kid I spent a lot of time toying with them and eventually teaching myself how to play a bit of keyboards and some guitar;at age 14 I began studying music theory and bass guitar, and started producing my first raw electronic tracks on a simple tracker software. Since then I’ve tried my hand at several electronic music styles, I’ve played bass in a number of underground bands through the years, and I created my first full-fledged musical project KRiOS, active from 2006 to 2014, which started out as a industrial dark ambient/noise act and eventually grew to encompass all my musical influences, including folk, shoegazing, dreampop and electronica. The major turning point was when I came in contact with extreme metal in my teens: I was particularly impressed by Black Metal, its counter-cultural significance, Weltanschauung and aesthetics, and how these same characteristics were applied to electronic music by the likes of Burzum, Ildjarn, Neptune Towers, Mortiis and Wongraven. Black Metal derived Dungeon Synth and Dark ambient became my genres of choice, those which most resonated with my self, when I felt the urge to create something carrying a deeper, more personal meaning. At that point it wasn’t “just music” to me anymore.

Michael: Outside of music, are there any other things for which you are passionate?

Matteo: I have a solid interest in European history and culture, both ancient and modern, and in metapolitics: I’m intrigued by everything that puts our social, economic and values system, deemed untouchable by most, into question. I highly value doubt and critical thought over given truths and conformity. Moreover, I support any cause that aims at preserving differences and natural diversity over homologation, and as a consequence I’m very passionate about the preservation of rural traditions, folk lore, legends, tales and the gallo-italic native Lombard language of my homeland in northern Italy, all things endangered by the slow destruction of traditional communities and cultural identities.

Michael: How has the history of your particular region affected your way of looking at life?

Vigevano Castle

Matteo: I grew up on the border between Lombardy and Piedmont, and I have half Lombard, half Piedmontese ancestry. It’s a place rich of historical traces spanning from the proto-Celtic cultures of Golasecca and Canegrate to World War II. A land dotted with feudal age castles and keeps, still functioning abbeys and monastaries, medieval villages perfectly preserved in their core structure, churches, monuments and works of art from all over the centuries and so on, up to the modern age. The place where I was born and where I lived for 25 years, Vigevano, is brimming with history. It was part of the Second Lombard League in the 13th century. It holds a complex castle system, complete with an innovative elevated passageway, built between the 13th and 15th centuries by the powerful Visconti and Sforza feudal families, which includes one of the finest plazas in Italy. At the time, Leonardo da Vinci worked in Vigevano for Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. It’s also the place where, during the First War of Italian independence, the Salasco armistice between Austria and Piedmont was signed in 1848 and where in 1849 the battle of Sforzesca was fought. In the industrial age, it flourished with the most renowned shoemaking industry in Italy and it’s still a tradition. Eleonora Duse, renowned actress and lover of Gabriele D’Annunzio, was born there in 1858. When you grow up surrounded by history like this, you can’t just ignore who you are and where you come from, which people and events influenced your ancestors, and how it cascaded to you. This is the lesson I learned from the history of my region. My roots are firmly and deeply radicated in this place, and I’m proud to collect its heritage. Sadly, the majority of people just seem not to care anymore.

Michael: When did you first take an interest in the history of your region?

Matteo: I could say it’s always been there, as I remember being a kid in primary school and listening in awe to the teacher recounting the history of my hometown, as I mentioned before, from Celts to Roman age, to Lombards’ and Franks’ rule and then to the Visconti and Sforza families in feudal age, and again from Spanish and Austrian domination to the Savoy royal family’s reign, straight into Napoleonic era and then through the First War of Italian independence towards modern age. But if I had to pick the moment when it actually became a conscious, fully developed interest, that would be in my late teens/early twenties, some time before I set on composing what would eventually become the bulk of Medhelan’s “Ticinum Insubria” album, a time when I started feeling the need to embrace my cultural roots rather than downplay them.

Michael: You have released several albums now in the cassette format. Why do you think this renaissance in cassette releases has happened and what is the most important aspect of them to your music.Matteo: As far as I can tell, the renaissance of compact cassette is mainly due to the “nostalgia factor”, to put it this way, harking back to things instantly reminding of a “golden age” of sort. While this could have been enough of a reason for reviving them in the general context of underground music and its current retro trends, I believe the return of compact cassettes holds a deeper significance to our scene: it is a powerful statement of independence from the mainstream, against the rise of dematerialized digital music, in favor of an iconic, old school, analog physical alternative. Philosophical issues aside, tape gives a recognizable sonic quality to music, a depth and warmth which is a very welcomed enhancement to certain styles of music, such as ambient.
To sum it up, I like cassettes both for how they sound and look and because of their cultural significance.

Michael: You’ve released albums now through Deivlforst Records, Lighten Up Sounds and Haftvad Records. Were these all good experiences with these labels? Will you continue working with some of them for future releases?

Matteo: I’ve had great experiences with all of them. I first got in touch with Deivlforst through Grimrik, who eventually became a friend and mentor to me, and deserves all the credit for tutoring me on taking Medhelan to “Fall of the Horned Serpent” level. I feel close to both his and Murgrind’s vision and philosophy about music and the scene, and consider Deivlforst as Medhelan’s natural home;Medhelan’s next album will be released by Deivlforst. Matt Himes of Lighten Up Sounds is a great and extremely hard-working guy, who took La Tredicesima Luna under his wing to provide it with the best presentation, promotion and distribution available. I have only positive things to say about my experience with him, La Tredicesima Luna is likely staying with Lighten Up Sounds. Finally, Haftvad was Medhelan’s first label, and a very good collaboration, despite inexperience and some difficulties not depending on either me or the label. We never did anything again together, but I was impressed by Ramin’s dedication to the Dungeon Synth scene and community.

Michael: You’ve also had several self-released physical editions, including the beautifully crafted Ticinum Insubria re-release on cassette. Do you prefer leaving these physical releases to labels or was it equally enjoyable to create the releases yourself?

Matteo: While I enjoy self-releasing and being in full control when creating the entire opus from scratch, producing and distributing it, working with a label has a number of advantages that significantly reduce workload and costs, while usually making for a more professional final result. “Ticinum Insubria” itself was kind of a hybrid, as Dan Capp did the whole design and layout work while I only took care of production and distribution. I’ll probably keep releasing both ways, but if I had to choose one, today I lean more on having a good label take care of the process.

Michael: Does religion play any major role in your life and/or music?

Matteo: Rather than religion I’d say spirituality plays a major role in my life: I follow a Celtic Pagan reconstructionist path which permeates my life and gives perspective to my music. I try to live my daily life as an all-encompassing ritual, living in the world and embracing its beauty and chaos without ever straying too far away from things that really matter, always caring for those who walked here before me, those who walk by my side and those who’ll walk my steps after I’m gone.

Michael: I know this question has already been answered in a previous interview for Masmorra’s physical dungeon-synth zine, but for those that haven’t had the pleasure to browse that edition, what does Medhelan mean, and why did you decide on this name?

Matteo: Medhelan is the ancient Celtic name of the town Romans called Mediolanum, which is present-day Milan. According to Roman historian Livy, it was founded around 600 BC by the Gaulish chieftain Bellovesus, nephew of the legendary king Ambigatos, who gathered people from several different Celtic tribes to establish a settlement in northern Italy; this particular endeavor, while based on obvious tangible needs, is also loaded with spiritual significance if interpreted as a “coming of age” quest. I picked Medhelan as my project’s name because it perfectly relates to both my love for my homeland with its rich history and my Celtic spiritual path, while at the same time it speaks of the reward coming after the struggle, and of a ritual rebirth.

Matteo: All Medhelan albums were created on software synthesizers and sample libraries only. “Fall of the Horned Serpent” is entirely recorded on Propellerhead Reason 3.5 factory soundbanks! Grimrik was able to squeeze gold out of twelve years old entry level libraries, which seems an amazing feat to me. I like to expand my sonic palette and avoid repeating myself though, so future releases will likely include some hardware synths and possibly some real instruments.

Ticino River

Michael: Some of your tracks use field recordings, I wonder if you’ve had any interesting experiences while on field recording expeditions?

Matteo: This might come as a surprise, but I actually almost never employ field recordings!The wide atmospheres swelling and rumbling underneath my songs are mostly generative soundscapes, synth drones playing dissonant chords, or stuff I create myself by heavily manipulating bits of sampled sounds, different pieces of music and such. For example, one track from “Ticinum Insubria” (I won’t reveal which one!) stands atop a completely unrecognizable sample of an alpine choir song. I like to experiment with such techniques.

Michael: Are there any new releases in the works for Medhelan? Has a label been decided for the release, which could be announced publicly?

Matteo: As previously mentioned, a new Medhelan album is in the works, albeit very slowly. It will be quite different from the previous one, and again it will be released by Deivlforst Records.

Michael: Medhelan is obviously a very fantasy oriented project, especially on Fall of the Horned Serpent. What were some of your favorite fantasy stories/mythos/sagas? Do any of them play into the works of Medhelan, or are you working within a framework totally of your own making?

Matteo: To be honest, while “Fall of the Horned Serpent” and “The minstrel’s fireplace tales” are fantasy-oriented in appearance, I’ve never considered the fantasy element to hold such a primary importance in Medhelan; for example, the story in Serpent unfolds in the form of an episodic fantasy tale, ridden with echoes of northern sagas (anyone familiar enough with the subject matter will find clear connections), but it merely serves as an allegorical means to express my views and vision of life and the world, to speak out about things I care for. While I like fantasy settings, I’m not much of a fantasy reader, besides my love for Tolkien’s whole opus, but I’m very much into epic poems and literature: my must-reads include Homer’s Iliad (Hector is a figure I strongly admire and relate to, his human virtue and flaws make his tragedy the most poignant in the whole story) and the Odyssey, the Arthurian cycle, Beowulf, von Eschenbach’s Parzival, the Chanson de Roland and more.

Michael: La Tredicesima Luna translates at The Thirteenth Moon. What is the significance of this name?

Matteo: The thirteenth moon of the year, sometimes called blue moon, is the second full moon occurring in a single month, like a “bonus” moon round. It’s an event occurring only once in a few years (hence the expression “once in a blue moon”) and it’s held by certain traditions as a time favoring divination and magick. I picked the name because of the latter implications and how they relate to La Tredicesima Luna’s concept.

Michael: How long have you had the idea to release an album as La Tredicesima Luna?

Matteo: The idea for La Tredicesima Luna first came to me in 2012. It was initially supposed to be a Pagan neofolk project with dark ambient leanings. I recorded a few demos back then, which were subsequently discarded. When I decided to split Medhelan’s ambient side from its new Dungeon Synth path, it was a natural choice to revive La Tredicesima Luna from standby.

Michael: Do both projects follow similar themes, or is there a vast difference in the thematic core of each project?

Ticino Woods

Matteo: While both take a Pagan stance in concept, Medhelan is mainly based on history, Celtic culture and spirituality handled in different ways, ranging from the simple historical soundscaping of Ticinum Insubria to the full-fledged allegorical storytelling of Serpent, while La Tredicesima Luna holds a more abstract, ritual approach focused on Pagan symbolism, mysticism and contemplation.

Michael: What is next for La Tredicesima Luna? Are you working on a follow-up to Il Sentiero Degli Dei or giving the project a momentary rest?

Matteo: The follow-up to “Il sentiero degli Dei” is currently release-ready and will likely see the light some time next year through Lighten Up Sounds.

Michael: What do you think the long-term future will hold for you musically? Will Medhelan and/or La Tredicesima Luna continue to be your main focus or do you have other ideas which you would like to explore?

Matteo: Medhelan and La Tredicesima Luna will likely remain my primary focus; that said, I enjoy making different styles of music and I constantly find new musical interests, so I wouldn’t exclude anything.

Michael: Thank you so much for your time Matteo, are there any final words you would like to say to readers or anything I missed, which you would like them to know?

Matteo: Thank you Michael for this in-depth interview. I’d like to say a huge thank you to all fans, friends and fellow musicians I could get in touch with over these years, to all people who contributed their work, dedication and criticism for making Medhelan and La Tredicesima Luna shine, and to the Dungeon Synth community as a whole, for constantly caring and supporting. I’m deeply satisfied and grateful for all that. Behold the strength of the community.

Medhelan Links: Facebook, Bandcamp
La Tredicesima Luna Links: Facebook, Bandcamp

Frozen In Time – Dark Ambient News 1 December 2017

Another huge week of releases. There is going to be plenty here to keep you busy for the next few days. These releases are all great in their own ways and each one definitely deserves a listen. I hope everyone is going into December looking forward to the snowy season (for those of us in the northern hemisphere atleast). Enjoy the selection of tunes and until next time, Peace!

Music Video Premiere!

Unsichtbar – “Junges Liebespaar”

New Releases & Pre-orders

Abre Ojos – New Album Released (Digital Only)
“Recorded over five days on the shore of Pambula Lake, the lands and waters of the Yuin People.”

Autumna – New Album Released (Shimmering Moods – CD/Digital)
“Lutalica.
the laundry dries in the world,
the crisp mid-Autumn air whispers,
some bonds will never break,
though I might leave
or be left.
Lutalica – or wanderer: one who travels aimlessly, a traveller. We are all travellers, constantly moving in and out of focus of one another’s lives, knowingly and unknowingly sharing experiences. It’s these experiences that shape us, sculpt segments of our personalities and give us bearing. Most people know what they want, only few truly know what they need.”

Black Seas of Infinity – New Album Released (Digital Only)
A nice blend of neo-classical, dark ambient and death industrial, Within Daathian Chasms will prove to be an interesting release for all sorts of different listeners and melts in and out of multiple genres.

A Bleeding Star – Two New Weekly Singles (Digital Only)

Bridge To Imla – New Album Released (Winter-Light – CD/Digital)
“Bridge To Imla is the duo of Hans-Dieter Schmidt and Michael Brückner, created in 2017 to distinguish their particular style of cinematic ambient from their respective solo projects. Hans-Dieter and Michael initially met at ambient group improvisations by the Frankfurt based EK-Lounge community around 2010, and had already collaborated previously on several occasions.”

Crystalline Reflections – New Album Released (ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ – Digital)
“Always moving, step by step, through the oceans of everyday noise, rivers of emotions, undercurrents of uncertainty and fear… Crystalline reflections on the surface of these waters are here to guide you in this journey to the horizons yet unseen. Serenity & melancholy. Anxiety & bliss. Everything on its own place and time. ”

Darren McClure & José Soberanes – New Album Released (Shimmering Moods – CD/Digital)
“Future Harbour is the second collaborative album by Darren McClure and Jose Soberanes. It follows their 2015 release Shelter, issued on the Eter label.
This new project combines modular electronics, processed field recordings and experiments in granular synthesis. The sound palette ranges from tactile and brittle textures to warmer ambient passages, all held together with a compositional process that favoured contrasting styles and techniques.”

DeepDark – New Album Released (Digital Only)
DeepDark unveils the latest chapter in his cosmic drone series.

Dravier – New Album Released (Shimmering Moods – CD/Digital)
“Inspired by an out of body experience in the gothic cathedrals of Paris, “Cathédrale” floats through pointed arches, past flying buttress and out over the Seine, soon lost within the clouds. Deep thoughts forever drifting through the fabric of time.”

Elderfrost – New Album Released

Evilnox – New Album Released (Dark Age Productions – CD/Cassette/Digital)
“Medieval dark ambient project Evilnox was founded in January 2012. The music itself is a mixture of medieval melodies, dark ambient and black metal, combined with a melancholic and dismal atmosphere. All compositions are based on the dark beauty of nature, medieval legends and personal philosophy.
The album ‘Dark Times Of War And Witchcraft’ is a blend of dungeon synth and atmospheric black metal and will be released as Jewel Case CD and Cassette under the banner of Dark Age Productions in late 2017.”

Flowers For Bodysnatchers – New Album Released
(Cryo Chamber – CD/Digital)
“On the evening of August 12th, 1968 in Fairhaven, Massachusetts antique store owner Ernest Semenov brutally murdered his wife and two daughters in what police investigators described as bizarre ritualistic killings. Their dismembered bodies had been rearranged to form what appeared to be crudely oblique symbols formed into a circle and connected by blood that he had drawn from his own slit wrists. Ernest Semenov was found slumped upright in the centre of his macabre creation by neighbours who claimed he was mumbling in a language they could not understand.
The subsequent investigation revealed an astounding amount of occult literature and objects at the Semenov residence. Belonging not just to Ernest Semenov but apparently to his wife Silvia Semenov also. Alarmingly police discovered various animal bones arranged in the same oblique manner attached to the underside of his daughters bed frames.
Declared criminally insane by the state Ernest Semenov was imprisoned in Ravenfield Asylum for treatment and rehabilitation and, placed under the care of one Dr Richard Lankin. Subsequently on the night of July 1st, 1971 Ravenfield Asylum was consumed by fire. Police discovered the horrifically burnt bodies of 68 of the 70 patients and staff savagely murdered and dismembered in a manner not dissimilar to the 1968 Semenov murders. The bodies of Dr Richard Lankin and Ernest Semenov were not believed to be among the charred remains.”

Hesychia – Preorder Available (Cyclic Law – CD/Digital)
“New project by Austrian Arthur Rosar (former member of Abigor, Walser…). The album is a meditation on freedom from all passions (apatheia) and repentance (metanoia) through fundamental concepts established by early christian mysticism (the desert fathers) with respect to zen buddhism and pre-christian European traditions. An aural guide to force the removal of all illusions and be in total awareness of the eternal now, forging a stillness of the soul, going beyond the mundane. The music is a savvy achievement of total surrender through improvised analog atmospherics and field recordings.”

Ian Hawgood & Giulio Aldinucci – Preorder Available (Home Normal – CD/Digital)
Consequence Shadows is a calming and restive release which seems like the perfect accompaniment to a lonely evening of reading or self-reflection. The album is set for release on 30 January 2018.

Invented State of Mind – New Album Released (Shimmering Moods – CD/Digital)
“Imaginary Country lets you through you’re lonely parts. Calm down, sit and listen.Try to imagine you are the only one on earth.
Deep ambient and drone signals will come through you. Just you and your thoughts. Based on sound of natures ISM created intense, deep musical topics by using various methods and processes to come up with a spacey musical environment.This is an emotional journey.”

Item Caligo – New Album Released (Digital Only)
Item Caligo presents us with his latest album, Procrastinating Suicide as a “name your price” release. Definitely worth a listen, as his work is always quite interesting and melancholic.

Lingua Lustra – New Album Released (Shimmering Moods – CD/Digital)
“Truth Rings Like A Bell is the reflection of a special interest i’ve always had in bells, gongs, bell-like sounds. On this recording i’ve used a series of large bells, treated them in different ways, staying close to the original overtones they produce. This mixed with homemade fieldrecordings, analogue synths and mutated vocals completed the atmosphere i was looking for, my tribute to the bell.”

Maas – New Album Released (Kalpamantra – Digital Only)
“It’s a varied and long album with substantially sized, slow building drones, linked together by interludes in order to provide a continuous experience, a story of a journey into ever tighter caves, until ultimately death as the final destination”

Maha Pralaya – New Album Released (Noctivagant – CD/Digital)
“This family duo from Russia is named in honor of the complete destruction of the Universe at the oend of the Great Cycle. The style is called a post-apocalypse raga. Compromised of field recordings of white noise generators, minor guitar scales of electro-acoustic, drone-surge polyvox, rhythms of shamanic drum, sound vibrations of Tibetan bowls, harp, voice overtones of the experiments, the breath of flutes and chimes of harmony which – paint landscapes. Bardo is dedicated to the sacred knowledge hidden in the Tibetan book of the Dead.

Misantronics – New Album Released (Sombre Soniks – Digital)
“This album follows the same path as its predecessor, ‘Artache’. Again, there is no theme, no philosophy and no message to be found here. These are musical experiments, created with guitars, found sounds and processed noise. Each track has its own identity and takes you on a different journey. Perhaps this album is somewhat harsher than ‘Artache’, a step away from the electronic music in my previous work, ‘InnerGazer’ and back to the semi-live approach of ‘Contraformance’. But mostly, it’s a brand new Misantronics album, enjoy.”

Nhor – New Album Released (Digital/Cassette)
“Wildflowers: Winter” is the fourth and last EP release of Nhor’s musical cycle about the natural seasons. Just as the previous EPs it’s only available digitally and in a small cassette print-run.”

Niculta – New Album Released (Noctivagant – CD/Digital)
“Nicultas first dark ambient album is about the psychedelic journey of the self, ever deeper and deeper to discover in the woods.
In the Woods, is about the journey of a man who is seeking for answers, willingly to let go ego and transform into his real self.”

Noctilucant – New Album Released (Noctivagant – CD/Digital)
“Bleak continues exploring the post apocalyptic world that originally started on ‘Back to the Mud’ and ‘Oblivion to you all’, but this time centers its attention to a single protagonist.”

Noctilucant – New Album Released (Digital Only)
“‘A sci-fi journey through the heart of the unknown and into the mouth of madness.’
The Original Soundtrack created to accompany the reader on the adventure through the graphic novel of the same name. Varying between deep suffocating drones, lively field recordings, melodic textures, and luminous space/sci-fi themed dark ambiance — the Descension Original Soundtrack is your guide down the path of the macabre and insane.”

North hive – New Album Released (Digital Only)
“The seventh album of the project North hive. The album is written under the impression of reading a book:
Marie-Louise von Franz – “Alchemy: An Introduction To The Symbolism And The Psychology”. Albedo is the second stage of alchemical magisteria. (sapienti sat)”

Sačquiel Måtaton – New Album Released (Shimmering Moods – CD/Digital)
“The following pieces are about the old American West, Blood Meridian, There Will Be Blood. The heat, the desert, empty towns, lost lives, hearts, minds and souls. Travelling across the old country to make a living, for adventure and to just stay alive.
Ye carry war of a madman’s making onto a foreign land. Ye’ll wake more than the dogs.”

Shedir – Preorder Available (Cyclic Law – CD/Digital)
“First solo work by Italian musician Martina Betti. “Falling Time” is an aural ticket to a non place. Swirling ambient sounds made of processed field recordings converge into a richly textured and harmonically layered narrative. The tracks scan the phases of ascension to a suspended and formless destination, free from the bounds of time and space: a rite of passage. We are nowhere, a journey with no boundaries or restrictions transforming the smallness of ordinary life into transcendent magnitudes.
Building on constant cinematic tension, frictions and collisions of sounds, through which the mind is transformed, freed from daily dualities, at one with it’s psychic abilities.”

Shock Frontier – New Album Released (Malignant – CD/Digital)
“With his dark ambient project Apócrýphos, Robert Kozletsky has shown a proven ability at creating multi-layered and highly detailed soundscapes. Working as a duo alongside Kyle Carney, he takes that skill and applies it to his death industrial alter-ego, Shock Frontier, carving out a sound residing somewhere between the “new wave” of American power electronics (The Vomit Arsonist, Steel Hook Prostheses) and the classic sound of Cold Meat Industry (Deutsch Nepal, Megaptera). “Tumult” is a world enveloped in a perpetual haze of post-apocalyptic soot and radioactive ash, where deadening percussion, reverberating factory drones, samples, and atmospheric washes of hostile electronics churn and whir into a polluted, endless expanse. The follow up to 2013’s debut Mancuerda Confessions, Tumult is a more intricate, more oppressive, and more finely honed release, and a logical extension of the Shock Frontier sound. Featuring contributions from Gnawed, Kristoffer Oustad, and Noculture, in 6 panel DVD digipak skillfully designed by Chris Angelucci of NTF Design & Print.”

Stromstad – Preorder Available (Malignant – CD/Digital)
“Few names imply mind-bending, forward thinking heavy electronics like Finnish stalwarts STROM.ec, and with every release, they seem to further stretch the boundaries of what can be a pretty rigid genre, and navigate realms never before seen or heard. Similar things can be said of Norwegian atmospheric heavy weight and Malignant staple, Kristoffer Oustad, whose particular strain of dark ambient and post-industrial soundscapes are incredibly dynamic, at times surreal and cinematic, other times more driving and heavy, but all with a recognizable, highly emotive touch. Put the two together, and you get the debut of their collaborative project, STROMSTAD. Spread out over 8 tracks, this is a dizzying exploration of sound and vocal fury, where mechanized pulsations, writhing frequency oscillations, and grinding machine loops meet stretches of drifting darkness and touches of musicality, suggestive of a future that’s dystopic and bleak on one hand, yet highly innovative and revolutionary on the other. Featuring a guest appearance by Grutle Kjellson from the mighty Enslaved, mastering by Nordvargr, paintings by Jeff Klena and design by Alonso Urbanos.”

System Morgue – New Album Released (ΠΑΝΘΕΟΝ – Digital)
“One could not step twice into the same river, nature of the time forbids. And the one is not the same with every step, and the soil for these steps is different and if you are going far enough in this there is no certainty at all, reality collapses, vision faints… The tremble of this, the awe, the dread and the bliss – it’s hidden so deep, so we barely feel it. Even the shores are changing, so what could we know about rivers? Yet, something stays still. Something which is not us, because we are the many, we are riverbanks. Maybe the most elusive thing is the most real one? Something like music, perhaps?”

Taylor Deupree & Marcus Fischer – New Album Released (12k – Cassette/Digital)
“Lowlands began when Ester Vonplon traveled to Spitsbergen in the Arctic Ocean in summer 2016. She sailed the ice-clogged seas of the Arctic Ocean on a three-masted sailing vessel, to capture the impressions of the calving glaciers and melting ice.
This journey in the Arctic Ocean was the perfect beginning for Taylor Deupree & Marcus Fischer to compose and record Lowlands.”

Victor Imaginator – New Album Released (Cephalopagus – Digital)
“BECOMING A GHOST. Everyone will die eventually. But what next? How will the mind act, being cut off from the body? A mind without any biochemical processes behind it. How to feel stress without cortisol? How to feel joy without dopamine and serotonin? All these unnoticed habits of a living person can be incredibly strong. As result, a weak mind will refuse death. Instead of moving further, adapting to the new condition of freedom and evolving into something different – the mind can bind itself to the world of the living. Endless failing attempts to live as before. An eternal cycle of pointless thoughts and actions trap the lost soul. That’s what “becoming a ghost” means.”

XUUN – New EP Released – (Grey Matter – Cassette/Digital)
Shamanistic rituals taking influence from Native American, Aboriginal, Tibetan and Thai culture. Featuring members of BYYRTH.

Sales

Flowers For Bodysnatchers – 50% off
To celebrate the release of the new Flowers for Bodysnatchers album Asylum Beyond released on Cryo Chamber I’ll be offering all Flowers for Bodysnatchers albums from my BandCamp page at 50% off! That’s only $3.50 an album and $1.50 for an E.P. Or alternately the entire discography for $6.00! This excludes albums released through Cryo Chamber.
https://flowersforbodysnatchers.bandcamp.com/music

Latest on This Is Darkness

Cadabra Records – Fungi From Yuggoth – Review
Artists:
Andrew Leman (Spoken Word)
Theologian (Soundscapes)
Jason Barnett (Art)
Album: Fungi from Yuggoth by H.P. Lovecraft
Release date: September 2017
Label: Cadabra Records
“Cadabra Records has, by this point, solidified themselves as the forerunners in the genre of spoken word arts. Not that they have a ton of competition in this field, but even if that were the case, the works that they have been creating could only be described as premium in every element. Each chosen theme is given the absolute best presentation one could hope to find. Original album artwork, professional well-rehearsed readings and soundscapes that give the perfect atmosphere to each reading all come together in a packaging that is itself top-notch.”
Read the full review here.

A Cryo Chamber Collaboration – Yog-Sothoth – Review
Artist: A Cryo Chamber Collaboration
Album: Yog-Sothoth
Release date: 7 November 2017
Label: Cryo Chamber
“As I stated earlier, this album has a bit of a different feel to it than the previous three releases in the Lovecraft series. Many of its deeper characteristics will take multiple listens before any concrete judgment could be made about the album. That in itself is a positive to me. The digibook adds another new element to the series. I highly recommend picking up the physical version of this release to have a hands-on experience of browsing through these selected passages from Lovecraft’s texts as well as admiring the brilliant artwork created by Simon Heath. Cryo Chamber continues, with Yog-Sothoth, to push the boundaries of their genre and the industry standards of dark ambient. The music is incredibly thought-provoking and the visuals are in a class of their own. I, for one, will be pleased to see this series continuing for years to come, Lovecraft’s mythos and the pool of talent at Cryo Chamber are both fertile for many more iterations of this sort of release.”
Read the full review here.

Nhor – Wildflowers: Winter – Review on the Periphery
Artist: Nhor
Album: Wildflowers: Winter
Release date: 1 December 2017
Label: Self-released
“’I now come to think of Autumn as a knife that was thrust into Summer,’ Nhorsays about the cold months creeping upon him. Indeed, the holiday season often seems detached from the underlying significance of the winter, something English artist Nhor has set out to rectify with the final release in his season-themed piano ambient EP cycle called Wildflowers. His skeletal arrangements filter out the shopping blitzes and overpriced decor, allowing Winter to epitomize the shrouding of the past in an enveloping sheet of white.”
Read the full review here.

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Ashtoreth – Morana (2017) – Review

Artist: Ashtoreth
Album title: Morana
Release date: 24 February 2017
Label: Unexplained Sounds Group

Tracklist:
01. Hyberna
02. Kāla Nāg
03. Tymor
04. Waní Yetu

Ashtoreth is a ritual dark ambient artist who focuses his attention to guitar drone and vocals. His latest album, Morana, has been released on Unexplained Sounds Group. Unexplained Sounds Group is an Italian label run by the man behind Sonologyst, Raffaele Pezzella. They have built an international reputation over recent years by releasing music on the periphery of the ambient and electronic genres. Ashtoreth fits perfectly into their catalog. His music is quite hard to specifically describe. There are elements of guitar drone as well as vocals. These are relatively consistent. But, the style in which he uses these sounds is what really makes Ashtoreth unique.

Morana is an ode to the Baltic and Slavic goddess of the same name. Her association to the seasonal rites of death and rebirth make her the perfect deity to anoint this music. The sounds have a distinctly winter infused theme. Yet, they do so without the help of field recordings. The opening track, “Hyberna” is a perfect example of this sound. There is a sort of hissing white noise that lingers throughout the twelve minute track. This, presumably, comes from his guitar amp. This white noise lays a nice foundation for the wintry themes of the album. Building upon this subtle noise, Ashtoreth uses his guitar in an equally subtle fashion. There are gentle guitar drones which are layered with slightly distorted single notes which slowly resonate throughout the track. While there is little happening in this track, less is more. The feelings and landscapes captured in “Hyberna” are not to be underestimated. The music is easily moving. It is the perfect soundtrack to the worship of this goddess of nature’s death and rebirth.

After the subtlety and minimalism of “Hyberna”, Ashtoreth takes the following track “Kāla Nāg” into a different direction. “Kāla Nāg” incorporates vocals, all done by a single man, yet they are performed in such a manner that they bring about thoughts of opposition. On the one side is a clean sounding vocal, gently expanding and receding throughout the track, in a beautiful and reverent nature. Contrasting this beauty is a set of gentle growls, which sound almost demonic, yet equally as subtle. The combination of the two, over a slowly oscillating guitar drone, make for a brilliantly dark track, which manages to hold a religious connotation, while also reflecting upon nature itself.

Morana is only four tracks, but still comes in at roughly an hour length. Over this hour Ashtoreth continues with his blend of subtle religiosity and a contrasting darkness. The hour will slip by in no time, attesting to the skills of the musician. It is no small feat to keep listeners entertained for this length of time using such minimalistic techniques. But its absolutely achieved by Ashtoreth. The other surprising element to this is that, aside from the opening track, the entire album was created in a single live session. One man, using the slightest amount of elements to bring forth a spirit, one which won’t be easily cast aside.

True to their vision, Unexplained Sounds Group have once again brought forth a magnificently talented musician. One who breaks the mold of the genres in which his music is categorized. It would be pointless to make a comparison to other artists here. Surely some shall have a few similarities, but each of the four tracks take Ashtoreth into new, uncharted territory. Territory which appears to be as cold as it is isolated. I would highly recommend Morana to any dark ambient fans who like guitar driven soundscapes. It is equally recommended to ritual ambient fans who prefer to hear something a bit out of the ordinary.

Written by: Michael Barnett

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