Tag: Eighth Tower

Hezaliel – Paradise Lost – Review

Artist: Hezaliel
Album: Paradise Lost
Release date: 5 April 2018
Label: Eighth Tower Records

01. The Pit of Hell
02. Altar of Demons
03. They Darkned the Land of Nile
04. Fallen Angels in a Distant Earth
05. The Snake’s Deception
06. Before and After the Human
07. Reflected in a Mirror of Sins
08. Paradise Lost

This will be my second review of an Eighth Tower Records studio album, the first being the latest Sonologyst offering Apocalypse (read the review here). Eighth Tower Records is a sub-label of the Unexplained Sounds Group, both run by Raffaele Pazzella (read our interview here). Eighth Tower focuses more on dark ambient leaning releases, and less on the experimental nature of USG. Their slogan being, “Superspectrum sounds from Ultraterrestrial dimensions.” Paradise Lost is the sixth proper full length release, but there are also a number of compilations (one reviewed here), which contain a combination of exclusive and previously released tracks, each focusing on a specific theme.

“I made him just and right, sufficient to have stood, though free to fall.”
― John Milton, Paradise Lost

Hezaliel is a project out of Belgium by Steve Fabry, who is also known for his work in metal projects The Nightstalker and Sercati. His Hezaliel music, in general, could be described as a sort of tasteful horror ambient. Meaning there is darkness abound in this release, but it never pushes that feeling too far, never taking us into the more absurd territory of some other horror ambient albums.

Our first encounter with the theme comes in the cover art, which is a beautiful 1866 engraving done by Paul Gustave Doré for John Milton‘s epic poem Paradise Lost, which was first published in 1667. The poem, and so too the album, focus on the biblical story of the fall of man, namely Satan’s deceit of Adam and Eve, resulting in the end of paradise. So, while I’ve stated that this is a sort of horror ambient album, the themes are of a religious nature. But, with a theme such as the fall of paradise the religious and horrifying can come together quite easily.

The first half of the album focuses on Satan and the other rebel fallen angels, in their underworld. Thus the music is given liberty to be incredibly dark, as the soundscapes are basically recreating hell itself. Though, within this darkness there are moments of almost a dark bliss, such as on “Fallen Angels in a Distant Earth”, which includes what sounds to be field recordings of crashing waves, as if we are following the fallen angels on a walk along a prehistoric coastline.

Paul Gustave Doré – Engraving from Paradise Lost

The second half takes on more an air of sadness and regret. There are more likely to be fleeting melodies emerging from the background. The dense soundscapes give way to more peaceful qualities, as the storyline is generally pulling us toward a sad conclusion, which will play out over following millennia.

Hezaliel has crafted an album, in Paradise Lost, which is first and foremost an enjoyable listen. It has that perfect balance of active and passive qualities, giving it a higher level of replayability over an extended period of time. His techniques seem to have improved since his debut, In The World of the Anesthetist which came out on Kalpamantra in early 2017. Following the narrative of a tried and true classic, like Paradise Lost by John Milton, gives Hezaliel room to build a story with more details that are able to be understood immediately by the average listener.

Paradise Lost is one of my favorite yet on Eighth Tower Records. Hezaliel has shown that he is up to the task of creating dark ambient albums with depth and detail. The theme for this one seemed quite appropriate for a dark ambient album, and it also fit very nicely with the general aesthetic of Eighth Tower Records, keeping that focus on the “ultra-terrestrial” intact. I would recommend Paradise Lost to those that prefer there dark ambient to be a bit more active, but never abrupt or jarring. It makes for a nice reading companion, but it is also able to keep your attention during isolated listening sessions in a dark room with headphones.  With a heavy focus on theme and an ability to show reservation when creating such dark soundscapes, Hezaliel will certainly be an artist to watch over the coming years.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Sonologyst – Apocalypse – Review

Artist: Sonologyst
Album: Apocalypse
Release date: 15 September 2017
Label: Eighth Tower Records

01. Hypnosis
02. Sulphurous rain
03. Abandoned city
04. Stay in your homes!
05. Global threat
06. Dying Oceans
07. System collapse
08. Towers of sand
09. Prayers from nowhere

In a few short years, Sonologyst has managed to place himself in the collective consciousness of many that follow the dark ambient as well as experimental ambient genres. Raffaele Pezzella of Napoli, Italia, got his musical career up and running in 2011 with his proper debut, Ipotesi del continuo. He used the momentum from this to secure follow-up releases through labels such as: Petroglyph Music, Gravity’s Rainbow Tapes, Attenuation Circuit, and Cold Spring Records over the next few years. Meanwhile, his own label, Unexplained Sounds Group (USG), began to take shape and started a progressive release schedule which is still keeping its momentum. Then, in 2017, Pezzella started a sub-label of USG, named Eighth Tower Records.

Eighth Tower Records is where the career of Pezzella truly makes its collision with This Is Darkness. While experimental ambient releases are certainly fair game for us, specifically dark themed experimental (though thus-far less experimental than much of the material on USG) ambient releases are even more in line with our preferred sound palette. While about half of their releases so far have been compilations (with some great talent always involved, though not always with exclusive tracks), the other half focuses on some great up & coming or under-the-radar talent, including: Aseptic Void, Urs Wild and Hezaliel, to name a few.

Apocalypse is the most recent release by Sonologyst, on Eighth Tower Records. This album focuses on the apocalypse, not necessarily through any single event, but through snippets of events, landscapes through soundscape, and mental states. I will say, immediately, this album feels less experimental and more in line with the range of sounds we would hear on a more traditional dark ambient release. There are, however, moments throughout the album where Pezzella’s fondness for the experimental certainly still shines through. When it does, it has a stronger and more benign effect on me than would otherwise be the case.

I’ve been considering Apocalypse for a good while. Since it’s release, it’s been in steady rotation here. What started as my favorite release yet by Sonologyst, has turned into one of my favorite releases of 2017. So many tracks on this album are quite memorable and are able to evoke a great deal of emotion from the listener, as we are taken along on the ride through this apocalyptic soundscape. Tracks like “Sulphurous rain” and “Dying oceans” are incredibly relaxing, minimal in design, but incredibly rich in emotion. Particularly on “Dying oceans” there is a sound, that may or may not be a dolphin, which seems to be crying out in abject terror, as the oceans of Earth lose their last life sustaining properties, a mass extinction of their inhabitants.

“Hypnosis” is another favorite for me on Apocalypse. It sounds much like something that would be released through the ritual ambient label, Aural Hypnox. A gentle and relaxing loop runs throughout the track. A calm male voice, echoed by a female counterpart, repeats a phrase throughout “Hypnosis”. Topping off the track is a high pitched frequency which lingers atop the mix, making slight shifts. The combination of all these elements is a wonderfully hypnotic track. Starting the album in this way is quite clever, as it seeks to pull the listener into its trance, before the full experience can properly begin.

Then there are a few tracks, like “Stay in your homes!” and “Global Threat”, that incorporate snippets of sound from old films which focused on these end-time themes. All these elements from the different tracks together form an ebb and flow throughout the album, giving the listener all the right cues and periods of time to contemplate the greater experience, to meditate on our own versions of these stories.

Apocalypse is my favorite Sonologyst release to date, no question. This album was crafted using all the same principles and techniques that I am looking for in a well-rounded dark ambient album. The themes, flow, and technical prowess are all working in coordination toward the perfect end-product. I would recommend Apocalypse to any fans of experimental ambient, but also to fans of the more common forms of contemporary dark ambient. Apocalypse really does have a little something here for everyone across the spectrum and it’s presented in a way that shouldn’t alienate those who may like one element here less than the others. Though there are only a few years of releases behind Sonologyst, he again proves why he’s been taken so seriously in this scene of music that can often eat musicians alive, without ever a word of explanation.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Further reading:
Raffaele Pezzella recently contributed his knowledge of music studios to our massive article Dark Ambient 101, you can check it out here.

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