Tag: Live

Phobos X – Full Sets & Martin’s Thoughts

It is with great pleasure that I present to you the video footage for all four full sets from Phobos X. Martin (of Phelios / Sphäre Sechs and the man behind the annual Phobos Festivals in Wuppertal, Germany) was kind enough to add some substance to this collection with an introduction, detailing his thoughts on the Phobos festivals – in general, as well as this year’s festival – in particular. So, without further ado, I give you Martin Stürtzer!

Phobos X marks the ten-year anniversary of a series of concerts focused on dark ambient music. When I started to release music with Phelios, I was often annoyed by the way this kind of music was presented in a live situation. People talking, no seats and bad amplification are side-effects that I encountered a lot as a musician and as a guest. My idea was to present this music in an ideal environment where both artists and listeners can focus on the atmospheric sounds and video projections. The church (Neue Reformierte Kirche Wuppertal) has a long tradition with experimental arts and music and offers the perfect space for this event.

The four concerts were recorded with two cameras. The audio signal is from the mixing desk and also two room microphones to capture the reverb and ambience of the church room. It is rather dry compared to large cathedrals, but still noticeable. Arktau Eos played with the room acoustics by walking through the church during the performance and playing several un-mic’d instruments.

Arktau Eos – Photo by: Hans-Hermann Hess

What you don´t see on the videos is the meeting point and place of social gathering that the Phobos Festival has become over the years. There are large stalls from the labels where new releases are presented and where you can chat with the artists about their music. In the breaks between the concerts is time to talk to each other, exchange the experiences of the music or simply meet like-minded persons. The guests arrive from all over Germany and other countries. My idea of this video coverage is to give listeners who live too far away the opportunity to listen to the concerts for the first time – or to re-listen at home in a familiar listening situation for the audience.

Photo by: Hans-Hermann Hess

The friday-meetings became a classic of this weekend. Most artists arrive a day before the shows and we use the rare opportunity to talk about our music, the struggles of modern music „industry“ and our individual approaches to music. My personal highlight of this weekend was the guys from Arktau Eos playing the synths in my home-studio in underpants, after we got struck by heavy rain on the way from the church home to my place. One bag was lost in the flight and we were checking which of the instruments could be replaced by gear from my studio. It was good luck that the bag was delivered a few hours before the show on Saturday.

Phobos X musicians at the Friday meeting before the event.


Check out TeHÔM’s latest full-length release on Cyclic Law, Lacrimae Mundi.
Also, their most recent album, Live Assault on Essentia Mundi and Cyclic Law, which we reviewed here.


Check out Vortex latest album, As Gods Fall on Cyclic Law.


Check out the latest album by Circular, Radiating Perpetual Light on
Loki Foundation.

Arktau Eos

Check out the latest album by Arktau Eos, Erēmos on Aural Hypnox.
We reviewed Erēmos hereAlso, we very recently interviewed Arktau Eos here.


Martin Stürtzer
(Phelios, Sphäre Sechs, Phobos organizer)

For more videos from previous Phobos Festivals as well as the musical workings of Martin Stürtzer, subscribe to Martin’s Youtube Channel.

Check out his musical projects Phelios and Sphäre Sechs, as well as his recent eponymous release.

Mortiis – Era 1 North American Tour – Live Coverage in Baltimore

Last night I got to witness an event I would have never expected. Mortiis, playing exclusively Era 1 material, in Baltimore Maryland! After the Cold Meat Industry festival in late 2017, I figured I’d missed out on a once in a lifetime experience. But Mortiis has been taking the Era 1 material on the road recently and it looks like his upcoming album will be a return to this style. There is a new music video in the Era 1 style (which you can watch below) and he’s just kicked off his U.S. tour playing this material!

I don’t do much live coverage and I’m not a professional photographer. So take my account for what it’s worth. But I definitely wanted to share a few photos from my evening at the show last night, and to alert anyone in the relevant cities to the rest of this awesome tour!

The venue was the small/medium sized Metro Gallery in Baltimore. This was my first time attending an event there, but the sound and setting were very fitting for the show.

Before I get into the musicians that played last night, here’s the flyer for the tour and a link to the relevant Bandsintown.com webpage where you can find tickets to the rest of the events.


DJ Candy Corn

The event was DJ’d by Letitia Gabrielle Getka a.k.a. DJ Candy Corn, who started the evening off, and filled the void between sets with some proper dark dungeon music to keep the night moving appropriately. You can follow her on Instagram.

Worms of the Earth

I was almost as pleased to see Mortiis as I was to finally meet and witness a performance by Dan Barrett as Worms of the Earth. Dan is known through the dark ambient community for this project, as well as his wonderful zine Wounds of the Earth, which has been on a bit of a hiatus in recent years (hopefully not permanent, I always love to hear Dan’s opinion on recent releases!) Dan also releases music as Venal Flesh.

Worms of the Earth has been a rather versatile project over the years. Having started as a mostly ritual dark ambient project, it has moved in recent years into a goa-trance direction. This was predominately the style that he played last night, which I really really loved! However, I’ll share a recent quote from Dan which points him back in the direction of dark ambient.

“Started working on a new album over the weekend. After being largely directionless in the months that followed the completion of the Redux, a pathway has been illuminated to me. Soundwise, it is cinematic, ancient egyptian-themed dark ambient which I am writing during my rituals to understand the “deities” of old kingdom (and prior) egypt, mainly dhwty/Thoth and their esoteric knowledge. More info to come as it develops and takes shape”

You can also check out a (sorta) recent interview I did with Dan here.


This was my first encounter with STATIQBLOOM, as they fall outside the realms of dark ambient. This post-industrial electronics project consists of Fade Kainer (also known for his work with Batillus and contributions to the Theologian album Pain of the Saints) who seemed to mainly cover the vocal duties, and Denman Anderson contributing a glorious controlled post-industrial electronic chaos.

Their music should certainly be to the liking of those that love old-school post-industrial. I would highly recommend digging into their catalog and seeking them out at shows. (The gents hail from Brooklyn, New York.)


Mortiis delivered exactly what I was hoping to hear. A beautifully rendered set of tracks which all followed his Era 1 style, with classics from the Cold Meat Industry era as well as some new material from an upcoming album, which looks like it will be focused on the Era 1 style.

Check out his latest music video for the track “Visions of an Ancient Future”, which was performed last night.

At this point, anything I could really say about Mortiis here likely all of you will already know. So suffice to say, the performance was exquisite. The backdrops by David Thierree were perfect for capturing the dark dungeon and overall magical feel of the performance. Mortiis has returned to old-form like he never left CMI! It was beyond heart-warming to see him fill a venue in Baltimore Maryland focusing on an Era 1 style that has seen two decades since most of this material was last highlighted. If you are in range of the upcoming performances, GO!

Check out the interview I recently conducted with Mortiis, focusing specifically on his Era 1 material.

Bands In Town (to buy tickets to upcoming shows)
Mortiis on Facebook
Mortiis on Bandcamp

Covered by: Michael Barnett

Sysselmann – Live at Mir – Review, Exclusive Full Album Stream!

Artist: Sysselmann
Album: Live at Mir
Release date: 31 October 2018
Label: Tipi Token Records

01. Stormwatch
02. Transmigration
03. Sacred Calling
04. Juniper tree song
05. The Great Horn of the Mountain
06. Koncovka flute improv
07. Primal Spirit outro

Enjoy an exclusive full album stream of Live at Mir!

Sysselmann released his first album, The Northern Chronicles in October of 2016. Tipi Token Records had the foresight to recruit this promising new dark ambient project to their also new label. The physical copy quickly sold out. A beautiful piece of art in itself, using a “vinyl effect” CD, with inner & outer sleeves which also helped build this vinyl effect. That CD was re-issued in August 2018, and there are copies still available. I highly recommend the release. You can read my review of The Northern Chronicles here.


Now, Sysselmann and Tipi Token are back with Live at Mir, a live recording from Mir Café in Oslo, Norway on October 7, 2017. Being in the USA, I rarely (basically never) get to see any live dark ambient performances. I was unaware of this recorded event, but the following month Sysselmann took the stage at Blåsvart Aften in Trondheim, Norway, along with dark ambient giants Svartsinn, TeHÔM, New Risen Throne, and one other lesser known act, Tutfarangi. I would say these two events were quite helpful in getting the name Sysselmann around the Scandinavian region. Any dark ambient musician I’ve spoken to about Sysselmann has had nothing but positive words.

Live recordings can be a real gamble to release. If you aren’t Metallica or some huge rock band, drowning in profits, you are not likely to have the best resources available for recording and reproducing a live set. But, as with the recent Live Assault by TeHÔM, Sysselmann and his associates have managed to craft a live album which is well worth the listeners’ time. The recordings are clear and there is very little background noise to be discerned. The acoustic elements seem to stand out a bit more in the mix on this live set than they did on The Northern Chronicles. This is particularly great for a live performance, as listeners tend to be less inclined to stand in front of a musician who, to them, may seem to be doing very little. The added or accentuated acoustic instruments always provide a needed extra layer to dark ambient live performances, giving the crowd something to see as well as hear.

Photo shamelessly stolen from TeHÔM’s Facebook post. From left: TeHÔM, Svartsinn, Taphephobia, Sysselmann, Northaunt, New Risen Throne

With only one full length album released prior to Live at Mir, I wondered (upon first hearing about this release) exactly what Tipi Token and Sysselmann would see fit to include. I can happily say that it isn’t just a reproduction of The Northern Chronicles. Though just over half the tracks on Live at Mir were featured on the previous album, there are also three new tracks: “Sacred Calling”, “Koncovka flute improv” and “Primal Spirit outro”. These three tracks account for twenty minutes of previously unreleased music, and I’ve found them all quite enjoyable. While “Sacred Calling” falls in line with the tracks from The Northern Chronicles, “Koncovka flute improv” and “Primal Spirit outro” incorporate significantly less electronic elements and seem to rely almost entirely on live acoustic elements.

Live at Mir will be released October 31 as a digital album on Bandcamp. There will also be a limited edition cassette version made available at the same time. While I haven’t seen this cassette myself, it is described as a “pro duplicated cassette in a very limited run to celebrate this release”. So if you are interested in a copy, I recommend keeping an eye out for it on release day. I would highly recommend this album to fans of Sysselmann‘s previous work, and also to those dedicated followers of the Scandinavian branch of the dark ambient scene. Sysselmann exhibits many of those same qualities that make this region so well known in the post-industrial world.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Concert Coverage: Phobos Festival 2018

The Phobos Festival has run for 9 years now, but for me it was the very first visit to the fine city of Wuppertal, Germany. About time. The idea of the event is to invite only the crème de la crème of dark ambient, without any less known artists for warm-up, so the high level of professionalism is almost certain from the very beginning.

I decided to combine the event with a short holiday trip around Germany and Czechia, so we arrived at Wuppertal on Friday, late afternoon. The town turned out to be nice and friendly, with a lot of green spaces and a unique suspension railway going from one end of the city to the other. Like a flying tram. I don’t think there is this kind of city transport anywhere else in Europe. Maybe in U.S. or Asia? Anyway, after a walk around the city and dinner, we went to the venue around 7pm.

The event took place in Alte Reformierte Kirche Elberfeld (Old Reformed Church Elberfeld). In the previous years the artists were performing in Sophienkirche which is located almost around the corner, but since I haven’t attend the earlier editions, I can’t really compare one to another. Still, the church is a church, it’s a much better location than a club, for example, and it gives a feeling of great importance to the event.

New Risen Throne

The first performer was Shrine from Bulgaria. I have been following Hristo Gospodinov’s works since the very beginning, that is his digital-only album Harmony, Bliss, Rust released by now defunct Mirakelmusik (but there will be a cassette re-release soon through the effort of the Amek label). It is a great pleasure to watch Hristo’s evolution as a musician over the years. Even though I prefer his early works a little bit more, it is impossible not to notice the progress he has made and the possibility of performing on Phobos, among the best of the best is definitely deserved. Hristo’s music was the least dark and oppressive of all the performers of the evening, the strong organic feeling made me think of fighting elements, the water, wind and fire. The majestic walls of sound were intermingled with moments of calmness and meditation, and all this in his own individual style, which he managed to develop during the last decade.


Each invited artist is a craftsman in a certain sub-genre of dark ambient, so with the first sounds of Frederic Arbour’s Visions performance we entered the post-apocalyptic world of slightly industrialized drones. I always considered Visions as an under-appreciated project, while his two albums, especially Lapse, have a special place in my heart. Unlike his studio albums, this performance was devoid of any cosmic atmospheres, it was but an essential, monolithic vision of a decaying world. After half an hour or so Frederic was joined by Gabriele Panci of New Risen Throne, and they played together for a while. It was a point of transition, the other aural shapes began to appear and when Frederic left the stage the music morphed into a still dark, but more sacral (or rather anti-sacral) form of ambient, oppressive yet infused with melancholic elements here and there. All covered with a strong aura of occult, which was intensified by the evocative visuals. Since this form of dark ambient is not my favourite one, I have to admit that Gabriele and his New Risen Throne is one of the best in what he does and the whole show was truly impressive, even though a bit too long (around 70 minutes in total).


When I entered the church, it was impossible not to notice the organizer, Martin Stürtzer, running from one corner of the building to another, checking if everything is in order, if the people are content etc. So, I have wondered if he’ll manage to concentrate on his own performance with all the organizing stuff on his head, as Phelios which was about to play next. My worries were totally groundless as his concert was most likely the most intimate and focused of all the projects of the evening. Slowly evolving cosmic drones, some scraps of melody and rhythmic elements along with the astonishing visuals captivated me completely. Furthermore, I think that his sound was also the best of all, but perhaps it’s only my impression. Either way, Phelios did a better job, to me, than on his studio albums, which after all are nice too.


The first joint show of Troum and raison d’être was supposed to be the highlight of the evening and personally I have mixed feelings. I’m not sure if they had some technical issues or maybe it was the case of lack of compatibility but there were a few moments that were chaotic and not entirely convincing. Sometimes, I simply felt the lack of flow, so to speak. Obviously, when they captured the right pattern and timing, they managed to reach the highest peaks of drone atmospheres, but sometimes it took them a slight bit too long. Still, I can’t say it was a bad concert, or even mediocre, I just liked the others better.

Troum & raison d’être

Phobos IX ended about 40 minutes after midnight and I left the premises one hundred percent satisfied. There were a few organizational shortcomings, the beer at the bar was available only in glass bottles, so every once in a while someone kicked the bottle during the show, which, as you can imagine, was distracting and irritating. I don’t mind the beer itself, but maybe plastic cups would be the better option? Also, I’d prefer if the visuals would be projected on a normal flat screen, instead of within the apse (not sure if this is the right definition, I meant that semicircular place, usually behind the altar). I know that on the previous editions they had a normal screen and in my opinion it looked better, at least judging from the Youtube clips. Also, there were a few assholes talking and laughing during the concerts, but I got used to it. Which is sad I guess…

All the performances are now available on Youtube, so you can do your own mini-Phobos in your living room, though obviously nothing will replace the live experience. 2019 will be the year of the anniversary, 10th edition. So, I’m guessing Martin will prepare something special. I will be there again, that’s for sure.

Written by: Przemyslaw Murzyn
Photography by:  Anna Gorgoń & Przemyslaw Murzyn

Full Sets on Youtube


Visions & New Risen Throne:


Troumraison d’être:

TeHÔM – Live Assault – Review

Artist: TeHÔM
Album: Live Assault & Extra Assault
Release date: 22 August 2017
Labels: Cyclic Law – CD Digipak / La Esencia – LP+bonus disc

Disc 1 or LP: Live Assault
(Continous Playback, No Track Separations)
01. A1 Intro (Theos Agnotos)
02. A2 Darkness Cosmogony of Myths
03. A3 Perilous Depth
04. A4 Abyss
05. B1 Amorphous Structure
06. B2 The World Ended
07. B3 Modality of Cosmic Matter

Disc 2: Extra Assault
(Only available with the vinyl edition)
01. The Realm of Dark Senses
02. Our Place In The Stars
03. Kolaps

TeHÔM is a name that has been around the dark ambient scene for the last two decades. But, the volume of output would not lead one to believe it is so. This is on account of the tragic loss of the founding member of TeHÔM, Siniša Očuršćak who died in 1997, leaving the project in the hands of Miljenko Rajaković. The first two albums Despiritualization of Nature and Theriomorphic Spirits released in 1996 and 2000 respectively. It wouldn’t be until 2014 before Rajaković would release the third offering, Lacrimae Mundi. An album, which was the first to be created solely by Rajaković.

Yet, Lacrimae Mundi released on Cyclic Law to nearly universal praise by the dark ambient scene. Miljenko Rajaković had successfully revived the project and took his new album out on the concert network of the European continent over the following years. Live Assault is the result of a recording from one such concert date on 12 August 2016 at the Brutal Assault Festival in Czech Republic.

The live recording of this release is quite impressive. The engineers used several microphones placed on angles which would capture sounds, not only from the artist, but also from the crowd. There are different points throughout the release where we will hear the crowd, but it never overwhelms the mood of the music and is only particularly noticeable at the end of the performance when they clap and cheer. There is an overwhelming three-dimensional feel to this release, which I recommend to enjoy at the highest volume acceptable, in order to really feel the performance as it would have been felt by the crowd. The highs are crisp and the bass is crushing.

Miljenko Rajaković vied to execute this performance at a slower speed/tempo than on the original versions of the tracks. This slowing makes their darkness even more abysmal and menacing. On “Darkness Cosmogony of Myths” the vocal recitation of some potent words by Edgar Allen Poe with this slowed down effect is brilliantly realized. As a listener, you might not immediately recognize the difference in the speed of playback, but if you really start to pay attention, you’ll notice the difference, and likely appreciate the performance all-the-more for it. This potency is also noticeable on “Amorphous Structure” during the vocal samples, which take on an even more unsettling effect than on the regular album edition.

“The World Ended” was my first encounter with TeHÔM, and the reason for which I quickly fell in love with the music of this artist. Its rendition on Live Assault is a powerhouse of deep rumbling bass. It is indeed a sonic assault on the senses. If you have this one cranked up, your not only going to hear it, but you are going to feel its reverberations throughout your body. Again, the slowed down version of this track adds an increased effect of dread and despair to its already chilling subject matter.

Bursting into “Modality of Cosmic Matter” following “The World Ended” keeps the momentum going. This track is again, one of my favorites and its rendition on Live Assault is as good as, if not better than, the original version. The sampled vocal passages continue to take on that eerie haunting effect that they have produced repeatedly throughout the performance, seemingly each more potent than its predecessor.

The first two tracks on Extra Assault appear to be outtakes from Lacrimae Mundi. Fans most familiar with that release will not find anything too unusual about these tracks, if you loved Lacrimae Mundi, you will love these. They follow the pattern laid out, which would include deep rumbling bass, haunting vocal samples with overt religious symbolisms and a reserved use of tribal-like percussion sections. The one main feature that stands out is “Our Place In The Stars”, a track that originally surfaced on Eudoxus by the Kalpamantra label, with a vocal sample which seems to come from a different source than the majority of others used by TeHÔM. Yet, it is still masterfully incorporated into the music.

“Kolaps” the third track on the Extra Assault disc is dated back to the origins of TeHÔM. We should be thankful that Miljenko has decided to include this one on the release because it’s a disquieting experience. It gives us a side of TeHÔM that most fans of only the Lacrimae Mundi release will not be familiar or expecting. There are deeply disquieting vocal samples that permeate this track entrenched in what feels like a sample from some battlefield, making for an exceedingly dark and daemonic end to the Extra Assault disc and the album as a whole.

Miljenko Rajakovic dedicated this release to the memory of the industrial pioneer John Russell Murphy (11 July 1959 – 11 October 2015). For those unfamiliar he was an Australian drummer, percussionist and multi-instrumental session musician who played in Australian and British post-punk, ambient and industrial music groups. Around the ambient/dark ambient/post-industrial scenes he would have been most well known for his work with SPK, Krank, Death In June and his industrial music trio Last Dominion Lost, among many other projects and collaborations.

Live Assault is one of the best live recordings I’ve heard. I really wouldn’t be able to notice that it was recorded in a live setting other than a few minor moments. The sounds are full and the music is precisely executed. The change in tempo makes the release have a totally different feel than the original album, which absolutely warrants its release as a separate entity. If you are a fan of TeHÔM, I would highly recommend this release to you. If you have never heard of the project, this is a great place to start!

Written by: Michael Barnett

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