Category: Reviews (Page 1 of 17)

La Delaïssádo – New Printed Fanzine Review


Since Desiderii Marginis is the first interview in La Delaïssádo, let’s have a listen to his latest album while reading!

Early in 2020, a little after the full realization of what Covid-19 had in store for the world, I received a very interesting e-mail from a fellow named Bertrand from France. He explained that he’d been a writer and co-editor at Convivial Hermit Magazine and the Obsküre webzine for nearly 20 years, and was now ready to spread his own wings and delve into a printed fanzine of his own creation. He asked me to be one of the interviewees for the first edition and I gratefully accepted.

So, here’s a bit of an overview of what you can expect in this first issue and how you can get your hands on one of the 199 copies, before they are gone forever. And last but certainly not least, I asked Bertrand some questions, myself, which well help give a bit of extra background on Bertrand and his motivations/ambitions going forward.

Let’s start with the physical aspects of the zine. It’s a soft glossy covered 172 pages in the A5 format. It is presented in black and white only. For a fanzine, which will certainly be making its way all over the planet, I think this was the right choice. The presentation is very clean, and the readability is top-notch. While, the costs of production were likely able to stay relatively low, which is why he’s selling these for a mere €6.50. That low price also helps to negate some of the incredibly high shipping costs that the world has been experiencing of late.

As for the name and content of La Delaïssádo, Delaissado is an Occitan word meaning “abandoned”. The zine covers a number of articles, crossing a swathe of topics. The first being a lengthy conversation with Desiderii Marginis, the renowned dark ambient musician. Followed by an interview of Laurent Clement of the Dead Seed Productions record label. Then, he interviews me, journalist behind a dark ambient zine. Then, he has an article about the very interesting historical location of Montsegur. And so forth. As you can see, La Delaïssádo comes at journalism in a very similar way to This Is Darkness, focusing little on the need for strict adherence to format, and more on introducing readers to a breadth of interesting topics, seemingly compiled only at the whims of the writer(s), but still managing to be of a cohesive whole concept.

I was expecting to only see music related articles in La Delaïssádo. But, upon reaching the fourth article. I found a very interesting historical take on the French site of Montsegur, which I had a basic awareness of, on account of the possible Cathar connection to The Curse of Oak Island, a tv show that follows a treasure-hunter/archaeologist motley crew as they throw all sense of monetary concern to the wind, in search of the fabled lost treasure, which the Knights Templar left somewhere on Earth, or not… What followed in La Delaïssádo was an incredibly well prepared look into the Cathar history of the site, and the story of its ancient seige and destruction. The narrative was presented from the first-person perspective of Bertrand, La Delaïssádo‘s editor, recounting his first trip to the location for some basic hiking and sight-seeing, which turned into a more spiritual experience than he’d expected.

There were four more articles that were interesting divergences from specifically musical topics. Inside the Den of a Dreamer: Gustave Moreau’s Museum takes us on a ‘textual tour’ of the beautiful museum in Paris, which had previously been Gustave Moreau‘s workshop. The interview with Amy Cros explains what brought her to study Occitan languages as well as how and why their preservation is necessary. Laura-Lee Soleman is a French plastic artist. She works in a style that would be considered quite dark to many. She explains how music, film (particularly those of Béla Tarr) and life-experiences can lead one to creating different forms of art for different reasons. And lastly, we are given a very interesting interview with the owners of the Brasserie Ouroboros, a unique craft-beer brewery in the Auvergne region of France. While the beer is the main attraction here, increasingly this brewery, perched in a little mountain village named Freycenet-la-Tour near Le Puy-en-Velay, is becoming a hot-spot for concerts, which often include the likes of black metal and other dark/occult/alternative styles.

Readers will also find, scattered throughout this issue, a number of reviews, most closely resembling the format/length of those we are used to seeing in Noise Receptor. These reviews mainly, but not exclusively, focus on recent dark ambient and black metal releases. Other articles included focus on: Jean-Philippe Jaworski, Forêt Endormie, Cioran Records and Hecate.

For the rest of this article, let’s have a look at what Bertrand had to say to me about the zine’s first-issue-development and what we can expect in future issues.

Michael: France and Occitan language seems to be very important to you, as it plays a prominent position throughout this first issue. What is it that drew you to focus on this region/culture? Have you always been interested in such things relating to (your) heritage, or has this interest increased as time passes?

Bertrand: We French are a self-centered bunch as is common knowledge. Joking apart, you do raise a good point with this: in recent years, I have found that my curiosity toward people and their occupations tends to have me look ever closer to home sweet home, not in a flag-waving “support your local scene” movement, but at some point I just seem to have lost some of the impulse for canvassing the unlikeliest recesses of the globe in search of bands and styles no one has ever talked about – sometimes for a reason. On a personal level, I am very much aware of my heritage as you put it, which is inextricably bound up with the Occitan influence on culture, architecture, landscapes, and people since the Middle Ages. Occitania, more specifically the broad area from Auvergne (where I live) to the South-Western Pyrenees, is where I spend most of my vacation time. I am not a huge traveler but I got around a fair bit across Europe on account of being a compulsive hiker and museum rat, and I easily enjoy myself everywhere, but the sense of belonging is real. It is true that the fanzine partly reflects this. What can I say, if an article can get someone interested enough to look up either Auvergne, Dordogne, Aubrac, Languedoc, Pyrenees, or all at once in a search engine and maybe contemplate a trip, then huzzah I guess.

Michael: It seems fairly evident that you are a huge fan of black metal and dark ambient music. Will these be your major musical focuses going forward with La Delaïssádo, or will you be covering anything/everything that tickles your fancy? If the latter, what other genres are we likely to expect to read about?

Bertrand: I curse myself on a regular basis for the irrepressible urge to flesh out my album collection in a dozen parallel directions, but I think spreading a zine too thin would do it a disservice. As much as mono-themed zines present challenges of their own, I also see a need for limits, at least as long as one hasn’t maxed out their street cred. As it were, extreme metal, dark folk and dark ambient are the genres I feel most comfortable talking about, so even though classical music, 70’s prog/rock and electro/IDM make up a fair share of my time with music, small chance I’ll cover these genres beyond the occasional review, except if nailing a super exciting interview through some chain of circumstances. In fact the Forêt Endormie interview in #1 encroaches on classical music talk to some extent, but I’m certainly not competent or even willing to discuss classical music as a “specialist”.

Michael: You clearly have a great appreciation for art, in its many forms. But, I noticed throughout the issue that you mention not being very good at several different artistic formats. Do you consider your writing to be your main artistic talent, or do you have any other focuses: painting, music, sculpture, etc?

Bertrand: I have never applied myself to practicing music or drawing nearly enough to be able to determine if some calling is asleep inside of me, though I’ve dabbled in creative undertakings a few times and still strum the occasional chord with all the nimbleness of a dead plant. So yes, writing is what I do, though to speak of a talent… I took up to gardening recently, if that counts?

Michael: Do you have any plans for a set release schedule, or will issues release whenever the timing is right?

Bertrand: If I’m being 100% honest here, La Delaïssádo’s first issue was a work of obsessive commitment for the better part of nine months (being my first solo editorial project from A to Z) but I went at it like a blinkered horse chased by a swarm of hornets, not paying much attention to its cohesiveness as a magazine and (mis)using the cracked page design software in ways I certainly wouldn’t replicate now that I’ve learned the ropes. As a result, and to keep it brief, I am both pleased on the whole with it and very much aware of a hundred shortcomings, and also so spent that I’d rather lay the “classic” way of doing fanzines (interviews, reviews, articles, rinse and repeat) to rest for the time being. Right now I have a wholly different book concept in mind, which I’m pretty excited about, but it’s all very early-stage. La Delaïssádo will return with near certainty for a second serving but there is no schedule whatsoever. Might be in two years, might be in five. “Whenever the timing’s right” sounds like a plan. I’m not out to retain a readership, that much is clear.

Michael: Thanks so much for covering This Is Darkness in your first issue! I’m really pleased with how the entire zine turned out, I had no idea what to expect when you first approached me about an interview, last year. I hope we will find some way of collaborating again in the future!

Bertrand: Thank you for having me on your excellent platform in return. It does feel odd to be interviewed as a zine editor, especially just after a debut issue that has sold fewer than 100 copies so far, but nothing is sacred anymore in this time and age. I will be sure to keep a close eye on the developments at This Is Darkness!

Be sure to grab a copy of La Delaïssádo here before they are all sold-out! There were less than 100 copies left at the time of writing this, and I’ve already been told that several friends have purchased copies over the last few days. So no slacking! Support independent journalism and fellow genre-lovers that put in such time, effort, and capital, to make something like this come to be a reality!

Written by: Michael Barnett

Infinexhuma – Frontier – Review

Artist: Infinexhuma
Album: Frontier
Release date: 1 January 2021
Label: Alchemy Labor Unit

Tracklist:
Disc I
01. Converter
02. Orbital ft. Blood Box
03. Sword
04. Sweeper
05. Heaven March ft. Nerraterrae
06. Position in Flames
Disc II
01. Catharsis of Goodbye
02. Deep Runnel ft. Common Eider, King Eider
03. In the End
04. Forged
05. Every Door
06. Stormless

Much time has passed during severance. Alone now at this gate.
Prepared for a second entry into chaos, but now as one, no longer two.
No longer without a purpose, now with aim, now with death hands, life heart
Now solidified, now for genocide of evil, to send ashes back up
To crush all flesh of those who fell from the sky to experiment.
Flames grow as I scream, flames resolder the soul
Beware this force, forever thankful to the spiritual loss
For the gain is unblurring the mission, cleaning begins now

SOUL DIVERGENCE AFTER PASSING
THE SEARCH CAUSED MANY LOSSES
SECOND ENTRY INTO FALLEN LAND
NOW AS ONE ONLY WITH AIM
DEATH HANDS, LIFE HEART
SOLIDIFIED, GENOCIDE OF EVIL
THOSE WHO FELL WITH TARGETS BEWARE
FLAMES RESOLDER THE SOUL
FLAMES GROW BLUE AS I SCREAM
YOU ARE WARNED, I AM COMING FOR YOU
YOU TOOK FROM ME
SO YOUR EXPIRATION IS NOW
WE BEGIN

I have been aware of the works of Infinexhuma for quite some time now. I have given a few of his albums a passing listen over the last few years. While I always enjoyed the sounds, I didn’t find something that immediately drew me to the music, or made it stand out especially well from everything else I was hearing at the time. However, the unexpected arrival of this latest release, Frontier, in the mail a few months ago, led me to finally give Infinexhuma the proper listen that I’d denied them for so long, up to this point.

The first thing with this release that stood out for me, upon inspection, was that it was mastered by Grant Richardson of the brilliant death-industrial project Gnawed. Furthermore, I noticed that there were collaborations with Blood Box, Common Eider, King Eider, and Nerraterrae, so this piqued my interests even further.

A double-disc length album might seem like a bit of an overwhelming place to start discovering a new musician. But, I discovered from the very first moments through the end of the second disc, that Infinexhuma has really hit the mark with this one! The album starts with the track “Converter”, which sounds like a cross between Atrium Carceri and Theologian. Crisp field recordings combine with harsh industrial sounds, (never coming near wall-of-noise status though). Later in the track, children can be heard playing in the background while something that sounds like an alien invasion or some apocalyptic storm unnaturally shifts through the air around them. Needless to say, this all easily pulled me into the mix. The wealth of elements all come together to create a really well-rounded piece of dark ambient composition, with a hint of death-industrial vibes.

As the album progresses, we are able to hear equal parts of the dark ambient and that subdued death-industrial vibe, similar to the more dark ambient leaning albums of Gnawed. The second track, “Orbital” starts with an airy almost spacey, relaxed ambiance that slowly evolves into something much more energized and cacophonous. Again, comparisons to something like Theologian are present on this one, but there is also a tinge of more traditional, yet still harsh dark ambient sounds, like those made prominent by AUN. As the track slows, it feels like we’ve just witnessed the explosion of a planet or something equally devastating. Now we watch from an ever-increasing distance as the carnage recedes.

While I’m not one for track-by-track analyses, to some degree they are necessary. So, I’ll share a few more highlights with you all. The third track, “Sword” applies what appear to be choir samples, presented as almost a dronework with a constant barrage of torturous screams. An Atrium Carceri-esque sound, which almost feels like an explosion recurs throughout the track, filling the role of ‘percussion’. Something like the inquisition comes to mind with this track, on account of the juxtaposition between the light of the choir and the darkness of the screams. As if all this suffering is for the greater good of… something.

While there are some quite intense sections of the album, it is not all aggressive. As we wind down from the heat of the first three tracks, “Sweeper” appears, giving us a needed break. This track starts with more of a ritualistic vibe, using instrumentation like bells and singing bowls, along with a gentle rain. In the distance we can hear what is likely chiming from a church’s bell-tower.

“In the End” is definitely one of the more unusual tracks on Frontier. We are presented with a slowly building techno-esque repetitive combination of percussion and synths. Overlaying this beat is a deeply embedded and reverberated screaming. Unlike on previous tracks of the album, the screaming here follows something more akin to Theologian. It is by no means front and center, but it is ‘lead vocals’ in a more traditional sense than you will find in most dark ambient, aside from the likes of the aforementioned Theologian and other similar acts like Gnawed, Phragments or The Vomit Arsonist. It is certainly worth mentioning here, that this album and these vocals were likely able to reach that pinnacle of dark ambient / death industrial cross-over territory at least in part because of the mastering duties being helmed here by none other than Grant Richardson of Gnawed.

The last track I’d like to mention is “Every Door”. We are again presented with these death-industrial style vocals, but this time the track is much more subdued, more dark ambient. The voice gives a menacing presence, as if we are hooded and caged in some serial killer’s basement, listening to their maddened rants through a thick layer of fog and confusion. This track and the way I’ve interpreted its theme also draw me to a quote from Charles Manson which he often said, “The way out of the room is not through the door.” Here, meaning to me, this ‘prisoner’ is looking for an escape from this dungeon/hell, however ‘Every Door’ he checks is the same and leads him right back to the same dungeon/hell.

Frontier is presented in a well-crafted 6 panel digi-pak. It’s the first release on Alchemy Labor Unit, which is run by the man behind Infinexhuma and is primarily a place for release of his own music, but also will be home to other friends’ and collaborators’ projects in the future.

I would highly recommend Frontier, as one of the more interesting dark ambient / death industrial releases so far in 2021. It’s also a great place to first discover the sounds of Infinexhuma if you, like me, had not previously given their music much of a chance. I will now be planning to slowly move backward through their other releases, as I assume there will be some more overlooked gems for me/you to discover!

Written by: Michael Barnett

Nihil Impvlse – Stasis – Review

Artist: Nihil Impvlse
Album: Stasis
Release date: 17 December 2020
Label: Eighth Tower Records
Reviewer: Rich Dodgin

Tracklist:
01. Krankheitsfelder
02. Psychik Plague
03. Thanatological Singularity
04. Zeitgeist Penthotal
05. A Prison Within A Prison
06. Prophets Of Fall
07. To All Our Futures These Ruins Shall Return

Sometimes I’m just in the mood for something dark, noisy and aggressive as hell… and on days like those, an album such as Stasis by Nihil Impvlse is exactly what I need.

Stasis is “… an exploration, in seven chapters, of the diagrams of the power mechanisms caging us in an invisible prison: civilization… “, and during the course of the album we are treated to an array of harsh noise / drone / industrial, full of jarring, pounding, skull-splitting soundscapes from the depths of hell. It’s bleak, discomforting stuff, but that’s the point.

Each track is also complimented by a sparingly used vocal sample, that provides additional context and example of the political and personal power struggles that bind us all within life’s prison cell. The end result  is an impressive album that challenges and rewards in equal measure – and where each track offers something different, and yet maintains the overall feel of the album.

With StasisNihil Impvlse has done an incredible job of expressing the frustration and futility of modern life; of being trapped as a cog in the grinding wheels of civilisation.

Highly recommended!

Written by: Rich Dodgin

Various – Yig – Review

Artist: Various
Album: Yig
Release date: 29 December 2020
Label: Cryo Chamber
Reviewer: Rich Dodgin

Tracklist:
01. Yig 1
02. Yig 2

Yig, the seventh in Cryo Chamber‘s series of Lovecraftian releases, was recorded by over 20 of the scene’s biggest names working together in collaboration for over a year to write, produce and perform this incredible 2 hour dark ambient soundscape album.

Collaborators included:
Neizvestija
ProtoU
Dronny Darko
RNGMNN
In Quantum
Dead Melodies
Atrium Carceri
Keosz
Northumbria
Beyond the Ghost
Wordclock
God Body Disconnect
Randal Collier-Ford
Hilyard
Council of Nine
Dahlia’s Tear
Lesa Listvy
Creation VI
Aegri Somnia
Ager Sonus
Ruptured World
Alphaxone

And if that isn’t enough to get you salivating, just wait until you hear the music they’ve created – because this is quite honestly one of the best dark ambient albums I’ve heard in recent times.

During the course of the 2 tracks, each over an hour in length, we are treated to an amazing audio journey that takes us from trepidation, despair and horror at at one end of the scale, to soothing reassurance and hope at the other.

The music here has so much depth and is so multi-layered that it’s impossible to describe it all in any detail, but needless to say that each artist has clearly delivered their highest quality work for this album – as evidenced by the fact that there is no filler here whatsoever. Each and every moment of Yig is full of spine-tinglingly, goose-bump inducing dark ambient excellence that draws you under its spell. Not only that, but it all hangs together perfectly, seamlessly moving from dark, brooding soundscape to rhythmic ritualistic ensemble, and from enchanting ethereal layers to raw-edged, discordant drones.

The production quality, as you would expect from a Cryo Chamber release, is simply gorgeous, providing a cinematically dark listening experience in which every sound and each individual note adds something essential to the mix.

Yig is available as a digital download, and as a double CD album that comes in a deluxe 20 page hardcover DigiBook. Inside, the breath-taking artwork of Simon Heath is complimented by journal entries written by Alistair Rennie (Ruptured World).

This is an album that rewards repeated listening – I’ve had it on continuous play for the last week or so, and each and every time I’ve discovered something new and wonderous among the atmospheric field recordings and sonic soundscapes.

Yig is another exceptional release from Cryo Chamber, and anyone who is a fan of their dark ambient albums shouldn’t hesitate to buy themselves a copy of this album. Absolutely outstanding!

Written by: Rich Dodgin

Scott Lawlor – Life Passes Slowly Unto Death – Review

Artist: Scott Lawlor
Album: Life Passes Slowly Unto Death
Release date: 18 November 2020
Label: Self-released
Reviewer: Rich Dodgin

Tracklist:
01. Life Passes Slowly Unto Death
02. As the Dying Process Begins, Comprehension of Mortality is Realized
03. Drifting Through Unsequenced Memories
04. Your Worst Fear is Dying Without Being Remembered
05. Whisperings From Beyond The Veil Call You Home
06. The Perfect Darkness of Death
07. The Touching is a Bridge Between the Afterlife and the World Which You Left Behind

Over the last decade, Scott Lawlor has established himself as talented and well-respected member of the ambient community, releasing over 300 albums of first-class ambient, dark ambient, piano, and drone music.

His latest release, Life Passes Slowly Unto Death, is a heartfelt, spiritual dark-ambient album that, as the title suggests, is a reflection upon life and death, and the journey from one to the other.

Opening track Life Passes Slowly Unto Death sets the tone nicely for the whole album – dark, oppressive drones are expertly combined with soaring synth work, perfectly balancing the darkness and the light. The end result is an incredible track that, despite its threatening undertone, leaves the listener feeling introspective yet hopeful.

As the Dying Process Begins, Comprehension of Mortality is Realized is considerably more unsettling. An eerie dark-ambient soundscape is accompanied by what sounds like field-recordings from another planet as we hear the murmuring and chirping of alien lifeforms. Drifting Through Unsequenced Memories continues in a similar vein, but with the otherworldly lifeforms replaced by the sounds of indistinct conversations. And as the track unfolds, soaring synths are added to the mix, adding a lightness to the track and switching things from being uncanny to intriguing.

The piano work on Your Worst Fear is Dying Without Being Remembered is subtle but powerful, creating an almost overwhelming sense of melancholy. Playing this track provides a thought-provoking and rewarding listening experience, and it’s impossible not to find yourself reviewing your life and likely legacy. Whisperings From Beyond The Veil Call You Home is a more minimalist piece, in which a subtle dark-ambient soundscape and an underlying, unintelligible whispering merge together in a haunting yet calming audio hallucination.

The Perfect Darkness of Death is the bleakest and most ‘dark-ambient’ track on the album. Brooding drones and discordant synths are complimented by strange echoes and ethereal sounds. It’s impressive stuff and listening to it, you can almost feel yourself being pulled through the curtain and into the afterlife.

Final track, The Touching is a Bridge Between the Afterlife and the World Which You Left Behind, is an emotional piece, with the melancholic piano and soul-stirring singing producing a perfect ending to the album – leaving the listener feeling touched by something very special.

Life Passes Slowly Unto Death is an incredible album, in which the theme of death is skilfully explored, once again demonstrating just how gifted a musician Scott Lawlor is.

Very highly recommended.

Written by: Rich Dodgin

Eppu Kaipainen – Poiu – Review

Artist: Eppu Kaipainen
Album: Poiu
Release date: 4 December 2020
Label: Decaying Spheres
Reviewer: Rich Dodgin

Tracklist:
01. To See Wear Requires a Mindful Watcher
02. Yeardays
03. Personal Clocks ft Dan Fingerman
04. Poiu
05. Rifling Through the Lost & Found
06. A String of Weeks
07. Place, Not Just a Space

A couple of months ago, I reviewed Manchester based ambient / drone record label Decaying Spheres‘ second release – a stunning collection of tracks from some of their favourite international artists. One the standout tracks on that album was My House is Torn Down Every Evening by Eppu Kaipainen feat Embry お兄ちゃん, which I described as “… 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…”

Now, Helsinki based producer Eppu Kaipainen returns to Decaying Spheres with the release of Poiu a 60 minute ambient / drone album, that explores how music can change our perception of time.

Opening track, To See Wear Requires a Mindful Watcher, is a minimalist piece with a hypnotic pulsing beat, accompanied by haunting synth work, that shifts into something more akin to interference as the track comes to a close. It sets things up perfectly for the tracks to follow, leaving the listener feeling melancholic… and a little uneasy.

Yeardays is a slower, darker piece, with a dirty drone sound and harsher tone. It contrasts nicely with the first track – its sadder, more downbeat vibe, imbuing a sense of the daily grind that life can sometimes become.

With its acoustic guitar and the sounds of city life, Personal Clocks ft Dan Fingerman is a short and poignant piece that nevertheless provides a positive uplift of spirits before leading into the title track, Poiu – a gentle introspective track with subtle, repeating beats and faint unidentifiable sounds, meaning the listener can assign their own meaning to the soundscape as it unfolds… encouraged to reflect on their own life journey.

Rifling Through the Lost & Found is an eerie, otherworldly track, with discordant drones and distorted singing. In places, it sounds like a darker, bleaker Boards of Canada – no bad thing – and again demonstrates what an amazing job Eppu Kaipainen has done here, in conveying the sense of time passing and the ultimate frailty of life.

At the start of A String of Weeks, the synths are fairly bright and perky, but as the track unfolds, things become darker – almost menacing. And yet, throughout this piece, there is an underlying sense of optimism… maybe even hope.

Final track, Place, Not Just a Space, expertly blends drones, distorted sounds, and repeating snippets to produce another reflective piece. In the latter half of the track, the sounds work together to create a sense of rewind… a feeling that perhaps the ending approaching each of us is in fact a chance of rebirth, and a new beginning.

With PoiuEppu Kaipainen has created an astounding album of long form-drones that manages to be both challenging and rewarding to the listener. This is an album to listen to as you lie back in bed, contemplating your life and achievements to date, and considering the possibilities of the future ahead of you.

Decaying Spheres have released another impressive album, and quite simply, if you’re a fan of drone / ambient-drone, then you have to buy yourself a copy of this. Outstanding!

Written by: Rich Dodgin

Hiemal – Denali (VHS Tape) – Review

Artist: Hiemal
Album: Denali (VHS Tape)
Release date: 1 December 2020
Label: Parapsych Productions
Reviewer: Rich Dodgin

Regular readers will know that I’m huge fan of French dark ambient musician, Hiemal – his winter-themed drone ambient soundscapes always doing an amazing job of chilling me out and transporting me away from everything.

So I was thrilled when Parapsych Productions contacted us with the news that they were releasing an ambient film with music by Hiemal. Parapsych Productions describe themselves as “an occult/paranormal inspired limited run tape label for genres of blackmetal, drone/ambient, obscure field recordings, and other sound research.” Their releases are consistently high standard affairs, with gorgeous physical components that perfectly complement the music recorded on them, and Denali is no exception – arriving on a professionally dubbed black VHS tape in a plastic clam shell case, and looking utterly stunning.

So, what about the music and film themselves?

Well, musically, Denali is one of Hiemal‘s more minimalist albums, in the sense that this is all about the drone, with little or no field recordings added to the mix. But that’s no bad thing at all – the gentle synth work features subtle, gradual changes in tone, and the end result is almost hypnotic, inducing a dream like state in the listener. It’s wonderful stuff and, quite honestly, this is already one of my favourite Hiemal albums.

That said, the accompanying film takes Denali to another level entirely, adding so much more to the already impressive audio experience.  Dream like sequences of images and video clips play along with the music, giving the viewer an audio-visual treat that is simply sublime.

Throughout the course of the film, we see mountains, seas, icebergs, trees,  and scenes from outer space or television… though all are optically enhanced, filtered or corrupted in one way or another – meaning that watching the film is trippy, surreal and otherworldly.

With Denali, Hiemal and Parapsych Productions have created an absolute masterpiece, expertly fusing together beautiful drone-ambient soundscapes with a stunning ambient film. Each part is great in its own right, but together they are outstanding.

Highly recommended!

Written by: Rich Dodgin

Dead Melodies & Beyond the Ghost – Crier’s Bane – Review

Artist: Dead Melodies & Beyond the Ghost
Album: Crier’s Bane
Release date: 3 November 2020
Label: Cryo Chamber

Cinematic dark ambient is a term that gets thrown around quite loosely, in my estimation, when describing many dark ambient albums. While there are the occasional releases that feel truly cinematic, with a moving scenery and narrative, many fall short. Of course, if there were a label out there that is able to fully embrace such a level of perfection in this category, that would be Cryo Chamber, without question.

As Cryo Chamber was founded by Swedish ex-pat Simon Heath, whom now runs the label from the U.S. west coast, One shouldn’t be surprised that the label would lean in such a direction. Heath’s main project, Atrium Carceri, has been the absolute go-to for cinematic dark ambient since his debut, Cellblock, back in 2003 on the legendary Cold Meat Industry label. (But since re-issued through Heath’s own Cryo Chamber label.)

Yet, some other projects on Cryo Chamber in the past have only nominally moved into the cinematic direction. But, as the years go by and the label’s catalog continues to increase at a feverish pace, we are seeing more and more releases that fit squarely into the cinematic category. A few of the heavy-hitters in this category to this point have been Flowers For Bodysnatchers and God Body Disconnect, both including sounds of lush landscapes and story-lines which move forward in a tangible way.

Enter Crier’s Bane. From the very opening seconds of Crier’s Bane, Dead Melodies and Beyond the Ghost hurl us directly into the scene. We are greeted by the sound of horses whinnying and hooves scuffing as a carriage slowly rolls through the city. Instead of placing my own interpretation/spin on the themes being explored here, it is probably best to share the blurb from their release page:

“Oyez, oyez, oyez!
All good citizens draw near and harken unto these words. For it is grave news this ere night, grave news indeed.
Be it known to all ye, that there has been another murder. A most gruesome murder, and the killer is still on the loose.
So good people ye, lock up your windows, bracen your doors and be safe on this night, for all is not well. All is not well”
The Crier’s words hung heavy in the early eve. Shutters were closed and the townsfolk scattered to their homes as empty beggars’ hands withdrew to the gutter leaving the once bustling crooked cobblestone streets now but a desolate spiral of gas lit flicker and elongated shadows.

Step back in time to the festering stench and mire of Victorian London courtesy of Dead Melodies and Beyond the Ghost.

So we find that our journey begins in Victorian-era London, a perfect setting, if there ever were one, for a dark ambient journey.

If one is at all familiar with the previous releases by these two projects, Dead Melodies & Beyond the Ghost, then you will be aware that these guys already know their way around the cinematic elements of dark ambient. Dead MelodiesLegends of the Wood, in particular, is still one of my very favorite releases on the label to-date and Beyond the Ghost‘s debut, You Disappeared brought some wonderful new elements into the dark ambient fold. I would highly recommend checking both out, if you haven’t yet.

Listeners can expect an array of instrumentation on Crier’s Bane, which all helps to solidify it’s position in the ‘real world’. Pierre Laplace of Beyond the Ghost brings guitars, keyboards, drums, percussion, melodica and field recordings to the table, while Tom Moore of Dead Melodies delivers guitars, keyboards, synths, harmonica, melodica, percussion, field recordings and foley/sound design. The album is rounded out with horn accompaniments on “Message from the Horsemen” and “The Unforgiving Toll of Time” by Amanda Elledge, whose work outside this project I’m unfamiliar.

As this album is indeed a cinematic experience, I will not bother you with my personal interpretations. Every listener should come to this release with nothing but the album blurb and an open mind. We will all certainly take away something a little different from the next person, as it should be.

Many of the previous collaborative efforts on Cryo Chamber have been utter successes, if not instant-classics. While I wouldn’t compare Crier’s Bane to a masterpiece on the scale of Onyx or Aokigahara, it has certainly been getting numerous play-throughs here and I doubt that will subside anytime soon. I find this to be a truly engaging experience from beginning to end, and can only hope that these two artists will continue working together in the future, possibly taking this story into a new chapter, or delivering a totally new tale.

Highly recommended.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Kammarheit – Thronal – Review

Artist: Kammarheit
Album: Thronal
Release date: 21 December 2020
Label: Cyclic Law

Tracklist:
01. Iron Bloodstream
02. Before It Was Known As Sleep
03. Carving the Coordinates
04. The Two Houses
05. Now Golden, Now Dark
06. In The Dreamer’s Fields
07. Abandonment and Connection
08. The Magnetic Throne

“I took the crown and the throne acted as a magnet, drawing the attention of distant stars…”

If you are one of the few dark ambient listeners that haven’t heard of the highly regarded Kammarheit project, allow me to give you a short introduction, die-hard followers can skip ahead! Kammarheit entered being around the turn of the millennium. Beginning with a string of ‘rough demo albums’, which would become the body of Unearthed 2000-2002, Kammarheit would quickly manifest into the project we know today. The official debut, Asleep and Well Hidden would be one of the very first releases on renowned Cyclic Law label. 2005 brought its follow-up, The Starwheel, revered as one of the flagship albums of the entire genre of dark ambient. These two releases showed a more minimalist or subdued side to dark ambient. Kammarheit became our ferryboat into liminal spaces of consciousness. Following their lead, we were able to journey through our own dreamworlds, as they simultaneously became infused with deep and mysterious soundscapes. After a long pause, Kammarheit released the much anticipated follow-up The Nest in 2015, proving that the project was still as vibrant as ever.

Of course, for those that have closely followed the works of Pär Boström, the mind behind Kammarheit, there has been no lack of material to keep us satisfied over recent years. Boström started this ‘expansion’ of his musical styles with the Cities Last Broadcast debut in 2009. But, since 2016, he has been exploring various avenues with much greater fervor. Projects like his Aindulmedir, Bonini Bulga and Teahouse Radio have delivered exquisite releases, along with collaborative projects Hymnambulae (w/ his sister Åsa Boström, co-founder of their label Hypnagoga Press) and Altarmang (w/ Kenneth Hansson). We also can’t forget the masterpiece, Onyx, which was a Cryo Chamber collaboration between Kammarheit, Atrium Carceri and Apocryphos, and its follow-up Echo.

This brings us to Kammarheit in 2020! Five years after the previous Kammarheit release, Pär Boström has delivered a new Kammarheit full-length, which picks right up where we left off! For anyone concerned that Boström might have a hard time bringing this original project back to the forefront, after so many ‘side-project’ releases, I am here to put those fears to rest! From the very first seconds of the opener “Iron Bloodstream”, we return to a sound palette that will fit neatly alongside the previous three Kammarheit albums. While there are certainly fresh elements incorporated and new dreamscapes to explore, every moment of Thronal truly feels directly connected to its predecessors.

“Iron Bloodstream” gives us a subtle opening to Thronal, allowing its dreamy drone-work to slowly draw us into the experience. The following track, “Before it Was Known As Sleep”, begins to unveil the industrial-esque undertones of the project more noticeably. Another incredibly dreamy drone progression sits atop a layer of ‘gentle whirring noise’ which could as easily be a heavy wind blowing outside your window, or the rumblings of machinery deep beneath the surface. “Carving The Coordinates” continues in the vein of the previous track, but seems to have more immediacy to it, as if we are sort of ‘beginning to awaken within the dream’. Or, a more literal way of putting this might be that Kammarheit is ‘setting the coordinates’ for our journey through the rest of the album.

“The Two Houses” might be my favorite track on Thronal. I can’t help but feel a deep connection between this one and the classically lauded track “Hypnagoga”, from The Starwheel. Deep wind-gust-like rumblings build the foundation for this one, with the repeating of what sounds like a church bell echoing toward us from some just-out-of-reach place. Of course, as with all things Kammarheit for me, I don’t think the rumblings are actual wind, nor do I think the “chiming” is an actual bell. In the liminal spaces Kammarheit resides in my mind, everything and nothing is as it seems.

“Now Golden, Now Dark” is one of the more aggressive tracks on the album, if you could call any of them “aggressive”. The foundations continue to hold a deeply calming aura in their drone-work, while the surface of the track presents us with what I believe to be an electric guitar, which reminds me a bit of his Altarmang track, “Sulphur”, but significantly more subtle. If any connections to that track/project go any further than this surface level of similarity, I have not yet had a chance to formulate that connection. I doubt there is one, but I prefer to be as open-minded as possible when it comes to these possibilities.

“In The Dreamer’s Fields” follows a similar dynamic to the previous track, in that it simultaneously feels incredibly soothing, yet also harrowing. As if we are sleeping soundly in our beds, and yet we could be one second from the beginnings of our worst nightmare. “Abandonment and Connection” sort of ‘levels-off’ the dynamics of the album. Allowing the intensity to rest at its new height, upon which we ascended through the previous two tracks. Again, there feels to be equal parts of tranquility and foreboding present.

“The Magnetic Throne” draws this liminal journey to a close for us on an energetic note. There is a sense of the Lynchian that I pick up here, though it is likely just me! I can’t help but imagine this ‘magnetic throne’ achieving some level of electrical current, which feeds into the grid, in the real-world. As if the energies and emotions created within this inner space are now able to be broadcast out to the world. Similar to the complex conception of electricity in Twin Peaks. One could almost imagine Pär Boström, himself, residing upon this discordantly regal dream-world throne, visible flickers of electrical currents bolting from the corona, making a frenzied dash for the borders of our dreamscapes, and into our greater reality.

The album is close enough to previous Kammarheit albums to scratch that itch which everyone has had for the last 5 years, since The Nest, but it is fresh and innovative in a number of ways, showing the progression of the artist, as well as the evolving story he wants to tell us about this inner world of his. We are able to re-enter the realms of Kammarheit, as if we never left. Practically speaking, in a world so quickly and constantly changing, this familiarity comes as a deeply calming sense of return to previous normalcies, which we so desperately need right now.

If you are die-hard fan of Kammarheit, or just discovering this avenue of Boström’s creative output for the first time, you may be pleased to know that Thronal has been released with an array of physical options which is almost unheard of in this day and age, and particularly within such an obscure scene as the dark ambient genre. Cyclic Law has truly given Kammarheit the flagship treatment it deserves this year, which just so happens to be the twentieth anniversary of the project’s inception. The Thronal album, itself, comes to us in three options: CD, as well as standard and special edition vinyls. These physical options are complemented by a line of apparel options, which include: t-shirt, longsleeve T, sweatshirt, hoodie, and tote bag.

If you are a collector of all things physical, then you will be as pleased as I am, to find that Cyclic Law has re-released the first three Kammarheit albums as a vinyl bundle/box-set, named Triune. So, for the first time ever, all four official Kammarheit albums are available on vinyl! If that wasn’t all enough to choose from, Cyclic Law has also released apparel for each of the first three albums as well, all in the same array of options as mentioned above for Thronal.

I really can’t recommend this album highly enough. It’s been on repeat here, awake or asleep for days since I received my promo download from Cyclic Law earlier this week. Anyone that is a fan of Kammarheit should show no hesitation in diving deeply and repeatedly into this new masterpiece. It will likely hold its quickly-revered placement, for me, indefinitely.

Written by: Michael Barnett

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

 

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