Tag: Cryo Chamber (Page 2 of 2)

Atrium Carceri & Herbst9 – Ur Djupan Dal – Review

Artist: Atrium Carceri & Herbst9
Album: Ur Djupan Dal
Release date: 23 January 2018
Label: Cryo Chamber

Tracklist:
01. Mot Främmande Land
02. Sov Ej Hos Kvinna, Som Är Kunnig I Trolldom
03. Österländska Tempel
04. Ur Evighetens Pipa
05. Vida Jättars Väg
06. Blott Den Vet Som Vida Reser
07. Drakhuvud
08. Händer Skola Hålla Hårda Yxor
09. Den Döda Trollkvinnan

The protagonist comes from the far north, but has awoken in the lands of the middle east during the earliest times of human civilization. Ur Djupan Dal takes place in the fertile crescent of ancient Mesopotamia. During this period, the “Cradle of Civilization”, humans began to create magnificent cities like the fabled Eridu, Uruk, and Ur of Sumer (modern-day Iraq and Kuwait), some origins of which go back further than 5000 BCE.

Longtime fans of Herbst9 will be very familiar with this setting. Over the last two decades, Herbst9 have been utilizing the medium of dark ritual ambient to take listeners on a journey into the ancient past. Their destination of preference has always been the fertile crescent, looking at the ancient Akkadian and Sumerian civilizations, especially in the Mesopotamian trilogy which includes: Buried Under Time and Sand, The Gods Are Small Birds, But I Am The Falcon, and the masterpiece Ušumgal Kalamma, a double disc which closes the series.

Herbst9, as well as Atrium Carceri, are no strangers to collaboration. They recently released their magnificent collaboration with Penjaga Insaf on their own Shortwave Transmission label. Fans will also fondly remember their decade-old collaboration with Z’EV, who has unfortunately passed on this year. But, a noteworthy difference here might be pointed out; Ur Djupan Dal is the first of the Herbst9 collaborations to use the connector “&” instead of “vs”. This gives me the impression that they might have collaborated a little more closely with Atrium Carceri than on these previous endeavors, which may have been more akin to one artist sending a fully realized product to a second artist and having them present their work “against” the original, instead of “alongside” the original. However, without actually asking the artists, guessing may be pointless and fruitless.

Looking at the collaborations of Atrium Carceri, we can begin to enter an exhaustive rundown of everything from close one-on-one collaboration, to other artists borrowing from his lore, to the massive 20+ artist collaborations that are the Cryo Chamber Lovecraft series. While the list may be exhaustive, the content has been consistently memorable, with some of my favorite dark ambient releases, for instance Onyx with Apocryphos and Kammarheit, falling under this tag.

While the story seems to be independent of anything which has happened in the proper Atrium Carceri lore, there are certainly connections to be made. The Atrium Carceri lore was never based on just one individual. It has, instead, focused on multiple main characters over multiple locations and timelines. So, adding one more character and timeline to the list isn’t exactly unwarranted here. Taking some liberties: it seems like the story is based around a man from the Scandinavian region (timeframe uncertain), falling asleep by the sorcery of some enchantress and awakening in the distant past thousands of miles away in the fertile crescent, roughly the modern day Middle East. The character is immediately certain that there has been a vast change, but as he moves through the ancient city, he slowly realizes where he has gone, and takes in the beauty of this city in the ancient world, its architecture and its religion.

The story truly captivates me in the third track, “Österländska Tempel”. Here it is the easiest to close one’s eyes and imagine themselves in this ancient city. As the protagonist nears the temple, we are given suspenseful and contemplative dronework. The music sort of guides us through the opening of the doors to this great temple. As the doors open the protagonist becomes fully enraptured. The music builds to a wonderfully divine climax as the doors open. The protagonist is bombarded with the architecture, paintings, symbolisms, and rites of a long lost civilization. He becomes so totally enraptured that his head grows dizzy, he sways in place as a plume of frankincense burns his nostrils. This is a scenario that fully plays out in my mind each and every time I listen to “Österländska Tempel”.

The story seems to end by returning to the enchantress from the previous time and place on the track “Den Döda Trollkvinnan”. Roughly translated to English as “The Dead Sorceress”, this track seems to be a reflection on the events that have just come to pass, as the protagonist stands by the funeral pyre of the enchantress or sorceress whom seems to have been a sort of antagonist for the tale. These three above defined scenarios are the only ones that I would be willing to give my opinion on. As always in the cinematic dark ambient style, listeners will be encouraged to fill in the blanks on their own, with their own ideas and narratives.

From a technical standpoint, the album is quite successful in finding a harmonious unity among the three artists involved. Frank Merten and Henry Emich of Herbst9, as well as Simon Heath of Atrium Carceri, have all created music which could be easily recognizable along side this collaboration. Meaning, they are not breaking the wheel on this release. We will not find some brand new sort of sound here which we could have never imagined would come from these two projects. When listening to Ur Djupan Dal, fans of both projects will constantly hear familiar sounds and techniques which have been perfected by their creators over the not-so-short histories of both projects. For example, Atrium Carceri and Herbst9 have both included a fair share of percussion in their previous works. So here, we will not be surprised to hear a lot of well-placed tribalistic percussion sections on numerous tracks.

Another shared feature of both projects, which particularly stands out on Ur Djupan Dal, is the delivery of vocal passages. In these we should be able to glean some further knowledge about the storyline. In the voice modulation which is often used in his Atrium Carceri project, Simon Heath recites several passages throughout the album. Some of these passages seem to be his own work, while others can be traced back to various H.P. Lovecraft works. On “Vida Jättars Väg” Simon recites two passages from H.P. Lovecraft. The first,

“I have seen the dark universe yawning where the black planets roll without aim. Where they roll within their horror unheeded. Without knowledge or lustre or name.”

is from the poem “Nemesis”. While the second passage,

“The most merciful thing in the world, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.”

comes from story “The Call of Cthulhu”. The addition of Lovecraftian lore into the equation really begins to uncover the connections Atrium Carceri and Herbst9 are making between their seemingly divergent sets of lore and themes. The idea of time-travel and obnoxious gods reeking havoc on humanity fits squarely within the Atrium Carceri framework. Meanwhile, Herbst9 are masters of the ancient world. So, in connecting the two ideas and the two masters of these ideas, listeners are dealt the best possible outcome of a connection between these times and worlds.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Cryo Chamber decided to give this release the vinyl option. Now the third vinyl release on Cryo Chamber, we have yet again a title which showcases the recent collaborations of Atrium Carceri. Just as on the first two, Black Corner Den with Cities Last Broadcast, and Miles To Midnight with Cities Last Broadcast and God Body Disconnect, Simon Heath has opted to take releases in this direction which are sure to bring in a large crowd, a prudent tactic for any label opting to branch into untraversed territory.

Ur Djupan Dal should be a welcome release for any listeners that have been following the “second wave of dark ambient”. Atrium Carceri and Herbst9 have both been performing at the top of their game for over a decade each. Ur Djupan Dal is a perfect example of how artists can come together to create not only sounds which delight, but storylines which have direct connections to each of their past works. I would recommend this album to any dark ambient listeners who enjoy the perfect blend of ritual, cinematic and traditional dark ambient music.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Flowers For Bodysnatchers – Asylum Beyond – Review

Artist: Flowers For Bodysnatchers
Album: Asylum Beyond
Release date: 28 November 2017
Label: Cryo Chamber

Tracklist:
01. Red Ballerina (Oksana’s Theme)
02. Midnight My Dearest Midnight
03. Ravenfield
04. Phantasma
05. Mechanical Pictures
06. Dear Ernest, You’re Dead
07. A Darker Rebirth
08. Black Catechism
09. White Ballerina (Polina’s Theme)

Asylum Beyond marks a moment in dark ambient which I’ve been waiting to see for quite some time. In a genre like dark ambient, one would expect to find “horror ambient” music around every turn. But the truth is, most dark ambient artists stray quite far from this style. Their sounds usually harnessing something more akin to melancholy, despair or the phenomena of the natural world. We get views into the horror infused world only intermittently. Artists like Atrium Carceri, Svartsinn and Apocryphos have spent time in this area, but few others have fully dedicated themselves to producing utter darkness, in a skin-tingling fashion.

Duncan Ritchie seems like the perfect person to join the small but potent group of musicians that have delved into the horror style. His first project, The Rosenshoul, has always worked in a soundtrack-like fashion; building soundscapes for imagined horrors. But with The Rosenshoul, the focus was never on the cinematic, only the pure musicality of the sounds. Flowers For Bodysnatchers, from its inception, has been a channel for Ritchie to create intricate and often intimate cinematic experiences which actually seek to tell a story. His first two releases on Cryo Chamber, Aokigahara and Love Like Blood, told a story of a broken man, riddled with guilt and heartbreak, who takes a trip to the great sea of trees in Japan, the Aokigahara forest, the most popular suicide destination in the world. On the four artists collaboration, Locus Arcadia, Flowers for Bodysnatchers joined Randal Collier-Ford, Council of Nine and God Body Disconnect to tell a sort of side-story from the Sabled Sun mythos, another product from the mind of Simon Heath (Atrium Carceri/Sabled Sun).

Ritchie puts to the test his experience in story-telling with Asylum Beyond. This album takes all the lessons Ritchie has learned over the years and hones them in on the story of a deranged, and possibly even evil, antique store owner from 1968 in Massachusetts. Ernest Semenov was admitted to Ravenfield Asylum for the murder of his wife and children. Numerous elements on the scene pointed to ritual dismemberment and slaughter. Not long after his admission to Ravenfield, the asylum burns to the ground, killing everyone on the premise aside from Semenov and his doctor, which have both disappeared.

The focus on old burnt-out asylums, ritual murders, secret occult knowledge and the hideous truth that lies somewhere just beyond reach all make for the perfect late-night exercise in the imaginings of the macabre and deranged. The surgical execution of Ritchie in his aural story telling reaches its climax with Asylum Beyond. The album is a perfect example of horror ambient, because it sits on the boundaries between the real and the imagined, the historic truth and the supernatural lore. The listener is given just enough textual information and aural clues to follow Ritchie’s plot, while simultaneously creating one’s own narrative.

From a physical standpoint, Asylum Beyond is also quite unique. On the Cryo Chamber label, almost all albums are mastered by Simon Heath. He has also created most of the cover-art for these albums. On Asylum Beyond, Duncan Ritchie is given full reign over his project. He was responsible for all parts of the creation process: mixing, mastering, photography, and so forth. Asylum Beyond also comes with a 16-page booklet filled with more clues and images to enrich the story, another oddity for the Cryo Chamber discography. So, it’s clear that Heath also sees the infinite talents of Ritchie, and trusts in his judgment.

Asylum Beyond serves as a perfect template for the dark ambient community. It shows how one may focus on themes that could be considered unworthy to the more philosophically driven artists of the genre; and how these themes are still absolutely worthy of our attention. When undertaken from the right perspective, horror ambient can be as entertaining as the best of horror movies. Even more so in many ways, since “seeing the evil” ultimately brings about disbelief and sometimes even humor in horror films. Horror ambient is able to bring us face to face with these horrors without ever removing the fragile veil from the listener’s imagination.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Wordclock – Heralds – Review

Artist: Wordclock
Album title: Heralds
Release date: 12 December 2017
Label: Cryo Chamber

Tracklist:
01. Bell Ringing I
02. Bell Ringing II
03. Bell Ringing III
04. Beatrice’s Euphoria
05. St. George
06. Where Mercy Lives
07. Thames Does Flow
08. Heralds

At the youthful age of twenty-two, the Portuguese musician Pedro Pimentel has quickly solidified his position as a monumental force in the realms of dark ambient. It’s not only praise from the Cryo Chamber fan-base or label-mates that has proven Pimentel’s strengths as a musician. He’s also worked closely with Robin Finck of Nine Inch Nails on the soundtrack for the videogame Noct. All this being accomplished before most musicians have come close to finding their true calling, it’s hard to tell what Pimentel will have accomplished ten years from now.

In my opinion, his first major accomplishment has just been actualized. Heralds is the third release by Wordclock on Cryo Chamber. All the brilliant techniques Pimentel has shown over his last few albums have come to an utter climax on Heralds. This album finds itself on the fringes of the dark ambient genre, and yet it couldn’t be more in line with the goals of the genre, and particularly the Cryo Chamber label.

It’s not exactly the originality of Heralds which makes it work so well. Many of its various elements can be heard in the music of other artists such as raison d’etre, Enmarta, Phonothek and Elegi. But it’s the seemingly effortless blending of these different elements which makes Heralds praiseworthy.

The opening track brings us our first taste of this marriage of styles and techniques. Wordclock has used the piano and bass guitar previously to successful ends, but the introduction of the cello into his music has taken it to new heights. The cello, I’m convinced, is one of the best live instruments to be incorporated into dark ambient music. Each instance I’ve heard this combination throughout the last few years has been gloriously successful. For the task, Pimentel has brought back Norwegian classically trained cellist Amund Ulvestad. His skills could also be heard on the previous Wordclock album, Self Destruction Themes.

Ulvestad was first brought to my attention in 2014 as part of the Northaunt/Svartsinn split, The Borrowed World, which I still highly recommend to any readers that haven’t yet experienced it. Soon afterward, I saw him live when he toured the United States east coast performing as a duo with Svartsinn. His contributions to Heralds can’t be overstated, whenever his craft is featured the album all the better for it.

Yet, Ulvestad is far from being the only addition of note to this Wordclock release. Pimentel brings in the talents of Nuno Craveiro on the Scandinavian instrument Nyckelharpa. An instrument which has gotten some mainstream recognition recently, being used by the atmospheric black metal / Nordic folk artist Myrkur. The third addition to Heralds is George Shmanauri on trumpet. We’ve heard his trumpet work add an intriguing dark jazz flavor to his two recent albums as half of the duo Phonothek, also residing on Cryo Chamber.

When all these musicians come together, the outcome is blissful perfection. The track “Where Mercy Lives” is the crowning glory of Heralds. Pimentel brings together all of his previous experience as a solo artist and blends it with the works of these three guest musicians. Add to that some samples of choir vocals, and what we have is probably my favorite dark ambient track of the year, if not of recent years. The combination of these artists gives us a hint of what an all out dark jazz project would sound like, if they were all so inclined to create one. The music has so many noteworthy layers, that it could warrant a full review treatment itself. Suffice to say, readers must give this track their full attention, preferably through the best audio deliver system on hand, in order to appreciate the extent of its accomplishment.

It is said in the album blurb that Pimentel traveled far and wide, through Porto, London and Berlin, in order to collect the acoustic instrument sounds and field recordings necessary for completing this opus. It’s as if not only the sounds collected, but the travel itself is harnessed on Heralds. Pimentel gives us a completed album which could traverse the boundaries of dark ambient, finding praise from followers of multiple genres, including but not limited to, dark jazz, neo-classical, ambient and northern European folk.

It has been apparent since his debut, Endless, that Pimentel was a musician to keep an eye on. That sentiment has never been more apparent than now. With the release of Heralds, Pimentel shows the staggering extent of his ambition and skill as a musician and a studio technician. I simply can’t overstate the magnitude to which this album has moved me, and I strongly suspect that it will have the same effect on many, if not most, readers of this review.

Written by: Michael Barnett

A Cryo Chamber Collaboration – Yog-Sothoth – Review

Artist: A Cryo Chamber Collaboration
Album: Yog-Sothoth
Release date: 7 November 2017
Label: Cryo Chamber

Tracklist:
01. Yog-Sothoth 1 – 1:01:08
02. Yog-Sothoth 2 – 56:49

Full roster of contributing artists:
ProtoU
Sjellos
Alphaxone
Gydja
Kristoffer Oustad
Aegri Somnia
Kammarheit
Darkrad
Atrium Carceri
Randal Collier-Ford
Neizvestija
Council of Nine
Dronny Darko
Flowers for Bodysnatchers
God Body Disconnect
Keosz
Kolhoosi 13
Northumbria
Sij
Ugasanie

Cryo Chamber are continuing to push the limits of what fans can expect from them. The label has been incredibly successful over the last few years in bringing a new generation of listeners to the genre of dark ambient. Through a heavy presence on Youtube and Spotify, Cryo Chamber prove that the use of these free channels of listening can and will result in increased overall exposure and the slow but steady recruitment of die-hard followers that will ultimately support the label for years to come. We have recently seen the first vinyl release from Cryo Chamber on Black Corner Den by Atrium Carceri and Cities Last Broadcast. Now we see another first for the label in this beautiful digibook physical edition, which houses some incredibly unique artwork. The music, as we’ve grown to expect over the last three Lovecraftian releases by the label, is also of top-notch quality, and provides the perfect soundscapes for extended reading sessions of H.P. Lovecraft‘s weird fiction.

Yog-Sothoth, as with the previous Lovecraft inspired albums from Cryo Chamber, focuses on one specific deity in the mythos H.P. Lovecraft created almost a century ago. Yog-Sothoth, while maybe not the most recognized in pop-culture, is probably the most frequently referred to of Lovecraft’s gods within his own tales. Yog-Sothoth, albeit indirectly, played a huge part in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward as well as The Dunwich Horror. In The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, written in early 1927, Yog-Sothoth is mentioned for the first time. His name is part of an incantation which Ward finds in writings of his ancestor Joseph Curwen.

Y’AI ‘NG’NGAH,
YOG-SOTHOTH
H’EE–L’GEB
F’AI THRODOG
UAAAH

As Ward reads more of these texts he begins to learn many of the ancient secrets which Curwen discovered and manipulated for his own purposes. Through the storyline of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, Lovecraft gives readers a rare glimpse into some of the real mechanics behind this particular god. So often in his stories, we are left to imagine most of the specifics. I will not go into these specifics here, as uncovering the details is a huge part of the suspense of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, and it’s my personal favorite of Lovecraft’s works. So I highly recommend anyone that hasn’t already read the story to give it a try! You will find this Cryo Chamber release to be the perfect background music for reading that particular novella.

While The Case of Charles Dexter Ward referred to Yog-Sothoth in the context of ancient knowledge, The Dunwich Horror gives the deity a more central role. Through a ritual performed by Old Man Whateley, Yog-Sothoth is able to father Whateley’s grandson, Wilbur Whateley. As the story progresses Lovecraft reveals the secrets kept in the Whateley household, and the tale ends in a brilliant climax which directly relates to Yog-Sothoth. Again, revealing much more of the plot would take all the fun out of it for readers that haven’t yet read The Dunwich Horror, so I will recommend that you also give this one a read!

Yog-Sothoth is the first Cryo Chamber album to be presented in a digibook format. This particular format gives Simon Heath (Atrium Carceri, Sabled Sun), who is responsible for the layout and artwork included, the opportunity to make a sort of recreation of an old tome like the one Ward discovers in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Heath has included in the booklet some excellent passages pulled directly from various works of H.P. Lovecraft, most prominently The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and the short but brilliant tale “The Other Gods”. The booklet is all the more impressive for Heath’s use of his own imagination in creating various diagrams, symbolic charts, and other tidbits of data which would likely have been found in Joseph Curwen’s ancient tomes.

From my first encounter with the latest Lovecraftian mega-collaboration, Yog-Sothoth, I felt a sense that things were a bit different this time around. I’ve had several shifts in my overall opinion of the album over the last few weeks as I’ve played and replayed Yog-Sothoth upwards of twenty times. The first thing that stands out is its seeming to lean in a lighter direction than the previous installments. There are ritual elements here, and nature driven field recordings which both add to the darker atmospheres of the release, but there are also a number of sections where the dronework seems to have a light-hearted, hopeful sort of feel to it. How these various elements are interpreted will likely be different for everyone, and others may find the same sense of discovery and rediscovery that I’ve found over many deep-listening sessions.

There are subtle clues throughout the two hours of soundscapes that point toward instances of Yog-Sothoth appearing in various Lovecraft tales. These subtle uses could easily be overlooked, which gives a tangible purpose for listening to the album multiple times before casting any definitive judgments. As a die-hard fan of dark ambient music, I’ve found over the years that my favorite releases tend to be the ones that take a little extra time to fully appreciate. Those that boldly present their full depth in the first listen, often give little reward for going back and re-listening time and time again.

Yog-Sothoth was created in a similar fashion to its predecessors: Cthulhu, Azathoth and Nyarlathotep. It is a collaboration of incredible depth. The process is done by each of the twenty artists presenting layers of sound, which are then used by other artists which edit and manipulate these original layers. In this way, it becomes basically impossible to say that any particular part of the album was done by a specific artist. One might hear an element which seems to clearly be sourced from Ugasanie, but the element in question would likely be one of many layers, sourced from a number of different artists, which are all then used by another artist before returning to Simon Heath where there would potentially be even more editing. Nevertheless, it can be fun to try and pinpoint various elements provided by specific artists and seeing how they fit into the grander scheme of the release. With all that said, this seems to be a very unique production process which I would say has likely not been used before by another set of artists. These Lovecraftian albums by Cryo Chamber really do fit into a category of their own.

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.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Page 2 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

%d bloggers like this: