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 Melodies‘ Legends 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.
Written by: Michael Barnett