Tag: Review (Page 1 of 16)

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

Ruptured World – Archeoplanetary – Review

Artist: Ruptured World
Album: Archeoplanetary
Release date: 2 July 2019
Label: Cryo Chamber
Reviewer: Michael Barnett

Tracklist:
01. Rituals of Attainment Through Time
02. The Revelations of the Cipher – Deciphering the Pictish Ogham
03. The Haven
04. Passages of Exposition
05. The Grim Repasts of Cullen Shores
06. The Enigma of St. John’s
07. The Aura of Drostan’s Well
08. Descent into the Underworld
09. The Portents of Crovie

Alistair Rennie, the man behind Ruptured World, was first introduced to the dark ambient community by Cryo Chamber with his debut album, Exoplanetary. He has now returned with the follow up, Archeoplanetary, which should be considered a prequel, in terms of the story’s time-line.

If you would like to find out more about Ruptured World and Alistair Rennie,  I highly recommend you check out our interview with him and our review of his previous album, Exoplanetary.

As on Exoplanetary, Rennie takes us back into his story of horrifying alien visitors to Earth. We follow Dr. Marcrae and the now-missing Dr. Tarknassus through their journey to discover the buried and forgotten secrets of Earth and the galaxy beyond. Borrowing heavily from the sort of cosmic horror present in the works of 1930s weird authors like H.P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton-Smith, Rennie hints at unspeakable cosmic horrors, alien races from far-flung corners of the galaxy, and the ancient texts of the ‘Pictish Ogham’ (in true weird fashion, creating his own sort of demonic text, similar to Lovecraft’s Necronomicon or Smith’s Book of Eibon).

Rennie illuminates the details of his story for us, through the use of found audio-tape recordings. These recordings are detailed documentation of Dr. Marian Tarknassus’ research from 5 years previous, before his untimely disappearance. As such, we experience Archeoplanetary through the vessel of Dr. Archibald Macrae, as he begins to piece together the story of his mentor’s disappearance, and the horrifying realities Tarknassus had uncovered.

Gentle drones and atmospheric soundscapes, along with the occasional melancholic piano, gently transport us from tape-recording to tape-recording. Along the way we are able to be instilled with a sense of awe, fear and general insignificance. Much in the same fashion of God Body Disconnect, Ruptured World is able to use the dark ambient soundscapes to perfectly sculpt the emotions of the listener. As we move from one narrative into the next, we are naturally transitioning between emotions.

Upon discovery of each tape, we are given a beautifully crafted moment. We can hear Dr. Marcrae pressing play, rewinding back to re-listen. We can feel his hopelessness as he progresses, likely realizing he’ll never see his mentor again. But also realizing, that we are far from alone in this universe, and possibly even on this planet. While it’s certainly not so, I like to think of albums like this one as side-stories to the stuff of Sabled Sun, as if this were yet another story, of another survivor, on another world. And, while the dark ambient soundscapes themselves might not be quite on the level of Simon Heath’s Sabled Sun (not to say they aren’t great, just not on par with the master!), the “found tape recordings” are dark ambient gold. The way Alistair Rennie conjures this voice and delivery-style feels like it’s straight out of a classic (1950s-’60s) horror/sci-fi film.

For me, Ruptured World is the sort of artist you want to share with your “normal” friends. While they may not immediately dig an hour of drones, they might be more inclined to sit down to a narrated story with first-class voice acting. For more seasoned dark ambient listeners, you’ll likely find the attention to detail on these recordings to be as utterly exquisite as I have. The music itself is above average, at the very least.

I would recommend picking up a physical copy of this one, if you have the means. Or even better, the 2 CD bundle, which also includes Exoplanetary. The reason being that both albums are connected in theme/story. But more so, because there is such attention to detail on these albums, one deserves to get the full experience, which includes the booklets from both albums that are full of images and information about these beings and places described by Rennie.

Excerpt from Archeoplanetary booklet.

Ruptured World is one of my favorite projects on Cryo Chamber in recent years. I have found myself returning to both these albums quite frequently, especially Archeoplanetary. If you are a fan of the Lovecraftian series through Cryo Chamber or weird fiction / cosmic horror, in general, I think you will love this project as much as I do. I will be waiting patiently to see if Rennie will continue to reveal more details about this story-line, or if he will travel into uncharted territory on his next release. In the meantime, we have a gem!

Don’t forget to check out our interview with Alistair!

Written by: Michael Barnett

In Quantum – Memory 417 – Review

Artist: In Quantum
Album: Memory 417
Release date: 23 July 2019
Label: Cryo Chamber
Reviewer: James Gardner

 

Here is a list: Ruptured World, a Dronny Darko collaboration with RNGMNN (who, it turns out, has been knocking out music for nearly two decades under various monikers), God Body Disconnect, Sphäre Sechs, Alphaxone, Metatron Omega, Ager Sonus, Flowers for Bodysnatchers, a collaboration between Ugasanie and Dronny Darko (again), Mount Shrine, Tomb of Ordeals and Dead Melodies.

What is it? It is a list of releases Cryo Chamber has put out in 2019 alone, alongside its annual ‘Dark Ambient of…’ installment for the previous year. The sheer range of styles is impressive too; compare Alphaxone and Metatron Omega, or any other two artists from the list above, and then make the oft-uttered claim that dark ambient is repetitive. The point I am making is that Cryo Chamber is probably the single most important label in the dark ambient universe. Certainly, the frequency and regularity of releases is surprising, but even more so when you consider the exceptional quality control and attention to detail for which label boss Simon Heath is famous.

On to this album then – Memory 417 by In Quantum. This is something of a rarity in that it appears to be the work of a brand new, hitherto unknown artist: one Eric Peterson. There are multiple Eric Petersons listed on Discogs, probably the most famous of whom is the founder of thrash metallers Testament. I doubt this is the same guy, but it would be very cool if it was. A new artist on the label is always intriguing because of the unknown quantity they represent; therefore, my ritual of pre-ordering and listening to the pre-release tracks was even more exciting than usual. The Cryo Chamber blurb was enticing too:

From the website:

This Cyberpunk Ambient album from In Quantum takes you to the mega cities of the future.

“Early Spring 2074
Some say the old days were different. Before cybernetics and the transhumanist revolution. Before the megacorps bought us and our nations, our hopes and our dreams. People back then did not live, work, eat and sleep their lives away within the towering megacorp arcologies. These days only the lucky do so.

Before the megacorps developed the semantic networks, there were us – soulless prototypes with imprinted memories and so cybernetically enhanced that we verge ever on cyber-psychosis. Due to our post-human DNA, programmed for resilience, we work and live in areas where Humans cannot – like Sector 417. A quarantined and irradiated zone where we protect and maintain the filtration, power and sewage systems of the Mega-City. The nuclear fallout from the conflicts of the 50’s is mostly cleaned up thanks to us, though you would never know it.

Water is scarce, and the first war over it is already brewing. We see, but lack the capacity to care. The word Humanity now feels on the tongue like some long-lost dream. A vision of freedom and serenity, turned to coarse sand on our pallets.

We see the riots from up here, red smoke and gunfire as anti-transhumanist chants peal through the city. Humans that are disenfranchised, without value in a new world where semantic networks connect the soulless, making them smarter and more effective. What is a single brain compared to thousands? Sometime recently we diverged from the evolutionary path of the many, and now seem land-locked into evolving into a single mind. A single mind at war with itself and all of creation. A single mind ready to disembowel itself to cut the cancer out.

To cut us out.”

Warm analogue bass, textural soundspaces and cinematic build ups combine for a unique look into the future of mankind.

However, this could be as interesting as it likes and it would not get read again, were the music not also really, really interesting. Luckily it is. The first track, ‘Anno MMLXXIV’, opens with a horrible groan and a distorted drone reminiscent of Dronny Darko’s terrifying Cryo Chamber debut, Outer Tehom. From then on in, the listener is treated to a lot – soaring synths, increasingly desperate spoken word passages, sub-bass, dark beats, weird arpeggios, sonic booms and the general sense that this is not the work of an inexperienced, new composer. It is assured and confident and refuses to stay safely within the confines of one sub-genre. It has the experimental nature of someone with enough behind them to take risks and also the expertise to pull it off in a way that makes you think ‘what was that!?’ at the same time as feeling that it all fits together seamlessly.

There are still some familiarities to hang on to – the aforementioned Dronny Darko and Sabled Sun to name a couple, but this is, more than anything else, a work that is absolutely bursting at the seams with originality. It is not background music; it requires concentration and repeated listening in order to be fully appreciated. It also reflects the story promised by the description above. The beginning is full of anticipation and it moves to a frantic middle before dropping into a despondent, moribund ending. It is, in short, fantastic.

I have bought all of Cryo Chamber’s releases so far this year and this is the best of the bunch, in my humble opinion. It is varied, wholly original and, what is more, would serve as a perfect introduction to the genre for the uninitiated. It also seems to be representative of Cryo Chamber in 2019 – varied and ultimately ready to break new ground whilst remaining true to its roots. More from In Quantum would be warmly welcomed – I suspect Eric Peterson is only just getting started.

*A quick note on the Sabled Sun connection – the story as detailed on the website suggests a possible link to Sabled Sun’s 21xx universe. This is uncannily similar to the link between Dronny Darko (yet again!) and protoU’s superb collaboration album Earth Songs and the aforementioned creation of Simon Heath. If so, this album would sit, rather interestingly, between tracks 6 and 7 (‘Singularity [2045 AD]’ and ‘Leaving Earth [2135 AD]’) of that Earth Songs album. This is borne out by the date given for this album, being “Early Spring 2074”. I’ll just leave that there…

Written by: James Gardner

Old Sorcery – Strange and Eternal – Review

Artist: Old Sorcery
Album: Strange and Eternal
Release date: 19 April 2019
Label: Garavluth Records
Reviewer: Matteo Brusa

Tracklist:
01. The Crystal Funeral
02. Fimbrethil
03. A Moss Covered Grimoire
04. Tears of a Dying Star
05. Tulessa Uinuva Kuningas

You put a spell on me

Hailing from Finland, Old Sorcery is a well known name in the current dungeon synth scene; its acclaimed debut Realms of Magickal Sorrow, an album which combined an old school approach with retro electronic music, drawing influences from the Berlin School, early ambient and trance (not the first of its kind – think of Grimrik‘s Die Mauern der Nacht – but still played out in a personal and engaging style), came out of nowhere in late 2017 and has since been released on tape, vinyl and CD by Garavluth Records, becoming a modern classic. After moving on towards a split with fellow Finnish act Haxan Dreams and an EP, both subtly adding ingredients to the formula, Old Sorcery seems to reach true mastery of spells with its sophomore full-length Strange and eternal.

Besides the extremely scarce liner notes, the first impression about the album comes from the monochrome, almost naively styled cover art by Sadist Stalker, depicting a castle in a vale. Fortunately, this is the only cliché Vechi Vrăjitor, the man behind Old Sorcery, chooses to indulge in, as the 11 minute long opener “The Crystal Funeral” immediately sets the bar pretty high: it is a masterfully written cinematic piece of music carrying an ambient, almost new-age-like feel, slowly evolving towards an epic buildup and finale, which wouldn’t sound out of place in Jim Kirkwood’s (maybe even in David Arkenstone’s) catalog. This stellar introduction is followed by the much shorter and concise “Fimbrethil”; based on a catchy keyboard riff and a simple structure, it showcases a more song-oriented side of Old Sorcery’s style. A trait which immediately catches the ear is the amount of care put in small details; the sound is built over layers of lush pads, dreamy synthetic leads, arpeggiated plucks and classic sampled orchestral instruments, each taking a carefully fleshed out role in the arrangement, never getting too dense and never over-playing each other; electronic music elements are subtly and tastefully employed to enhance the overall feel of the music, as shown on both the aforementioned first track and the hauntingly beautiful, evocative “A moss covered grimoire”, blooming with ambient flourishes over gorgeously deep pads and pulsating synths. The 15 minutes long final piece “Tulessa Uinuva Kuningas” (“The king sleeping in fire”) begins with a synthetic windy soundscape before turning into a dark, atmospheric and arcane sounding take on old school dungeon synth. While there are almost unintelligible vocals buried in the mix throughout the album, this specific track stands out among others because it features a very clean and forward-mixed recording of a poem written and recited with emphasis by Visa “Sikagowitch” Tikka, which perfectly complements the music, giving off a strongly epic and ritualistic feel.

“Strange and eternal” is a pretty fitting description to this album; the music is consistently excellent, written in the spirit of old school masters but with a creative flair, and it has an eerie, otherworldly and timeless quality, characters which sit well along with the genre’s tradition. This is a highly recommended listen; be sure to grab a tape or Digipack-CD copy from Garavluth before they run out.

Written by: Matteo Brusa

Bellkeeper – The First Flame of Lordran – Review

Editor’s note: As I continue to fight my way out of an unexpected and heavy depression, we luckily have Matteo keeping things rolling!  Here is his latest dungeon synth review! Enjoy and expect me (Michael) to be back to normal soon!

Artist: Bellkeeper
Album: The First Flame of Lordran
Release date: 6 February 2019
Label: Dungeons Deep Records

Not quite the first, but still hot

“In the Age of Ancients, the world was unformed, shrouded by fog. A land of grey crags, archtrees, and everlasting dragons. But then there was Fire and with Fire came Disparity. Heat and cold, life and death, and of course… Light and Dark. Then, from the Dark, They came and found the Souls of Lords within the flame. Nito, the first of the dead. The Witch of Izalith, and her daughters of chaos. Gwyn, the Lord of Sunlight, and his faithful knights. And the furtive pygmy, so easily forgotten. With the Strength of Lords, they challenged the dragons. Gwyn’s mighty bolts peeled apart their stone scales. The witches weaved great firestorms. Nito unleashed a miasma of death and disease. And Seath the Scaleless betrayed his own, and the dragons were no more. Thus began the Age of Fire. But soon, the flames will fade, and only Dark will remain. Even now, there are only embers, and man sees not light, but only endless nights. And amongst the living are seen, carriers of the accursed Darksign.”

Does anything of this sound familiar? Readers who are into role-playing videogames will instantly recognize it as the prologue of Dark Souls, one of the most acclaimed games of recent years, which constitutes the setting and premise for Bellkeeper‘s The First Flame of Lordran. I’m usually a bit wary in approaching RPG-based Dungeon Synth, which too often ends up coming off as a cheap soundtrack to shallow concepts, but what we have here is a far more inspired and charming affair. Within its short 28 minutes of length, Bellkeeper‘s debut manages to capture the spirit and feel of classic Dungeon Synth with enough variety and skill to avoid sounding like a mere imitation. While the sonic department is built upon rather usual fare, with the ubiquitous mix of synthetic and sampled orchestral sounds dominating the music (a very nice sounding pipe organ and bells being the most welcomed exceptions), the quality of compositions is top notch: through a skillful combination of repetition, layering and dynamics, each track succeeds in engaging the listener by recreating the atmosphere and moods of its source material, ranging from sinister and ominous to dark and majestic to decadently epic, evoking vivid imagery and creating a strong feeling of motion, which could connect with the protagonist’s quest. There is no real standout track or well-rounded album structure; the music finishes as abruptly as it kicks in in the beginning, more like painting a picture rather than telling a story; this sort of rawness, while perfectly adequate for the genre, makes the album, as a whole, sound a bit unfinished and lacking a proper closure, a minor flaw which doesn’t detract too much from the immersive listening experience, though.

To sum it up, The First Flame of Lordran is a powerful debut which can hold its own among peers in the scene, and will surely appeal to fans of raw sounding, yet well composed and imaginative old school Dungeon Synth. There is still plenty of material in the Dark Souls saga for Bellkeeper to write about, so we can only wait in excitement until the next chapter.

Written by: Matteo Brusa

Isegrimm – Ik Gihorta Dat Seggen – Review

Editor’s Note: We are very pleased to share with you the second review from the talented Matteo Brusa!  If you want to be notified of all our posts, be sure to sign up for email notifications, found in the right panel of the webpage (just scroll down and look to your right). Facebook is worthless for promotion these days and there aren’t a lot of other alternatives, so please consider signing up!

Artist: Isegrimm
Album: Ik Gihorta Dat Seggen
Release date: 18 January 2019
Label: Dark Age Productions
Reviewer: Matteo Brusa


This is what I heard, and it will blow you away

In the vast and mostly featureless landscape of contemporary Dungeon Synth, Isegrimm stands like a massive, towering fortress, one where travelers who dare to cross its path can always be sure to find a safe haven. Now reaching its third installment (plus a split with Irish fellow dungeoneer Argonath), Max Berger’s project has established itself as one of the most engaging and recognizable acts in the current scene, and Ik Gihorta Dat Seggen further consolidates its status.

As titles suggest, the album draws its inspiration from the poem Hildebrandslied, the only surviving written example of High German winileod (epic “folk song”) from the early Middle Ages. For those unfamiliar with the subject matter, the “Song of Hildebrand” (“Ik Gihorta Dat Seggen” being the first verse, roughly meaning “This is what I heard”) narrates of a father and son destined to fight each other to death, a recurring theme in Indo-European mythology: in the war between Theoderic king of the Ostrogoths and Odoacer king of Italy, two champions, named Hildebrand and Hadubrand, meet on the battlefield to engage in duel; Hildebrand, the eldest, soon realizes he is facing his long lost son and tries to reconcile with him, being rebuffed by Hadubrand. Bound by the ancient Germanic warrior code, he can’t reject the duel, so they begin to fight, Hildebrand lamenting his sorrowful fate. The manuscript ends here, but likely, as occurring in all other examples of the trope in European literature, the original poem would finish with Hildebrand prevailing and killing his own son, an outcome accordingly stated in the album’s final song “Hadubrantes Todliod” (“The death song of Hadubrand”).

With the aid of a number of guests, including Matt Seeb of the acclaimed Hedge Wizard, Daithí O’Mathúna of Argonath and Italian singers Paolo Ferrante and Chiara Gangemi from the experimental vocal act The Voices, Max Berger manages to create an outstandingly evocative and engaging soundtrack to such an epic and tragic tale. “Medieval ambient” could be the perfect description for the sound and feel of Ik Gihorta Dat Seggen: a sustained note introduces the listener to a masterful sonic representation of early Middle Ages Europe, which slowly unfolds through a variety of different atmospheres and moods, providing for an astonishingly immersive experience, greatly enhanced by Alex Crispin’s crisp (no pun intended) and polished mastering work. Arrangements are rich and dynamic, ranging from dense synthetic orchestral passages to quieter and sparser ambient sections; there is tribal chanting and drumming, full-on sampled horns heroically blowing, synthetic pads delicately weaving backdrops for piano and sampled woodwinds flourishes, and more. While the compositional style is mainly based on repetition and layering as is common in Dungeon Synth tradition, the use of vocals and percussions throughout makes this album really stand out: the vocals specifically are a highlight, adding a strong human presence and often taking the lead with choirs and chanting, giving off at times a distinct ethnic feel, at times evoking sacrality. Track number six, “Wettu Irmingot” (“God the Excellent testify”) is perhaps the most brilliant example: through juxtaposition of obsessive percussions with skillfully written, arranged and performed intertwining vocal parts, it manages to sound like a Gothic (literally) version of Enigma, yet in a way not so far removed from certain neoclassical darkwave (early Weltenbrand also comes to mind). Almost each song could stand as well on its own, but in the album’s context, they seamlessly fit together and complement each other, creating a very cohesive and tight opus. Even the closing track, which is kind of an oddball, being a slow atmospheric metal song with guitar, bass and drums, doesn’t sound out of place at all: on the contrary, it perfectly sits within the flow of the album, concluding it with a captivating change of pace.

By combining old school Dungeon Synth with progressive elements, Ik Gihorta Dat Seggen undoubtedly turns out to be Isegrimm‘s masterpiece, an album deserving widespread praise and recognition in the scene as an example of keeping things fresh while maintaining a strong connection with the genre’s roots and spirit.

Written by: Matteo Brusa

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