Tag: Review (Page 1 of 16)

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

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

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