Dark Music Review – Metropolis
Written By Casey Douglass
Locked out from the Illusion, this album takes place entirely in our former home. The darkened sky and gargantuan citadels line the horizon as the endless city, we once ruled as gods, stretches as far as the eye can see. Crossing the sea of the dead in search for a Beacon of Light that can lead the expedition to uncover the truth about the factions in control, what happened to the long lost architect and how to open a portal back into the colorful illusion the ignorant call home.This 11 track Atrium Carceri album is closely connected to The Untold and sheds more light unto what goes on in the Atrium Carceri universe and the Metropois in particular. An industrial, dark, distorted and cinematic experience unlike any other with amazing attention to detail and subtle layering, this album begs for repeated listening to take it all in.
Well, with an album blurb like that, what more can I possibly say? Fans of Atrium Carceri will already be well aware of the kind of audio experience on offer and if you have yet to hear any of Atrium Carceri’s soundscapes, don’t worry, you are on the path to salvation, if you will only keep on reading (and actually go that extra step and visit the Metropolis link at the bottom of this review).
Metropolis is an album that features rich soundscapes that revel in bestowing on the listener scenes and impressions from other places and realms. This is the reason why I enjoy the dark ambient genre so much and Metropolis is a very good example of what I feel are the strengths of the genre. Of course, if you don’t like dark things, it won’t be for you, but if you do, read on.
The Gargantuan Tower
An ominous drone with wind-like properties is joined by a flare of sound with subtle whisper-like elements, like ghosts attracted to the living or moths to a flame in the darkness. The sounds of footsteps accompanied by a spoken narrative sets the scene, with talk of being trapped for a long time. The track ends quietly, the soundscape cleansed for what comes next.
The Dark Mother
Gentle piano mingles with the sounds of rubble shifting and resonating tones and tinkling notes that shimmer in the air, painting pictures of dark architecture and abandoned spaces. When the beat joins, the piano distorts, the audio equivalent of a fairground mirror warping the person’s reflection, the beat itself a deeper tone that punches its way through the melodies around it, falling away now and then to reveal the sounds of movement in the darkness.
Across the Sea of the Dead
A muffled rumbling drone sits under the sound of dripping water and swamp noises, chirruping and croaking, the soundscape thick with the promise of stench and oppressively humid air. A wind noise does suggest itself but it feels more like a death rattle, hot and prolonged, like being in the belly of beast that is slowly fading away. The cry of a bird pierces the soundscape at about the half way point, the “wind” bellowing in reaction. Other notes only occur in the last 1/3 of the track, a journey from one shore to another the journey undertaken.
Sounds of movement and a pulsing sound are soon joined by a deeper tone and lighter melody. A drone joins and distorts. Sounds like a music box soon follow, the notes hanging eerily in the air before being joined by similar notes. To me, this track suggested someone searching a derelict place, looking for something but at the same time, hiding from the things looking for them.
An almost fanfare-like note starts this track, sounds of furtive movement hidden by its echoing distortions. It sounds very much like the mockery of a national anthem, something that should be all pomp and glory but now resonating over a dead city, the sound as twisted as the skeletal remains of the black buildings it reflects from. Lighter chiming joins at the midpoint, maybe suggesting some faerie fire, Wil-O’-the-Wisp type pixie light come to cry over the dead.
A quite harsh drone rises and fades, a subdued beat and higher sounds adding to the mix. They take on a high pitched female singing voice, to me at least, like angels singing a long way away, before the drone quells them once more. The drone itself is like the rumbling of a spaceship taking off, crackling heat and joined by definite vocals along for the ride.
Dripping water and spoken words about distant lands and not being saved are backed by a drone that is soon met with a deep tone that drags the mind down into the despair of the speaker. Harsher tones join it as it ends with a “plink”. The sound has a sharper edge as the track continues. Things die down with a slightly warmer drone near the end, melancholy vying with the dripping water for saturation.
A dual-tone begins this track with high-pitched and droning elements rubbing against each other. A pulsing low-pitched rhythm begins, higher notes playing like some kind of down-tuned alarm signal. If the listener is ever able to roam the dark streets of a steampunk city with rusting robots patrolling the cobbles and belching steam, this is the soundtrack that fits that scenario.
Heart of the Metropolis
A very deep drone that rises in pitch begins this track, a deep pulsing bass sound injecting a feeling of threat and claustrophobia to proceedings. Lighter notes do add some highlighting to the soundscape but this is a maudlin track that just seems to ooze between the ears. The latter part of the track features a sound like a crow slowly being strangled, but slowed down to less shrill levels.
The Cowled Seers
Clear notes sound in a lighter space, the odd eerie rumbling and whooshing of wind making things seem more whimsical than fearful. The wind sound undulates and is joined by lone piano chords, time slows and forces are corralled. The piano notes are joined by others later as a melody emerges, delicate and poignant.
A low drone punctuated with metallic rattlings and deep booming noises. The sound is jarring and creaking, the almost clockwork-like squeaks suggesting the titular machine is coming to life, aware of the attention of the listener and not best pleased to say the least. Choral vocals add to this effect, like the rising of Lucifer or of some great creature. The music twists and a darker choir is seemingly joined by more bestial roars as things begin to shift. String notes join the soundscape as what sounds like the hiss of steam erupts from the dark machine, the music swelling around the expulsions.
Metropolis is a textured album that brings so many of the thing I enjoy about Atrium Carceri’s work to the composition of the tracks; from the eldritch rumblings and drones to the ambient sounds that fill the soundscapes with life (or un-life). Particular tracks that I might label as favourites were Decrepit City and Industrial District, the first for its corrupted feeling of majesty, the second for its slight steampunk associations for me. I also particularly enjoyed Across the Sea of the Dead for the way it managed to merge the stifling atmosphere of a swamp-like scene with the chill of a ghostly journey.
I give Metropolis 4.5/5 as it has nearly all the elements I enjoy from dark ambient music, produced in a high quality and textured way that really transports me to places you just don’t find in any travel brochure.
Visit the Metropolis Bandcamp page here for more info.
I was given a free copy of the album to review.
Album Title: Metropolis
Artist: Atrium Carceri
Label: Cryo Chamber
Written, Produced, Artwork and Mastering by: Simon Heath
Released : 9 June 2015