Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Dark Music Review – Onyx

Dark Music Review – Onyx

Review Written By Casey Douglass



3 veteran producers in the genre, Apocryphos, Kammarheit & Atrium Carceri, collaborate on this behemoth of an album. Each utilizing each others strengths to bring forth a dark and emotional ride through distant memories.

Onyx is a soundscape journey related to the reflection of dispirited memories and obscure sorrows felt by mankind. With the multitude of techniques used by each artist, it also reflects the rich history of the dark ambient genre and how it has progressed through the decades.

The signature analogue darkness of gargantuan caves of Kammarheit is combined with the sacral and emotional layering of Apocryphos and the rhythmical bass throbbing and isolated pianos of Atrium Carceri. This album was created by cross linking 3 studios in Oregon (US), Pennsylvania (US) and Umeå (Sweden). It took over 3800 lines of studio notes to finalize the album.

3800 lines of studio notes sounds like a heck of a lot of collaborating to me and it has certainly paid off with Onyx, a dark ambient album that is the perfect home for the atmospheric tracks nestling in its bosom. Each track fits in snugly with the others and all together, they serve to create an emotive and sinister soundscape that is a pleasure to listen to.


The Tracks

Immemorial – A muted rain-like sound is joined by a heartbeat-like beat and cold piano notes that give the impression of sound-waves resonating back to the listener from lichen-covered tombstones.

Ones Atop the Unknown – A repeating distant melody with reedy swells of sound and a reactive drone that seems to embrace and amplify the effect. It conjures a feeling of being stuck at midnight in a musty study as the embers in the fire place slowly wink out, darkness and the hot air mingling as the moon watches on through condensated window panes.

Night So Close to the Tongue – Another track that feels muggy and close, strings and chimes playing in a phantasmal room of mourning, creating a bitter feeling of melancholy.

A Lonely Strain – A dark echoing space populated with delicate notes that hang in the air against harsher vibrations and swells. Brings to mind what it might be like to watch a lone will o’ the wisp floating through a desolate cave network.

Aphotic – Eerie metallic resonances are joined by a fast paced repeating rhythm, a lot like a clock running far too fast. This lends the whole track a kinetic feeling of dark energy, the other aural elements, such as vocals and drones all underpinning things in a great sounding soundscape that expertly carries its own momentum.

Cavern of Igneous Flame – This is an aptly named track, the opening sounds giving a great impression of a flame-filled cavern, but with the added bonus of the possibility of some creature dwelling at the back, the impression of massive lungs breathing adding an ominous flavour to the soundscape.

Onyx – Delicate strings and a light drone create a mournful feeling before being joined by a pleasing beat that carries everything along. In places the track sounds like a hive of industrious bees before a melody change just after the midpoint where a few more notes come into play.

A Pale Sign Revealed – Rattling and vibrating notes dance with strings and higher tones in a slow-paced soundscape that haunts and escalates into another melancholy swirl of mist-like emotion. The gentle guitar melody is really rather nice too.

Avenoir – A similar track to the first, muted rain and cold piano notes providing a great shortish track to play out the end of the album, giving the ghosts previously conjured a nice soundtrack to walk home to.


Thoughts

It has taken me a long time to review Onyx, in no small part because my first exposures to the tracks often left me drifting off to sleep. That is in no way a criticism, I was feeling more unwell than usual and Onyx is a particularly mellow dark ambient creation. Staying awake, of course, gave me a far better understanding of what was going on.

As I have said in some of my track analysis, a good number of the tracks create claustrophobic, muggy feelings, placing the listener in a calm environment, but one that seems pregnant with possibility. I could definitely see myself listening to Onyx looking out through a frost-tinged window as night rolls in. It has that kind of cold beauty to it.

I give Onyx 4.5/5, the track composition and bitter soundscapes a great accompaniment for quiet introspection, or sleep in my case.

Visit the Onyx page on Bandcamp at this link for more information and check out one of the tracks below:

I was given a free copy of the album to review.

Album Title: Onyx
Album Artists: Simon Heath, Robert Kozletsky, Pär Boström
Label: Cryo Chamber
Artwork: Simon Heath, Pär Boström
Mastering: Simon Heath
Release Date : 8 September 2015


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