Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Taibhsear

Dark Ambient Review: Taibhsear


Review by Casey Douglass



Taibhsear

Taibhsear is a dark ambient album from the Scottish Borders-based ElectronicDeathBlackDogs. The album description describes it as a collection of dismal visions, and explains that Taibhsear is the Scots Gaelic name for some kind of mystic or seer. The tracks are the Taisbean, or visions, and are numbered as such. I guess it’s little wonder that, upon listening to it, my mind took me on flights of fancy that contained dark woodlands, strange magick and cackling witches.

Taibhsear, for me, was an album containing sounds that brought about the bleak tang of medieval squalor. My mind furnished me with recollections of the Kevin Costner Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves film, particularly the sinister witch that I'll admit I found quite scary, watching it as a ten year old in the early 90s. Not as scary as the companion Bryan Adams love song that infested the airwaves for what felt like forever, but that’s a different story. What Taibhsear brought back for me, was the mud, the squalor, the brutality and the harshness of the film’s setting.

For me, the five tracks (there is also a continuous mix as track six) painted the picture of one location but across different periods in history, my own little mental narrative depicting people first settling there, then a witch taking up residence in the woods, getting attacked, taking her revenge and finally, a war breaking out. This last impression was formed by the machine-gun like sounds punching their way at intervals, through track five’s soundscape, hinting at time having moved on.

I noted “Witch attacked?” in my notes to track two, which is where the “witchiness” began for me. The track opens with a low boiling buzz, high tones dancing around above it. There is the beat of a drum and a creaking noise, like an arrow hitting its mark and splintering wood. The sound of tortured strings vibrates in the air. Distant metallic clattering vies with a windy static-like sound, higher tones blaring and shimmering at the top of things. An arrow impacts and judders again, a yell close on its heels. The track ends with a squeaky tone that begins to cut through the listener’s ears, before things settle once more. Maybe this track is the witch taking up residence in her hovel, the locals firing at it as they hunt to keep her at bay? I’d like to think so.

If the previous track is the witch being attacked, the next one, for me, was her fighting back. Cawing birds and the sound of the wind gets things going, alongside a deep bass tone and dead leaf rustling. A swelling tone begins, and what sounds like distant voices can be heard. There are moments of breathing in this track, sounds similar to a massive inhalation or a prolonged sigh. It’s insidious and watchful, and I really enjoyed that. A woman’s voice gasping a “hah” can be heard too, maybe as the witch draws a blade across her palm for some magickal mischief. Later, a more vigorous “hah” sounds, followed by a crash and the sound of cascading wood. Slow string notes inject an oppressive feeling to things, like a mist that hangs around all day but never lifts. This is a brooding, eventful track, and one full of threat.

The final track that I'll describe is track four, as in this track, for me, the witch got her revenge on the yokels foolish enough to pester her. This track begins with a rushing sound accompanied by jittery high notes. Voices roam in the listener’s ears, ghostly and half-formed. A sacral chant simmers beneath everything, with echoes and a blaring horn-like tone appearing later. A crying sound can be heard, like that of someone in pain, wondering why no one will help them. Whispers chunter at the edges, and a deep impact sounds. As the track continues, the crying/moaning voice seems to become more bestial, more animal, a snort escaping pained lips. I think the witch is turning someone into a pig, or something far worse. I loved this track.

Taibhsear certainly lived up to its album description and delivered some intriguingly dismal visions. While your mind might not go down the same path that mine did, the general ominous feeling it captures, and the brooding nature of the soundscapes will almost certainly unlock some equally dark impressions for you.

Visit the Taibhsear page on Bandcamp for more information.


I was given access to a review copy of this album.


Album Title: Taibhsear

Album Artist: ElectronicDeathBlackDogs

Released: 6 Feb 2021

Thursday, 18 February 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Shapeshifter

Dark Ambient Review: Shapeshifter


Review by Casey Douglass



Shapeshifter
Album Cover

At one point or another, who hasn’t wanted to turn into someone, or something, else? I know I’ve wanted to, many many times. Something more powerful, less afraid, more capable. Kehseverin’s dark ambient album Shapeshifter seems to be the soundtrack for just such a change, the track names hinting at some kind of werewolf skin-shedding going on.

The first track, Bitter Root, caused me to think about someone watching TV and getting high. Maybe this person isn’t even looking for a “change”, but just wants the discomfort or the pain of life to go away for awhile. The track opens with a kind of cacophonous, channel-jumping feel, a droning tone coming along for the ride. A piercing metallic tone also emerges, the soundscape seeming to swell and loom as the listener hears snatches of TV voices. A little later, a blaring horn-like tone sounds and a low hum begins. The soundscape seems to shimmer and to fill with a bouncing fuzz. Near the end, a static-like rain falls and things start to feel lighter, like the change has already taken place and things already feel a little bit better for it.

Next up comes Lycanthropy, a track that seems to further cement the transformation that has occurred. It begins with small crackles and a bassy drone. An echoing space opens up, and a very faint chant-like tone seems to suggest itself in the far distance. A pregnant pulsing tone begins, joined by an expanding electronic melody with bouncing notes and jaunty, retro-horror energy. A buzzing shimmer floats in the air. At this point the soundscape feels quite discordant and brooding. In the second half of the track, as things come to a close, a wind or crowd-noise sound can be heard, a quiet melody echoing away too. For me, this either meant that the TV watcher was still high and out of their mind with sport on the TV, or they’d ventured into the woods to run and to hunt and to do bestial things.

The final track is Overlapping Consciousness. This track really did seem to suggest an outdoor space. It opens with wind, knocking trees and gritty flowing water or rain. All of these familiar sounds are manipulated into an echoey, strange-sounding version of themselves. There is an insect-like buzz, bird chirping and a deep vibrating tone. The “outside” feel of this track persists throughout, and it makes me wonder where the newly transformed person is going. A morose melody begins near the midpoint, before the sounds of nature re-emerge more strongly again towards the end. Maybe the wanderer is revelling in the feeling and the sensing of everything, even what the creatures of the landscape are feeling and seeing. It’s a great track, one where the everyday sounds of nature sound so amplified and sinister.

Shapeshifter is a brief dark ambient album, and while this adds to its punch, I would have been equally happy if it contained a few more tracks to enjoy. It is an album full of vibrating atmospheres and a strange malevolence, a soundtrack to the otherworldly in a rare instance when it encroaches on this reality. I like how it seemed to anchor stuff in the mundanity of the everyday, and then warped it into something that would be great fodder for an 80s horror flick.

Visit the Shapeshifter page on Bandcamp for more information.


I was given access to a review copy of this album.


Album Title: Shapeshifter

Album Artist: Kehseverin

Label: VOIDSOUNDLTD

Released: 2 Feb 2021

Sunday, 14 February 2021

Dark Ambient Review: 666 Minutes in Hell

Dark Ambient Review: 666 Minutes in Hell


Review by Casey Douglass




666 Minutes in Hell

Hell and its denizens inspire so much in the creative sphere, that if you aren’t devoutly religious and fearful of the very concept, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to hellish novels, films, games and music. When dark ambient music takes Hell as its muse however, it’s a match made in Heaven. BlackWeald’s 666 Minutes in Hell is a mammoth slab of hellish goodness, one that takes the listener through the moment of death and the grave, and leads them along dark hallways to the chasms of the pit.

666 Minutes in Hell is eleven hours long. It’s the longest album I’ve ever listened to, let alone attempted to review. Some of the tracks are longer than an entire dark ambient album. I listened to it an hour or so at a time, and made notes on which tracks really tweaked my devil horns. If you take a broad overview of the album, there are copious amounts of dark, rumbling spaces, demonic sounds, chanting and other grim melodies, plucked on forlorn guitars or the keys of a piano. It’s both eclectic and familiar, and carries the feeling of brimstone, despair and damnation.

The first track that made me think “Wow” was the second one: A Cold Funeral. It opens with peaceful vocals and a hint of wind. Then come the sounds of activity and impacts, and a song that seems closer to the listener. An insect-like whine and the sounds of night merge with movements of soil and digging, of wood scraping and the world outside being shut out. A woman’s sobbing can be heard, footsteps walking around. A thunderous storm begins, mellow piano notes and a hollow wind. This track is basically the listener being buried.

The next track: Coffin Snatcher, sees things escalate. A creaking sound punctuates a droning, whirling soundscape, whispers impinging on the edge of the soundscape, echoing footsteps walking on stone floors. A guttural demonic voice detonates in the distance, and a chugging seeps into the awareness. At one point, a vibration begins, like massive steel cables blowing and resonating in the wind. This track creates a rasping, sinister soundscape, making the listener feel like they are at the edge of something nasty, something that is in the next room or the next corridor. One step closer to Hell.

My favourite track was As One Great Furnace, Flamed. It opens with the crackling of wood in a fire, the puttering flames sending a nice bassy flapping into the air. A distant demonic voice chunters to something unseen, and later, far away squeaks and sounds of activity filter through the flames. The track is 30 minutes long, which is a brilliant length of time for the listener’s mind to be lulled into a cosy stupor, wondering if it really is hearing haunting vocals in some other hallway. The golden glow of the mental flames makes everything else seem so much darker by comparison.

Dragged into the Maelstrom is track number thirty eight, and is another fine soundscape that benefits from its length, lasting almost fifty minutes. It’s a space that seems hollow and cavernous, a windy drone and rumbling bass again lulling the mind. It changes subtly over time, a warbling/pulsing slipping in at one point, a variation in the drone at others, a delving into ever deeper bass tones and melodies later still. This isn’t a dramatic “demons and despair” track, but one that depicts an insidious darkness, a darkness at the edge of an abyss of black infinity. Great to meditate or doze too, in my opinion.

666 Minutes in Hell is an epic dark ambient album, one that, for me, contained just the right kind of awe-inspiring, sinister soundscapes. Some tracks were pleasingly field-recording heavy and really set the scene. Others used voices to great effect, such as a preacher’s sermon in the track Into The Bottomless Pit. Some featured those grim melodies that I mentioned in the early part of this review, such as the echoing guitar melodies that can be found in track the Wrath Harvest. The majority however, fell into the category that I most enjoyed: drones, demonic sounds and rumbling spaces. If you’ve a certain kind of mind, even the sounds of Hell can be relaxing and fascinating. If you want to dive deeply into the infernal, pick up 666 Minutes in Hell and fill your boots.

Visit the 666 Minutes in Hell page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out a teaser video below:



I was given access to a review copy of this album.


Album Title: 666 Minutes in Hell

Album Artist: BlackWeald

Released: 14 Jan 2021

Thursday, 11 February 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Aftermath

Dark Ambient Review: Aftermath


Review by Casey Douglass



Aftermath


Almost every time that I see a bit of “space news”, it fills my head with vast distances, fiery stars and the crushing majesty of the universe. I enjoy dark space ambient albums for that same reason, as they have the ability to transport my mind to somewhere that I’ve never been, and never will. Aftermath released in 2018, and is a collaborative album from dark ambient artists Alphaxone and Xerxes the Dark. It’s an album set up to trigger that “wonder gland” in your mind, particularly if you get turned on by strange planets and the prospect of alien life.

The album description tells tale of an ancient stone tablet that sent you to an alien world. Once there, you find a strange black monolith, the kind of monolith that emits all kinds of strange energies and transmissions that mess with your equipment. That’s right, the best kind of monolith. The track titles frame each soundscape as relating to certain parts of the story, from the discovery of an Ancient Amulet, to Deep Space Signals and onwards to The Planet and beyond.

Unveiling The Script is one of my favourite tracks. It opens with a pulsing hollow drone and a rising insect-like sound that changes to a more sweeping shimmer. Chittering echoes judder into life, a deep drone rumbling beneath them. There is a hiss, which just might be the sound of pressurised air being used to blow way dust that hides ancient writing. An “ahh-like” vocal aspect seems to suggest itself, a fuzzy beeping/pinging tone shortly on its heels. This track really brought to mind the idea of examining something ancient, something not seen by human eyes for millennia, and the mystical feel to it really shines through.

Activating is another track that I really enjoyed. It begins in a dark, echoing way, distant impacts seeming to resound and pulse from ear-to-ear. A low swell of a windy drone comes and goes, an “Om chant” effect seeming to settle in the soundscape. There is a metallic feel to the echoes here, the high whistling tone that emerges setting the scene for some kind of energetic process about to begin. I’m not entirely sure what is activating, but it sounds suitably ominous.

The Planet is also a fine track, one that sees the exploration party set eyes on a new world. It kicks off with what sounds like the muffled air-crack of thunder. Alongside this is a resonant drone and a pulsing hum that seems to press at the sides of your mind. A distant metallic clattering and an “airy whistle” join the fun, with bird-like chirps and calls insinuating themselves not long after. This is a shimmery track, one that hints of discovery and vast distances. I can only imagine what it might be like to land on a strange new world. I wouldn’t be surprised if it sounded a bit like this.

Aftermath is a dark space ambient album that embodies the thrill of exploration, but does so in a smooth, gentle way. Many of the soundscapes are whistling, droning affairs, the high shimmer seeming to blend into the galactic background of a universe that is so much bigger and stranger than we will likely ever realise. Aftermath takes the listener on a relaxing journey into the stars, and it does it very well indeed.

Visit the Aftermath page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also checkout one of the tracks, Unveiling the Script below:



I was given access to a review copy of this album.


Album Title: Aftermath

Album Artist: Alphaxone & Xerxes the Dark

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: 6 Nov 2018

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Dust Of Human Race

Dark Ambient Review: Dust Of Human Race


Review by Casey Douglass



Dust Of Human Race


Death has been a constant in the world since the day that life decided it wanted to get out of bed to stretch its legs. In these current pandemic-fuelled times, the big “D” has attained ever more prominence, particularly in the way that we’re now fed daily figures of how many have sadly become acquainted with it. Some people don’t like to think about death, unless forced to by circumstance. Others have no problem pondering the nature of it. Personally, I think this second bunch have the right idea, and Sonologyst’s dark ambient album Dust of Human Race provides the soundtrack for these intrepid souls.

The album description of Dust Of Human Race is a quote from Ovid which reads: “Wherever you look, there is nothing but the image of death”. Sonologyst has taken inspiration from an assortment of philosophies and outlooks on death, hoping that the created music can in some way capture or explain the essence of this universal, but also deeply personal, experience. As a consequence, the tracks roam from the work of horror writer Thomas Ligotti to Buddhism, and even to Sardinian funeral rituals.

My favourite track is Teatro Grottesco. It begins with a sustained tone, and an organ melody soon joins it. Then a screeching, witch-like howl shreds the soundscape, turning to laughter a short time later. Things warp and buzz, and at one point it sounds like a whole coven of witches cackling. A two-note rhythm begins, and things shriek some more, backed by hiss and static. The track ends with a “music box” melody, soothing the mind after the harshness that came before. I didn’t know anything about Thomas Ligotti and his dark fiction before writing this review, but if his stories are as sinister and mocking as this track, which was inspired by them, I think I’d do well to read some of his work.

Another track that I really enjoyed was Avidyā. It opens with a pulsing, string-like tone, backed by a waterfall static. Things judder and stutter, tones sweep and beep like strange insects. The overall effect of this track, for me, was to make me think of some kind of digital Buddha, an advanced A.I that is so fed up with the crap it has to deal with on social media, that it has constructed a small digital waterfall oasis, just to have a metaphorical ciggy and to take five. Maybe the A.I we create will inherit our fears and mannerisms too? Maybe this Buddha is ready to call it a day? Who knows.

Titular track Dust of Human Race is a slightly different beast, opening the album with ear-to-ear tones and a hypnotic pulsing. It felt like a kind of gritty, boiling feeling, and for some reason, I envisioned pillars of light, each at the corner of a pyramid, sending strange energies into the sky, the apex itself beaming a different colour. It’s a dark landscape, and the soundscape becomes more agitated, more sweeping signals and “busier” as it climbs. I thought about tiny people walking towards this blooming of power, their bodies vaporized in the beams and shot into the heavens. The soundscape, for me, was one of annihilation, the ahh-like tones and shimmering, hiding the reality of extinction from the minds of those breaching the beams. Don’t psychoanalyse me, I’m just doing my best to explain the way that my mind interpreted stuff. I’m normal. Honest.

Dust Of Human Race is an eclectic dark ambient album, one that contains a variety of soundscapes and moods. Some of the tracks feel a little gothic, others fizz with radio tones, and yet others treat the listener to dark chants or strange pulsing energies. It’s quite fitting really. Death, as with so many topics, has so many ways of being looked at, it’s little wonder that something that takes our various outlooks as inspiration, will have such a range of expression. Visit Dust Of Human Race on Bandcamp to check it out.


I was given access to a review copy of this album.


Album Title: Dust Of Human Race

Album Artist: Sonologyst

Label: Eighth Tower Records

Released: 5 Feb 2021

Saturday, 6 February 2021

Dark Ambient Review: The Dead Dreamer Tapes

Dark Ambient Review: The Dead Dreamer Tapes (Lo Fi Dark Ambient Mini Album)


Review by Casey Douglass


The Dead Dreamer Tapes (Lo Fi Dark Ambient Mini Album)

I love dark ambient music that uses big sounds and drones to create feelings of awe or uneasiness. I also love it when an album manages to conjure those feelings in a more understated way. The Dead Dreamer Tapes comes from Death on Cassette, a side project of Iron Cthulhu Apocalypse, and it falls into this latter style of album.

Before I even get to the music, I have to say that I really love the album cover. It looks like an apartment building in hell, or at the least, some post apocalyptic landscape where who knows what is running wild and free. I particularly enjoy the bottom right hand corner, where on first impression, the sky or whatever it is, is behind the edge of the tower, but on another appraisal, it appears to be closer to the viewer than the edge of the tower. That uneasy feeling of “is it or isn’t it” is further bolstered by the sounds on the album.

The Dead Dreamer Tapes consists of four, 14 minute tracks, each of which has an insidious sound that rumbles along in a calm, purposeful way. The tracks are all different, but they also share so much in feeling and tone. In my memory, I struggle to differentiate them, but my notes detail the way that they each gave me different impressions. Each track has a soundscape that seems to convey a certain theme. The first felt like walking through moonlit concrete corridors. The second felt like utter darkness. The third felt grey and the fourth felt like technology, somehow.

First Tape Side A probably goes down as my favourite track. It begins with a low, hum-like drone and an unnerving, gentle whistling sound. A bassy throbbing begins, a hiss and hollow tone appearing a short time later. This track’s soundscape created such a pregnant atmosphere of desolation, but also of not being alone. The whistling sound seems to latch on to my notions of old sci-fi whizzes and beeps, leading me to think of the moon and the vast distances of space. When teamed with the cover art above, I felt like I was wandering through that hellish tower block, with just enough moonlight shining through the gaping window holes to see the mottled concrete. On a side note, the bass at times had me lifting my headphones off to listen to the outside world, because it sounded exactly like a helicopter flying over my house, which was both funny and uncanny.

I also really enjoyed First Tape Side B. The track opens with a rumbling and a warbling, distant-feeling high tone. There seems to be a rush of air or movement, and a low tone that at times, seems to make the rest of the soundscape sputter and warp. I also thought that I might have heard the muffled sound of distant impacts. This track for me, felt like something was looming over me, and that, if I was still roaming the same decrepit tower block, I was deep in the basement levels, where the air is baking hot and the darkness is like tar. Like the first track, the distant, whining high tone, when matched with the throbbing sounds, created a feeling of both eeriness, and of distant power.

I found The Dead Dreamer Tapes to be a bit of an enigma, but in a good way. Even though I’ve listened to it at least three or four times, two of those back to back, I find the tracks difficult to write about. Sure, I seem to have just done that very thing, but it feels unsatisfactory, like the words are just fussing around the edges of something. It’s a very enjoyable album to listen to, and it certainly creates some uneasy dark feelings with its soundscapes. I think you should head over to the Bandcamp page below and check it out.

Visit the The Dead Dreamer Tapes page on Bandcamp for more information.


I was given access to a review copy of this album.


Album Title: The Dead Dreamer Tapes (Lo Fi Dark Ambient Mini Album)

Album Artist: Death on Cassette

Released: 19 Jan 2021

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Megafauna Rituals

Dark Ambient Review: Megafauna Rituals


Review by Casey Douglass


Megafauna Rituals

Before I discovered the dark ambient genre, I listened to some New Agey stuff. The only kind of New Age music that I was actually able to glean some enjoyment from tended to be shamanic. The rest left me feeling a bit nauseous if I’m honest. The non-shamanic variety often contained a mixture of panpipes and saccharine notes that not only bored me, but made me a little angry for some reason. Anyway, moving on. A short while ago, I purchased three of Paleowolf’s dark ambient albums, albums themed around prehistoric times and primal feelings. Here, I’m reviewing the one that I’d say is my favourite: Megafauna Rituals.

When I was previewing Megafauna Rituals on Bandcamp, I was impressed with the meaty, earthy feel to the tracks. Everything has such a massive heft and presence, and there is certainly nothing fluffy or saccharine about these soundscapes. The tracks are themed around various kinds of megafauna, those massive beasts that populated the earth during the Ice Age. Each track is the embodiment of the animal it gains its title from, and all of the tracks are fat with tribal drums and various kinds of drones and chanting.

One of my favourite tracks is Direwolf. It opens with a rising drone that’s met with a kinetic drumbeat and another, deeper drone. It isn’t long before the tribal vocal “huffs” begin, the soundscape blurring at the edges, like a massive rush of fuzzing wind. A low growling or snarling can be heard, and you just wonder when the first wolf howl will come. The chanted drone has a hard edge, feeling like it’s shredding the air. It’s not long after this that the first wolf howl sounds, the soundscape echoing this back in various ways, even when the howl hasn’t been heard for awhile. I enjoyed the fast drum-beat of this track, and the way that the soundscape seemed to quiver with energy at so many times. I would have kind of liked a more meaty wolf howl, but that’s only because the other sounds felt so strong and powerful. A fantastic track.

Direwolf had a faster drum-beat in comparison to most of the other tracks on the album (Sabretooh is also fast-paced). This is because Paleowolf does a great job of matching the speed or energy of the sounds to the animal involved. A wolf is far fleeter on its paws than a cave bear, for example, and the track, Cave Bear, is another of my favourites. It opens with a low, gritty, echoing drone, one that does conjure up feelings of being in a cave. A massive, muffled impact whumps and the rushing sound of breath flowing in and out of a big chest can be heard. A lumbering drumbeat begins with a hollow tone faint in the distance. An “ahh-like” chant sounds, and then fades into a hissing space. The deep grunts and chuffs of the bear are all suitably powerful and scary, and you get a great feeling of what this animal might have been like to be close to.

Totem is a track that focusses more on the humans in the Ice Age landscape, the shamans and the spirituality around these great beasts. Totem opens with some lovely, echoing tribal singing, the undertones flowing off into the shadows. The echoes seem slower than the chant, reflecting back in a very cool way. A massive drumbeat sounds at a slow interval and a drone grows. Later, we hear animal sounds, grunting and snuffling. Flurries of faster drum-beats fall. The rumbling of thunder and a howling wind can be heard a short time later. The second half of the track is a darker, deeper, rumbling affair, multiple chants and rushing sounds melding with dark drum-beats and worshipful drones.

While I appreciated the tracks that focussed on the more predatory animals, the kind that you wouldn’t want to be chased by if you were out for a walk in the woods, Megaloceros (a variety of deer) is a track that, for me, depicted a different kind of majesty. It opens with a kind of tropical birdsong and a gentle shimmer. There is a slow drum-beat and the sound of the megaloceros grunting or calling. The beat picks up and a horn note sounds, with lighter tones and a windy, exhalation kind of feeling. I felt there was a kind of sadness to this track, the melodies, when they appear, mournful that such a creature is no longer wandering the land. It’s a peaceful track, more gentle than the others, but just as graceful and powerful.

Megafauna Rituals takes the listener back to a time where life was so much harder and briefer, but also far simpler. Survival was linked to food, warmth and safety, rather than the continual mental masturbation inherent in modern society. Our ancestors knew how to survive, otherwise we wouldn’t be here to moan about so much. I wonder what they’d make of us now? I really enjoyed the time I spent taking an audio trip back to a different time. I’d like to think that the more ancient, survival orientated parts of my brain, heard something to set them churning too.

Visit the Megafauna Rituals page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also listen to Direwolf below:



Album Title: Megafauna Rituals

Album Artist: Paleowolf

Label: Prometheus Studio

Released: 23 Aug 2017