Monday, 25 January 2021

Dark Ambient Review: A Silent Vigil for Oncoming Plagues

Dark Ambient Review: A Silent Vigil for Oncoming Plagues

Review by Casey Douglass

A Silent Vigil for Oncoming Plagues

I’ve seen a lot of dark ambient fans listening to dungeon synth in recent months. I’d flicked through a few of the albums that fell across my timelines, but I wasn’t really sure if it was for me. A few weeks ago, dark ambient creator Joseph Mlodik (Noctilucant), sent me a review code for his new music project Gavella Glan and its first album release: A Silent Vigil for Oncoming Plagues. It’s described as a mixing of dungeon synth and fantasy music, and is largely inspired by The Witcher 3, even featuring some samples from CD Projekt Red’s game.

What I first noticed about the music of A Silent Vigil for Oncoming Plagues, was a kind of perky innocence to many of the tracks. For me, things felt for the most part, clean, chirpy and optimistic, and the moments of darker tone felt like a safe kind of darkness, the difference between watching a horror and being in one, if that makes sense. Joseph explains in his album description, that this album was born in a period of isolation, and from “Something reminiscent of old video game scores, the 90’s output from Mortiis, forgotten memories, lust for adventure, and a means to escape this deranged world and to momentarily cope with it...” With that description in mind, I think he nailed it.

In the very first track: The Calm Before The Storm, the listener is treated to bell-chiming notes, sparkling outer tones, birdsong, and a mellow synth sound. It’s a peaceful track, with the odd, harsher, foreboding sound. It felt like walking up a grassy hill and seeing a quaint village laid out in the distance, the golden sunlight of dawn catching in the lazy woodsmoke of the chimneys. Other tracks might differ in tone but again, never felt threatening or too ominous. The Ones Atop the Mountain is a great example. After a low, droning, windy opening, once the melodies begin, it feels like a fun adventure again, rather than a dire expedition. It was genuinely nice.

The Oxenfurt Drunk is one of my favourite tracks. It starts with a voice saying “I’m here to talk about the contract!” and a jaunty string-like note with sparkles at the fringes kicks off. We hear corks popping out of bottles, drink pouring, and a little later, this pouring turns into a kind of “infinite pour”, becoming part of the music. It sounds like a potion being poured, backed by drunken muttering, and later, a confrontation and a nasty voice saying “I sense your blood!” This track felt zany, intoxicated, and just like how a pub fight would probably sound in a fantasy world of magic and poverty.

Another of my favourites was A Stormy Night of Arcane Hexes. It opens with a distant chiming and an oncoming rumble. Insects chitter and there is a dark shimmer to things. You can hear something panting, with whispers intruding at the edge of the soundscape. A haunting female vocal begins, the odd bell-chime, and a sparkling tinkling. Later, there is laughter, wind and rain. This track felt very much like what someone stumbling into a witches’ circle might experience, or maybe someone harried by playful sprites as they walk through a haunted woodland.

The title track, A Silent Vigil for Oncoming Plagues, is probably the most dark ambient track, in my opinion. It opens with a pulsing electronic tone and an oozing trickling. There is a deep vibration and ominous, string-like notes. It feels sad and foreboding. A deep shuddering bass sound rumbles along like a giant creature sleeping, and a female vocal floats and nestles on top. This track felt like a world dancing on the precipice, the last good times about to slip into the chasm, and people trying to catch the last small enjoyments that they’re able.

A Silent Vigil for Oncoming Plagues is a fun album, one that taps into some of the retro feeling of old Saturday morning cartoons and classic video-games. I think that the dark ambient, where it seeps in, does a great job of keeping it anchored, balancing the ying and the yang of lightness and darkness nicely. I’m still not certain that dungeon-synth and this style of album will be something that I visit regularly, but I did enjoy the time I spent in Gavella Glan’s world.

Visit the A Silent Vigil for Oncoming Plagues page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out the teaser video below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: A Silent Vigil for Oncoming Plagues

Album Artist: Gavella Glan (Joseph Mlodik)

Mastered: Mombi Yuleman

Released: 15 Jan 2021

Saturday, 23 January 2021

Dark Ambient Review: The Black Stone – Music For Lovecraftian Summonings

Dark Ambient Review: The Black Stone – Music For Lovecraftian Summonings

Review by Casey Douglass

The Black Stone – Music For Lovecraftian Summonings

The fiction of H.P Lovecraft has inspired so many other creative projects, that if you are a fan, and I am, you will probably never be short of some kind of Lovecraftian entertainment. The Black Stone – Music For Lovecraftian Summonings is a dark ambient album that has collected together 14 tracks from a number of dark composers, wrapping them up in one 80 minute long (approx) eldritch package.

Before I get to the tracks themselves, I want to say that I enjoyed the album description. It ponders the notion of whether H.P Lovecraft liked music himself, and looks at the role music often plays in certain of his dark stories, such as in the story of The Music of Erich Zann, and also in how the mad god Azathoth is often mentioned with regard to his “monotonous lullaby of cursed flutes”. The album description did a great job of framing this album, priming my mind to wander down certain pathways, with the track titles themselves finishing the effort.

I think that my favourite track has to be Dead Space Chamber Music’s Nocturne For Erich Zann. Lovecraft’s story: The Music of Erich Zann, is one of my favourites, and one of the most memorable for me. Hearing a track like Nocturne For Erich Zann, a track that really captures the events of the story, was a genuine pleasure. It opens with a creaking, squeaking space, tortured strings groaning and drumsticks knocking. It all feels a bit discordant, but doesn’t take long to build a pregnant atmosphere, one where the music starts to come together, and you get the impression that a sinister audience is beginning to gather outside Zann’s window. There is a ghostly sighing, a high pitched twisting to the soundscape, and things feel like some kind of cosmic intelligence is paying far too much attention to the unfortunate musician. A brilliant track.

As much as I enjoyed the previous track for its uncanny impression of the events of a story, I loved Lars Bröndum’s The Legend of Dagon for the way that it didn’t. For me, the sounds on this track placed Dagon in a very strange setting, that of a glass of beer in a sleepy pub. This is very much a track full of electronic buzzes and reverberating tones, it feels a bit lo-fi, if that’s the right word. A short time in, a plinking bubbling sound begins, which to me, sounded like ice rattling against the side of a glass. I bet you can see where my imagination got “pub” from. Things deepen and get more rumbly, and I was struck by the notion of Dagon manifesting in some tiny way in this abandoned glass of beer. I bet the pub lights even flickered and the wind howled outside too. I really enjoyed how this track led me to think about Dagon in a novel way, and in tones and notes that wouldn’t have first come to mind when I think “Lovecraftian”. A lovely surprise.

Another track that I really enjoyed was New Risen Thrones’ The Whisperer in Darkness. A low, subdued opening gives way to the sound of lapping water and insidious whispers. There are occasional water splashes, like something cresting and sinking once more below the surface. A drone grows with shuddering high tones and string notes for company. The second half of the track sees the soundscape become steeped in vibration, with squelchy, uncanny echoes, a feeling of something surging and infesting the air. For me, this track gave me the mental image of an abandoned jetty jutting out into the sea, the moonlight playing off the midnight mist as things creep toward the shore. Very atmospheric and well done.

The final track that I'll mention is Mario Lino Stancati’s The Color Out Of Space. A prolonged tone opens the track, a pulsing puttering tone joins, and things begin to whine and shudder. Some of the sounds made me think of how teleporters sound in certain sci-fi films, like something was coming. After roiling awhile, the tones merge and blare, announcing something. Things turn harsher and the second half of the track sounded a little like a 10ft bee buzzing around inside a 30ft glass jar. This track also led me to remember how much I enjoyed the Nick Cage Color Out of Space film, and Mario’s track would’ve sat very nicely in that film’s score, in my opinion.

The Black Stone – Music For Lovecraftian Summonings contains a brilliant dose of Lovecraftian music. I enjoyed the diversity of sounds and the way that some of the tracks came at the subject matter from perspectives that certainly didn’t fit my preconceptions coming into the album. If you love Lovecraftian things, or even just dark things in general, you should take a listen to The Black Stone – Music For Lovecraftian Summonings.

Visit the The Black Stone – Music For Lovecraftian Summonings page on Bandcamp for more information.

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: The Black Stone – Music For Lovecraftian Summonings

Album Artists: Mombi Yuleman, Martyria, Lars Bröndum, Solatipour Reza, Dead Space Chamber Music, Alphaxone, Mario Lino Stancati, M. Cosottini, C. Bocci & D. Barbiero, Kloob, Ashtoreth, New Risen Throne, Moloch Conspiracy, Dēofol, SÍLENÍ.

Curated and Mastered: Sonologyst

Released by: Eighth Tower Records

Released: 8 Jan 2021

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Dark Ambient Review: S.S. Moreau

Dark Ambient Review: S.S. Moreau

Review by Casey Douglass

S.S. Moreau

I’ve never read the book, or seen the films inspired by H.G Wells’ The Island of Dr Moreau, but I guess that the fact I know the general gist of it speaks to its pervasiveness in parts of our culture. While I remember watching a Simpsons’ Halloween special that tipped its hat to the tale, I’m not aware of having heard any music that was inspired by its species-meddling. That is, until now, as S.S Moreau is a dark ambient album from Scott Lawlor and Mombi Yuleman, one that takes the sinister idea of Dr Moreau and runs with it... all the way into space!

I quite like coming across stories or ideas that uproot something from its familiar setting, and that plants it somewhere quite different. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but others, it can take something that you previously felt quite indifferent to, and give it enough of a twist to make you realise that you really enjoy it in this form. The concept of S.S Moreau is that of a stranded spaceship crew who are rescued by the sinister doctor when his space station, the S.S Moreau, detects their distress beacon. Once “rescued”, and after a period of uneasy discovery, the crew eventually find themselves fleeing from his strange alien-hybrid creatures as they threaten to overrun the station.

I thought that the first track, The Biological Station, set this up beautifully. It opens with an eerie whistling drone, a little like what you might hear in the first Alien film’s score. A light beeping and a whirring tone looms, and what began as restful, grows into a more ominous soundscape. It starts to feel a bit swarm-like, and as if something big is coming. It is the audio equivalent of being on the verge of starvation and coming across a maggot ridden cow carcass. Salvation and doom all in one. A little later, the sounds and tones gave me the feeling of the stranded ship being swallowed up by the larger S.S Moreau, the creaking metal and cavernous feelings giving the impression that the larger ship actually licked its lips. Then you hear the organic, guttural sounds of strange creatures.

The tracks that follow feature a nice range of creature sounds. Some sound bird-like or monkey-like, others more alien. He Knows Something Of Science feels damn right tropical, with clicking trickling water, insect-like rattling and the hoots and chirps of who knows what. Monsters Manufactured is a different beast, one that feels more lab-like, more meddling. It opens with a deep male chant, a female one joins, and a third that warps up and seems alien... something other. An ominous beat and a tinny beeping rhythm create an enjoyable feeling of “wrongness”. It lightens a little later, with a female vocal and light, breezy tones, but the background sounds still hint at dark things. I thought that I heard faltering footsteps on metal floors at one point, and at another, a kind of trundling rising discord, like a mass breakout of warrior insects.

How The Beast Folk Tasted Blood is a clinking, smooth space, the slow beat soon joined by faster tempos. It felt a little tribal, a little “cannibal”, a little “exotic”. I liked the last third or so the most though, when things seem to darken, a sound like sea waves breaking on a beach of bones and a vibrating tone hinting at a line crossed that can’t be undone. The final track, No Desire To Return To Mankind, seems to give the protagonist a dark dose of grim determination. Its plastic-carrier-bag-rustling and throbbing bass tones giving it a “film end-credit” type feeling, one where the ending was far from happy and the scars and trauma will last in the survivor/s for the rest of their life. I particularly enjoyed the radio-chatter and the strange squawks and sounds that seep into things.

S.S Moreau is a dark ambient space treat for people who like their darkness with a sci-fi twist. Some of the sounds it contains seem close to their earthly counterparts, others seem warped and manipulated, which is a pleasing parallel between how tones are created for dark ambient albums, and the subject matter of hybrid-creation. If I was drifting in space and the S.S. Moreau offered rescue, I’d be game for that, even knowing how things would turn out. It sure beats starving to death or turning into an icicle as depressurization occurs.

Visit the S.S.Moreau page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out the track Monsters Manufactured below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: S.S. Moreau

Album Artist: Scott Lawlor & Mombi Yuleman

Released: 8 Jan 2021

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Rites Of Darkness And Dismal Visions

Dark Ambient Review: Rites Of Darkness And Dismal Visions

Review by Casey Douglass

Rites Of Darkness And Dismal Visions

As someone who suffers with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I know the value of putting my mind into a state where I just accept that the stuff I fear has already happened, and I might as well enjoy the rest of my day before everything comes crashing down around me. It releases the mental tension of trying to control or protect myself from misfortune, and ironically, helps me to see things more clearly afterwards. I think this is what drew me towards Umbrarum Tenebrae’s dark ambient album Rites Of Darkness and Dismal Visions.

In a Covid world, where people are trying to cling on to any little tidbit of hope or good news, the idea of an album themed around “haunting people into further desperation” really appealed to me. Alongside the OCD stuff above, it appeals to my dark and perverse sense of humour. I also feel like it’s a great tonic against the continual rumination and regurgitation of the media, where often, there’s nothing new to report, so lets just speculate ad infinitum until something happens, and scare people even more. Sorry, this is a dark ambient album review, I promise.

For all that Rites Of Darkness and Dismal Visions is set in a world coping with a new plague, the soundscapes it builds sent me down into cavernous cave systems and rumbling temples. It made me feel a little like an old-school DnD thief type character, creeping through dangerous spaces and spying a procession of monks or holy soldiers venturing forth to slay some dark thing inside. The darkness seems to be very watchful, a common sound being the teeth-clicking chittering of some kind of creature, prowling and guarding their domain. The first track, Path To Oblivion, set this scene for me, its fluttering-wing sounds and drumbeats making me think a little of Tolkien’s goblin-infested Moria. The next track, Liber Mortem, brought the monk-warrior feel to things, its raspy rattling soundscape populated by stick-clacking, chimes and malevolent hisses. It is during this track that the sacral chanting fully hits home, which gave me the imagery of some kind of holy army trying to reach the root of the evil.

I think my favourite track is Chambers Of Shadows. It opens with a distant wind and echoing chimes, but soon turns into a droning, drumbeat punctuating, hiss-filled soundscape, one with creature screeches and clicks, alongside a mellow female, and later, a male chant. This track brought me the image of the holy army in a mist-filled cavern, a place in which something like Medusa might be roaming, with people being snatched off into the murk, but the others slow on the uptake as to what is happening. The swelling notes also hinted at strange marvels to see, like carvings and lore engraved on hellish statues, stuff that hasn’t been read or seen for millennia. A varied soundscape with a quiet ominous feeling, brushing up against snatches of drumbeat and chimes and creature sounds. I really liked it.

The next track, The Chaos Principle, seemed to hint at some kind of rite being performed. After the low pulsing opening and muted chimes, the gentle echoing soundscape is punctured by a large hissing or snarl. A deep ritual beat begins, and the chiming tones start to feel like they are warping or twisting in the air. There are creature clicks and more chanting, and it all led me to feel that the goal of the quest was at hand, and that the denizens of that place aren’t taking kindly to that kind of audacity. I didn’t really think about what the outcome of the quest was, I found it more fun to leave things up in the air and to not think too hard about it. The final mellow track, Knell Ritual, could easily be the triumphant army celebrating, or just as easily, it could be their associates in some far away cathedral holding a funeral in their absence. Either is fine by me.

Rites Of Darkness And Dismal Visions for me, was a chant-fuelled trek into treacherous, hissing subterranean caverns, one where I could safely watch from the shadows and not really care which of the forces involved might prevail. It was peaceful and soothing, and seemed to provide a pleasant tonic against the crap going on in real life. It let me sit in a space where the worst has already happened, one where there is no need to dig up feelings of false optimism or hope. And that is kinda of refreshing.

Visit the Rites Of Darkness And Dismal Visions page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out the track Liber Mortem below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Rites Of Darkness And Dismal Visions

Album Artist: Umbrarum Tenebrae

Label: Noctivagant

Released: 20 Jun 2020

Saturday, 16 January 2021

Review: Audio Visual Coherence Breath Pacers

Review: Audio Visual Coherence Breath Pacers

Written by Casey Douglass

Audio Visual Coherence Breath Pacers Syntropy States

Heartmath UK+IR offers customers a number of tools that help to bring their mind and body into a state of coherence. They’ve just released a pack of new Audio Visual Coherence Breath Pacers from Syntropy States, and I’ve been putting them through their paces for the last couple of weeks.

So what is coherence and why is it useful to enter it? Basically, your heart rate varies in timing between each beat. This is your Heart Rate Variability (HRV). When you’re experiencing negative emotions, such as anxiety or frustration, your HRV, if plotted over time, would look jagged and dramatic. When you’re experiencing positive or heartfelt emotions, such as appreciation or love, the time plot would look closer to a smoother, sine-wave pattern. Your system would be in a state of coherence, where various bodily systems are working more harmoniously together. This helps you to think more clearly and puts your body into a more synchronised state.

Heartmath provide sensing devices that actually give your current coherence a score, and they also offer tools and techniques to help you to deepen and expand your capacity for coherence. I was lucky enough to be sent one of their Inner Balance review devices after my previous post about their Syntropy States relaxation aids, and I’ve been experimenting with it for the last couple of months. I hope to write an in-depth piece about my experiences with the Inner Balance device soon.

You don’t need Heartmath’s gadgets to practise their coherence techniques however, you just need to adopt a slightly deeper and even breathing pattern, focus on your heart area, and if you can, generate a heartfelt emotion, maybe by thinking of something you’re grateful for, or about someone you love. These new Coherence Breath Pacers take away the burden of making sure that you’re breathing in a suitable rhythm, and help you to focus in a slightly easier way.

Audio Visual Coherence Breath Pacers Syntropy States

There are seven videos in the collection, each coming in a light and a dark variety, and each makes use of a different geometric shape in the pattern that it presents to you: Cube, Sphere, Dodecahedron, Isohedron, Merkaba, Octahedron and Tetrahedron. When you begin playing a video, you’ll see an expanding and contracting pattern that makes use of whichever shape is at its base. You will also hear a soothing soundscape to help you to focus and relax into the process.

The videos are available in three breathing paces, 8/10/12 seconds, and as you watch the shape ebb and flow, you time your inhale and exhale to begin and to finish when the direction changes. If you’ve opted for the 10 second pace videos, it means that you will be inhaling for 5 seconds, and then exhaling for the next 5. There are sample videos of each breath cycle duration on the store page, so you can try each one to see which feels most comfortable before your purchase.

I found myself gravitating towards certain of the videos more than others. I think that Sphere was my favourite. The soundtrack had trickling water and a nice vocal too, but what I really enjoyed was the dark mode version. Watching it felt like looking down a tunnel, and also gave me the impression, of what a black-hole might look like if it was “liquid”, if that makes sense. In general, the light mode videos all had a really pleasing “sunny” light source in the middle, with the Merkaba video giving me an impression of said sunlight shining through blinds on a quiet afternoon.

Audio Visual Coherence Breath Pacers Syntropy States

The dark modes of each video had a kind of neon feel for me. The colours of the Merkaba video in its dark form, made me think of desert sand and a glowing evening warmth. Another thing that I found quite fun was to reverse my breathing pattern on subsequent viewings. If I watched a video by inhaling at the start of the pattern, the next time, I would exhale first or wait one cycle to begin with the exhale. Inhaling when the outer edges of a pattern are expanding towards you feels a certain way, but inhaling when you see the opposite happening feels a bit different. That gave me two ways to approach each video and in a way, gave each video four variations.

I had hoped to use some of my Inner Balance device readings as a way to gauge how effective these Coherence Breath Pacer videos are, but it doesn’t seem that I can, right now at least. My average coherence rating for my daily sessions has gradually increased, barring the odd exception, so any benefit that the videos might have given me could well be masked by this general increase. What I can say however, is that my highest average coherence ratings often seem to go hand-in-hand with using the videos, so at the very least, they are helping rather than hindering me.

Something else that I really appreciate, is using the videos to help with my breath pacing. On my low-end smartphone, the Heartmath app is a little bit laggy at times, which makes using the on-screen animations and pacers a little off-putting as they can chug at times. Using one of these videos and being able to watch along, being less concerned with my breathing pattern, brings a different feeling to doing my Heartmath exercises. It also had the unlooked for benefit, of helping me to feel a heartfelt emotion when I was struggling to find one, because if nothing else, I could reflect on how pleasing the patterns on screen are to watch. If you are feeling down or numb, that feels a lot more doable and immediate than using your memory or imagination to coax a feeling to the surface.

I think that the Coherence Breath Pacers are a great way to experiment with coherence practices, and whether you own a snazzy biofeedback device or not, the breathing is such an important element. Once I get my breathing settled, coherence often occurs moments later, so having these videos did free me up to lean more into the heart-focussed emotion aspect of entering coherence. They are something that I intend to use regularly, at least once per day, and I think that they would make a nice addition to anyone’s meditation or focussed-practice toolbox.

The Audio Visual Coherence Breath Pacers are available from Heartmath UK+IR. They’re also currently on sale at £12 from their regular price of £15. You might also be interested to know that the Relaxation Aids from Syntropy States are also currently on offer at £15 instead of £19.

I was given review access to this product.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Dark Ambient Review: DIM (Reissue)

Dark Ambient Review: DIM (Reissue)

Review by Casey Douglass

DIM (Reissue)

I’m a big fan of the dark ambient creations of Xerxes The Dark. However, almost two years ago, I had the chance to review the DIM (Reissue) and I didn’t really feel it was to my taste. Fate had other ideas though, and in my recent review of Xerxe’s mammoth X-Theory collection, I was exposed to one of DIM (Reissues)’s tracks: Dimmer. I really enjoyed it, and decided that I really should take a closer listen to the album. So here I am, after having taken a closer listen.

As the album description explains, DIM was the first Xerxes The Dark album that Morego Dimmer released. The original had more tracks, but as I hadn’t heard the original, I came fresh into the reissue with nothing to really compare it to. This version has a few less tracks but was remastered to increase the quality. I can appreciate that the album a high-school age Morego produced back in the day might stand to have some deft tweaks and edits here and there, much like my writing from only a few years ago. So fair play to Morego for going back to squeeze some extra goodness from the raw material that he had already produced.

As I mentioned in the X-Theory review, Dimmer is still my favourite track. I thought that I described it quite well there, so I’ll simply quote myself (yuk) so that I can move on to some of the others. “Dimmer is a fast-paced, retro-feeling, somewhat jaunty track that I found got stuck in my mind. It opens with an electronic melody that gets loud enough to feel almost uncomfortable, but then fades a little when lower tones join in. This track has a feeling of massive momentum, and the grainy distortion of the tones just gives it even more charm. Maybe it’s a radio broadcast from another universe, or maybe it’s a dimension jumper’s soundtrack of choice before they engage their mini-black hole-fuelled jump device. It’s a track that feels bright and vigorous, with a retro aesthetic that wouldn’t be amiss as the theme to a Netflix nostalgia-fuelled sci-fi series.”

The opening track, Dim Curse, is another that I had fun with. It starts with bursts of static, a drone and a warbly echo, and it put me in mind of the white static hiss you get on an old TV with no signal. As the track continues, I felt like the ghost of a picture or pattern was starting to form, a feeling of something trying to break through. With the tones that sweep up and down and the general fuzzy feeling, it left me with more of that retro sci-fi feeling mentioned above, like something scary and fun was about to play out on screen, or even come through it.

Dim Land, the next track, is a less fuzzy one, but still with a playful aspect. Electronic tones ping off like laser beams into a colourful horizon, like the kind seen in an old video-game, where colour steals the awareness more than shape at times. Things feel like they hang in the air, which is something I noted down as “like flotsam in the wake of a starship in a purple universe.” Later in Dim Land, I heard agitated electronic tones, spirals, and an airy sound that just might be the sharp intake of breath through razor-blade lips. This is a pretty trippy album for me, and I enjoyed the variety of images that the tones and soundscapes inspired in my mind.

DIM (Reissue) was an album I flicked through previously, but on returning to it, I found a lot to enjoy. I don’t know if my tastes have changed in the few years since I first sampled it, or if I just decided too quickly that it wasn’t for me at the time, but sitting here, in present day 2021, I’m glad X-Theory gave me another chance to return to it and to give it a decent chance. What I found was a fun, trippy, lo-fi electronic album, with some catchy melodies and a time-warping feeling of nostalgia. Most of the tracks seem to echo or incorporate the sounds that you hear in previous ones, and this helps build a real feeling of continuity and cohesion. If you like your dark ambient a bit more electronic, a bit more frenetic, and a lot more fuzzy, check out DIM (Reissue).

Visit the DIM (Reissue) page on Bandcamp for more information.

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: DIM (Reissue)

Album Artist: Xerxes The Dark

Label: Zāl Records

Released: 12 May 2019

Monday, 11 January 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Oracle Of The Throne Ov Fire

Dark Ambient Review: Oracle Of The Throne Ov Fire

Review by Casey Douglass

Oracle Of The Throne Ov Fire

Oracle Of The Throne Ov Fire is a dark ambient project from two occult-minded music projects: Emme Ya and Occult Odyssey. Both use their music as a way to expand their understanding of the systems that they embrace, and to also deepen their explorations into the energies that they deal with. It has been a long time since I’ve read anything related to the occult or to magickal systems, so I have to admit to a head-scratching rustiness when it comes to some of the entities or systems referenced. As always, I’ll fall back on my usual approach to writing a review, that of describing the music and the images that it created in my mind.

The first thing to address is that this is a chant and ritual drumbeat-fuelled album. From the very first track: Miccacuicatl - Mictlantecuhtli (Funeral Chant to Miclantecuhtli), the listener is treated to dark, echoing spaces and semi-distant chanting. For me, I had the impression of some earthen-walled grotto, someone deep inside throat-chanting around a bend that I couldn’t see. A blown pipe-type note pierces the soundscape, a deeper tone hanging in the air. The chanting turns to whispers, the space pulses with a bass throb, and the feeling of things manifesting or responding to the chanter intensifies. I particularly enjoyed how the whispers or chanting “clicked” or “grated” at times, setting up their own rhythm that carries the listener along.

I think my favourite track has to be Descending Into The Temple of Pestilence. It opens with a vibrating rumbling and a hiss, with higher tones sitting above everything. A short time in, a piercing ringing sound starts, sharp and defined in the right ear, a shadowy, rustling version in the left. A chant begins, crackles and rumblings tickling at its edges. The voices and chants seem to come from both male and female throats, and when combined with the perpetual chiming and rumbles, creates a lovely feeling of energies shifting. Some of the spoken words are even reversed at times, which gives them a lovely, strange quality. I think, for me, this track could be the soundtrack to a procession making its way down into a forbidden temple, the rocky pathways falling away into massive drops on either side, the temple in the distance casting a strange glow against the rock walls that surround it.

Another track that I greatly enjoyed was Chants of Putrescence. In part, this was because it’s a bit of a departure from the deeper sounds of the others. Chants of Putrescence opens with chiming notes and a growing high-pitched shimmering sound. These build and build, cracking a little as they flood the track. A reverb-like effect vibrates and quietens things. As the high-pitched tones return to build again, a low chant accompanies them, a fast drumbeat its companion. I enjoyed the semi-ear splitting sounds of this track. The high tones, the low chant, the drumbeat and other vocals create a chiming space that manages to feel both golden and shining, while at the same time corrupt and warped.

Oracle Of The Throne Ov Fire is very much an album for people who enjoy the power of the human voice, the tones and drones that we can emit, and the words that we can drive with strange energies or hidden intents. If you have any awareness of the occult, you’ll likely get a good deal from this album, but even if you just approach it as another prospective dark ambient album for your collection, it can create some wonderful spaces for you to enjoy.

Visit the Oracle Of The Throne Ov Fire page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also listen to Funeral Chant to Miclantecuhtli below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Oracle Of The Throne Ov Fire

Album Artist: Emme Ya & Occult Odyssey

Label: Noctivagant

Released: 23 Nov 2020