Tuesday 28 October 2014

Dark Review - Tomb of Empires

Tomb of Empires Review

Written By Casey Douglass


Tomb of Empires

I always feel that reviewing dark ambient albums often reveals more about the psyche of the reviewer than the actual content of the music. I also find it a great creative exercise in stretching the vocabulary and conveying the imagery that often comes unbidden and makes a lasting impression. This is also the reason why dark ambient music is often in the background whilst I create my own worlds.

As a consequence, this review of Tomb of Empires, a 4 split release featuring different 4 different artists in the dark ambient scene and released by Cryochamber, is almost a journal of my impressions and feelings as I encountered each track for the first time. You will almost certainly have different images appear in your mind and other sensations and feelings in your body.

“We welcome some new faces to the label with this 4 split release between some of the more mysterious and sacred sounds of the dark ambient scene. With the chaotic sounds of former CMI artist Foundation Hope, the mysterious enlightenment of Alphaxone, the distortion drone heavy Coph`antae Tryr to the fresh and inviting bass rumbles of Council of Nine, this is one dark journey of soundscapes delving deep into humanities history.”

I will look at each track in turn:

Chimes of the Unfortunate - Council of Nine :
This track starts with a deep and foreboding sound that made me prepare for it to get deeper and deeper. A short while in, it gains some lovely higher pitched sounds that turn the whole thing around and makes it feel light and airy with, for me at least, a sense of sadness in the background.

Mysterious – Alphaxone :
Starting with a deep resonance that mingles with other lighter melodies and noises, Mysterious gives the impression of a derelict space, yet not a hostile one. There are rumblings and muted noises and at one point a rapid tinkling noise that conjures images of greenery or fauna struggling to survive in some ruins.

Comprehended - Coph`antae Tryr :
A rising fanfare looms nearer with this track, a catchy hook that entwines with other instruments to peel away the structure of your eardrum and pierce your mind. It hints at majesty that has faded and vanished into the past where only a few might still remember it even existed. Think ancient artwork painted onto walls smothered with ivy and doused in darkness.

Near to Nothing - Alphaxone :
Echoing architecture punctuated with the impression of movement and strange life.

Nothing to Near - Coph`antae Tryr :
Nothing to Near features some gentle audio hiccuping that serves to jar you into the awareness that you might not have been paying full attention. Its deep beginnings growing and intermingling with other sounds as the medley builds and peters out.

The Kind - Foundation Hope :
This is quite a boomy and jarring track, when compared to the others at least. It seems full of discord and as it progresses takes on a sound like a swarm of demonic bees intoning names you can’t fully imagine or comprehend.

The Beacon - Foundation Hope :
This track seems to be one of the more simple on the album. By simple, I mean it seems to have fewer layers of sound than the others, or it is just how it appears to me. It also features a wonderful whistling segment which conjured the image of a lone survivor whistling whilst walking through a decimated city in an attempt to connect with others, or just to let him or herself know that they are still there, still human.

Blood Lit Skies - Council of Nine :
The album ends with the longest track of the bunch at just over 12 minutes. It has a light and airy thrumming quality and in one place seems to depict the sound of wind and rain, to my ears at least. It is a fantastic and gentle end to the journey through the other soundscapes that this album conjures, a way to come back to the real world with a soft landing rather than a full combat roll.

Thoughts :
Tomb of Empires as a whole is a very smooth ambient album, from my own viewpoint at least. It doesn't feature the harsher aspects that some other dark ambient creations contain but is still great at conjuring hefty mental impressions. It arouses a background feeling of sadness and gloom but with areas of light and air, much like sunlight shining into the darkness of a tomb through some aperture in the ceiling.

This leads me on to the cover image which I have to say is one of the most well-picked I have seen in some time, even to the extent that it coloured what images were likely to arise in my mind as I listened to the album.

I give Tomb of Empires 4/5. As I said above, it takes you on a relatively peaceful journey and evokes periods of oppressiveness and airiness with equal ease, for which it is to be commended. The reason it didn't get a 5 is just down to my own personal taste when it comes to my dark ambient listening. I enjoy more oppressive soundscapes where you feel that you only come up for air after long intervals. This, compared to the ones that inculcate that feeling, was a bit tamer in those regards. Still an excellent listen though, and probably a great starting point for someone who might be less familiar with the sounds of the dark ambient genre.

Visit here and here for more information and purchasing options.

I was given a free copy for review.

Album Title : Tomb of Empires
Artists: Foundation Hope / Council of Nine / Alphaxone / Coph`antae Tryr
Mastering and Artwork: Simon Heath
Label: Cryochamber
Released: 28th October 2014.