Sunday 1 February 2015

Dark Music Review - Strenuus (Imperial Edition)

Dark Music Review – Strenuus (Imperial Edition)

Written By Casey Douglass

Team Nakrikal certainly lives up to its description on Bandcamp: “high-quality dark ambient releases with lots of content.” Strenuus (Imperial Edition) by Demagolka, features two album’s worth of tracks coming in at sixteen, each around the ten minute mark in duration, give or take a few exceptions. Of course, that’s quantity covered, but what about the quality? I'll get onto that after the blurb from the Strenuus (Imperial Edition) page:

Produced by Stateslaver Zero, "Strenuus: Imperial Edition" is a massive, special bundle including a remastered re-issue of Demagolka's previous material and a brand new album, "Varmalus" - featuring over 2 hours of dark ambient composed by one of Nakrikal Records' finest acts!

Disc One (tracks 1-9) contains remastered tracks taken from "Strenuus" and the "Bloodfen" EP, as well as two bonus pieces of music exclusive to this release.

Disc Two (tracks 10-14) is Demagolka's latest, sixth studio album, "Varmalus". The new album contains over 50 minutes of epic ambient music.

Imperial Edition comes with bonus goodies - hi-res artwork and bonus music from Stateslaver Zero!

Usually in my reviews, I begin with a little bit of titillation, describing the sound and feel before moving onto the tracks themselves and then summing up with my thoughts and rating at the end. As Strenuus (Imperial Edition) is a beast of an album, this would make the review unwieldy to say the least. With this in mind, I won’t analyse every track, I will just mention my favourites and give an overview of the sound you can expect from the album.

The sound of Strenuus (Imperial Edition) is, at first hearing, a less complex form of dark ambient, seeming to lack the multitude of layers some of the other artists that I’m used to utilise. This is to miss the point entirely however. There may not be much in the way of creepy atmospheric recordings or on-the-nose sound effects, but the simpler sound is none the less complex in its own way. Listening to many of the tracks gives rise to what I can only call a chime or bell effect. If you strike a chime or bell, you will know what it sounds like as the sound reverberations die down, the sound slowly slipping away. Imagine striking it but that the sound dies and returns, dies and returns, setting up a pleasing resonance that gives rise to other audio sensations. These other sensations might be thinking that you hear voices in the music but aren’t sure, or picking up on rhythms that you might think you are imagining.

There are also no harsh changes of direction with the music of Strenuus. Some tracks might take on a different tone or undertone after awhile but for the most part, each track is a smooth and measured experience with little to jar or unsettle you. This makes it a great album to listen to when chilling out.

One of the stand-out tracks for me was Waste Forge. It begins with a buzzing energetic sound, a feeling of rotation and industry, like a large dynamo spinning up. This track gave me the imagined scene of a beehive populated with enormous mechanical bees, flitting about and tending to the dark machinery that is fizzing and rotating at its core. The tone of the track changes about half way through which might just indicate a different phase of operation for the colossal device. Sinister and resonant, a great track.

Another track that I really liked was Oil, a track that starts with an almost whistling whine, maybe suggesting some large contraption gaining steam as it strives for life. The undulating noises mix with deeper tones to create a rhythm the holds and carries the interest of the listener before fading to a more echoing and peaceful soundscape.

The third track to catch my attention was Bloodfen. Beginning with a sound that seems to carry a roiling threat, it dissolves into high-pitched sounds that echo and drone almost at the edge of hearing. Tinkling mingles with it and brings to mind, my mind, a pixie graveyard at the edge of reality, a sparkling fog blown across it by strange wind currents.

The final track that I wanted to mention by name is Mute Goddess. Imagine a choir of women singing the ‘ahhhhhh’ sound in a gentle way and that is pretty much how this one starts. The track begins with a light hearted if mournful tone and twists to something darker as it progresses, like a wary traveller seeing an oasis in the desert, only to have it keep pulling away. A beautiful track.

The other tracks not mentioned all follow the same sound textures but for varying reasons didn’t really impress themselves on me in the same way as the ones I mention by name. This is not to say that they are any less interesting however.

As a whole, I give Strenuus (Imperial Edition) 4/5. The quantity is certainly there, the quality too. As I am frequently saying, I do love the darkest of dark ambient, really multi-layered and jarring. I’m not sure I would have picked Strenuus (Imperial Edition) up myself had it not been given to me for review, but now that I have listened to it, I feel that I would have been missing out on something very enjoyable.

Visit the Strenuus (Imperial Edition) page on Bandcamp here for more information.

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

Album Title: Strenuus (Imperial Edition)
Artist: Demagolka
Label: Nakrikal Records
Produced by: Stateslaver Zero
Released : 18th December 2014