Saturday 20 August 2016

Dark Music Review – Sanctum

Dark Music Review – Sanctum

Review Written By Casey Douglass

Sanctum Album Art

Metatron Omega returns with his second album out of Serbia on Cryo Chamber. Dark gothic choirs, ritual drone and archaic atmospheres strives to enlighten the listener on this esoteric Dark Ambient album. Recommended for those wanting to explore the soundscapes of Majestic Cathedrals, Sacral Monasteries, Secret Orders and Occult Rituals.

Metatron Omega’s Sanctum is probably one of the first dark ambient albums that I’ve listened to that is so overtly gothic and choral in nature. If a good number of albums seem to start in the darkness, Sanctum appears to start in a peaceful monastery garden with golden sunlight and harmonious voices all around. It’s very relaxing and soothing. As you might expect from a Cryo Chamber release however, things don’t stay that straightforward for long.

After the birdsong and peace at the beginning of opening track Transductio, the same track takes a darker turn, like a shadowy taint on the air, a drone seeps in from the background, vying with the melodic male chants that rise above it. It doesn’t take long for these chants to become warped and twisted, darker undertone chants subtly ramping up the “things not right” factor, before things go all out bleak at around the midpoint of its running time. Strange chimes, unkind winds and a feeling of a hostile space take over, and it’s a really great listening experience.

Up next is In Search of Lost Wisdom, a track that begins with an effect like a howling wind at distance, married to the fabric-restricted sound of what sounds like someone breathing through a mask. Organ-like notes blare, growing and fading in volume, interspersed with snatches of choral harmony. The track then becomes a bell-ringing rumbling-infused space in which the sacral chanting repeats and dances hypnotically in the ear. Things quieten at the midpoint, the soundscape changing into an echo-chamber of knockings and undulating distortions. The chants return in a muted way in the last third, the general tone feeling melancholy and downhearted.

Cultus is next. It starts with a smooth stuttering effect which is soon joined by a sustained sacral tone that pulses and changes little. Other chants sing along at intervals, the delicate notes of chimes lending some feeling of sunlight to what otherwise might feel like another dark and shady track. Swelling bowing effects emerge around half way through, before deep notes bubbling below more chime tinkling takes over. Later, the track sinks into a pregnant void, much rumbling vibration and slow uplifts of female chants competing with more chimes.

Trinitas starts with a sonorous bell-ringing sound that flaps and flops with distortion. A return of the repeating hypnotic chant effect appears, darker swellings and chanting underpinning and then subsuming the soundscape into something wholly more twisted. Strings emerge later, the looping chant and the clanking sounds of infernal clockwork their accompaniment. Things quieten as more clanking and banging echoes out, a gentle electronic warbling seeming to ape their echoes. The second half of this track is a broodier, more rumbling affair, a bit like the vacuum left after a clap of thunder.

The penultimate track, The Eastern Star, throbs into life, higher tones counterpointing the bassy swellings. The higher tones take on a kind of revved up jet engine effect, if a little more muted than that would sound. Chants are later joined by a rhythmic beat that adds a shamanic effect to the soundscape, although it still conjures images of majestic temples, to me at least. The final third features machine-like rattlings and distorted voices on the wind, a repeating beat and sand-like particle scrapings seeing the track end with a strange kind of energy.

The final track is called Sanctum, and it begins with what could be a muted explosion, brief slices of chant, and a growing drone, that all give the impression of being slightly removed from where the real action is, like holing up in a safe place during an outbreak of conflict. The chants echo and drift, like the kind that float down from high-ceilings and centuries old masonry. Chimes sound like multiple clocks all reaching midnight at once, furtive flutterings shooting past the listener as the world takes a breath. From the midpoint onwards, the drone becomes higher and lighter, with higher tones and resonances building on top, before things take a turn for the dark again as the end approaches.

Sanctum is an album that does a wonderful job of living up to its description. It evokes the sense of being in sacred places, peaceful sanctuaries and dark temples with great aplomb, making it a fine album to listen to when feeling in a contemplative mood, or simply when just wanting to rest. I have fallen asleep at least half of the times I have listened to it whilst laying down, which only goes to show how relaxing it can be, even if you do have to have a certain dark nature to find it so. Gregorian chants this is not. You will likely already know if the concept of the album will appeal to you or not, but even if you don’t have any set ideas, at least check out a few of the tracks before you make your mind up. It’s another 4.5/5 album for me.

You can check out the first track Transductio below:

Visit the Sanctum page on Bandcamp here for more information.

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

Album Title: Sanctum
Artist: Metatron Omega
Label: Cryo Chamber
Artwork: Scorpio V & Simon Heath
Cover Photography: Peter Van Der Velde
Released: August 16, 2016