Sunday 5 January 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Hastur

Dark Ambient Review: Hastur

Review by Casey Douglass


I still find Lovecraft-themed media, whether stories, games and music, a rich vein of eldritch fun. There is something so dark about his mythos and the way that it has built into something seemingly more than it is. One of the usual highlights of this media is when Cryo Chamber releases its regular mammoth Lovecraftian collaboration, giving the listener around two hours of murk, gloom and existential horror to feast on. This year’s is Hastur, and as usual, it’s very good.
"Some name him Hastur - others Assatur, Hali or Kaiwan. The last can, to the erudite mind, whisper something of where the supernal alliances may lie. The men of Leng are purported to know more, but that is no place for wholesome minds. Better then to seek out a Shantak. It will doubtless whisper of onyx and a frigid wind, urging you ever northward and upward. Were ye to follow, ye may glean the answers ye seek. But they would do you little good, once the unrelenting drums have hold on thee. It is better, sometimes, not to know whom ye serve." - Excerpt from Digibook

The drums mentioned above seem like a great place to start. These appear at various moments in the two, hour long tracks, and when they do, they often add a certain level of ‘evil blasphemy’ to things, to go a bit ‘H.P on yo' ass’. How can drums be blasphemous? Well, besides playing them during a Catholic Mass and annoying the priest, the ones on Hastur are the kind you might only hear at night, in the distance, when strange lights are in the sky and the shadows around you keep shifting. When you add in the other ritual-like sounds, from chanting and the rise and fall of a drone, you can almost feel one of the many tendrils of an Elder god tickling your coccyx.

Drums are just one part of Hastur however, the various soundscapes containing a variety of other textures and depths. I write quite extensive notes but find it hard to adequately describe a two hour album in the way that I might a 45 minute one. Here I will write down an assortment of the sounds I heard and the ways I described them on paper. It should give you a taste of what I mean at the least. I am also tempted to caption it “Lovecraftian Gratitude Journal Day 153” :

A teeth grating sound going side to side, tones filtered through murky water fizzling out before they reach the bottom, shrieking bat-noises in the belfry, guttural chuntering, witch-like ‘hag tones’, a pulsing swarm head-fuck, ‘floor sweep’ whispers, sliding granite blocks in distant temple, lonely piano notes, chimes, static and distant screams.

The soundscapes on Hastur are relatively smooth; they don’t jar and they are quite nice for relaxation. There is enough going on to keep the listener’s interest and to provide some fun, dark daydreams, from reconfiguring temples to the movements of strange creatures in the shadows. I also really liked the drums, it made me feel that unseen forces were seeping into the soundscape, ready to unstitch the reality of the denizens silly enough to invoke them. If you are a Lovecraft fan, and you also happen to enjoy dark ambient music, you’ll probably already own Hastur. If not, visit the Hastur page below and have a listen. I think you’ll be glad that you did.

Visit the Hastur page on Bandcamp, and check out the first track below. (Skip to around 29 minutes to enjoy some of those dark drumbeats I mention above).

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Hastur
Album Artist: Cryo Chamber Collaboration
Label: Cryo Chamber
Released: December 17, 2019