Sunday 28 June 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Final Crisis

Dark Ambient Review: Final Crisis

Review by Casey Douglass

Final Crisis

There’s something about the heavy, oppressive summer weather that has me yearning for darkness. There’s also something about humanity, that right now, has me yearning for annihilation. Xerxes The Dark’s dark ambient album Final Crisis seems to have come at just the right time for me, as it provides both darkness and annihilation, and also happens to wrap them up in the tasty candy shell of a “science going too far” world-ending event.

The concept/story of Final Crisis revolves around scientists accidentally breaching the membrane between our own world and a parallel one. The fields and particles that can now cross between the two worlds are a threat to the very existence of both. This comes about by way of the mutations that they can bring, but also in the emergence of micro black holes and vacuum bubbles. The track titles of Final Crisis reflect these elements of the tale. On the one hand, the world being ruined by scientific accident is horrendous, but on another level, bring it on! Which would you rather, die of a heart-attack when you are 60 or be imploded by a micro black hole? I think I’d choose the latter.

So... what is the sound of two parallel worlds destroying each other? It’s quite “sci-fi” and also quite horrific. In Final Crisis, you’ll hear a variety of drones, static, and metallic clanking. You will also hear strange pops, crackles and electronic tones. On the human level, things range from fervent whispers and garbled radio-transmissions, all the way up to what sounds like the hellish screams of the masses. That’s not to say the soundscapes are all chaotic and intense, a good number feature sections of quiet menace, where you can almost hear the individual atoms of a black hole fizzing into existence.

The first track: The Hiding, gives a great taste of what’s to come. It begins with static and the rumble and clanking of machinery. The other sounds around these give a hint at the discovery of antimatter, the tones feel “plinky”, a little like elemental popcorn popping in some strange (and dangerous) microwave oven. There are crumpling, crackling sounds, and harsh whispers. After the midpoint of the track, a rending, “jackhammer-like” sound begins, sharing elements with how an alarm might shrill. There is more whispering, and the sound of machines with a “rattle-snake” stutter. Certainly one heck of an opening track.

A number of the tracks feature sounds that made me think of very mundane situations, but unknown to the people involved, things are going horribly wrong in the dark corners that they cannot see. I really relished this aspect of Final Crisis. The track Crisis Part 1 (Microscopic Black Holes) is a great example of this. It begins with a distorted fizzing tone, with voices warping and bending around it, shimmering and twisted. The elements of this track gave me the mental impression of someone’s cellar. Life is going on in the daylight of the house above, but down amongst the boxes and cobwebs, a micro black hole starts to suck ever so gently on the dust motes around it. The track vibrates and grows, and at one point there is the sound of movement, as if someone has come down to retrieve something from the cellar. I got the impression that they went back upstairs, oblivious to the growing danger beneath them. I found this quite delicious.

The most mellow track is probably the final one: Theory of Nothing. Understandably, given as it suggests things haven’t gone well for our world. Its simple melody and drone put me in mind of the scenes at the end of any good disaster movie. It’s the grey fog that hides the true horror, but also the sadness that’s left to seep into the crumbling mortar. There are other sounds, the stab of reverberating static and a deep chant-like sound. Whatever happened in the story, this track is a haunting end to a dark ambient album that takes the listener on a journey of discovery and destruction.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Final Crisis. If you are of a dark frame of mind, are partial to a little sci-fi reality dabbling, and you sometimes just wish that everything would go the fuck away, Final Crisis might be the album for you.

Visit Final Crisis on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out the 25 minute album preview below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

On the Bandcamp page, you will also see that I edited the album description of Final Crisis. I really liked Morgoe’s story/concept for the album so I sent him a little edit of his story, keeping his words but also attempting to smooth out a few rough edges. He kindly decided to use it. This didn’t influence my review.

Album Title: Final Crisis
Album Artist: Xerxes The Dark
Label: Zāl Records
Released: 3 July, 2020