Thursday 3 December 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Infernal Beyond

Dark Ambient Review: Infernal Beyond

Review by Casey Douglass

Infernal Beyond

When people study the notion of becoming “enlightened”, it isn’t unusual for a variety of religious and spiritual systems to refer to the energy involved as being like a fire or a flame. This flame can be fuelled by many different things, even tipping someone over into madness. If you base a dark ambient album around the concept of a fire at an asylum for the insane, and then hint at sinister occult forces driving the whole thing, Flowers for Bodysnatchers’ Infernal Beyond is where you might just find yourself.

The album description says that the asylum fire killed almost everybody inside. The small town in which it happened is rife with rumours that “something unnatural and otherworldly” now resides there. It’s possible that the fire might have been some kind of occult mass murder, and that something dark has taken up occupancy of the fire-blackened walls. Personally, this led me to ponder if screams might still echo from the brickwork, but ones that are now fuelled by an energy quite different to that of insanity.

The overall feeling I got from Infernal Beyond, was one of whimsy and carnival. That’s not to say it isn’t a dark album, it certainly is. But there is a playful malevolence to many of the tracks, like a rigged fairground game that looks winnable, but in which you are actually risking your life rather than your money. One of my favourite tracks was Of Shadowed Horror, and I think that by describing it, I can explain my point a little bit better.

The track opens with jaunty notes, possibly from a melodica. Crackles of deep fuzz rub against the notes, accompanied by a kind of “fingernail running along plastic comb teeth” sound. The mental image this gave me was of a puppet master, but maybe one with humans dangling on bloodstained strings. Everything is smooth in the first half of the track, the puppet master revelling in their control. Then we hear a kind of groan, and the soundscape turns into a bassy, rasping space. It feels tight, and frustrated. It made me wonder if the puppets are beginning to realise that they are trapped, starting to struggle and twist in the air. The puppet master’s whimsy clashes with the puppets’ despair.

The track that follows was another favourite of mine, as it holds on to this rasping, guttural feeling and runs with it. Lurkers opens with juddery strings and a jarring high tone. It also has tones that sound like they might have been made by the sound of metal manhole covers sliding open. This kind of set the scene for me. There are echoes, hissing sounds and knockings. I wondered if I was listening to some sewer dwelling creatures rising up through the streets, moving slowly towards the nearby church. Things deepen and become more ominous once they are inside, but just after the midpoint, a silence falls, punctuated by the almost sleep-like hisses of slumber. Maybe the creatures only wanted to pray, and once on their knees, they found some kind of peace? Gentle tones warble over the scene, seeming to lend a peaceful darkness to the tableau.

Underval is another track I really appreciated. It starts with a lone piano note and a beat. This repeats a couple of times before a piano melody begins. There are rising and falling string notes and a whining in the air. A crystalline whistle emerges later too, alongside what sound like cries, and an insect-like buzz. Around the midpoint, the soundscape feels like it has “inverted”, for want of a better word. You know if you look at a photo in an image editing app and invert the colours? For some reason, I just felt that this track did the same. The second half is an airy, chimey, howling space. It quietens again and the listener enters into an echoing space of metallic impacts and dripping. A deep tone vibrates, a rainstorm rumbles, and distant dogs bark. The strange thing about the dogs though, is that they sound more like humans acting like howling dogs. Or something else... A great sinister track.

Infernal Beyond is a dark ambient album that gives the listener the run of a town in trouble. Some of the tracks are stark and brutal, hinting at strange treatment chambers and echoing vaults. Others seem to have an almost luxurious feel, like an orgy about to take place in a plush Victorian mansion, but one in which the beds are covered in blood and the platters of food don’t really contain the kind of meat that you think they do. This is all wrapped up in the “carnival” feeling that I alluded to earlier. If you enjoy dark ambient that skirts on the edge of worlds, realms and insanity, you’d do well to check out Infernal Beyond.

Visit the Infernal Beyond page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out the track Underval below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Infernal Beyond

Album Artist: Flowers for Bodysnatchers

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: 01 Dec 2020