Saturday 5 December 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Rotting Dreamland

Dark Ambient Review: Rotting Dreamland

Review by Casey Douglass

Rotting Dreamland

The album description for Psionic Asylum's Rotting Dreamland says that it’s a “morbid journey through the rotting land of dreams”. This, when taken with the album art, certainly got me into a kind of “Clive Barker” head-space. This space is filled with fleshy creatures, sharp metal and strange doorways leading people to even darker places. This feeling was magnified tenfold upon listening to the actual soundscapes of Rotting Dreamland. It is incredibly dark, grim and brilliant.

The soundscapes of Rotting Dreamland are ripe with hissing, cries of pain, scraping metal and just a general feeling of bad things happening. Take track The Boiler Room as an example. It opens with a whistling hiss and a rumbling, punctuated with cries of pain. After a short while, the hisses seem to take on the mantle of breathing, and a little later, what sounds like a crying child can be heard. Then comes the sound of grinding metal, making me wonder a little, if Silent Hill’s Pyramid Head might be coming. The second half of the track features a barking voice rasping out “You will die!”, and another voice, a little like a gremlin, shouting “Help me!” For me, the whole track screamed “Kidnap victim in a sack waiting on the floor of a boiler room to see what their fate is”. I said it was dark.

Opening track Temple of Succubi is a different beast, swapping the hiss of a boiler room for the harsh stone and echoing vaults of a temple. An airy drone sounds, with chimes and distorted voices. Then the moaning starts, and I wasn’t quite sure if they were groans of pleasure or pain. A high sparkling chime and a rasping rhythm emerge. I felt the opening minutes of this track created a sensation of what it might be like, to be a ghost in a blender. There is scuffling movement, metallic grinding and knocking, and the atmosphere seems to start boiling as we approach the midpoint. The second half of this track led me to imagine a hazy temple, and a succubus slowly beginning to form from the incense that billows and curls in the air over a despairing mass of squirming bodies. A sensual and scary track.

The last track I will go in-depth on is The Source of Endless Filth. This is a glorious, bubbling, gloopy track, the kind of thing that just encapsulates what a sewer in Hell might be like. The kind of sewer where the effluence doesn't flow, it sucks and burps its way along, a thick tar laced with sweetcorn-like skulls and bones piercing its surface. There are sounds of wet exhales and squeals, and also the impression of something large wading along the tunnel. Maybe it’s even a soundtrack to what it might be like to pass through a giant demon-lord’s bowel? Who knows. Listening to it was fun though, especially in the relief of not being able to smell what you could hear.

Rotting Dreamland is one of the most intense dark ambient albums that I think I’ve probably ever listened to. Some of its tracks are less intense than the ones mentioned above, but even these are melancholic, bleak, and create feelings of desolation. If you can remember the last proper nightmare you had, and by proper I mean one that would make a great horror film, Rotting Dreamland would more than likely make a great soundtrack for that film. If you love delving into disturbing soundscapes, you should really check it out.

Visit the Rotting Dreamland page on Bandcamp for more information.

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Rotting Dreamland

Album Artist: Psionic Asylum

Label: Distorted Void

Released: 21 Nov 2020