Thursday 10 December 2020

Dark Ambient Review: Silent Annihilation

Dark Ambient Review: Silent Annihilation

Review by Casey Douglass

Silent Annihilation

A few weeks ago, I reviewed Anihila’s most recent dark space ambient release: Kosmobushir. It certainly wet my appetite for more of Duncan's bleak space soundscapes, and he was kind enough to give me review access to his first Anihila release: Silent Annihilation. Whereas Kosmobushir was themed around a lost Soviet spaceship near Triton, Silent Annihilation is about the crew of a space-station orbiting a strange, time-bending planet.

Silent Annihilation is an album that taps into that desolate sci-fi feeling of strangeness, the one you get when you watch a really disconcerting film set in the stars. The kind of film I’m talking about is not only one in which nobody can hear you scream, but that also aren’t there to see your insides make a break for the outside, as a sinister throbbing star indifferently sweeps your body with radiation. That being said, some of the tracks also hinted to me, that other presences might be nearby, and with the time-warping factors of the theme, they might even be past or future echoes of the hapless space travellers.

The opening track is a fine example of the notion of presences. A hissing static is pierced by high tones. Metal screeches, and a sound that might just be breathing insinuates itself into the soundscape. There are electronic tones and whines, and distant clattering. This track made me think of a space-station in trouble, red light bathing its innards, cold space staring in through the windows, shadows shifting at the edge of vision. You know the kind of shadows that red emergency lighting can cast? They seem to take on a redness of their own. Here, maybe they’re even watching you.

I always think that there is something infinitely relaxing about shuddering, creaking metal on a space ambient album. I’m sure I’d shit bricks if I was really on a space-station or a ship making that kind of sound, but from the comfort of my own bed, it’s heavenly. Eusebes is a track that I thoroughly enjoyed, particularly for its use of these metallic sounds. What Eusebes throws into the mix however, is the kind of sound that you might hear when one spaceship docks with another, a kind of vigorous thump that goes way beyond straining superstructure. I felt that this was an introspective track, but one that creates the feeling of something coming. A bit like being alone in your house and thinking you hear a door opening downstairs, but on a space-station, with ships and time-warps. Maybe it’s you coming home forty nine days from now. Maybe it’s an alien wanting to suck your brain. The soundscape builds into a throbbing, pressurized space, knocking sounds and ghostly howls making you feel that, even if something has got in, it’s too late to do anything anyway.

Locus Meropis is another track that makes great use of creaking metal. This time, it felt to me as if the whole station was having its orbit adjusted. I thought that I heard the sounds of jiggling crockery and engines rumbling. There is also a sound that seemed like a large creature snoring. Maybe the station is having to take evasive action to avoid a space leviathan? Who knows! There are impacts on the hull, fairy-like tones, and a drone that smears a feeling of strangeness onto things. I doubt that the station is simply avoiding an asteroid, let me put it that way. Maybe it’s avoiding a future or past version of itself? Could be...

The final track is when my mind finally turned to the planet itself. Another Cold Night Alone is a mellow track, beginning with echoing string-notes that undulate away into the distance. There is a high tone that might be a distant howl or cry, and a rumbling that begins about a third of the way in. The elements of this track suggested a lone person sitting on a lush, alien world, its gravity spiking as another massive planet rises on the horizon, casting a spectacular shadow as it causes night to fall. What felt relatively tranquil is changed by the rumbling. The latter half of the track feels a lot more ominous and throbs with a sense of foreboding. Maybe the listener escaped the space-station and found somewhere that looked safe and beautiful, only to find that at night, the things with teeth come out.

For me, Silent Annihilation was the story of someone escaping a space-station that was in trouble, and possibly finding themselves in a different kind of danger as a consequence. I loved the relaxing metallic rumblings and creakings, and I loved the dose of unreality or uncanniness that seemed to go hand in hand with them. Think Event Horizon meets Interstellar maybe, with a chunk of Solaris, if you want my film reference-based description of how Silent Annihilation made me feel. If you like your dark space ambient ominous and twisted, check out Silent Annihilation.

Visit the Silent Annihilation page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out Eusebes below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Silent Annihilation

Album Artist: Anihila

Label: Pretty Dead Girl Records

Released: 01 May 2019