Tuesday 19 January 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Rites Of Darkness And Dismal Visions

Dark Ambient Review: Rites Of Darkness And Dismal Visions

Review by Casey Douglass

Rites Of Darkness And Dismal Visions

As someone who suffers with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I know the value of putting my mind into a state where I just accept that the stuff I fear has already happened, and I might as well enjoy the rest of my day before everything comes crashing down around me. It releases the mental tension of trying to control or protect myself from misfortune, and ironically, helps me to see things more clearly afterwards. I think this is what drew me towards Umbrarum Tenebrae’s dark ambient album Rites Of Darkness and Dismal Visions.

In a Covid world, where people are trying to cling on to any little tidbit of hope or good news, the idea of an album themed around “haunting people into further desperation” really appealed to me. Alongside the OCD stuff above, it appeals to my dark and perverse sense of humour. I also feel like it’s a great tonic against the continual rumination and regurgitation of the media, where often, there’s nothing new to report, so lets just speculate ad infinitum until something happens, and scare people even more. Sorry, this is a dark ambient album review, I promise.

For all that Rites Of Darkness and Dismal Visions is set in a world coping with a new plague, the soundscapes it builds sent me down into cavernous cave systems and rumbling temples. It made me feel a little like an old-school DnD thief type character, creeping through dangerous spaces and spying a procession of monks or holy soldiers venturing forth to slay some dark thing inside. The darkness seems to be very watchful, a common sound being the teeth-clicking chittering of some kind of creature, prowling and guarding their domain. The first track, Path To Oblivion, set this scene for me, its fluttering-wing sounds and drumbeats making me think a little of Tolkien’s goblin-infested Moria. The next track, Liber Mortem, brought the monk-warrior feel to things, its raspy rattling soundscape populated by stick-clacking, chimes and malevolent hisses. It is during this track that the sacral chanting fully hits home, which gave me the imagery of some kind of holy army trying to reach the root of the evil.

I think my favourite track is Chambers Of Shadows. It opens with a distant wind and echoing chimes, but soon turns into a droning, drumbeat punctuating, hiss-filled soundscape, one with creature screeches and clicks, alongside a mellow female, and later, a male chant. This track brought me the image of the holy army in a mist-filled cavern, a place in which something like Medusa might be roaming, with people being snatched off into the murk, but the others slow on the uptake as to what is happening. The swelling notes also hinted at strange marvels to see, like carvings and lore engraved on hellish statues, stuff that hasn’t been read or seen for millennia. A varied soundscape with a quiet ominous feeling, brushing up against snatches of drumbeat and chimes and creature sounds. I really liked it.

The next track, The Chaos Principle, seemed to hint at some kind of rite being performed. After the low pulsing opening and muted chimes, the gentle echoing soundscape is punctured by a large hissing or snarl. A deep ritual beat begins, and the chiming tones start to feel like they are warping or twisting in the air. There are creature clicks and more chanting, and it all led me to feel that the goal of the quest was at hand, and that the denizens of that place aren’t taking kindly to that kind of audacity. I didn’t really think about what the outcome of the quest was, I found it more fun to leave things up in the air and to not think too hard about it. The final mellow track, Knell Ritual, could easily be the triumphant army celebrating, or just as easily, it could be their associates in some far away cathedral holding a funeral in their absence. Either is fine by me.

Rites Of Darkness And Dismal Visions for me, was a chant-fuelled trek into treacherous, hissing subterranean caverns, one where I could safely watch from the shadows and not really care which of the forces involved might prevail. It was peaceful and soothing, and seemed to provide a pleasant tonic against the crap going on in real life. It let me sit in a space where the worst has already happened, one where there is no need to dig up feelings of false optimism or hope. And that is kinda of refreshing.

Visit the Rites Of Darkness And Dismal Visions page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out the track Liber Mortem below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Rites Of Darkness And Dismal Visions

Album Artist: Umbrarum Tenebrae

Label: Noctivagant

Released: 20 Jun 2020