Monday 25 January 2021

Dark Ambient Review: A Silent Vigil for Oncoming Plagues

Dark Ambient Review: A Silent Vigil for Oncoming Plagues

Review by Casey Douglass

A Silent Vigil for Oncoming Plagues

I’ve seen a lot of dark ambient fans listening to dungeon synth in recent months. I’d flicked through a few of the albums that fell across my timelines, but I wasn’t really sure if it was for me. A few weeks ago, dark ambient creator Joseph Mlodik (Noctilucant), sent me a review code for his new music project Gavella Glan and its first album release: A Silent Vigil for Oncoming Plagues. It’s described as a mixing of dungeon synth and fantasy music, and is largely inspired by The Witcher 3, even featuring some samples from CD Projekt Red’s game.

What I first noticed about the music of A Silent Vigil for Oncoming Plagues, was a kind of perky innocence to many of the tracks. For me, things felt for the most part, clean, chirpy and optimistic, and the moments of darker tone felt like a safe kind of darkness, the difference between watching a horror and being in one, if that makes sense. Joseph explains in his album description, that this album was born in a period of isolation, and from “Something reminiscent of old video game scores, the 90’s output from Mortiis, forgotten memories, lust for adventure, and a means to escape this deranged world and to momentarily cope with it...” With that description in mind, I think he nailed it.

In the very first track: The Calm Before The Storm, the listener is treated to bell-chiming notes, sparkling outer tones, birdsong, and a mellow synth sound. It’s a peaceful track, with the odd, harsher, foreboding sound. It felt like walking up a grassy hill and seeing a quaint village laid out in the distance, the golden sunlight of dawn catching in the lazy woodsmoke of the chimneys. Other tracks might differ in tone but again, never felt threatening or too ominous. The Ones Atop the Mountain is a great example. After a low, droning, windy opening, once the melodies begin, it feels like a fun adventure again, rather than a dire expedition. It was genuinely nice.

The Oxenfurt Drunk is one of my favourite tracks. It starts with a voice saying “I’m here to talk about the contract!” and a jaunty string-like note with sparkles at the fringes kicks off. We hear corks popping out of bottles, drink pouring, and a little later, this pouring turns into a kind of “infinite pour”, becoming part of the music. It sounds like a potion being poured, backed by drunken muttering, and later, a confrontation and a nasty voice saying “I sense your blood!” This track felt zany, intoxicated, and just like how a pub fight would probably sound in a fantasy world of magic and poverty.

Another of my favourites was A Stormy Night of Arcane Hexes. It opens with a distant chiming and an oncoming rumble. Insects chitter and there is a dark shimmer to things. You can hear something panting, with whispers intruding at the edge of the soundscape. A haunting female vocal begins, the odd bell-chime, and a sparkling tinkling. Later, there is laughter, wind and rain. This track felt very much like what someone stumbling into a witches’ circle might experience, or maybe someone harried by playful sprites as they walk through a haunted woodland.

The title track, A Silent Vigil for Oncoming Plagues, is probably the most dark ambient track, in my opinion. It opens with a pulsing electronic tone and an oozing trickling. There is a deep vibration and ominous, string-like notes. It feels sad and foreboding. A deep shuddering bass sound rumbles along like a giant creature sleeping, and a female vocal floats and nestles on top. This track felt like a world dancing on the precipice, the last good times about to slip into the chasm, and people trying to catch the last small enjoyments that they’re able.

A Silent Vigil for Oncoming Plagues is a fun album, one that taps into some of the retro feeling of old Saturday morning cartoons and classic video-games. I think that the dark ambient, where it seeps in, does a great job of keeping it anchored, balancing the ying and the yang of lightness and darkness nicely. I’m still not certain that dungeon-synth and this style of album will be something that I visit regularly, but I did enjoy the time I spent in Gavella Glan’s world.

Visit the A Silent Vigil for Oncoming Plagues page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out the teaser video below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: A Silent Vigil for Oncoming Plagues

Album Artist: Gavella Glan (Joseph Mlodik)

Mastered: Mombi Yuleman

Released: 15 Jan 2021