Sunday 14 February 2021

Dark Ambient Review: 666 Minutes in Hell

Dark Ambient Review: 666 Minutes in Hell

Review by Casey Douglass

666 Minutes in Hell

Hell and its denizens inspire so much in the creative sphere, that if you aren’t devoutly religious and fearful of the very concept, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to hellish novels, films, games and music. When dark ambient music takes Hell as its muse however, it’s a match made in Heaven. BlackWeald’s 666 Minutes in Hell is a mammoth slab of hellish goodness, one that takes the listener through the moment of death and the grave, and leads them along dark hallways to the chasms of the pit.

666 Minutes in Hell is eleven hours long. It’s the longest album I’ve ever listened to, let alone attempted to review. Some of the tracks are longer than an entire dark ambient album. I listened to it an hour or so at a time, and made notes on which tracks really tweaked my devil horns. If you take a broad overview of the album, there are copious amounts of dark, rumbling spaces, demonic sounds, chanting and other grim melodies, plucked on forlorn guitars or the keys of a piano. It’s both eclectic and familiar, and carries the feeling of brimstone, despair and damnation.

The first track that made me think “Wow” was the second one: A Cold Funeral. It opens with peaceful vocals and a hint of wind. Then come the sounds of activity and impacts, and a song that seems closer to the listener. An insect-like whine and the sounds of night merge with movements of soil and digging, of wood scraping and the world outside being shut out. A woman’s sobbing can be heard, footsteps walking around. A thunderous storm begins, mellow piano notes and a hollow wind. This track is basically the listener being buried.

The next track: Coffin Snatcher, sees things escalate. A creaking sound punctuates a droning, whirling soundscape, whispers impinging on the edge of the soundscape, echoing footsteps walking on stone floors. A guttural demonic voice detonates in the distance, and a chugging seeps into the awareness. At one point, a vibration begins, like massive steel cables blowing and resonating in the wind. This track creates a rasping, sinister soundscape, making the listener feel like they are at the edge of something nasty, something that is in the next room or the next corridor. One step closer to Hell.

My favourite track was As One Great Furnace, Flamed. It opens with the crackling of wood in a fire, the puttering flames sending a nice bassy flapping into the air. A distant demonic voice chunters to something unseen, and later, far away squeaks and sounds of activity filter through the flames. The track is 30 minutes long, which is a brilliant length of time for the listener’s mind to be lulled into a cosy stupor, wondering if it really is hearing haunting vocals in some other hallway. The golden glow of the mental flames makes everything else seem so much darker by comparison.

Dragged into the Maelstrom is track number thirty eight, and is another fine soundscape that benefits from its length, lasting almost fifty minutes. It’s a space that seems hollow and cavernous, a windy drone and rumbling bass again lulling the mind. It changes subtly over time, a warbling/pulsing slipping in at one point, a variation in the drone at others, a delving into ever deeper bass tones and melodies later still. This isn’t a dramatic “demons and despair” track, but one that depicts an insidious darkness, a darkness at the edge of an abyss of black infinity. Great to meditate or doze too, in my opinion.

666 Minutes in Hell is an epic dark ambient album, one that, for me, contained just the right kind of awe-inspiring, sinister soundscapes. Some tracks were pleasingly field-recording heavy and really set the scene. Others used voices to great effect, such as a preacher’s sermon in the track Into The Bottomless Pit. Some featured those grim melodies that I mentioned in the early part of this review, such as the echoing guitar melodies that can be found in track the Wrath Harvest. The majority however, fell into the category that I most enjoyed: drones, demonic sounds and rumbling spaces. If you’ve a certain kind of mind, even the sounds of Hell can be relaxing and fascinating. If you want to dive deeply into the infernal, pick up 666 Minutes in Hell and fill your boots.

Visit the 666 Minutes in Hell page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out a teaser video below:

I was given access to a review copy of this album.

Album Title: 666 Minutes in Hell

Album Artist: BlackWeald

Released: 14 Jan 2021