Friday 19 March 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Ancient Death Cults and Beliefs

Dark Ambient Review: Ancient Death Cults and Beliefs

Review By Casey Douglass

Ancient Death Cults and Beliefs

Just over a month ago, I reviewed Sonologyst’s Dust of Human Race album, a dark musical look at death. Shortly after posting that review, Sonologyst kindly gave me a review copy of another of his death-themed albums: Ancient Death Cults and Beliefs. This album released in early 2020, and it is described as a musical investigation of the cults and beliefs in ancient times.

Ancient Death Cults and Beliefs isn’t tagged as dark ambient on Bandcamp, although I think it could easily fall into that genre, especially if you consider its drone, ritual and experimental elements. When you listen to the album, you will hear various field-recordings too, such as the shushing of leaves, the wind, and various knocking and possibly bone-grinding sounds. The first track, Purgatorium, begins with a number of these, a sweeping, gritty soundscape that seems laden with sighs, furtive movement and stray drumbeats. For me, it brought to mind sand and a cold desert night, with some strange rite being performed in the light of a flickering fire.

Ceremony is the next track, and for me, felt a bit digital, like an online funeral or the death of an android. It opens with a windy, pulsing drone, with a tapping or dripping sound, like raindrops on a plastic barrel. There is the sound of squeaking, juddering metal, and a tortured electronic shriek. I think this is where I got the “android” feeling from. Later come buzzes, shrills, chants, and a variety of breath-like sounds, things similar to panting or breathing. It’s a strange, unnerving and fun track.

Primeval Science is next, a track that opens with a hum and a two-tone beeping. It warbles and warps, a vibration building behind it. There is a slicing, digging-like sound, similar to a spade chopping its way into cold soil. The track grows in harshness, and later, smooths into a calmer space. I felt like it was a track that was viewing life through the filter of death, like a ghost looking back at the living, and only being able to see them properly when the more ritual drumbeat element emerges near the end, to smooth things out.

The penultimate track is Popol Vuh, an echoing string-based track swelling with a whirling electronic tone. I’d imagine this track would be quite a good fit for what being in an opium den might have felt like. There are insect wing flaps, creaking and wooden knocking, with a tortured exhale sounding somewhere near the midpoint. Pipe notes appear and a pulsing quality seems to flow through the soundscape. This track felt mellow and disconcerting at the same time, lulling and antagonising, and probably some other contradictions that didn’t occur to me.

The final track is Anubus, House of Dead Prince. As you might imagine with a title like that, this track had me contemplating pyramids. It starts with a buzzing that’s full of digital fuzz and distortion, higher tones floating gently around it. A quiet chime knocks, and a mellow melody. The buzzing takes on a chant-like aspect, and chiming notes knock along, making me feel like I was listening to a haphazard clock ticking. Or, a procession of worshippers moving into the bowels of a pyramid. The rest of the track confirmed this impression, and some of the sounds split from ear to ear in a nicely pleasing way. There are “sparkles” and echoes and a low rhythmic quality. It’s a nice trip.

Ancient Death Cults and Beliefs is a fascinating album, each track having its own unique way of slipping some death spirituality into your day. If you like your music questing and a little jarring at times, you should head over to the Bandcamp page below and take a closer look.

Visit the Ancient Death Cults and Beliefs page on Bandcamp for more information.

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Ancient Death Cults and Beliefs

Album Artist: Sonologyst

Released: 13 March 2020