Sunday 21 March 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Dark Litanies of Terra / Mundus Sanctorium

Dark Ambient Review: Dark Litanies of Terra / Mundus Sanctorium

Review By Casey Douglass

Dark Litanies of Terra / Mundus Sanctorium

Warhammer 40,000 is something I’ve tried to get into on a number of occasions, but until recently, I didn’t really click with it. A good omnibus of novels has helped massively, dabbling with one of the PC games too, and finally getting around to listening to the two albums that I am going to talk about in this review. I’ll mention the book and the game at the end, but the two dark ambient albums come from Monasterium Imperi: Dark Litanies of Terra and Mundus Sanctorium.

Both albums take a little of their inspiration from the Warhammer 40K world, but they aren’t intended to be overly entwined with the lore of that universe, nor is there any formal link with Games Workshop. Monasterium Imperi simply suggests that they might make a good soundtrack to listen to while you’re engaged in any amount of thought or gaming, that might include the darkness of that universe.

I made the decision to review both albums together, as that is the way that I first listened to them, and also because it just seemed right to me. In the broadest of strokes, I’d say that Dark Litanies of Terra seemed the most pious or sacral of them both, with Mundus Sanctorium’s field-recorded or other additions seeming to set three quite specific kinds of scene. Both albums feature the soothing style of sinister Gregorian chanting that might accompany a sprawling and powerful human civilization though, and for me, it’s by far the feature that stands most prominent.

Dark Litanies of Terra

Dark Litanies of Terra consists of seven, relatively brief tracks, each of which is dedicated to Earth. For me, they conjured the kind of mental imagery that you might expect if you have seen the artwork of the Warhammer 40K world. I felt like I was walking the polished gothic halls and chapels of sinister cathedrals, the sunlight shining through carefully placed windows battling its way through the darkness that creeps at the edges.

The track Fratres is probably my favourite. It opens with a sinister vibration and a throbbing bass rumble. The sacral chants begin and a lighter melody accompanies them, the odd hefty, single drum-beat sounding. This track includes something in the chant that I really enjoy. I’ve called it a “shred” but I’m sure that’s not the real term. Some of the chant has a higher edge, or maybe it’s even an extra tone added. It’s just a really pleasing counter to the unrelenting depth of some of the deepest tones. This whole track, for me, had an “enemy at the gates” feeling, that life was about to change and that dark deeds are about to be set into motion, in an effort to protect that life.

Mundus Sanctorium

Mundus Sanctorium is three longer tracks, each set to evoke worshipful life on far-flung sacred worlds in the cosmos. As I said previously, each track has a number of field-recorded or other elements that really set the scene. The first, Ordo Arcanum Cognitio has the splash of wind, rain and leaves. The second, Angeles Metalikus has a kind of electro-energetic fizzing, and the third, Credo Ultima, has the hiss and movement of something mechanical,along with distant screams. Guess which was my favourite?

Credo Ultima opens with a low drone, a clattering distant impact, and horn-like tones. Then the first scream begins. There is a chiming-knocking sound, and a regular piston-hiss, painting a picture of some kind of correctional or torture structure, a place for the heretics to be shown the error of their ways maybe. The calming chanting begins, with “shred”, and the screams that come after seem to amp up in their agony. I loved this track as it was the darkest for me, but the other two evoke some great impressions too.

Final Thoughts

Leading up to this review, I picked up Dan Abnett’s Eisenhorn trilogy on Kindle. It’s currently £1.99 and is over a thousand pages of Warhammer 40K fun. I was partly swayed by one of the reviews, saying that it was a great book even if you weren’t a 40K fan, or maybe even if you’d not enjoyed other stuff. For £1.99 I picked it up. I’m half way through it at the moment and it’s brilliant. Eisenhorn is like the Inquisitor version of Sherlock Holmes, in some aspects. The book has already mentally taken me to an ice-world where most of the population has to be cryogenically frozen until the weather improves, to strange space-bending realities, and to witness a massive act of heretical terrorism that blew my mind.

Having spent a few weeks with Eisenhorn, I also decided I’d like to give Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2 a try. It’s a space-based real time strategy game where you can blast and pulverise the enemy with massive gothic spaceships. I’ve not been gaming much recently, and I’m finding BFG:A2 a bit overwhelming, but I’ve had a couple of hours with it so far and I’m enjoying the pomp and bluster of the conflict. This game, with the book and these two dark ambient albums have created a nice little triangle of interest for me, and all of them have fed into the others to make them feel more fleshed out and more vivid.

Would I have enjoyed the darkness of Dark Litanies of Terra / Mundus Sanctorium, if I hadn’t discovered a newfound interest in Warhammer 40K? I think I would. Is my enjoyment of the Warhammer 40K universe amplified in the other direction as well? Definitely. I like things based on dark religious ideas, even though most modern day religions leave me a little disgusted. Such is the paradox of my own mind. Losing myself in the dark chant-based soundscapes of Monasterium Imperi while contemplating what it might be like to live in such a bleak yet powerful future is just what I feel I need right now.

Visit the Dark Litanies of Terra / Mundus Sanctorium pages on Bandcamp for more information. You can also have a skip through Dark Litanies of Terra below:

Album Titles: Dark Litanies of Terra / Mundus Sanctorium

Album Artist: Monasterium Imperi A.k.a Scorpio V

Label: Prometheus Studio

Released: 24 Dec 2020 / 5 Feb 2021