Thursday 11 March 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Division Cycle

Dark Ambient Review: Division Cycle

Review By Casey Douglass

Division Cycle

Just as brutality and war can sometimes mask noble deeds, beauty and peace can conceal something dark and brooding. Hilyard’s dark ambient album Division Cycle, for me, falls into this latter category. The album art and description serve up a quick one-two to the ribs, the soundscapes contained in the tracks themselves delivering a final kick to the “nethers”, and I loved it.

No I’m not kinky, well, not to that degree, but I think you’ll understand what I mean. The green lush vista seen in the album art looks majestic and serene, even if the architecture looks like it was designed to keep out King Kong. The album description tells tale of gears of hatred and wrath, grinding bones and a hungry earth eager for our flesh. Those rolling green hills and mountains on the cover feel more than a little bit different now don’t they!

This dichotomy carries over into the tracks themselves. They feel lulling and warm, but often with a creeping feeling of darkness underneath things. There are airy drones, chants, shimmering tones and flowing notes, but at times, they feel hollow, a little like the soundscape is an egg-shell that is just starting to present with the cracks of the thing struggling within. I’m certainly not getting the “fluffy little chick” vibe from what the egg might contain.

Equal Segments is one of my favourite tracks. It opens with bat-like sounds, chittering and flitting in an echoing, hiss-filled space. A metallic thump rings out, a dark sonar for the listener’s mind as a feeling of rock and depth sighs away into the distance. I had mental images of a vast cavern, flickering torches tracing a treacherous path to a gargantuan temple, one that nestles just at the edge of perception. This is a soundscape of chittering teeth, the smooth ebb and flow of lulling tones, and a distance that feels like it’s trying to keep what is down there separate from the world of sun and wind above.

Heartwood Reverie is another track that stood out for me. It seems to begin with two, “ahh-like” drones that are accompanied by a deeper swell at times. The general feeling for me was very like a droning bee-hive, but more chant-like, less insectoid, if that makes sense. The title of the track completed the imagery that this track brought to my mind. What I envisaged was a forest, maybe a few meadows away. The day is turning to night and the trees are glowing and flickering with strange lights cast from deeper in the tree-filled domain. It felt a little Lovecraftian, like seeing the Cats of Ulthar bounding up to the Moon. A dream-vision in the real world? Maybe.

The final track that I will mention in any depth is Abandoned Ramparts. It opens with a whistling wind and a deep, subterranean rumbling, possibly with hints of thunder. The tones, drones and notes that emerge are a warm blanket against the wind, but this felt like a dark landscape, one in which night has come early. The light of the Moon makes the scudding clouds look ominous and majestic. Maybe whatever plan was afoot to protect this area, this way of life has failed, and now a lone watcher stays on the ramparts, taking a last look at the landscape they knew, before it changes forever.

Division Cycle is a relaxing dark ambient album, one to listen to when things seem lost, and also when things seem like they are going very well. The division between the so-called good and bad in life is often just a matter of time or perspective, and having an album to listen to that reminds you of both, like an audio version of yin and yang, is a fine thing.

Visit the Division Cycle page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out Equal Segments below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Division Cycle

Album Artist: Hilyard

Label: Cryo Chamber

Released: 23 February 2021