Sunday 4 April 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Astral Temple

Dark Ambient Review: Astral Temple

Review By Casey Douglass

Astral Temple

When I was a teenager, I loved reading the horror of Dennis Wheatley. My favourite book was Strange Conflict, because it was so heavy with notions of astral projection and sinister magic. Astral Temple is a dark ambient album from Notnotice. It released in 2018 and I came across it when I was having a browse of Bandcamp one fine day. In short, after having clicked through a few of the tracks, I found myself back in that teenage frame of mind, thinking about other planes of existence and the dark things that might dwell there. Which brings me to this review.

From the very first track, Molder of Sleep, the listener gets the impression that the empty space around them is far from empty. Whispers dance from ear to ear, the sounds contained within them almost making it feel like they are dripping into the mind. A throbbing drone sits beneath them, a higher tone quietly sounding at intervals. These elements play together for awhile, the pulsing seeming to afflict each tone to varying degrees. A strange type of dream machine came to mind, a resonant pealing sound carrying the dreamer to the astral plane. In the second half of the track, strange, distant music can be heard, maybe a sinister opera caught on the astral winds, but one that is impossible to actually find. This was an ethereal, bleak and sinister track, and I really enjoyed the atmosphere that it created.

Descent to Lower Levels is another track that I particularly enjoyed. It opens with a rumbling drone, one that is soon joined by distant squealing tones. The soundscape presses and vibrates with slab-like bass, horn notes, and small furtive movements that crackle in what sounds like long stone corridors. This track is both airy and spacious, yet hot and claustrophobic at the time same, like walking into Hell and being simultaneously struck by the overall vista, but also, the immediate tight pathway. This is an ominous track, the horn notes making it feel forbidden and dangerous for the person roaming the scene.

Higher Entities is a track that is ominous in a different way. It starts with a low hollow drone and the buzzing of a radio or an amp. A deep hum or chant begins, tiny scratching sounds scraping their nails down the listener’s ear drums. Distant echoing knocks start to occur, hinting at another soundscape encased in stone or rock. The chant, the crackling and the impression of distance seem to make this track feel “higher” in the way that, rather than weighing you down, it seems to lift you up. Where it takes you still feels dark, but a more refined type of darkness.

Lastly, I wanted to highlight Error of My Mirror. The track opens with an airy, trundling drone, a slight hiss accompanying it. The sound of dripping rain suggests itself, a long exhale-like swell of air soon follows, with small squeaks and hints of clattering metal wrapped in its bosom. The soundscape feels very mechanical to me at this point, like some kind of Hell-machine firing up in the basement of an abandoned church. This basement pulses with strange energies and weird lights, and the rain that manages to reach the small, high windows in the walls, is the only witness to what is really going on in there.

Astral Temple is a dark ambient album full of occult-infused spaces. It strikes me as the kind of album that you can listen to anywhere, and still feel like the veil between worlds is thinning around you. Whether you listen in the warm comfort of a modern home, or a tent on a windy hillside, I think you’ll enjoy how it seemingly brings the otherworldly so near.

Visit the Astral Temple page on Bandcamp for more information.

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Astral Temple

Album Artist: Notnotice

Label: Noctivagant

Released: 8 March 2018