Thursday 19 August 2021

Dark Ambient Review: Cenozoic

Dark Ambient Review: Cenozoic

Review By Casey Douglass

Cenozoic Album Art

The Cenozoic is the current era in which we find ourselves, a period that stretches back sixty six million years. That’s a mind boggling period of time, so Cenozoic is also a great name for a dark ambient album that’s themed around some of the giant mega-creatures that wandered the planet during that period.

Paleowolf’s Cenozoic is described as a collection of tracks that convey a symbolic representation of the force and energy that these creatures embodied, and is also said to be the spiritual successor to Megafauna Rituals, another album themed around the teeth, hooves and thunderous calls of prehistoric life.

Cenozoic makes great use of a variety of human vocals in creating its soundscapes. There are various grunts, huffs and chants, and these are accompanied by atmosphere shaking ritual drum-beats and rattlings. Field recordings are used to great effect too, letting the listener reflect on the wind rustling leaves, and strange knocking impacts that echo back from weathered cave walls and tree trunks.

One of my favourite tracks is Megatherium (a kind of Giant Sloth). It begins with static-like sound and a looming drone. Distant impacts echo through what feel like trees, a shrill pipe note piercing the soundscape, a lower note poking at the atmosphere. There are bird-calls, a slow, thumping beat, a sense of the wind, and wooden knockings and rocky scrapings that feel nearer over time. This soundscape felt like a gentle space, but also a threatening one, one in which a gentle creature is trying to survive, but dangerous predators are only over in the next clearing. I liked this feeling.

Mastodon is another favourite track. This one opens with a fast rumbling drum-beat and an elephantine trumpeting call. A vibrating tone rises and falls, creating a sensation of something unstoppable on the move. A swaying rushing sound soon begins, maybe hinting at fur rippling and rubbing on massive flanks. The beat stops near the midpoint and the space becomes airy before the sounds seep back into a chant-laced second half.

Finally, I really enjoyed the last track of the album: Argentavis (giant bird). I think this track stood out to me because it was a pleasing departure, or change of pace, from the land-based creatures of the previous tracks. This track features the howling wind of altitude, and high quivering pipe tones that sit amongst a low throbbing vibration. A bird-call sounds, and things feel easy and calm. A bird-screech echoes from the hard places, a brief drum-beat sounds, and leads to an airy, agitated second half of the track, like the air is full of busy insects and life trying to survive.

Cenozoic Artbook Image
The album also includes a digital artbook featuring the artwork of Andjelko Kuzmanovic.

Cenozoic is an earthy and yet dreamy visit to a distant time. The field-recorded sounds, chanting and meaty drum-beats often give way to airy, swirling periods of dream-like impressions, beautifully hinting at the shamanic elements of the creatures and the journey to see them. These dreamy periods cleanse the mind of its familiarity with a soundscape, and then let the sounds emerge again, in a kind of second chance to be appreciated. It’s funny how a rhythmic drum-beat that you’re lulled by, suddenly stopping, can be just as interesting as the beat itself. On a personal level, I do slightly prefer Megafauna Rituals over Cenozoic, but this is more to do with the animals featured. They are both very fine albums though.

Visit the Cenozoic page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also check out the track Megatherium below:

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Cenozoic

Album Artist: Paleowolf

Label: Prometheus Studio

Released: 26 July 2021