Friday 10 February 2023

Dark Ambient Review: Rastakhiz

Dark Ambient Review: Rastakhiz

Review By Casey Douglass

Rastakhiz Album Art

We live in a world of judgement, a world in which our actions and motives are evaluated by those nearest to us, or even strangers who might hear about them. It’s not that surprising that judgement is a big element of many religious faiths, whether the judging we do ourselves, or the judgement we might receive when we die. Rastakhiz is a dark ambient album from Dodenskald, the title meaning Judgement Day in the Persian language.

Dark ambient is a fantastic genre for portraying enormous ideas, especially those that seem larger than life or more mystical in nature. I have very little understanding of Islam so I won’t be able to draw on the deeper meanings behind the track titles, although Google did helpfully tell me that Israfil is the trumpet-blowing angel who starts the Day of Judgement. I simply tried to go into this album open to any imagery that the music created, aware of my ignorance as to what might also be implied.

Rastakhiz, for me, was a peaceful album. Any moments that gave me a gentle jolt came from the way that a number of the tracks play with the timing of the music, an audio element pausing suddenly and then resuming a few moments later. I really liked this and it’s a tremendous way of rousing a drone-lulled listener enough to refocus on the track in question.

Opening track, Israfil’s Horn, is a great opening track. It begins with low, string-like notes and a shimmering melody. It’s smooth and lulling, and once you are used to the general pattern, it pauses for an instant and then resumes, in one of those ways I mentioned above. Horn-like notes begin to sound, backed by the metaphysical shimmer, a deep throb and a high whistle responding. This is a track that embodies the summoning of something, a bringing forth that is beautiful and also ominous.

At The Gates of Oblivion is one of my favourite tracks, as for me, it was one of the darkest. It proceeds with a slowly growing drone, one that’s soon accompanied by a warm reverberation and echoing windy scufflings. The “scufflings” almost sound like creatures hissing and sighing in a dark cavern. There are brief periods of low notes that start and stop, build and crest and fall. For me, these low notes add a note of mischievousness to the soundscape, of powerful entities watching across the breadth of the abyss, plotting how to entice people inside.

Another track that I really enjoyed was To Heaven And Hell, the last track on the album. This is a low, languid track that seems part funeral procession, part infinite hike into the afterlife. The deep tones are backed by a metallic pulsing shimmer, and once more, they stop and start at times. Near the midpoint, they’re also joined by melancholy piano-like notes, which adds an extra layer of delicacy to things. I wrote in my notes that I found this track to be peaceful yet provoking, and also desolate, yet warm and embracing, which is quite a range of emotion I know. A great track.

Rastakhiz isn’t like any other dark ambient album that I’ve ever listened to, as far as my memory allows at least. It offers a graceful experience of a looming end, and does it in such a way that the mind can appreciate the beauty and the horror, and maintain some kind of stability, even in the face of some of the biggest ideas and themes. If my review has piqued your interest, you can visit the Rastakhiz page on Bandcamp below. You might also like to check out my review of one of Dodenskald’s previous albums: The Book.

Visit the Rastakhiz page on Bandcamp for more information.

Album reviewed by streaming via its Bandcamp page.

Album Title: Rastakhiz

Album Artist: Dodenskald

Released: 22 Nov 2022