Few things leave me speechless, very few things. Dark ambient has a certain ability to do that to me more than any other genre of music. By now, listening to dark ambient releases for well over two years, I thought I had heard the best I was going to hear. That’s not a knock on things to come but rather a presumption I made based on the extremely high quality of the albums which I had heard. Then came Nyarlathotep. That opinion melted away when I heard Cryo Chamber’s latest collaborative album. Third in a series (following Cthulhu and Azathoth), Nyarlathotep clocks in at a behemoth 190 minutes. That’s not a typo. Nyarlathotep is a massive three songs, three-hour opus and believe me every single minute is worth it.
Nyarlathotep is a collaboration between 25 artists, when you take that into account it’s not hard to imagine how the album ballooned to a three-hour colossus. Nyarlathotep, like its two predecessors, is steeped in Lovecraftian lore and the Cthulhu Mythos. Nyarlathotep, for those of you who are unaware, is an Outer God in the Lovecraft’s pantheon of amoralistic, terrifying powerful, and mind-destructively malevolent beings. He has a host of titles as well, the Crawling Chaos, the Faceless God, the Black Pharaoh, and so forth. He intervened in human history, according to the Cthulhu Mythos, to sow seeds of madness and decay, not for any mastermind plot for the for simple pleasure of it. He is often connected to ancient Egypt, hence the title “Black Pharaoh.” He appears in such stories as “Nyarlathotep,” “Dream Quest of the Unknown Kadeth,” and “The Dreams in the Witch House.” He is one of the more pervasive characters in all of Lovecraft’s work, more so than even Cthulhu.
To that end, Nyarlathotep is steeped in ancient and desolate soundscapes. Throughout each song there are multiple tribal and folk-like elements that assert themselves over the course of three hours, calling back to the Crawling Chaos’ connection to Ancient Egypt. The music, when it’s at the forefront of the album, is almost calming in a way but the threat of madness and damnation is every present, never allowing the listener to quite get comfortable listening to it. The instrumentation is strange, a mix of atonal or off tuned instruments that are not played or heard in normal circles of music, that gives this album an otherworldly, hideous atmosphere. The soundscape, always the most fundamental piece in any dark ambient release, is a cacophony of the dull, quiet tones and eerie, almost unnatural winds. Each second of this album is immersed in horror and terror, despite the great length of the album, each sound and piece of music is painstakingly placed to give the listener something they have never experienced before.
I had the pleasure of reading “Dream Quest of the Unknown Kadeth” as I was listening (the story itself is not overly long and could be read in the space of three hours) and the words and images were indelibly and undeniably enriched by the album, the horrors and strangeness of the story were ever so slightly enhanced and magnified. With external sound given to them, the cats of Ulthar, the Toads of the Moon, the dead city of Kadeth, were all made more real, more concrete in my mind. That’s what this music is for. Lovecraft wrote about things that are incomprehensible (actually in context of the world he created, if a normal person were to look upon the things he wrote they would be driven forever insane by the cosmic horror and utter strangeness of it all) in everyday life and yet he has left his fingerprints over so much. Horror films and novels today would not have the same dread or cosmic weight to them, nor would genres of music like dark ambient, metal, or dungeon synth have the pull that they do. Lovecraftian literature and dark ambient have a great symbiotic relationship, each enhancing and sharpening the other.
If you have three hours to space, you will need all of it at once, then you must listen to this. If you only have an hour, one for each song, then you must listen do this. If you enjoy Lovecraftian literature or film, you must listen to this. In short, no matter what, this is an album you should listen to. I give it my highest recommendation and endorsement. Cryo Chamber took a very ambitious chance with this album and were able to knock it out of the park, so to speak. 25 separate artists came together on this project, each with their own visions and their own styles. This could have been a colossal miasma of sound without any sort of vision or clarity and yet, this is one of, if not the, most visionary albums I have ever had the pleasure of listening to, each artist contributes something beautiful and unique yet at the same time they become indistinguishable, a piece in a massive, horrifying puzzle. This album continues the tradition of Cthulhu and Azathoth and I hope the legacy lives on for many years.
Listen and support!