Xerxes the Dark is an artist that I have been looking at for quite some time, he was one of the first artists that I found when I started actively looking for dark ambient music. So why, might you ask, have I never reviewed any of his work? I have no real answer for that. Maybe it was because a lot of his work that I found was part of anthologies and collections and those are daunting because I don’t actually like doing song by song reviews (you’ve seen how much I write, can you imagine writing that much for 20 – 30 songs?) or he’s put out singles that I can’t review because I don’t like reviewing a single song as a representation of an artist. Now that I’ve completely bored you yet again with that nonsense, I have no real excuse for not reviewing XtD before now. Shame on me. Shame. Shame.
Anyways, he put out a full album in November and I was giddy to finally be able to get to it, even though it took me about two months to get through (believe I have a list that I went through as fast as I could to get here). I’m finally here! I’m pretty excited, to be honest, because even though I haven’t been reviewing, I’ve been listening. And what I’ve heard has been amazing. I deliberately didn’t listen to “Transmutation” before I started the reviewing process, I wanted my perspective to be fresh despite having a vague idea of what I could expect. Transmutation is an album celebrating 1o years of Xerxes the Dark. And it’s a hell of a fire cracker.
To be fair, it’s hard to pin down exactly what kind of ambient artist Xerxes the Dark is, he throws a lot of sounds and mixtures at the listeners. A lot of his stuff could be categorized as drone, others could be considered industrial, or even neo classical, space, or electronic. I only bring this point up because each of the songs on Transmutation celebrate his chameleon ability to create several different styles while maintaining a needed level of excellence to be called a real dark ambient artist. I won’t look at every single song (durp) but I will say that each song is a separate story, each song has a separate narrative and purpose. Each song utilizes a different subgenre in celebration of 10 years (which impresses me because I’ve been doing this for 7 months and I feel like I’ve been doing it forever now).
Each song’s narrative is entirely up to the listener to discern and decide. The emotional and philosophical paths that the listener-protagonist takes is entirely up to them. It is my belief that each song is a celebration of the achievement of mastering a certain style of dark ambient, as I said, each song is different and each song utilizes a different style of dark ambient. The entire album is ethereal, with a sort of foggy, smoky quality to the music. It’s not thick or rich, rather it makes the listener chase after it; the melodies, such as they are, form so quickly and vanish it can seem chaotic at first. I thought so my first listen but my second gave me a different perspective: that even though the melodies came and went quickly, they left imprints in the listener’s mind, they buried themselves in the subconscious. Smell might be the strongest sense tied to memory but sound has a more effective means of recalling emotions (at least that’s what it feels like for me, feel free to disagree with that point) and I think with each subsequent listen to Transmutation, the listener will recall more and more of the melody and of all the things going on around them as they listen, the music becomes something like a key.
My favorite track has to be the last one. I would never have thought I would like something so overtly electronic but there you have it. It has a beat that’s catchy, a strange thing to say in the world of atonal and disconcordant ambient I know, and a rhythm that really sinks into the mind. Even though I’m not listening now, I can still feel the beat as I type. If that’s not something music is supposed to achieve, then I don’t know what is. I try not to have favorite tracks on albums, preferring to take in albums as a whole to discover their narrative but try as I might, I couldn’t stop loving Aeon. Give it a try and tell me I’m wrong. I dare you. Listen to the whole album and tell me that the entire thing is not a wondrous achievement and a testament to Xerxes the Dark and the incredible carry he has had. Transmutation is as much a celebration of Xerxes the Dark as it is a thank you to the fans that have believed in the project. Transmutation is a melding of concepts, of stories, of emotions, into something unrecognizable but amazing to behold.
Listen and support!