As you may have seen, I’ve gotten a bit behind on my dark ambient reviews, the problem is, and it’s a wonderful problem to have, is that there is so much good stuff out there that I can’t possibly get to it all with any sort of efficiency and I want to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak. Therefore, once a week or so, I’ll release a volume of short reviews that touch on some of the latest ambient to have been released around the internet. Those albums that show up here don’t mean they don’t warrant a full scale literary analysis treatment (and perhaps I can release a volume of pure analysis later) but that I want to be able react and touch upon them before I am forced to move on. Without further ado, the Compendium awaits!
The Way and the Virtue – Druhá Smrt (Somber Soniks)
Druhá Smrt is to ritual ambient as Gorgoroth is to black metal, they have the name, the quality, and the longevity. The Way and the Virtue is split into two parts, the Way and the Virtue, and each track is a feast for the ears of the listeners. It’s a relaxing and eye opening journey that reflects the value of balance and the sacred dichotomy of heart and mind. The Way and the Virtue is sure to be another masterpiece, and the start a new musical series. Let your mind wander and your body relax with the sounds of Taoist chanting and singing bowls.
Last Frontier – Paul Minesweeper (Black Mara)
Combining folkish instruments with epic guitar drones, Paul Minesweeper reintroduces us into the world of ethno ambient. Last Frontier is a masterpiece that takes the listener on a journey through nature, exploring the uttermost limits of what is humanly possible. Last Frontier explores the narrative of exploration through isolation, testing the listener’s resolve as the album touches on the real last frontier: Solitude. The build is slow and cold, but the Last Frontier is a vast, sweeping epic of titan proportions. Last Frontier explores not only the icy cold of winter, but searches for what lies at the center of the human heart.
Abandoned Places – Otto von Kleist & Filmy Ghost (Kalpamantra)
Abandoned Places represents two very different genres melding to create a story worth telling. Otto von Kleist uses his talents in the neo classical subgenre while Filmy Ghost excels in drones and industrial noises. Apart, these two could create works of art that are vastly different from each other but together they are more than the sum of their parts. Abandoned Places is a somber story of places that have been abandoned and now are homes to haunted memories and wild spirits. Kalpamantra has done it again, telling a wonderfully detailed and complex story through dueling narratives. Abandoned Places is full of winding, twisting sounds, enough to leave the listener disoriented but well within the story.
Echo – Apocryphos, Kammarheit, Atrium Carceri (Cryo Chamber)
Echo is an appropriate name for this epic collaboration. The sounds, both instrumental and field recordings, echo on into a vast, empty void. Three masters of their craft have come together hear to record something the likes of which we have not been grace with before. With terrifying grace and plodding agility, these projects reform after Onyx to bring us a story of repetition and madness, the slow eager way we run toward our own destruction, only to realize we’ve been on this path before and each step echoes on forever. Cryo Chamber is the best at collaborative albums and Echo is another jewel in that crown.
Aether – Abattoir & Satori (Malignant)
If you want noise and chaos, look no further than Malignant’s latest collaborative album, Aether. This album is a glorious anthem to chaos and disorder, an ode to the mechanicalization of the world as we know it. Through the drone and fuzz that only death industrial’s best can deliver, we are submerged in a world where the human and the machine collide, where the lines become so blurred that we cannot tell one from the other. Aether becomes a frantic search for reality, tactile against versus virtual. Aether is an agonizing tale, told in the language of the rusted machine.
Black Monolith – Ajna & Dronny Darko (Reverse Alignment)
It’s a beautiful thing when two experts in drone music come together to create a single story. Black Monolith is a rerelease of earlier works by Ajna in the US and Dronny Darko in Ukraine, both remastering their previous songs to craft an entirely new feel and new epic narrative. This is the kind of album that lets you stare in the abyss and watch it as it stares back at you. The feeling of the drone throughout this entire album is surreal, the sensation of floating above your own consciousness and soaring through space at the same time. The drones range between dulcet and peaceful to shrill and anxiety inducing. The drones and distortions are organic, flowing from note to note at a pace almost infinitesimal, all against the background of the lingering void, an ever-present reminder of the emptiness that surrounds and awaits us.
Tomb of Seers – Council of Nine, Alphaxone, Xerxes the Dark & Wolves and Horses (Cryo Chamber)
Cinematic ambient at its best, Tomb of Seers is a story that delves deep in the occult history of Europe, the witch trials in all their ugly glory. Each song is crafted with emotion care so that the guitar and bass drones are felt in the chest and in the mind, the feelings are dual here. This is album that is meant to be played as loud as possible, it needs to be felt as well as listened to. Each artist on here contribute two tracks, each with their own specific stylistic grace. Each bring their own genre to tell a tale of pain, misery, and woe. This is what the darkness of humanity sounds like. This is the pinnacle of human achievement. We can explore the mystical but we can also still fall prey to fears. Tomb of Seers is a seething tale of both ends of the spectrum. It’s an album that needs to be in your collection.
Hostile Territory – Black Wanderer (Ksenza Records)
With tubular percussive drones that reverberate on and on until they are swallowed up, Black Wanderer throws itself into the middle of a sci-fi film. Taking themes, motifs, and sounds from familiar films, Black Wanderer crafts an amazing tale, an intimate look at the stars and what lies beyond those stars that we know. Hostile Territory is eerie and unsettling, a true explorative adventure into the inky blackness. Truly a cinematic journey, Black Wanderer utilizes normal instruments to create a very unique and different atmosphere. This is not an album to miss.
Altar of Voidance – Araphel (Independent)
Araphel, the side project of my favorite Alien themed space ambient project Aphotic Apathy, has released Altar of Voidance, a multilayered occult themed album that helps redefine the ritual ambient genre. It’s harsh but lovely, filled with thematic elements and instrumentation from the Near East, Middle East, and Far East, pulling in all sorts of religious and spiritual paths that all lead to one place: The Altar of Voidance. What exactly is that altar and what is worshiped there? Well that’s for the listener to find out. It’s a damn good, twisting labyrinth of a tale that, I think, will leave the listener with a much more profound sense of reality in the end.
That’s it for this week’s compendium, watch out for next week’s volume and as always, support the artists!