“Curse of Dark Centuries” takes the listener on a nostalgic filled dark ambient adventure into the crypts of darkness and fog that Catacombs Enshadowed has created. The origin of the creator is kept in the dark, as are the melodic droning synths that this album conjures.
Recently added to the Dark Age Productions family of artists, Catacombs Enshadowed is self described as funeral inspired dungeon synth influenced by early Mortiis and Lamentation as well as containg the essence of early black metal with the whole album taking that symphonic apporach of the haunting ambient introduction tracks we know well. But does this description do the project justice, and does it live up to the haunting atmosphere implied? “Let’s find out”.
We start with “Hymne an den Schrecken der Nacht” (“Hymn of the Horror of the Night”). Immediately I hear the Mortiis and Lamentation influence. With the low choir synth and banging timpani followed with an organ and soundscapes of a dark rainy night, I am filled with nostalgic imagery and atmosphere. The music has a certain feel to it, it is not quite medieval, more later, like a horror occult period film.
Track 2 is entitled “Darkness Stirs the Windswept Woodland”. While longer than it’s previous track, this track certainly keeps it’s sections tidy. Nothing is over repeated, everything has a nice transition and layering. That is one thing I liked about the release, this could have easily breached an hour in length, yet the seven tracks take up 30 minutes. Songs are as long as they need to be, the majorty being relativily short with the exception of 3 seven minute tracks. The track titles also reflect massively on the sound, and are not overly cliché, while more of a tribute to old school dungeon synth aesthetics.
The album has a good mixture sonically, for example the track “Spawned in Veminous Crypts” is low and filled with sub bass and brooding movements. This contrasts with the following song “Summoned by Lunar Spells” that takes a high end approach using harpsichords and high strings and is very melodic, one of the more melodic tracks on the album, with a very nice and haunting piano moment towards the end, layered with tubular bells and broken harpsichord.
The album takes some avant garde noise approaches also, almost as if it were lowercase music when it comes to the soundscapes. However the composer manages to fit in traditional dungeon synth on top of or after these moments of upmost drone ambience. All the while, it can be soothing and calm during track 6. Halfway through this track I had intiailly felt some sort of melancholy, before the soundscape sounds that resemble a torture chamber, layered with a creeping timpani beat. It is sections like these that had me coming back to the album, at times I wanted to feel lost in darkness and being hunted in a castle I was not welcome. Catacombs Enshadowed achieves this.
For those who are familiar with the inspirations behind this project, you know what to expect, but expect a promising piece of work that shows moments of tribute and moments of originality. Although, describing this to a newcomer is also the purpose of this piece. Imagine you are in a castle owned by a lord, whom practices the occult. It is always night. It is always dark. It is cold and wet and you cannot think of anything else but death and doom. It is most certainly composed in the vein of old black metal, while not as harsh, it is raw and brooding and chooses it’s sounds and sonic soundscapes wisely. If you are feint hearted dare not listen, however curiosity is always welcome.
Verdict: A dark and blightful release that brings old school dungeon synth back into the modern scene, while not reinventing the wheel it takes the best of what we’ve heard from works that go back 20 years ago, but adds an avant garde touch and is not afraid to introduce different sonic textures. It doesn’t overstay it’s welcome and makes for cold listening. 80%.
Highlights: “The Baleful Keep”, “A Spectre Wanders the Blightful Forest”
If you liked this you may like: Mortiis (early ambient work), Old Tower, Lamentation, Thangorodrim
Support the artist! Cassettes available (limited to 100 copies)