Thursday, January 3, 2013

Atrium Carceri

Atrium Carceri - Cellblock
Cold Meat Industry, 2003
Genre: Dark Ambient

1. Entrance
2. Black Lace
3. Machine Elves
4. Corridor
5. Blue Moon
6. Stir of Thoughts
7. Depth
8. Crusted Neon
9. Halls of Steam
10. Reborn
11. Red Stains
12. Inner Carceri

I remember years ago when I first listened to Ambient I thought it was just heavy synth keyboards on the strings setting, sometimes coupled with spoken word or female vocals.  This is back when my notions of ambiance was restricted to the listening of Arcana’s debut album, the first few Mortiis, and Autumn Tears.  Needless to say it has been quite some years since I purchased an album in the Ambient genre and evolutions have taken place and things reside in a very interesting direction in the current time.

This is Atrium Carceri’s debut album and amidst a large purchase of Ambient, Atrium Carceri stand out quite a bit to me, for they have taken an amazing approach to the subtlety inherent in Ambient and the blending with distinct visual aspects that reside within the musical compositions themselves.  Quoted in the booklet itself the musician's state: “A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.”  This statement is both true and false, it is very true what it says about being in a lunatic asylum, however, “Cellblock” is hardly a casual stroll in my humble opinion.  It is more like the following paragraphs:

Suddenly the casual listener is thrown to the front entrance of an abandoned insane asylum; the “Entrance” is a stroll through the waiting area, the receptionist desk and into the main halls.  Things here have been dead for a long time now.  You see a strange sight; you see some “Black Lace” on the receptionist desk and wonder what that would mean.  It’s actually new, maybe someone was here?  In the background down the hall you hear guns being cocked, you tense.  Finally you hear a gun go off, but no scream to accompany the shot.  You hear water dripping… that is all.  Other than that there is absolute silence.  You poke your head out of the receptionist’s desk and look down the hall.  There’s nothing there.  You venture down the hall; you see your standard wards, and then hear the gun being cocked again.  Suddenly everything flashes to being pristine and new and you see guards aiming their guns at a raving patient who seems to have bit off her own lower lip and has blood everywhere, streaming out of her mouth all over her white patient jerkin.  It all goes back to old.  You hear something from your left.  It’s a stair well; you hear noises like little “Machine Elves” tinkering in the basement.  Only they aren’t the nice kind, you hear moans of pain.  Then it all goes calm.  You walk down the stair well, despite your better judgment not to, the lights still work and that calms you, but the sounds don’t stop.  At this juncture you wonder why you were brought here, then you wonder why you didn’t ask yourself this before.  The lights flicker, cell doors start latching all around you.  You hear and feel the pain of the dead and tortured prisoners who were once here.  You fall to your knees in pain as it shatters your psyche… you can’t lose your sanity, not in a place like this…

The lights flash back on and the feeling goes away.  You hear a woman scream far away and strange noises all around you, but made by no one.  You hear what sounds like children’s voices; you hope they didn’t put children in such a place as this.  Could you imagine growing up here?  The lights flicker again and they have this hue to them that is reminiscent of a “Blue Moon.”  Paranoia starts to overcome you and you no longer feel yourself.  On this journey of the “Blue Moon” you wander into the basement and you walk by a cell where doctors torture their patients maliciously because the patient’s mind is broken and the doctors feel this is an opening for more barbaric tests since the patient doesn’t “really” know what is happening.  These were the cells for those patients who were most violent and lost to themselves.  You peer into one of the cells through the small window and view one of the most horrific things your eyes have ever seen.  A female patient being brutally beaten, the scene flashes away as her clothes are torn off, you can only assume she was raped after that.  A “Stir of Thoughts” hits you, you shouldn’t be here.  This was a place of decadence, torture, and murder.  Mankind’s cruelty knew no bounds here.  Horrors that even the insane should never experience were made reality here.  Why are you being shown these secrets, here, now…  There’s a door at the end of the basement hall.  The door goes further down; you unlatch it and enter…

You wander on down to the “Depth” and reach the deepest levels even beneath the basement, there shouldn’t be any cells here, only the boiler rooms to heat the hospital and so forth.  But to your horror you find cells there, people chained, starving and dying.  You feel another presence, something that shouldn’t be there… as you look from the door to see into the dark and start to walk you think you hear a woman in the throes of passion or panting from running, but it recesses and you continue on, then it comes back again and is gone altogether.  Everything is rusted and dead down here, how can someone else be here like that?  You find a small room with a “Crusted Neon” glow, there’s a bed in there, and it’s brown from age.  There’s a small recorder on the desk, so you press the play button, you hear a man’s voice speaking to a child.  You wonder to yourself “they keep children down here?”  The barbaric impression makes you sick and you have to leave that room. 

Then you get to the “Halls of Steam,” the main boiler room.  The pipes are rusted now, but you see them flash in and out of things that look like new and things that are long dead.  You see rusted chains lashed to one pipe then turn and see some doctors strapping a patient to a chain and pushing his face against the steaming hot pipe.  You run over to stop them, but the vision disappears and all you see are rusted chains again.  You feel that dark presence enter you.  You hear something growl, nay, you feel something growl.  The lights around you are flashing now and with each flash you are shifted from viewing inhuman horrors then back to normalcy again.  Are you the one who’s insane, or is it this place?  You stop and sit holding your head in your hands convulsing uncontrollably.  At first you think of movies, where there was an evil mad doctor, whose presence never left, but then you hear a voice… an autopsy report.  This presence is no doctor, it came here all on its own and you are “Reborn” with fear at what it is, it damned this place long ago.  You are not welcome here and thus it shows you things, it tells you things… dark things.  You feel people screaming all the time now; they won’t escape your head anymore.  There are doors closing in the upper basement levels above you, people being locked away.  Someone’s running away from the presence that came to this building, why didn’t the presence leave when its job was done here?  Now it’s a reminder.  You walk to the end of the boiler room and see a door there, is this another cell?  The door reads “For security purposes this door is not to be opened without supervision.”  It’s not locked, so you open it anyway, walk inside and see what once was a white wall turned red and brown from dried blood.  “Red Stains” everywhere, there is nothing in this room except sitting in the center away from some blood, you see that Black lace again.  How did that get down here?  It must’ve been the worst of solitary confinement.

All of a sudden things go dark, darker than they were before.  No longer can you see your hand in front of your own face.  You hear something ping off the rusted pipes.  Strange movements, it feels like something is walking toward you, your heart is beating faster now.  Ba-boom, you hear a soft breath, ba-boom, you hear the chains rattle, ba-boom, and the walls sound like they are crawling with creatures now.  You are terrified, why is your heart so loud?  You hear flesh being rent and torn and then a body is dragged off.  Is it a man who did all this?  You sit and you wait for the feeling to pass.  The sounds just keep getting louder, but the feeling passed before… this time it does not go away.  You hear the door in front of you quietly close, no slam, nothing, you become “Inner Carceri.”  You are the hospital’s new resident in its deepest confinement, you’re leaning against the wall now, you pull your knees up to your chin and cry, that’s all you have left to do.

I felt it was better to tell of this album through what you see rather than what it sounds like.  Ambient is an exercise in subtlety, it is much like painting.  Sometimes you have harsh destructive strokes that embed their furious nature into the viewer, but those are just the easily viewed points.  Upon closer inspections you see smaller details, hints of other aspects hidden beneath the obvious.  Ambient is like this, it is an exercise in subtlety for a musician.  They evoke strange feelings and center the mind through a myriad of strange ways.  Atrium Carceri successfully utilize all of these amazing tools and not only tell a story through them, but the listener feels a story.  If you enjoyed the darker imagery from games like Silent Hill, then this is surely the album for you, for it is something I can equate to on a visually artistic platform as well as conceptual.  Or for the Asylum perspective the movie Gothika is somewhat reminiscent in concept of the horrors reaped from that film.  Enjoy your “quiet” stroll through a long dead insane asylum… though the term “quiet” is quite relative... for those who are insane may not hear quiet noises as quiet or loud noises as loud, you be the judge.

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