Thursday, June 27, 2013

Deathcult (Ger)


Katharsis/Deathcult - Trident Trinity
Sombre Records, 1999
Genre: Black Metal

Deathcult:
1. Lust-Bestial Rise
2. Hell Wicked Slut
3. Storm of Magog
4. Havoc Sceptre
5. Demon of Darkness
6. Black Magic (Slayer Cover)
Katharsis:
7. The Rising
8. Infernal
9. Murder in the Halls of Heaven
10. Awakening of Eternity
11. Armageddon/An Iron Flame
12. Lacerating the Angels
13. I.N.R.I.
14. Carpe Noctem

Side Katharsis: here
Side Deathcult:

Deathcult is a band I had never heard of before, but it features members of Katharsis so you can pretty easily imagine what this sounds like.  All the material on this split appeared on the "...And Heaven Spits Blood" demo from 1999 as well.  This would also be the last thing released under this projects name.

I can sort of understand why Scorn and M.K. felt the need to put this project under a different band name.  The music is fairly different from intense chaotic assault that Katharsis brings us.  Deathcult is a lot more structured, but it's so much more heavily rooted in early Thrash Metal.  This gives the music an entirely different feel.  Unfortunately due to my demo being a bootleg and poorly copied I don't even get to hear the entire demo.  The demo eventually finishes off with a cover of Slayer's "Black Magic" which is done in similar Katharsis fashion... played faster and in half the time of the original.

I wish this bootleg hadn't been screwed up so that Deathcult's music could at least survive in some guise.  But it's really hard to find anything from the project.  If you liked what Katharsis was doing in the early days then you'll definitely want to check out what Deathcult was doing as well.


LvxCælis


LvxCælis - Slaughtering of the Lamb
Lamech Records, 2014
Genre: Black Metal

1. Temple of Eternal Glory
2. Burning into the Light
3. Darkening Sun. Evolving Chaos.
4. The Veil of Death
5. Come Forth from the Abyss (Live)











LvxCælis caught my attention with their full-length and I was surprised to see this release on tape surface. Once again coming from Lamech Records means that the booklet and layout design of extremely high quality. It's one thing I love about this label, I never feel ripped off when it comes to art direction at all, ever. This tape has a multi-panel, beautiful booklet with lyrics and liner notes.

I wasn't sure to expect from the music, I sort of expected more of the same, which we found on the full-length, but I think this material is a little different from their original style. "Slaughtering of the Lamb" opens with a haunting keyboard track, before delving into a slow and brooding piece, which is more akin to Doom Metal than Black Metal. "Burning into the Light" is much more upbeat and has this sort of old school vibe with far more Thrashier moments than anything I would have expected. It even comes complete with a blazing solo. It kind of makes me reminisce about the massive Black/Thrash Metal scene throughout South America. After this the following two tracks seem to follow the form I would expect from LvxCælis. They have this brooding darkened occult Black Metal, which is what I've come to expect from the band. Bearing that general influence from the Swedish occult scene. It does make me wonder if these were some tracks left over during the full-length writing process and finally recorded here. The tape closes with a live version of "Come Forth from the Abyss", which is kind of amusing in some respects, because you can hear the crowd talking throughout the song. It's sort of strange, because I rarely hear this in live recordings.

If you're already a LvxCælis fan, then this tape is probably worth getting. The art and layout are certainly worth it and the two songs in the vein of the full-length are definitely worth hearing. The other material is decent, but it makes for an interesting element in the LvxCælis discography.


LvxCælis - Mysteria Magica Maxima XXIII
Lamech Records, 2012
Genre: Black Metal

1. Under the Nine Rays of Darkness
2. Summoning Ceremony
3. Ascending Through Eternal Fire
4. Heaven & Hell
5. Pvrificatio (Liberate Me!)
6. Mass for the Master
7. Come Forth from the Abyss
8. Slaughtering of the Lamb
9. Cross Initiation
10. I Have Seen the Light



Here is what I was really waiting to listen to.  This is the studio full length and what a difference that has made to what LvxCælis was trying to show off on the demo.  A lot of those beautiful elements that got buried in the demo shine through brightly on this studio recording.  They return again to Lamech Records for the release and they have once again provided beautiful packaging in the guise of an eight panel digipack.

The first thing I noticed with this release is that they've re-recorded all the Metal songs from the demo.  I am especially glad they did this with "Under the Nine Rays of Darkness" and "I Have Seen the Light" because I wanted to hear what a studio treatment would be like for those songs.  "Under the Nine Rays of Darkness" is everything I hoped it would be in the studio.  I was disappointed to see "Summoning Ceremony" show up on here, because unless they changed that song drastically it still wouldn't fit well.  It turns out I'm right about that.  They did do some re-working with the old songs and they do come across a lot more modern and fitting to the concept, but "Summoning Ceremony" still sticks out poorly.  I'm not sure if having it as the second track was a good idea or bad idea.  At least this early on I can get immersed in the rest of their sound without being interrupted.  I feel including it at the end as a sort of "bonus" would have been a more wise decision.  Another track that disrupts the flow is "Heaven & Hell", but only with the opening riff.  The opening riff is patently right out of the Thrash/Heavy Metal world and it just comes across as bizarre on a release like this.  However, the song quickly slides down the hole of wonderfully vile sounding Black Metal, thus saving all the worth of the song!  "Come Forth from the Abyss" has been re-worked in such a way to make it sound extremely good with where it sits on the album.  I have slightly mixed feelings on "I Have seen the Light", the re-working makes the track very epic and awe inspiring, but I did like the vicious edge of the demo version.  All the new tracks are simply spectacular though, I really can't emphasize that enough.  They permeate this thick haunting atmosphere as they bestow their occult knowledge onto the listener.  It makes for a very excellent and immersive listen.

The other massive change from the demo is the vocal treatment.  I'm honestly not sure if I should be disappointed about it or not.  The vocalist that worked on the demo is not involved with the band as a full member.  Part of me deeply wishes he had done the vocal treatment for this studio album, but in the end we get a perfectly good vocal performance from Frater A.  His vocal style closely resembles that of Glorior Belli's Infestvvs, when I thought Gloror Belli used to play Black Metal I liked.  In the end this vocal performance is certainly appropriate to the style and fits in quite well, but I can't help but wonder what it would have been like with the other vocalist.  Lyrically this has the same treatment as the demo.  It's that sort of Luciferian Gnostic type of occultism.  A lot of Swedish bands are into this and some French styled groups.  "Cross Initiation" is a sort of spoken word piece that made me think of the "secret wisdom" ideas that Rêx Mündi spend their time developing in their form of serpent worship.

I found this release a very enjoyable listen.  I would highly recommend checking out this project especially if you are enamored with this occult form of Black Metal.  It definitely focuses on creating a serious atmosphere which is something I highly appreciate in music.  There are only a few things I would change, but I think their writing is heading in a particular direction to make their next effort nearly flawless!




LvxCælis - Nigredo-The Dead Head
Lamech Records, 2010
Genre: Black Metal

1. Under the Nine Rays of Darkness
2. I've Seen the Light...
3. Summoning Ceremony
4. Come Forth from the Abyss
5. Putrefaction (Outro)











I first heard a track off this bands debut full length, but I was lucky enough to buy their demo when I ordered the full length.  LvxCælis' imagery and sound appeared to be directly from the deepest occult reaches of Europe, so I was rather surprised to see they were from Chile when I looked the band up.  Their name roughly translates from the Latin "Heavens Light."

This is the first material released by LvxCælis and it comes on a beautifully designed cassette.  This tape is limited to 333 hand-numbered copies and I have #319.  The booklet is professionally printed and it is simply beautiful to look through.  It comes with full printed lyrics, but all the other imagery and print have that sort of old and broken feel of ancient books.  The cassette itself is professionally printed and red, probably signifying blood. A very well done aesthetic overall.

The music within is fairly well written. I think the band still has some work to do, but they are definitely following in the footsteps of bands like Ondskapt, Deathspell Omega, and many other bands evoking that dark ritualistic feel to their music.  LvxCælis doesn't always accomplish this effect, but with songs like "Under the Nine Rays of Light" they certainly succeed.  This is probably the strongest song on the entire demo.  "I've Seen the Light" is also extremely good with an awesome opening riff, but after this the demo is somewhat downhill for me.  "Summoning Ceremony" sounds like a typical styled South American Black Metal song.  This is something I would expect from that region of the world.  It is heavily rooted in Thrash and the Brazilian style.  While I do like that stuff sometimes, it doesn't mesh well with the first two tracks, so it really interrupted my immersion into this demo.  This is more detrimental when you're trying to develop that ritualistic experience.  It makes me think this was probably a very early song the band composed.  "Come Forth from the Abyss" tries to put the listener back into that state of mind, but it came across as just being an alright song and not as well developed as the first two.  "Putrefactio" is just noise with vocal effects going on and actually makes for a great closing concept for the demo.  The vocals are wonderful on this.  They have a huge amount of "echo" effect on them, but it works so well with the music that it makes it feel more haunting and vile.

The production quality will be the biggest turn off for listeners.  This basically sounds like they recorded a band rehearsal rather than recording an actual demo.  Everything is extremely noisy and everything just blends together in the mix.  You really have to want to hear what this band was doing, like me, to get behind what they are playing. Even then that might not be enough.  In the end it just comes across as extremely raw Black Metal.

Ultimately I don't think I would have been very convinced by this demo.  I think this band has great ideas and a potential to do great things if they focus on generating a cohesive concept for an entire album.  If they up the production value a little then their ideas will not be marred by the poor production quality.  Their ideas are good enough to shine, but first they need to log some serious studio time and show what they are really capable of.


Friday, June 21, 2013

Azaxul


Azaxul - The Fleshly Tomb
Misanthrophia Discos, 2016
Genre: Black Metal

1. Shrouded with Death
2. Bloodspell
3. 30 Pieces of Silver
4. The Sepulchral Whore
5. The Fleshly Tomb
6. Into Frozen Forests
7. Cryptborn Shadows
8. Under the Banner of Hate
9. Salem's Children
10. Negrologue in Death-Dur






When the re-releases of Moonblood started coming out I think everyone was fairly surprised about this. I was also surprised and pleased to see Azaxul's "Horned Furies" get a proper release this time! What I wasn't expecting from any of this was new music, but here we are with a new Azaxul album and it actually came out quite good.

"The Fleshly Tomb" marches along with the improvements found on "Horned Furies". Gaamalzagoth has gotten well enough at performing guitar that it doesn't feel awkward like in the early demos. There are still moments that "feel" a little off, but sometimes that's part of the feature of this raw minimalist style of Black Metal. Usually people aren't looking for perfection with this type of material, I'm certainly not. While "The Fleshly Tomb" is certainly a step up in production quality and I would even dare say it's not all that "raw", but what it does have is well composed songs. If you really enjoy this kind of Black Metal then Azaxul's new album is probably one of the best this year. It's overly simplistic, but that's part of the point. Azaxul manages to do more than most with the bare minimum and that's a challenging feature to pull off.

One of the real treats with this album is that if you missed the sound of Moonblood, aspects of it are alive and well in halls of Azaxul. You may even recognize "Into the Frozen Forests" and "Under the Banner of Hate", because these were originally by Moonblood, but previously only available on rehearsal tapes. I'm truly glad that this style is not gone from the world and that Gaamalzagoth is continuing to record music, it's been a real pleasure having him active in the realms of music again. I really hope he continues to work on more music and we have more Azaxul albums in the future!

(Sorry to use Gaamalzagoth, but it's hard to distinguish when talking about the band or when talking about the musician!)

Azaxul - Horned Furies (Re-release)
Misanthrophia Discos, 2015
Genre: Black Metal

1. Night Tale
2. Golgotha's Legacy
3. Branded with the Goatsign
4. Dance of Horned Furies
And Heaven is Crying Tears of Fire:
5. Part I: The Prophecy
6. Part II: The Arrival
7. Part III: I am Eternal








Along with a lot of Moonblood releases in this series Gaamalzagoth decided to return to the last Azaxul recording and give it the same treatment. Here we have a full booklet and pro-pressed CD. The booklet is on part with the Moonblood re-releases as well and is really nice. Far better than the CDr demo-ish release back in 2010.

The music is entirely remastered and this version features "Night Tale" which was previously only available on the 7" split with S.V.E.S.T. It makes sense for it to show up first, since it is the earlier recording and a bit more primitive than the actual "Horned Furies" album. Everything sounds quite a bit better compared to the original release. So, if you've been picking up the re-releases of all that wonderful Moonblood material, you really should consider adding this to your list as well. This really signifies the end of releases for material related to Gaamalzagoth sadly. He's mentioned to me that it is very unlikely that there will ever be new Azaxul material at this point. I am just glad he brought all that Moonblood material and this Azaxul material back into light with the remastering treatment it received.

Azaxul - Horned Furies
Misanthrophia Discos, 2010
Genre: Black Metal

1. Golgotha's Legacy
2. Branded with the Goatsign
3. Dance of Horned Furies
And Heaven is Crying Tears of Fire:
4. Part I: The Prophecy
5. Part II: The Arrival
6. Part III: I am Eternal








This isn't current Azaxul material, unfortunately, and I don't know if the release of "Horned Furies" signals the resurrection of the project. "Horned Furies" is material originally recorded back in 2001 and 2003. I think the "And Heaven is Crying Tears of Fire" was supposed to be its own demo released by Chanteloup Creations, but the label went under before that could happen. Luckily this has been resurrected from the archives and released in 2010 under Gaamalzagoth's own label. This comes as a pro-printed cardboard sleeve with CDr and is limited to an undisclosed amount, Despite not knowing the limitation the CDr is still hand-numbered and I own #163.

"Horned Furies" is a huge improvement on the prior Azaxul material. If I had to guess the first three tracks are the more current, 2003 material and the last series of "And Heaven is Crying Tears of Fire" is the earlier 2001 material. The writing and performance on the first three tracks is much better and far more mature, whereas the the last sequence is far more primitive, which matches more with prior Azaxul writing. If this is the case, then its quite a shame that this project has been put to rest, because Gaamalzagoth realy got quite good at performing and writing with guitar in that time span between recordings. Everything still maintains that Moonblood feel and rawness, but the first three songs have an added layer of complexity and there are even moments where a second lead guitar starts to voice its presence over the usual saw-like guitar style. Gaamalzagoth's vocals are excellent, as usual, and the drumming has improved drastically from what I remember in the earlier releases. Its a far more interesting listen and even moreso on the earlier tracks. "Horned Furies" really captures that cold Black Metal style present throughout the 90's and if there's one Azaxul album to get, this would be it. Its shame a full-press wasn't made, because the material is fairly well done in the grand scheme of things.

The fact this came out in 2010 makes me hope that the project may have new material waiting in the wings. If Gaamalzagoth's writing improved that much simply between 2001 and 2003, then I imagine that he's only gotten better over the long years... well provided he spent time working on playing guitar in that time frame. You can lose a lot of ability if you don't keep up once in a while... but hopefully his passion for Black Metal has never left and he is merely sitting on a lot of material waiting to be released for us to hear.



Azaxul & S.V.E.S.T. Split
Sombre Records, 2002
Genre: Black Metal

Azaxul:
1. Night Tale
S.V.E.S.T.:
2. Death to Macrocosm












Side S.V.E.S.T.: ...coming eventually...
Side Azaxul

Gaamalzagoth has been pretty silent with respect to the world of Azaxul.  Apparently there was a bit of a mishap with a second demo of the project.  It was to be released in around 2000 through Chanteloup Creations, but the label went under before it could be pressed.  Maybe someday that material will see the light of day... but it has been sitting in vaults for many years now, so it doesn't look like it will ever truly exist. So that brings us to this split with the great French group S.V.E.S.T. released through the legendary Sombre Records and limited to 500 copies. Unfortunately it comes on the heals of Moonblood being disolved as a project and what makes matters worse is this appears to be the last release from Azaxul.  I don't know if he's lost interest in the project, but the project has been very silent as of late.

The production values have increased dramatically, which is to be expected.  There may have been more of an evolution if we were able to hear the tape in between, but for this track we get jumped right into far superior production.  The song writing has also gotten a lot better as well.  Azaxul has turned into a vicious and hateful sounding Black Metal band and, unsurprisingly, bears a little bit of a resemblance to Moonblood.  I feel like the music is a lot more frenetic in presentation, when compared to Moonblood, and it still has that raw edge that you would expect from these projects.  The only thing I didn't like that much was something I'm hearing in the guitar.  I'm not sure if it has to do with his guitar playing or not, but it sounds like he's not holding down the strings on the fret enough and some artificial harmonic sounds are coming through.  That or he's holding down the string over the actual fret... Either way, it shows up in some of the riffs and is somewhat distracting.  The drums on this recording sound quite good though and he pulled in M.K., who was playing for Katharsis at the time.  When I first heard it, I thought Occulta Mors was playing behind the kit since it sounded quite similar to how he usually plays.

All in all I am pleased to see the project improve over time.  I would have been interested to see where this project would go in the future given Gaamalzagoth's clear improvement with playing guitar and writing songs. If you enjoyed what Moonblood was doing in the earlier days, you may find some aspects of this reminiscent of that sound, minus the Medieval touch.  Azaxul plays fast and straight forward Black Metal, so if you want a sound that heralds back to the early days of the genre, Azaxul does a great job of keeping that feel alive.


Azaxul - The Arrival of the Demonlord
Chanteloup Creations, 1997
Genre: Black Metal

1. The Arrival of the Demonlord
2. Shroud of an Angel
3. Behemoth's Rising













Despite having a very productive year with Moonblood, Gaamalzagoth started his own solo project called Azaxul.  I guess he felt the dark forces were spurring him on to generate even more music in this evil genre.  While his vocal work suits Moonblood fine, his guitar work is not nearly as prolific as Occulta Mors.  Not that he has to be and I guess I shouldn't be too surprised that Azaxul is just harsh and grim Black Metal.  Still the riffs aren't always captivating.  Actually almost none of them are and I found this demo to be a little lackluster.  I imagine his name got him immediate interest from the might Chanteloup Creations and they happily released this and limited it to 200 copies.  This is the second release they've put out, so that label had a lot of growing to do, but they would eventually command fairly legendary status.

Azaxul basically saws away at the guitars while playing a single drum beat for the entire demo.  The production is absolutely atrocious and is about on level with some the more terrible Moonblood rehearsals.  Even though this is ultra raw and traditional Black Metal, the ideas just aren't there.  This music doesn't feel compelling, which is something that should come through at least a little bit regardless of the production.  "Behemoth's Rising" has a somewhat promising intro riff, but then it builds into more of the same Azaxul sound from the other two songs.

Maybe I am being somewhat unduly harsh.  This could be Gaamalzagoth's first foray into composing music, so it comes across as being a rather amateur attempt.  One certainly can't expect to compose masterpieces overnight. In the end I am forced to conclude this is worth skipping for my readers.  The formation of quality Black Metal just isn't there yet with this project.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Evil


Evil/Moonblood - Fuck Peace! We're at War!
Southern Productions, 1999
Genre: Black Metal

Evil:
1. The Hammer Falls in the Southern Lands
2. Triumph of Sword
3. Horns Reflects on My Witchsteel
4. To Die with Honour and Loyalty
5. Let's Our Folk Prevails
6. Journey to the Ancient Battle-Times
Moonblood:
7. Burning in Hell
8. These Graves & Wooden Coffins are My Realm
9. The Quest After the Doctrines of Mighty & Wisdom



Side Moonblood: here
Side Evil:

Evil is a band that comes from Brazil and I have never heard this band before. They have an incredible amount of material.  This particular one comes with a pro-printed booklet on a dubbed tape (at least my copy is like this).  After hearing their material on this split I am not very inclined to explore this bands vast catalog.

Evil clearly fall into the raw and primitive spectrum of Black Metal.  They do try to have a sort of epic feel to their music, but I feel like it is marred by the very basic arrangements.  Some of the parts are not that bad, but in all the cases the vocals are absolutely atrocious.  They really did ruin a lot of any good experience I could have had with the project.  Usually primitive stuff doesn't turn me off much if it's well written, but Evil's work just comes across as so poor it's hard for me to get into.  Maybe their later efforts are better, but I am not going to explore them.  Surprisingly the best track on here is the last track and that was recorded back in 1995.  In 1995 they had better production, so I have no idea what's happened to this band in 1999.  Anyway, here's the best track on this album.  I really can't think of much else to say about this.


Asakku


Asakku/Moonblood Split
Sombre Records, 1998
Genre: Black Metal

Asakku:
1. Endless Woods
Moonblood:
2. Hordes of Hate












Side Moonblood: here
Side Asakku:

After Moonblood's first split with Nema I was beginning to worry about their choice of bands.  I had hoped they wouldn't fall into the realms of Horna in the modern day who seems to do a split with almost everyone regardless of quality.  Luckily fellow German's Asakku appear to be a pretty good match for Moonblood.  This was only released on vinyl 7" and limited to 500 hand-numbered copies and I own #166.

Asakku manage to give us quite an epic track.  I've never heard this band before, but I am interested in hearing what else they have to offer.  According to Metal Archives they didn't have too many releases and this is basically the last recording before they disappeared.  The give us a good track nonetheless in that epic Teutonic fashion.  They blend excellent riffing with some clean sections to give that extra edge of atmosphere, similar to what Moonblood typically does for their songs.  The way this track is working out is reminiscent of what Trimonium would later due full force on their albums, only I like the vocals on Asakku a little more.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Nema


Moonblood/Nema - Split
Unholy Baphomet Records, 1996
Genre: Black Metal

Moonblood:
1. Moonstruck
Nema:
2. Nocturnal Silence in the Forest












Side Moonblood: here
Side Nema:

I apologize for the relatively poor image above... see my Moonblood review for details. Nema had the honor of releasing a split with Moonblood limited to 666 hand-numbered copies of which I own #524. And I do mean it was Nema's honor... not the other way around. Prior to this Nema only put out a couple demo tapes and after hearing this I am not interested in hearing them.

This song starts off like it will be a promising with haunting keyboards and wolves howling in the background. Then it delves into a slowly plodding guitar line with good vocals... then around 1:50 the video game music starts. I have no idea what they're doing now, but this sounds like 8-bit midi and I get a reminiscence of playing Nintendo. It doesn't last very long before it drops back to the slow guitar, low growls, and a haunting keyboard in the background. The guitar work never gets very interesting, nor do the drums. Nema seems more focused on trying to create whatever atmosphere they're trying to create and, honestly, when they're not doing something stupid on the keyboards the track isn't that bad. While the vocalist is actually quite talented, he breaks into some spoken word sections that just sound lame with this atmosphere and I feel it really disconnects the listener due to their poor placement. At around six minutes in we get another terrible keyboard passage. Now, I realize Nema did this first, but honestly the other application for this was done by Die Antwoord, a rap group from South Africa. Below I enclosed the video for Die Antwoord... I just can't believe these two projects have inadvertently crossed paths! On the upside Die Antwoord is just so bizarre that it's actually entertaining to some degree... whatever, beware strange things linked below.



Sunday, June 16, 2013

Gris

Previously known as: Niflheim

Gris - À l'Âme Enflammée, l'Äme Constellée...
Sepulchral Productions, 2013
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

Disc 1:
1. L'aube
2. Les Forges
3. Samsara
4. Igneus
5. Dil

Disc 2:
1. Moksha
2. Seizième Prière
3. Sem
4. Une Épitaphe de Suie
5. Nadir

I feel like "simply stunning" is a term I use quite rarely to describe most of the Black Metal releases I come across.  I think Gris' latest work can be considered that as well as a Magnum Opus from their perspective.  The evolution of their heavily atmospheric approach to Black Metal has left us with something that can only be termed as a rather cinematic experience.  It is truly up there with the most epic soundtracks and most haunting Ambient albums in my collection.  To make matters more strange on my end this was released on the same day as Sombres Forêts' latest incredible release "La Mort du Soleil"... all on Sepulchral.  This label is certainly in quite the illustrious position in the world of Black Metal today with such high quality bands at their disposal generating an incredible demand for this music.  Everywhere I look people's eyes are turned to the Québec Black Metal scene to see what incredibly interesting albums this region can generate.

These accolades are certainly no small feat and Gris shows us just what it takes to get this level of recognition.  For their latest release they have two CD's with music clocking in around an hour and twenty minutes.  What we saw them develop on "Il Etait une Foret..." gets pushed beyond the boundaries that I thought were being pushed against before.  Gris' latest finds itself conjuring imagery associated with majesty, somberness, melancholy, and pure beauty.  I feel there is so much here that I can barely conjure the words to describe this experience.  Many of the metal songs are surrounded by beautiful acoustic or clean electric guitar pieces, sometimes coupled with violin, before giving way to some of the most passionate Black Metal ever recorded.  Then there are times, as in "Seizième Prière," which remind me of Tool in some passages.  Then there is a riff sequence in "Igneus" that is just exceptional to my ears and I find myself hoping they will cycle back into it again and again as the song progresses.

"À l'Âme Enflammée, l'Äme Constellée..." is meant to be experienced as one solid piece of art.  I would class this as one of the most beautiful Black Metal albums ever recorded.  This will certainly hit my top ten this year, but I am not sure where it will land.  Despite all this incredibly immersive beauty, I'm, personally, not getting any distinctive story from it like I did with the latest Sombres Forêts.  This leads me to believe that the new Sombres Forets speaks to me on a deeper level than Gris.  I know many people out there feel that way about this Gris album and it really comes down to your personal reaction to these albums.  In terms of scope and music both releases are probably of equal value.  They are both incredible, both must hear albums of 2013, and there is little else out there that can even begin to compare.

I expected to write a longer review for this... but I find the experience almost too overwhelming to explain.  The sorrow, the joy, the melancholy, all is described in simple phrases of a guitar.  Words can't really be conjured to evoke these emotions and the way they are brought to true color on this album.  I leave you now with "Igneus" a piece of a greater whole and I urge you to experience the full breadth of this album as it is meant to be experienced.... all at once.


Gris - Il Etait une Foret...
Sepulchral Productions, 2007
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Il Etait une Foret...
2. Le Gala des Gens Heureux
3. Cicatrice
4. Veux-Tu Danser?
5. Profonde Misanthropie
6. La Dryade










Just by looking at the cover you get an instant sense that something has changed with Gris.  I'm beginning to see the whole reason behind the name change now.  However, I'm not sure why they insisted on re-releasing the Niflheim album under the name of Gris when it is so starkly different from the sound they would become more known for.  This was probably the worst decision, in my opinion anyway.

I am happy to report that Gris has undergone seriously major changes from the days of Niflheim and they have managed to really extend and push forward the genre of Atmospheric Black Metal.  The instant you put this on you hear this change.  The guitar tone is still a little on the fuzzier side and I still would like to hear it cleaned up even more, but it isn't as overwhelming or invasive as the first album.  Since the photos in the booklet were taken by Annatar of Sombres Forets, I get the distinct impression that Sombres Forets has played some instrumental influence on Gris' writing style.  I think these two projects would greatly influence each other over the years in a rather back and forth fashion.  "Il Etait une Feret" is truly a monumental work layering Atmospheric Black Metal in a beautiful, yet melancholic fashion that simply draws the listener in with each song.  This comes across as a very mature effort to be appreciated by connoisseurs of finer Black Metal being written today.  They've extended their range of instruments to include some beautiful layered acoustic and piano sections amongst the distorted and harsh guitar sections.  This creates some wonderfully dark atmospheres for the listener to get lost in.  My favorite track is probably "Cicatrice", which I believe is an excellent telling track for what this album contains within.

I do believe they missed one opportunity on this recording and that is in the song "Veux-Tu Danser?".  It starts off with this really haunting keyboard track played over a ticking clock, but then after about twenty seconds quickly shifts into acoustic guitars that sound quite beautiful.  The problem here is that the keyboard aspect had some sort of dissonant qualities to it, where the acoustic guitars do not, so it comes across as jarring to the listener.  They really missed an opportunity here to develop a song around that keyboard section, because if the acoustic guitar had started out copying that piece and layering it it would have made for quite an interesting work.  Albeit the entire song might have wound up being different, but it would have been quite impressive nonetheless.  I think the vocal performance on this track was actually influence quite a bit by Ondskapt.  It starts with the vocalist coughing and going into a more tortured vocal performance.  This is reminiscent of a track that Ondskapt had on "Draco Sit Mihi Dux."  It actually makes for a very compelling listen since he is doing this over some beautiful acoustic pieces. I simply love how the contrast sounds.

The album finally closes out with an epic ten minute instrumental.  This track is simply monumental.  There are no distorted guitars, but the composition is just so beautiful you can't help but fall in love with it.  It uses some wonderfully composed piano married with excellent violin sections with some beautiful acoustic in the background.  The violin sections really make this piece a wonderful thing to behold.  There are piano sections that feel reminiscent of concert pianist David Lanz, though I am not sure if they know of him.  Ultimately it is an incredible closer to an incredible album.

Gris "Il etait une Feret..." is a fairly amazing release and little better has been released this year.  If your only experience with Gris is the first album, then I highly recommend giving this band another chance, because the compositions are simply incredible.



Gris - Neurasthénie
Sepulchral Productions, 2006
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Le Neurasthénique
2. The Cold Wind
3. Lueur d'Ombre
4. Where So Many Tombs Were Forgotten
5. Elder Moons
6. Funérailles
7. Aux Serres de la Mélancolie








In 2005 the band Niflheim was formed in Québec.  They recorded a few demos which culminated in a signing with Sepulchral Productions and resulted in their first full length "Neurasthénie".  Strangely this album was then re-released shortly after due to a change in the bands name.  Now they are known as Gris and perhaps this is a better name for the project.  Perhaps they wanted to change the name due to more popular bands with the same name even though the spelling might be a little different.

I really wish my report on this was going to be more positive, but it's really not.  Gris have failed at doing some basic things and thus have ruined this entire album for my tastes.  One of the things I've noticed with Atmospheric Black Metal is that bands are either exceptional or terrible during this time frame.  There is very little mediocrity and a lot of this is due to choices made during the recording phase, but I'll address this later.  The music is actually quite interesting.  If it wasn't so flawed in some choices this would be quite a great album.  The compositions are melancholic and beautiful.  I can tell the intention of the album is to put the listener in a very relaxed and contemplative space, immersed in the interplay between dissonance and beautiful clean sections.  In fact the best song is "Elder Moons", which is entirely instrumental with clean guitars and piano.  So, compositionally this album actually isn't too bad, in fact I would even say it's quite good.

Now the part where this release goes downhill is the choices made during recording.  This isn't a "poor production" issue like you'll hear with early demos.  The production on this could have entirely been avoided.  The biggest problem I had with this was the choice made for the guitar tone.  It is entirely too fuzzy.  It's actually so detrimental to my enjoyment that when it plays with the clean guitar I am completely lost to what the clean section is doing.  It comes across as being such an amateur distortion choice that it just ruins everything to me.  The real nail in the coffin was the vocal performance.  The actually used distorted vocals over songs.  This is just so childish for this kind of release.  It was so unnecessary and they've ruined an otherwise beautiful release.

I think the way this was recorded is the saddest aspect of all.  There really is no need for this in 2006 and if I hadn't heard the later releases by Gris I would seriously worry about my interest in this projects future.  Luckily the next release is incredibly strong and a lot of the gripes I have with this are non-existent.  Given how different the releases are I am surprised they chose to release this under the name Gris instead of starting off with the second release.

Anyway, you don't need to go by my judgment, some people may enjoy this.  So below is a sample of one of the songs I feel is more representative of the album.  The closing track is actually fairly good and the vocals are a lot cleaner, but the majority of the album just doesn't sound like that.


Sombres Forêts


Sombres Forêts - La Mort du Soleil
Sepulchral Productions, 2013
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Des Épraves
2. Étrangleur de Soleils
3. Brumes
4. Au Flambeau
5. L'Éther
6. La Disparition
7. Effondrement








When I said I imagined that Sombres Forêts were trending to something big in my last review, I was not expecting something this big.  I really never expected something nearly this awe inspiring or immersive.  I think the current realm of Atmospheric Black Metal has been trending towards this type of album for quite some time.  In fact, it has yielded us two releases, the second being Gris effort released on the same day.  Both albums are quite different, but they no less use the same influences trending in this type of a direction.  Sombres Forêts has clearly taken influence form many great projects, but I think their choices and musical interplay are somehow more freshly designed and different.

The beautiful cover painted by Fursy Teyssier is a wonderfully apt description of the music.  Despite what it may look like, musically this complements the cover of the ship sinking into the raging seas above.  There are a couple ways one may approach this concept, I believe Sombres Forêts has taken a far more somber route.  We, the listener, are on this ship sinking into a whirlpool, but we are not panicked for we have calm resignation of our fate.  I imagine a lone figure calmly hanging onto the ropes on the deck staring into the sea as the ship is eaten and they're just reflecting on the shear beauty of the site while introspectively contemplating the imminence of death.  "La Mort du Soleil" does this for us, for it translates to "The Death of the Sun", and if we think of the ship as Earth falling into the sun, then it has a far more clear meaning to me.  It truly is one of the most wonderful music journeys I've ever had.

Annatar has really made some sweeping changes with the music from the days of "Royaume de Glace."  He's really taken a step back and taken a much more minimal approach, and while reducing his palette he's actually managed to increase the focus in other areas.  Despite having less colors to work with he's managed to create far more vibrant atmospheres and composed them in such a cohesive fashion that you never lose focus on the album.  We stand with rapt attention, immersed in the melancholic march towards death while life rages past us.  Annatar has really thought hard about how the interplay of acoustic sections work with his music and he has managed to harness that power perfectly.  What we get is a rare treat rivaled by very few other groups and none of which sound even remotely like this.  He blends it into the distorted guitar sections wonderfully, but even those have undergone serious re-tooling.  They actually border on some Shoegaze type elements, which strangely blends with Black Metal very effortlessly.  This helps to generate a haunting, yet very melancholic atmosphere.  Rather than increase the complexity of the keyboard section, as many bands do, Sombres Forêts takes a step back and strictly uses piano on this album.  The result is simply beautiful and perfectly well executed.  The compositions are far from complex and focus on a beautiful atmosphere one can create with just simple structuring, which we especially see with "Au Flambeau".  It is honestly on par with Clint Mansel's soundtrack for "Moon", which showed us that incredibly vibrant atmospheres could be created from some of the simplest ideas.

The recording quality is flawlessly executed.  Despite the more simplistic approach, I think the drum work has gotten far more interesting.  It's allowed Annatar to play around with arrangement ideas a lot more.  Annatar's vocal performance has also gotten a lot stronger.  I must also point out that I really appreciate the use of harsh vocals on all aspects of the recording.  Even when we just have a slow piano passage meandering it's way through the song, we are treated to these wonderful and jarring harsh vocals.  The stark contrast creates an even more expansive environment for us.  I am glad Annatar did not fall into the pedestrian trappings of marrying clean vocals with clean sections, and if he ever wanted to ruin his future albums he should start singing clean.  Hopefully this will never happen.  There are some haunting clean-ish type things in sections, but they are not sung sections and these haunting sections sound great and really enhance the aesthetic Sombres Forêts is trying to create.

Sombres Forêts have truly written a seminal work here and this is the direction a lot of Black Metal will probably head.  Albums like "The Works Which Transforms God", "Si Monvmentvm Reqvires, Circvmspice", "Dark Space III", "De Mysteriis dom Sathanas", "Grymyrk", and probably some others I've forgotten, are game changer albums and I feel the work of Sombres Forêts and Gris stand along these in the same guise.  For me, I think I return to the Sombres Forêts album a little more than Gris' effort, so when it comes to album of the year contests Sombres Forêts may win out.  Sombres Forêts isn't necessarily better, for I recommend both albums heartily and on equal levels, I just think "La Mort du Soleil" is better for me.  Both bands have released equally astounding works.


Sombres Forêts - Royaume de Glace
Sepulchral Productions, 2008
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Intro
2. Royaume de Glace
3. The Forest
4. Cold Forgotten Earth
5. La Nuit
6. L'Oeil  Nocturne
7. Solstice








Sombres Forêts continue to grow their mid-paced style of Black Metal with the release of "Royaume de Glace."  As usual Sepulchral puts out a quality product and this features a beautiful cover of a snow covered forest, but unfortunately there is not much more art in the booklet.  It is merely the text of the lyrics.

"Royaume de Glace" basically picks up where "Quintessence" essentially leaves off.  I'm not sure how much "growth" the project has really gone through over the past two years and I do wonder if this is a case of someone having written a lot of material then being given a venue to release the material, given how close the two albums sound.  So, this sounds like material composed around the same time as "Quintessence," but it is merely upgraded and a little deeper at times.  The title track is especially good at reflecting this idea.  We still have that interplay of Black Metal and acoustic work, but they feel like very separate ideas in the songs.  To a certain degree I feel like they've been integrated better, but I would like to see more layering of the ideas together, such as in "The Forest".  Annatar has also started to include more synth to back up the guitar passages, this doesn't give the songs more of a Symphonic feel, but rather leans more on the side of Ambience, similar to things like ColdWorld.  The songs come across as a roller coaster of atmospheres, rather than an inherently enmeshed work.  There are some pretty raw sounding riffs that show up and bring up memories of earlier days of Black Metal gone by, and while I do enjoy this, it breaks up the atmosphere generated by the open chord structure of his songs.  We are still treated to some areas of dissonance, but I think that has moved to the background in favor of more majestic sounding pieces, except for "Cold Forgotten Earth," which is almost entirely of dissonant structure.

I think, in the end, I do enjoy this album and it's fairly successful.  After writing the above I feel like it sounds like I complained a lot, but I'm not sure that's an accurate description of how I feel after listening to this.  I like most of what Sombres Forêts did on this release.  Sure there are some aspects I thought could reach improvement, but "Cold Forgotten Earth" and "La Nuit" are nearly perfect tracks and I loved them.  I think Sombres Forêts is still trying to grow their sound in some ways.  I definitely like seeing the experimentation to see where the arrangements might take them in the future and I feel like something big is imminent after listening to this.


Sombres Forêts - Quintessence
Sepulchral Productions, 2006
Genre: Black Metal

1. Quintessence
2. Le Royaume
3. Vents des Déssespoirs
4. Au Solsitce de l'Hiver
5. Automne
6. L'Abîme
7. L'Enchantement des Forêts









Sombres Forêts is one of the earlier projects to sign with Sepulchral Productions, a label that started furiously releasing local Black Metal projects in 2006.  It's turning into the "go to" record label for somber and extremely epic sounding Black Metal unique to the Québec region of Canada.  While the Québec scene has been around for many years, I feel that with the inception of Sepulchral Productions the area has begun to produce it's own unique feeling style of Black Metal.  I think the debut Sombres Forêts present an album that is a solid transition from the more traditional forms of Black Metal into that atmospheric blend that the area is becoming known for.

After the Ambient intro "Quintessence" this one man project launches into the epic length "Le Royaume".  The music is simply beautiful.  It is not a very traditional form of Black Metal.  There are no blast beats, there are no incredibly fast sections, there is only careful and contemplative structure.  I certainly enjoy my vicious and intense Black Metal riddled with blast beats, but I also really like this mid-tempo styled that focuses on putting the listener in a very calming state of mind.  It is tough to think of another way to describe this music, except that it has a very beautiful quality.  It is most certainly dark and sinister, as one would expect in the genre.  "Quintessence" plays with this precarious feeling between the beautiful and dissonant.  A lot of the songs have beautiful lead sections over very grim riffs underneath.  Even the recording quality is more on the raw and harsh edge, which only lends beauty in the form of the ugly nature in which it is recorded.  When the acoustic section of "Automne" kicks in we are left in a surreal "quiet" moment.  It is so expertly crafted into the release and it's really just what the listener needs at that moment.  The album isn't entirely without flaws, there are a couple sections here and there that I feel don't fit as well.  Some transitional moments that could have been slightly better to make the experience more full, a small portion of riffs are a bit too blasé etc.  But these are fairly minor details in an otherwise very successful debut.  Things that can certainly be fixed with forthcoming releases.

The recording quality is pretty well done.  It's surprisingly on the harsher side of the Black Metal spectrum, but I really like that.  It really fits with Sombres Forêts' style and gives this organic and uglier nature to the music.  I think the drum production is on the slightly poor side, so that is one thing I would like to see improved on subsequent releases.  The vocals are surprisingly well mixed, they stand slightly in the background of the mix.  This gives them a slight far away feel to the listener, which really works in this albums favor.  I think a lot of bands that delve into the atmospheric bent tend to put their vocals a bit too much in the foreground, which interrupts the experience for me.  I also commend Annatar on his choice of vocal tone.  He uses more of a standard Black Metal approach to the vocals, using a mid-range tortured vocal approach.  I think a lot of bands that play in this genre have felt obligated to perform like Burzum and use these annoying higher pitched vocal tones that really just get in the way of the experience.  Just because Burzum did it, doesn't mean it was automatically a good idea.  There are few moments when an entire album of shrieks is warranted.... Bethlehem's "Dictius te Necare" being one of those moments.

I am really looking forward to what Sombres Forêts has in store for me next.  They have a very strong debut here, but I really do think they can do better.  You can absolutely hear the potential overflowing within this project and it just cries out for more to be done.  This is a project to be immersed in... enjoy.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Neizvestija


Neizvestija - Majak
Cryo Chamber, 2013
Genre: Dark Ambient

1. 55º44' N 60º54' E
2. Muslyumovo
3. Kyshtym
4. Techa
5. Metino
6. Ozersk
7. Karachay








Get the album here: On Cryo Chamber

Simon Heath proves once again he has a fine ear for this genre.  Exposing other projects that are absolutely worth paying attention to.  Neizvestija comes out of Sweden, but don't let the location fool you, the album "Majak" is a Russian story.  I had, honestly, never heard of this story, but it is extremely intense and powerful.  I think Neizvestija did an excellent job transitioning the truth of that history into music very well.

The first track on "Majak" is clearly coordinates for longitude and latitude, so I simply put them into google to see what I would find.  I found a wikipedia page outlining one of the most polluted areas with nuclear waste.  Here is the image of the region:


Located in western Siberia, Russia there is a place named Majak (or Mayak, depending on what article you read).  Here they had a power plant in the late 1940's and it's operation spanned through much of the Cold War era.  The purpose for this was to naturally make nuclear weapons, but it seems the Russians worked too quickly in trying to figure out how to make the powerful weapons.  The longitude and latitude above seems to be lake in the region of Majak that was used for dumping nuclear waste from the local power plant.    The end result of this is a worse nuclear disaster than Chernobyl (in the Ukraine).  Even today this region is heavily polluted and the lake has become quite a problem.  They've had to install huge concrete slabs to contain the nuclear radiation.  This plant is now being used a reprocessing plant and issues in the region persist even today.

Here is a link to a great article giving this album even better context: Article on Majak
Interesting article on some more history and current issues: Radio Free Europe
A book on the topic you can buy here: Nuclear Disaster in the Urals

After having read this extremely fascinating history I have a new context for which this material is composed. It's bringing up notions of highly irradiated areas, which means I will ultimately compare this project to 20.SV.  While I believe 20.SV did a better job at generating the notion of an area overwhelmed by radiation, I must conclude that Neizvestija did a great job at conveying the story of this region.  After looking at images of the very desolate region I feel the music on "Majak" is an apt description of what someone might feel while wandering around there.  In the song "Techa" I imagine my Geiger counter going off as we travel along the riverbanks.



That constant high pitched wail as I see the abandoned buildings pictured above.

Throughout the album there are samples of people talking littered amidst the recording.  This adds to the feel of traveling the area.  Once in a great while you might come across another person and you hear them having a conversation with someone else.  Maybe they even stop to talk to you as I sense in "Karachay".  Closing off this irradiated journey we're back where we started.  Standing on the banks of the lake.  This may not be true, but I like to think from the lake this image of the plant is looming in the background somewhere.


I don't feel compelled to write down a story of my own journey while listening to this.  Instead I think a listener would benefit far more by reading articles while listening to this.  Look at the pictures, there are so many more to be seen online.  It is a terrifying and engrossing tale, just as "Majak" is musically.  I didn't know anything about this story when I started listening, but I feel better for having read it all and immersed myself in the album while I did so.  It is simply an exquisite intellectual exercise and I highly recommend all listeners take the time to do this.

A slight note on the art.  I always have enjoyed Simon Heaths graphic design.  It's incredibly eye catching.  The cover certainly conveys the image of a place decayed by radioactivity, but after having read this story I feel like the artistic experience would have been better served if he used more from the region.  I realize time constraints are certainly a problem, but if he had incorporated a few more pages for a booklet with images from the area I think it could have been a compelling visual experience as well as audio.


Cryobiosis


Cryobiosis - Within Ruins
Cryo Chamber, 2013
Genre: Dark Ambient

1. Enthrall
2. Frigid Silence
3. Somewhere Safe
4. Recollection
5. The Corridors Beneath
6. Murkfall
7. Corroded
8. Through Debris
9. Forgotten
10. As the World Decays
11. Departure
12. Serenity




Buy this here: Cryobiosis on Cryo Chamber

This is a genre I don't spend enough of my time listening to or reviewing.  I saw an update from Cryo Chamber with a sample off this album and within a minute I knew I needed a copy of this.  I quickly paid my seven dollars and downloaded a copy and now we are here with a review.  The label describes this release as follows:

"Within ruins" explores the depths of abandoned structures, dwindling stairs and the history of civilizations past. With some truly spectacular layering techniques and influences from beyond the dark ambient sphere, this is one album worth every minute of your attention. Instrumentation ranges from field recordings, soundscapes like drips and glitch ridden beats to classical instrumentation like piano and encapsulated strings deep down under the surface.

This description is very accurate.  To say that this is a logical progression of "From the Depths" wouldn't do the staggering leap forward "Within Ruins" brings to our ears.  This release is nothing less than evocative and I've literally listened to it three times now trying to figure out what I could say about it.  It's not because  I can't think of anything... it's because I'm not sure I can come up with words that will do my description justice.  The level of immersion this release can generate is spectacular.  There is a lot of Ambient I like, but I will be honest there aren't that many releases that can put me in a different location as deeply as Cryobiosis seems able to do.  The landscapes "Within Ruins" generates are just stunning and being able to do that with just music takes a great deal of skill.  For now let's see where the new journey takes us...

It was time for me to do something.  I couldn't just sit in the recording room waiting to see if this person would open up a transmission again.  I tried looking around the transmission room to see if there was any indication to their location.  I really wish there was a way for me to read the symbols on the keys...  After some fidgeting around in this control room I found some sort of correlative map.  This person seemed to be in a city on the other side of the continent I was on.  It was time to travel back down to the transport pods and see if I could figure out how to get there.  I tried matching up some symbols and managed to find something.  I gave it a shot to see where it would take me...

I arrived in a different location.  It felt different, even though a great deal of the architecture looked the same. Of in the distance I saw an incredible structure.  A huge soaring monolith, it captured and left my attention in  "Enthrall".  A monolithic structure that big must have drawn the attention of whoever was here... perhaps I should head towards that.  I know, it's a random idea, but it felt more purposeful than haphazardly looking around.  This city, aesthetically, was very different.  It felt as if this place was dead for a lot longer than the other place.  The "Frigid Silence" was simply palpable as I wandered the streets to make my way to the monolith.  As I walk through the corridors I could hear faint sounds of rocks falling.  What if that is the other lost traveler?  Suddenly I hear what sounds like chains clanking together... is something alive here?  I don't think I should be out on the streets so I duck into the nearest structure so I have "Somewhere Safe" to observe anything that goes by.  Eventually the sounds pass and I feel I can continue on to the structure.

I finally arrive at the threshold and enter the building.  The interior looks familiar.  I have a "Recollection" of the transmission and the background looked similar.  Maybe this building is some sort of giant antenna for sending signals?  I really should try and find this building control room... I doubt it would up, so I look for the nearest hall taking me down.  "The Corridors Beneath" are only dimly lit and I feel like the structural integrity has been somewhat compromised.  The weight of such a monolith must be causing the underlying structure to sink into the ground.  Eventually I stumble upon a door leading to a staircase going down.  The symbols on the door look like they say "Murkfall", as if that meant anything?  The symbols are probably so worn I'm only making up something.  As I enter the staircase to go down there is a section leading up where you can look out a window.  It's raining outside.  At least I made it in at the right time.  Heading down the stairs finally I hear what sounds like the faint sounds of machinery.  As if computers are calibrating the antenna, but all I really want to find is the control room.

Finally, towards the bottom I look into a room that looks like the central control room.  Everything just looks "Corroded" and I begin to worry if anything will even work.  I look at one of the screens... there's a hand print there!  There is someone here!  It's a human hand!  I'm not alone!  The elation grips me only for a few seconds as I realize the person is gone.  In fact they are probably not even in this facility anymore.  Perhaps they are scavenging for supplies... Suddenly I hear something giving way, like a loud crunching sound.  One of the structures in the hall collapsed.  There is dust flowing everywhere.  I try to rush out of there as fast as possible,  I climb "Through Debris" that has fallen and I hope to make it out of there before anything else caves in.  Looking out at the world as I exit the monolithic structure it occurs to me that there's enough dust and debris that maybe someone has left footsteps.  I wonder what this person thinks of this long "Forgotten" world.  Searching around the doorway I find some footsteps that could not have been mine.  They are moving further towards the center of this city.

As I try my best to follow the footsteps my mind goes to wandering.  I'm no longer paying rapt attention to the details of this place "As the World Decays" around me.  Eventually I make it to the center of the city, after carefully considering things I realize that perhaps the center of the city will have a system for transportation between worlds.  I wonder if the other traveler has realized this too.  I feel the need to proceed urgently so I start running towards the center.  The footsteps lead me to another facility.  I hear that clanking sound again.  I choose a direction, almost at random, but then realize I need to follow the footsteps. I have no idea how they understood where they were going, the person didn't even double back or explore anything.  I finally made it to this facilities control room and there they were!  Hovering over the controls as if they knew exactly what to do.  I stood observing them in awe.

"Hey, what are you doing?"

They turned utterly startled.  They had no idea I was there.  "I'm getting out of here, who are you?"  It was a girl!  It was hard to tell with all of her clothes and I couldn't tell on the monitors at the other city given all the static, but finally hearing the voice clearly made things pretty obvious.  We made introductions, her name was Jill.  It turns out she knew quite a bit about where we were and had been lost here for a while.  She figured out how to obtain food and water, which was good to know because I was pretty low on supplies.  But then I realized she said she was getting out of here.

"What did you mean by 'getting out of here' earlier?

"This facility is a massive transmitter and hopefully has enough power to send our signatures home..."

"Like real home?  As in Earth?"

"Yes!", her smile broadening at the thought.

The interior of the control room certainly looked like a larger more powerful version of the pods that transported me between cities.  Jill finally hits the right sequence to fire up the matter transportation machine. She looks at me with a light in her eyes.  The thought of "Departure" is exhilarating, and yet sad.  Part of me feels compelled to explore these ruins... to understand who peopled these cities.  With one last look out into the corridor I step onto the platform.  We are whisked away and arrive someplace entirely new.  We are at an identical facility... were these things really on Earth?  A feeling of "serenity" flows over me and for a brief moment I wonder if we truly are home as we exit the doors of this control room...

As I was writing I realize that the "lonely" aspect is something he sort of emphasizes in the description.  I have decided to deviate from this a little because I feel the added purpose for a search is more apparent in the music.  I felt the search isn't a meandering one, but more of a purposeful one.  I hope I have done this music justice even if I have deviated from the intended representation.  I truly can't wait to see what Cryobiosis has in store for me next.  I wonder if it will be an entirely new journey... or will I have to find some way to return to the vast cities the music has created for me!

Below is a difficult choice... all the tracks are stunning... so I chose, sort of at random, from my favorites.




Cryobiosis - From the Depths
GV Sound, 2012
Genre: Dark Ambient

1. Inside the Core
2. Shattered
3. Monosphere
4. Dogma
5. Awakening
6. The Other Side
7. Inversion
8. Home is Far Away
9. Remnants
10. End of Transmission






Download the release for free: Cryobiosis at Bandcamp

Cryobiosis is a Dark Ambient project out of Romania performed by it's sole member Christian Viocu.  He presents a beautiful journey with varied soundscapes to unknown and unexplored locations.  I confess I hadn't heard of this project until it showed up on Simon Heath's label.  I wasn't aware this album even existed until I had already listened to "Within Ruins."  The journey of "From the Depths" is given some context by:

"I have awakened from the depths of a long, ethereal sleep. Everything around me seems transformed; endless frigid ruins of a dead civilization spread before my eyes all the way to the far horizon. I cannot remember anything as my past seems erased and forgotten. From time to time, strange voices appear in the vast darkness out of nowhere. But when I follow them I still cannot find a living soul. A cold, pale sun is watching over my loneliness but its rays are far too weak to break through the thick mist. I seem to be walking in a circle, without knowing where I will end or what I will encounter."

It is a little interesting that I'm seeing this pop up more.  I'm more used to the extremely vague Ambient projects that just present their music with some artwork and let the listener imagine what they will.  I think I would have thought of this description without ever reading it because the music really does a great job of generating that atmosphere to the listener.  I think the amnesiac approach is a little unnecessary though and it is a little cliché.  I like to think I know who I am while listening to "From the Depths", but I am just exploring a lot of unknown and untouched ruins and landscapes.

Actually the way I really like to think of this release (based on the title) is that I am a lone explorer on Earth that has fallen down a deep cavern.  I awake with all my faculties retained, but now I am truly in untouched territory.  This cavern has never seen the touch of human hands in millennia.  As I bring forth a light source I realized that it is not just a work of nature before, but a work of an ancient civilization.  Rather than build up as our civilization does, these peoples dug deeper into the earth.  I realize I seem to be "Inside the Core" of this vast city-scape.  This is the central node, I think, that lets travelers in and out of the city to the outer reaches.  Nothing looks as it used to for nature has had thousands of years to reclaim these ruins regardless of how vast.  I find some sort of switch or button and press it and energy source flares up illuminating vast reaches of region.  It's loud workings reverberating off the structures around me.

A line of dim lights pulsates out of my location in various directions.  I decide to pick one and follow it for a while, vaguely wondering how I will ever get out of this predicament.  As I go down vast corridors I see so many "Shattered" ruins.  They are both haunting and beautiful, I wonder what this civilization could been like. There is writing on some statues, but it's unlike anything I've ever seen... were these beings even human?  Always with me is a sort of throbbing hum of energy lighting my way.  I travel down a corridor somewhat off the main strip and exit into a building housing a "Monosphere".  The structure is absolutely massive.  Is this the world they knew?  It certainly inspires awe and I travel around the structure to see if there is any writing anywhere.  I find a button and press it, the sphere comes to life!  Illuminated all over are pathways, maybe maps for getting from one location to the other?  In other sections there are brightly lit nodes that, to me, must signify other cities.  I wonder if there are larger cities or if this is the largest.  I travel out of the building back onto the main road.  As I exit the building across the street is a statue of a figure with a robe holding their hands in some strange patterns.  There are strange symbols all over the robe.  I get the impression that this is a work of religious belief and I find myself wondering what kind of "Dogma" their civilization was plagued with as our own currently is.  Were they stringent and oppressive? Or were they a boon to the society, helping all they could.  How did it develop?  Who were their gods?  Then I began to wonder if I would ever find out.  This leads me to a sort of "Awakening", a realization that I might not make it out of here alive.  Fear grips me for the first time as the awe of the place fades away.  I don't have a lot of supplies to last me here. I feel the need to run, but panic would only have disastrous results in this situation... I decide to sit and think through my options.

Maybe with this vast energy source there were ways to rapidly move about the city.  It would take far too long to simply walk to "The Other Side" and I would simply be exhausted.  I decide to return to the core and see if I can figure out any of these puzzles.  The energy pulsating there is nearly tangible.  I frantically look around this "control room" of sorts.  I worry that pushing buttons at random... would that destroy the energy source?  Would they have thought of putting in fail safes?  I decide to try something out eventually.  Maybe there is another core on the other side of the city and maybe there's some sort of  transport system.  I eventually realize there were pods around this building and I run out and look inside them.  I decide to try out getting into one of them and seeing what it does.  I close the door...hopefully this turns out to be a good idea.  Inside there is a button, I push it... it's not really like flying, it's more like being deconstructed.  I realize I am inside a matter transporter.  When I realize that my body has been moved I feel rather disoriented... but now I am someplace else at least.  For better or worse I open the door and see an almost identical system core.  I decide to wander around this area to see what I can find.  I realize the layout is almost identical, but backwards, like some sort of "Inversion" of the place I came from.  Everything heads towards some kind of center, so I start walking that way.

After quite a while I stumble upon a huge building that looks more important than the others.  Huge statues are built outside it that sort of look like constellations.  I decide to go inside and see if I can find anything.  After wandering around for an hour I come to the main part of the building.  There is a huge auditorium with seats built in a circle around a single device in the center.  This building clearly has power now, so I race down to the center and start pushing buttons.  I finally hit one that brings up a beautiful holographic image.  It looks like an accurate representation of the sun and planets.  It's simply beautiful.  This culture was clearly incredible, but something is wrong.  I look at the sun... it has a sort of blue-ish hew to it.  That... that doesn't seem correct.  I look at the planets... there are twelve of them.  I look at the highlighted one, as if it is saying "you are here"... it indicates I am on the fifth planet.  This is not Earth... this is not my solar system.  Realizing "Home is Far Away" is overwhelming.  I sink to the floor in despair.  I finally try to get up and wander around this location.  I have a vague idea that I shouldn't lose hope, because somehow I got here from Earth.  I just hope this is in the same galaxy, because anything to the contrary seems physically impossible.

I decide to see what I can find on the upper floors. It occurs to me that I haven't found any bodies.  There aren't even any "Remnants" of people or food.  It doesn't look like the place was abandoned... it looks like the people just disappeared. I find this thought grating against my consciousness... something is terribly wrong.  I feel like this planet is dead.  If I were to travel to the other cities, I think I would find more of the same here.  I finally work my way into a room with all kinds of controls.  A screen comes to life and shows a transmission from I don't know where.  It's a human!  They're asking if anyone is out there.  I frantically start pushing buttons, but nothing is reacting.  They are looking for anyone and they don't want to be alone, just like me!  With growing concern I realize they might be in a different city, the background doesn't look the same as my area.  What city could they be in!  How can I get to them?  Do those pods bring me to other cities or do they only connect within this one?  Eventually the person says they will try again in a few hours.  Do I sit around here and wait for them to try again?  I am so torn.  With their "End of Transmission" I feel more lost than ever.

This was a great release.  A superb journey you could say.  I have enjoyed writing all of the things I felt while experiencing the recording.  I don't know if that's what Christian had in mind, but that's the journey I went on while listening to this.  I really look forward to the next release and I greatly encourage people to download from the link above.  Cryobiosis is a little different compared to some of the other Ambient out there, because it doesn't feel like it's about creating a sense of terror or dread.  But I feel Cryobiosis is trying to generate a sense of awe for it's listeners, but with a subtle twinge of loneliness.  This is definitely a job well done.  Enjoy the sample below, but you should really try to experience it in full.