Xerxes The Dark is one of the most consistent artists of the Dark Ambient genre. Not necessarily when it comes to the Dark Ambient sound in the traditional sense, but with the unheralded impression of incorporating new ideas and tactics that indicates an endless realm of musical opportunity. With a string of highly influential albums that thrusts the Dark Ambient maestro into elegiac territories such as industrial, noise, fusion and metal, ‘The Rise Of AI’ just may be his most enigmatic release yet. With a futuristic story and theme that is not so far off from reality, this album thins the comfort zone of ambient music with a thrust into chaotic bleakness. Think about the hostile take over of bio-engineered humanoids in ‘Blade Runner’ with the invasion of indestructible alien robotics of ‘Terminator’ and then mix it with the technological destruction of ‘Black Mirror’ and you’ll have a sense of what the flow of ‘The Rise Of AI’ is all about. Let’s take a dive into this amazing recording.
Bold album opener, “The Rise Of AI” makes a critical statement for the flow and direction of the album. Slowly building into an industrial nightmare, this track more resembles Godflesh than dark ambience. From the steady cadence of drum machines and solid bass lines to a variety of voice samples and guttural transmissions, this track properly prepares the listener for the destruction that will soon follow. The nightmare continues with “Nuclear Winter”. Starting with eerie drones and haunting whispers, it quickly turns into an emergent, industrial anthem with muddy and distorted vocals. Guitar tones hint on melody but that quickly fades into a realm of bleak discomfort. “Take (No) Shelters” emits more dark ambience than previous tracks and is accommodated by stark samples and mechanized soundscapes. More vocal narration are heavily modulated and are right inline with the horrowing story that continues to unravel. “Synthetic Consciousness” is a full on Dark Ambient endeavor with a Space Ambient vibe, complete with celestial soundscapes and dark timbre that rapidly expands beyond the outer reaches of the universe. Malevolent machine nuances continue the harsh undertones of robotic supremacy. “Cyborg Soldiers” embodies an industrial sound with looping noises and drum beats, while a gritty vocal line chants in disdain. “Signaling The Alien Machine” marks a return to the Dark Ambient domain with a plethora of discordant noises and background echoes. As the drones increase in volume, muffled communications depict a scenery of imminent hostility. This calm before the storm approach creates a sense of anxiety and wonder, while complete AI take over is close at hand. “Simulating The New World” is a cinematic adventure that combines a barrage of industrial beats, melodic arrangements and and glitchy rhythms that flow together seamlessly. Portions of this track stimulate a warm sensation, as if there are light moments amongst the chaos that appear to be fathomable. “Interpret X11-01-10” is a short track that depicts communicative transmissions between AI and distant worlds. Soothing drones in the background allow this effort to be audible but untranslatable, as the evil machines prepare their next move for impending takeover. “Domination Of Humanoids” begins like a sneak attack with small, subtle noises as if being surrounded by unidentified beings. With a slow crescendo, industrial drum beats and bilious vocals elicit a constructive output that wages the war between AI and mankind. Like a battle cry of the ages, this track becomes a statement of dominance and leads the mission of AI acquisition. “Accessing Cosmic Memory” is a desolate ambient track that contains wavering drones, empty soundscapes and a looping pattern that signifies a positive communication efforts between the AI and their end goal. This expressive intonation creates a cessation of offensive strikes while vast information is being absorbed for future use. “Meeting Space Tribes” once again delivers a stark vocal arrangement with looping, industrial passages, while layers of drones produce a grandiose sound. The vocals spew a ton of pain and anger throughout and combined with the music, present a chilling, glacial landscape. “Intergalactic Empire” showcases a new side of the story as well as a new sound for XTD. With a melodic approach to Sy-Fi soundscapes, this track is industrial, yet light-hearted and probably one of the most accessible songs on the album. Complete with drum beats, bass lines and samples, this style is a welcome addition to the album as a whole and actually fits in quite well. Next up is “Holographic Wormhole Drive”. Not only is this the coolest song title ever, it’s also the closest this album comes to the traditional XTD sound. This is Dark Ambient in its truest form, with deep drones, creepy soundscapes and an overall menacing essence. There are several pitch shifts in this track that enhance the listening entertainment value, as well as present multiple sides to this gloomy effort. The final track of this epic album is the summarizing, “Gateway To The Unknown”. This is another scorching Dark Ambient masterpiece that includes some insane trip-hop beats and intense soundscape and noises. This ends the album in dominating fashion, just as the AI has systematically overtaken human kind, in this bewildering conceptual masterpiece.
I continue to be amazed by the many faces and directions of XTD. It’s safe to say that I never have any idea of the direction of each album, but pursue in amazement at how impressive each outting is. Whether it’s the established arrangement of Dark Ambient mainstays, drudging Noise Ambient, Industrial Ambient, or a conglomeration of the aforementioned, rest assured that the entertaining value (and listening experience) will be extremely high. ‘The Rise Of AI’ is right up there with the best that XTD has to offer and I highly recommend this for those that love an eclectic blend of electronic music styles. Please click the link below to download this incredible album and also check out the XTD back catalog while you’re there.
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