Xerxes The Dark Delves Deeper Into The Chaotic World Of Death & The Macabre With ‘Soundtrack To The Blind Owl’

Over the past few albums, Xerxes The Dark has taken a seemingly harsher approach to his Dark Ambient output. Instilling more of an industrial assault rather than lush, cinematic tones, it’s safe to say that XTD is producing some of the most aggressive work of his career. Although his past work has contained quite a bit of ominous modulations and sinister soundscapes, material from the past couple of years have been extremely bleak and harrowing, but a fitting progression for one of the best artists in the genre. That leads us to this years surprise release, ‘Soundtrack To The Blind Owl’. Extremely influenced by the 1937 novel, ‘The Blind Owl’ by Sadegh Hedayat, the story is about a desolate mans descent into chaos after experiencing personal loss and metaphysical shame. XTD interprets that discord into a grueling six track album of harsh noises and antagonizing dread that breaks down ones own spirit and will force the listener to question their own sanity.

It’s almost cliche to say that the album begins with a calm-before-the-storm approach. However, with the ensuing onslaught of punishing tonality that reeks havoc on the mind (and ears) for the following fifty three minutes, that statement is putting it mildly. “Misanthropic Mind Within Nightmares” begins with pulsating modulations and distorted guitar screeches that progressively sets the tone for this horrific ordeal. Subtle glitches are manipulated in a rhythmic pattern while random guitar noises inflict audial damage at deafening volumes. “The Women” commences with some of the same fragmented tones that were predominate in the first track and fuses with strident guitar reverberations that would please fans of the mighty Sunn O))). Bleak soundscapes are imbued strategically, enhancing the experience of the ascension of chaos. The layers of deep, guttural nuances give this track an overall creepy vibe. Next up is my favorite track, “Opium & The Bent Man”. Before I get into the details of this track, I’d like to point out that each song flows seamlessly into the next and is meant to be listened to as a single instance, showing a slow descent into oblivion and the process in which maniacal sentiment infiltrates all thought processes. As for “Opium & The Bent Man”, this is the eeriest eight minutes on the album and the celestial synth contained within are what phantasmic dreams are made out of. The droning, distorted guitar riffs are still present but take a back seat to the sinister soundscapes that oscillate at will, like an abandoned pitch shifter. “Bed Of Dead” continues down the path of destruction as distorted frequency sounds create a drone-like impulse, devastating everything in its wake. Layers of exaggerated guitar riffs continue to surge, adding a frenzied accent to this otherwise minimalistic intonation. “Horrible Abyss” continues the insanity but doesn’t begin with a constant hysteria of sound. Instead, vibrant impulses tease of an imminent demise before fully committing to an agitated madness of constant tones and malevolent riffs. The final track on the album is “The Shadow Of The Void”. Commencing with a low volume and gradually committing to a solid foundation of hateful, droning guitar riffs and dismal effects, this is the climactic piece that solidifies the concept of this very engaging album. As the psyche begins to wear thin, the throbbing fill of sonic distortions continue to blast at earsplitting volumes. However, everything comes to a grinding halt – and without warning – as the song stops in an instant, representing the abrupt end to the rapid decline of the mind.

Xerxes The Dark has been on a role over the last few years by releasing some of the best albums of his career. Instead of maintaining the status quo, XTD continues to add to his signature sound, digging deeper into the industrial ambient sub-genre and producing albums of harsher and more severe sounds. “Soundtrack To The Blind Owl” is no exception, as it’s his most brutal XTD output thus far. However, if this is what we can come to expect, then I’m already excited to hear of what may be next. This is not a relaxing, meditative listen. This is very coarse and requires the full attention of the listener in order to appreciate and understand what all is going on. That all being said, this album is absolutely amazing and one of my favorite Dark Ambient recordings of the year so far. Please show your support and listen to and/or download this outstanding piece of work from the link below.

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Links:

https://xerxesthedark.bandcamp.com/album/soundtrack-to-the-blind-owl

Celestial Ephemerides: A Collection Of Dungeon Synth Summary Reviews, Part III

Here with my third round of Dungeon Synth summary reviews that I call Celestial Ephemerides. As the Dungeon Synth genre becomes more expanded with an increased sense of popularity, there are many artists that continue to broaden their sound beyond the sphere of traditional Dungeon Synth. Such is the case for the amazing artists in this posting, as many of them create a fascinating world with their music that incorporates many elements of surprise. Please check these artists out and support them as much as possible and I hope you enjoy these releases as much as I do.

1. Meadow Grove – That Which Lies Beyond

‘That Which Lies Beyond’ is probably my favorite output but Meadow Grove as it’s firm mix of ambient textures and minimal use of synth leads create a mournful Dungeon Synth experience. These four epic tracks present a somber, musical experience that is part whimsical, part melancholic but completely alluring that is surely to reach a broad spectrum of listeners. When this thirty three minute long excursion is over, you’ll want to start it again, further embracing the enlightened bliss that it exudes.

https://meadowgrove.bandcamp.com/album/that-which-lies-beyond

2. Kalameet – The Everlasting Prairie Winters

Kalameet exemplifies the Medieval Dungeon Synth experience with bleak atmospherics and haunting synth arrangements. The gloomy production effort also increases the authenticity of the era that this recording represents. in addition to the captivating synth compositions, elements of percussion and whimsical key leads thwarts the listener back to a darkened time where castles and enchanted forests reigned supreme. I particularly love the ambient lead-ins for each track as they prepare the listener for a middle-aged journey that is compelling as it is real.

https://kalameet1.bandcamp.com/album/the-everlasting-prairie-winters

3. Gate Master – Gate Master

Although the self-titled Gate Master album is not the latest release in his catalog, it’s definitely one worth mention especially if you’ve not heard it yet. ‘Gate Master’ is everything that I love about some of my favorite genres of music. It contains a methodical Dungeon Synth cadence that draws the listener in as well as some bleak atmospherics that will satisfy fans of Dark Ambient music as well. On top of that, it encompasses some very cold and powerful Black Metal that was some of my favorite from last year. The track “Inverse Transcendent Hypostasis” is worth the price of the album by itself. Don’t pass on this artist and the amazing discography of albums that are available.

https://gatemaster.bandcamp.com/album/gate-master

4. Caliginous Empire – Gloom Lands

‘Gloom Lands’ is a captivating listening experience that runs the gamut of soundscapes and genre-bending within a twenty two minute span. Starting with a cinematic intro and leading into an fascinating journey of fantasy synth induced tracks, ‘Gloom Lands’ proves its epic prowess by virtue of musical compositions instead of the length of the album itself. One minute it is inviting with eccentric tones and the next the listener is presented with a brood of darkened atmospherics. An excellent debut from an up-and-coming Dungeon Synth artist!

https://caliginousempire.bandcamp.com/album/gloom-lands

5. Lamerak – Lamerak

At just sixteen minutes in length, ‘Lamerak’ is a charming fantasy synth adventure that catapults the listener into the heart of Medieval elements where a serene setting provides a peaceful existence for the entire kingdom. Although mostly a light and enchanting experiment, there are aspects of obscurity that enhances the listening experience. Synthwave effects create a haunting atmosphere for these tracks, making it a standout release in the Dungeon Synth community.

https://lamerak.bandcamp.com/album/lamerak

6. Lamia Vox – Alles Ist Ufer. Ewig Ruft Das Meer

‘Alles Ist Ufer. Ewig Ruft Das Meer’ is a soundtrack worthy album of cinematic proportions. Beautifully produced and classically arranged, these tracks fuse elements of Dark Ambient and Medieval Dungeon Synth with crystal clear clarity and a precise mix of elegant synth leads and dreamy narrations. Also featuring percussion, piano and stringed instrument arrangements, this album is an absorbing listen and is guaranteed to get multiples spins from listeners of this variety.

https://lamiavox.bandcamp.com/album/alles-ist-ufer-ewig-ruft-das-meer

7. Apoxupon – Nameless And Formless

‘Nameless And Formless’ is a bold and refreshing take on Dungeon Synth music. With dark atmospherics, layers of amusing keyboard arrangements and elements of experimental, avant-garde, Apoxupon has conjured quite an adventure with their fifth album of inspiring synth music. Never one to maintain the status quo, Apoxupon expands upon the realm of darkness and fantasy synth to create a signature sound that is unmistakable. This is one of my favorite Dungeon Synth albums of the year so far.

https://apoxupon.bandcamp.com/album/nameless-and-formless

8. Frailord – Injecting Divine Essence Of The Empyrean Kingdom

Frailord, one of the many projects behind Serpent Swords Records mastermind Davey Sasahara, finds a more regimented sound with a stark mix of Medieval Dungeon Synth and Black Metal, put together in a lo-fi production setting. One thing that stands out is the bombastic percussion, as it creates a hasty style of synth music that hypnotizes from the very first note. Sure you can hear the influences of Serpent Sword projects, but the intonations released on this album stand on their own as a unique project and identity. Another amazing effort by Davey!

https://serpentsswordrecords.bandcamp.com/album/injecting-divine-essence-of-the-empyrean-kingdom

9. Dahliad – The Feast Of Fools

‘The Feast Of Fools’ is a masterclass of synth compositions that extends beyond the Dungeon Synth realm. The theatrical presentation of this album as a whole is on point, while the inclusion of dark ambience and trance-like drones adds a bleak setting to the ominous output of each track. As if you’re trapped in a nightmare, certain tracks will play on the listeners emotions, ensuring an essence of coldness. However, other tracks contain an overwhelming sense of beauty, creating a wonderful balance as this album takes us down a different path in the realm of Dungeon Synth.

https://retconindustries.bandcamp.com

10. Genus Inkasso – Odd Little Gestures

This album is a little older but definitely with the mention in this article. Although not your typical Dungeon Synth album, it’s more like an experimental noise recording with harsh modulations that resonate in the same fashion as Dungeon Synth does. Using frequency manipulation as it’s stronghold for tonal adventure, this single track provides twenty six minutes of angst-laden soundscapes and reverberations that is sure to generate some feedback (no pun intended).

https://tonestrukt.bandcamp.com/album/odd-little-gestures

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Celestial Ephemerides: A Collection Of Dark Ambient Summary Reviews, Part III

I love how Dark Ambient continues to grow and find ways to expand beyond the typical means of uniformity. While the baseline of stimulating drones and gloomy soundscapes are a permanent fixture in Dark Ambient music, the use of textured field recordings and the fusion of other genres show an increased variety in the music created for this genre and how it is able to expand. Welcome to round three of Celestial Ephemerides for my Dark Ambient summary reviews and I hope you savor these broad spectrum of releases and appreciate them as much as I do.

1. Secant Prime – Wavelets

For starters, this album is a few years old but after have been introduced to it, I knew that I had to write about it in some form or fashion. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill Dark Ambient recording, as it is filled with pulsating modulations, harsh industrialized noises with random samples and soundscapes that make this a horrifying affair. However, these five tracks present an hours worth of entertaining dark electronic music that will keep you on the edge of your seat, and trapped in a dark post-apocalyptic world.

https://secantprime.bandcamp.com/album/wavelets

2. Ulvestad – Fall

On the other end of the spectrum, Ulvestad presents the drone-laden, “Fall”. This minimalistic adventure commits the listener to a world of obscurity through elongated drones that build around cinematic soundscapes and grandiose production. This is as disturbing as it is tranquilizing and these four tracks tell a story through masterful synth and pad arrangements.

https://cycliclaw.bandcamp.com/album/fall

3. Tarme Til Alle – Blood Moon Prophecy

‘Blood Moon Prophecy’ is a unique recording in that it contains all of the elements of a theatrical and climactic Dark Ambient album but in a harsher sense. The tone and volume on the instrumentation is mixed louder than usual, creating a level of acerbity and distortion not normally experienced in this genre. Whereas Dark Ambient (at times) tends to be calm and soothing, this album is more abrasive, presenting more of a realistic approach to post apocalyptic and industrial themed tracks. Fortunately, it blends perfectly and I need to hear more of this!

https://tarmetilalle.bandcamp.com/releases

4. Mindspawn – Daemon

Mindspawn excel at creating a drone masterclass with the ominous ‘Daemon’. Extremely minimalistic droning with the help of some very demonic sounding effects, this may not be the album you want to fall asleep to. However, I do recommend this for those times where you need bleak soundscapes to set a harrowing mood. The modulation variants are very creative and the arrangements couldn’t be any better for a one hour recording of ominous sounds from the underworld. Don’t sleep on this one!

https://mindspawn.bandcamp.com/album/daemon

5. Flowers For Bodysnatchers – Infernal Beyond

Flowers For Bodysnatchers epitomizes the conceptual experience with each of his albums. From start to finish, you can expect an enthralling journey through realms of the obscure. On ‘Infernal Beyond’ the use of bleak soundscapes and field recordings propels this journey beyond expectation and the results are a sinister cluster of tracks that will leave the listener in a maniacal disarray. An absolutely amazing album from one of my favorite artists!

https://cryochamber.bandcamp.com/album/infernal-beyond

6. Snake Eggs – The Birdland Chakras

‘The Birdland Chakras’ is a deep dive into the dimension of industrial-tinged experimentation. The variety of sounds and noises, mixed with Dark Ambient undertones creates a frantic output and the outcome is a horrifying collection of intonations that will dismantle your very core. At times whimsical and other times sadistic, this is a well blended assemblage of sounds that is very appeasing and completely entertaining. Can’t wait to hear more from this artist.

https://snakeeggs.bandcamp.com/album/the-birdland-chakras

7. Bocci/Arrighi/Lepore – Anagrammi

Now for something a bit different. Bocci/Arrighi/Lepore combine their compositional talents to create a piano-based album full of darkened arrangements and jazzy undertones. Their masterful piano and synth manipulations present a soothing, yet gloomy take on Dark Ambient and experimental music in general. Consisting of just four tracks, the listener is provided with a forty minute journey of alluring ambience that borders improvisational madness and supremely structured tunes. This one is highly recommended for fans of dark noir themed music.

https://unexplainedsoundsgroup.bandcamp.com/album/anagrammi

8. Melkor – Hall Of Bats

‘Hall Of Bats’ embodies the minimalistic listening experience with dark, depressive drones and occasional layers of grim soundscapes and field recordings. Interestingly, there is a sparse sense of melody used throughout this recording, keeping it from become a completely bleak experience. However, it’s used as an expression of dread and increases the grandeur of this Dark Ambient spectacle. This album must be listened to from start to end to gain an appreciation for the full compositional encounter. At times, it’s like having an out-of-body experience.

https://kalpamantra.bandcamp.com/album/hall-of-bats

9. Kammarheit – Thronal

‘Thronal’ is the perfect Dark Ambient album to listen to if seeking a completely melancholic experience. Agonizing synths accompany deep and slightly distorted drones to produce a deplorable sound that is not only addictive, but mesmerizing to the point of total submission. This album is like a minimalistic soundtrack for misery and sadness and I can’t get enough of it. Highly recommended for those seeking a dark and emotional audial dialog to accompany your own personal experiences.

https://cycliclaw.bandcamp.com/album/thronal

10. J. Donovan Malley – Echoes In A Cage

J. Donovan Malley packs more into this twenty two minute album than a lot of artist in an album twice the length. From warm piano ballads and soothing soundscapes to industrial-based noise fills and vocals (both operatic and harsh), ‘Echoes In A Cage’ is a compelling Dark Ambient album that goes beyond standard drones and synth modulations and explores the psyche of emotional projection. This is another expertly crafted album that I highly recommend checking out immediately!

https://jdonovanmalley.bandcamp.com/album/echoes-in-a-cage

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Løgan McCurter Cultivates A Kaleidoscope Of Synth Madness On The Elusive, ‘Primitive Baptist & The Oldest Time Traveler In The World’

I spent some time perusing Løgan McCurter’s Bandcamp page and was fascinated by the variety of music that he’s generated over the course of several albums and demos. From singer/songwriter and psychedelic to synth pop and retro synthwave, Logan knows no boundaries and has a niche for creating great music. Now, even further expanding his musical forte, Dungeon Synth is added to the audial pallet, and the release of ‘Primitive Baptist & The Oldest Time Traveler In The World’ is bestowed upon us. With a solid foundation in the Dungeon Synth realm, these eight tracks expand beyond multiple genres, creating a fascinating album of melancholic desires.

Impressive album opener, “Primitive Baptist” commences with a steady dose of tape hisses followed by the consoling sounds of retro synth chops that paint an effervescent scene of jubilant mystery. Celestial soundscapes and percussive pops create a harmonious tone, setting a wondrous theme for the remainder of the album. “Uniform Resource Locator” begins with some creepy sound effects before melding into a whimsical fantasy synth groove. This soon comes to an end, giving way to a warm ambient tone and a variety of sonic textures, as if providing a soundscape to a fanatical adventure. Toward the end, a barrage of synth leads come into play, bringing this track to a climactic ending. “Chapel Dweller” is a lugubrious effort with dreamy keys and cosmic effects. There is a beautiful sense of melody on this track that makes it an infectious listen. “Spoken Into Existence” begins with an alluring piano melody before shifting into a retro synthwave affair. It’s so easy to get lost in the ambient space that is created by the solar atmospherics, that you’ll almost feel as if you’re on a celestial journey through unknown realms. This leads right into the lush, “The Meaning Of Life Is That It Ends”. With tape hisses and fantasy synth tones, the melody is beautifully arranged to create a stark world of beauty and darkness. Hints of percussion and layers of synth leads add to the mystique of this song, making it one of my favorites on the album. “The Oldest Time Traveler” continues with the tape hisses and austere soundscapes, sending the listener on a psychedelic excursion. As the elongated synths begin to take shape, every element of this track becomes more predominant. The obscure effects really do this track justice, as it keeps the listener drawn into a world of fantasy and arcane details. The eerie “Tomb Sleeper” begins with haunting field recordings and maniacal effects before settling into a heavy bass-driven dirge that sounds like a synthwave ballad from the 80’s. The inclusion of steady rainfall provides a very soothing effect as this emotionally arranged anthem continues with various elements of surprise that succeeds in captivating the listener effortlessly. The final memorable achievement on this fantastic album is the mesmerizing “You Were The Spell”. After a brief, dismal array of grim sound effects, the track settles into an austere arrangement of harmonized synths that are simply breathtaking. The expanded notes overlay each other in an integrated fashion, providing a soothing and somber experience. The trance-like quality that builds with each interval pulls the listener further into a world of darkness and uncertainty. What an amazing way to end this extraordinary album.

Løgan McCurter’s Dungeon Synth journey – although a youthful one – is surely paying off with the bold and captivating release, ‘Primitive Baptist & The Oldest Time Traveler In The World’. He masterfully blends multiple synth styles to create his own unique signature within the Dungeon Synth realm. This is an extremely entertaining album with lots of twists and turns and I can’t recommend this one enough. Please click on the link below and support this prodigious artist by downloading this tremendous piece of work.

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Links:

https://loganmccurter.bandcamp.com/album/primitive-baptist-the-oldest-time-traveler-in-the-world

Dark Ambient, Synthwave And Noise Collide on Trajedesaliva’s Intelligent Offering, ‘Ultratumbra’

Sometimes, the best albums out there are the ones that haven’t been heard yet. There are many gems hidden away on bandcamp and often it’s like a diamond in the rough, searching for the one that offers pure cosmic bliss. Fortunately, Bandcamp is one of the best platforms for music these days – especially for obscure genres – so finding an album as impressive as ‘Ultratumbra’ by Trajedesaliva is certainly appeasing to these ears. Combining all of the elements that I love about esoteric music, ‘Ultratumbra’ delivers forty two minutes of musical euphoria that fuses Dark Ambient, noise, spoken word and retrospective synthwave. The modulations that prowl behind every corner are unexpected but are eagerly welcomed, as this album is supremely put together and most of all, enjoyable on multiple levels.

Sonic album opener, “Todo Era Blanco”, sounds like an immediate drift back into time when retro analog synths ruled the airways and the break of dawn demanded its own sound signature. This track builds in grand layers with a lot of reverberation to thicken the sound. The synths are clean without being crisp, like a morning fog clearing before a beautiful day. Spots of percussion can be heard throughout without going overboard and this is such a grand way to start this amazing album. “A Casa Por Las Vías” continues on the strengths of the first tracks with massive, elongated synths that are slightly muffled but concise in the mix. We also get our first listen of a spoken word bit (spoken in Spanish) and it sounds so bleak with the terrifying layer of noises and percussive elements happening in the background. Upon the completion of the spoken word element, there is a climatic shift in music as it builds up in devious fashion before collapsing into a beautiful and melodic synthwave track. “Familia Ferro” commences with a loud, constant tone, followed by a short spoken word piece. It immediately unfolds into harsh noise modulations that shake the foundation with its strident industrial intonations. Next up is the multi-faceted, “Arenas Calientes”. Beginning with a single keyboard chop and then quickly expanding into multiple layers before suddenly unfolding into a mechanized tone, this track goes through several pitch shifts and succeeds at altering ones mood from dark to anxious to downright maniacal. Toward the end, sharp whispers can be heard throughout, adding some mysticism to this already terrifying song. “Mamá Es Un Animal Morado” starts with a jolting tone, like a large turboprop airplane already in mid flight. However, other sound effects are introduced, creating a spacious melody and then spoken words take over. The track deviates from the harshness and turns into a somber affair and the spoken words continue to complete the calming nature of everything that is fused together up to this point. “Mammillaria Sempervivi” is another melodic affair with dreamy keyboard harmonies and a compelling bass line that’s adds a great bit of depth. The spoken words continue to tell their tale and then 80’s style keys and beats commence, adding yet another aspect to this incredibly diverse album. “Queremos Verte” maintains the keyboard harmonies of the last track but adds an extra layer of emotion with superior song writing and haunting production. Even the spoken words sound different in this track, as the narrator seems to be at ease or in a more comforting situation than previously. The final track on the album is “Ultratumbra” and it immediately begins with a line of spoken word before fusing into a harmonic keyboard composition that sounds straight out of the 80’s. This track is magnificently arranged and contains all of the elements that I love about Trajedesaliva. Although it starts out smooth and alluring, there is a middle section that begins to fill out with harsh noises and drum rhythms that’s simply infectious to listen to. This song is so wonderfully arranged, I just wish it would never end.

Although Trajedesaliva is a new artist for me, they’ve been around for over twenty years. It’s a travesty that I’m just now getting to know their craft but I couldn’t be more pleased with what I’ve been exposed to so far. From the retro compositions, nostalgic arrangements, well placed spoken word bits and great use of industrialized noise, ‘Ultratumbra’ contains everything I could ever ask for in an album. I highly recommend checking this one out so please click on the link below and support this amazing artist.

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Links:

https://trajedesaliva.bandcamp.com/album/ultratumba

Tir Brings A Cinematic Approach To An Ancient Time On ‘Persepolis’

This is not the first trip to The Dungeon In Deep Space for Tir, as I reviewed the spectacular offering, ‘Urd, Skuld & Verdandi’ back in 2019. That album was a quintessential element for the Dungeon Synth genre and one that (I feel) elevated Tir’s status as a driving force in the community. Fast forward to now – and several releases later – and we’re graced with another experience beyond comparison in, ‘Persepolis’. A fifty eight minute epic journey translated through beautifully crafted and cinematic synth music that transcends traditional Dungeon Synth settings. Prepare to be amazed as Tir takes you back in time, centuries before the darkness of the Medieval period and the somber essence that it foretold.

From the very first note of “Daemon Of Desert (Aži)”, an intense cinematic quality fills the air and increases as multiple synth effects and percussive elements provide a somber, yet melodic introduction to this intoxicating album. “Anahid’s Miracle” is a serene, melancholic anthem that plays a sorrowful tone while windy field recordings establish a scene of desolation and solitude. The beautiful choir-like sounds add an addictive resonance that go beyond the reach of any genre. “Summoning Alborz” is a slow starter but the natural soundscapes and enchanting instrumentation begin to take charge and will beckon the listener to dry lands and mystic occurrences. “Righteous Viraz” is a whimsical piece that is supremely memorable and the mix of high and low tones work amazingly well during the intro. Soon after, grandiose keys cry out in pain as somber melodies commence and present an emotional journey until the end of the track. “The Dragon King Raised An Army” completely contradicts the last track, as it’s eerie tone sets a dark path toward desolation. Haunting keys with a small amount of reverb works really well here and then suddenly – for the final minute – a lighter harmonic synth shows a glimmer of hope. “Mēnōg And Gētīg” begins with a bizarre synth effect that ultimately fused into an austere Medieval dirge, complete with rhythmic percussion and trance-like keys. “The Stone Thrown From Činwad Bridge (Extended)” starts as a beautiful ballad with lush instrumentation and a gentle arrangement. As this nine and a half minute track continues to progress, layers of alluring guitar chops fill the air with scenic beauty. A haunting ambience plays in the background, bringing a tinge of darkness to this otherwise charming song. As the guitars slowly fade, we are left with the grumbles of deep winds and enchanting soundscapes. “Sands In The Sky” is a gloomy Dungeon Synth effort with bells, orchestral movements and grainy production. However, half way through, crisp string sounds provide an element of surprise and intricately woven detail. “The Song Of The Cosmos Is Heard From Persepolis” is another Medieval masterpiece as it contains all of the elements that make it a stand out track. From the deep, baritone key arrangement to the ancient soundscapes and vocal effects, this track covers a large range of sounds to present its impressive composition. There is also a touch of synthwave to spice things up a bit. “The Rising Shadow Of Chaos” is one of my favorite tracks as it wastes no time getting to the point with its drum and synth audial attack. Although it’s very minimalistic, there is a dark groove and a terrifying sound that is suddenly amplified by the grotesque vocals at the end. I need to hear more of this! “Blood Red Desert” begins with a warm drone and some snappy instrumentation before settling into a Medieval anthem, worthy of multiple listens. “Welkin” is another beautiful ballad that has layers of well-crafted synth leads and several twists and turns to keep it eccentric and compelling. “Empire Of Stars” is a short, melodic piano piece that morphs into an amusing track with a full ensemble of instruments. Just as you get into the grove of this little jingle, it comes to an unfortunate but abrupt end. “Lost To The Shadows Of Memories” features expanded notes, as if this were being played in memory of a lost soul. I love how (as the song progresses) the elongated notes build in layers, almost creating a symphony of madness as the drums and backing keys play in solidarity. The final track on the album is “Forgotten Prophesy (feat. Varkana)” and it’s such a massive way to close out this spectacle from ancient times. With Tir’s passion for cinematic arrangements and Varkâna’s signature beats and effects, what can go wrong? I would actually love to hear these artists collaborate on a whole album, as this track is one of the pinnacles of ‘Persepolis’.

I continue to be impressed with Tir, as he constantly raises the bar with each release. Never one to settle for “just average”, Tir goes above and beyond to create an extravagant album each and every time and ‘Persepolis’ is no exception. From cinematic to whimsical, battle rhythms to ballads, Tir covers all of the bases in this fabulous expedition set in ancient times. In addition to that, he incorporates elements of synthwave, percussion, and a guest artist to round out this project that makes it such a compelling listen. I highly recommend checking out ‘Persepolis’ from the link below.

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Links:

https://tirofficial.bandcamp.com/album/persepolis

Eyre Transmissions XII – Interview with Dark Ambient / Necrochill Producer, Sumatran Black

These days, Bandcamp is my go-to platform for a wide assortment of music. I love how it’s given artists unlimited creativity and the ability to showcase their musical aptitude regardless of style, genre or other unconventional standards. One artist that demonstrates this capability is Sumatran Black. Not only is it the name of the labels flagship artist, but it also represents the Bandcamp page itself – Sumatran Black Records. This Dark Ambient/Necrochill page is also home to Black Box Memories and Ataşehir – two other fantastic creations of the Sumatran Black composer himself. The albums produced by Sumatran Black Records are some of my favorite in recent years and although each project is different, they bring a needed variety of memorable compositions to the dark electronic community that are eagerly welcomed. I recently had the opportunity to interview the composer behind the label to find out more about each project and what the future holds for Sumatran Black Records.

1. Thank you so much for this interview opportunity. I’m constantly amazed by the impressive and unique projects that you have going on with your Bandcamp page. Have you always had a vision to create multiple projects, covering an array of themes and sonic adventures?

I’ve always really enjoyed other artists who have released music under pseudonyms or side projects etc for example, I really love the Smackos project by Dutch artist Legowelt, and in terms of dark music I think the Lurker of Chalice project by Leviathan is a really good example of how using a different project name can open up a whole range of opportunities for musical expression.

To be honest when I started out, I didn’t really have any distinct vision or plan for either the music releases or the label. I just wanted to record some music after very long hiatus from having anything to do with music creation and just take it from there. I tend to believe that once you get the ball rolling on something artistically, it will often guide you in its own direction and you can kind of shape the overall ideas into something more focused and concrete. Which I think is an accurate description of what happened with the Sumatran Black Records label. As I began to take it more seriously and produce more music it was obvious there would have to be different names for different projects just to maintain a sense thematic clarity.

2. If I had to guess, I’d say that Sumatran Black was your flagship project. Was this your first endeavor in the Dark Ambient arena or was there something else before that?

Sumatran Black was the first.

3. Were you involved with any other musical endeavors prior to Sumatran Black? If so, what were they and what led you to Dark Ambient?

I’ve been involved in lots of projects before but most of my music endeavours previous to Sumatran Black involved writing music for theatre (Opera and Musical Theatre). Unfortunately despite my best efforts, nothing made it to the stage. I still have hopes to resurrect some of these ideas in the future.

With regards to my journey towards darker music and dark ambient, I guess my character helped steer me in that direction. And I should add that I wouldn’t really class myself as a purely Dark Ambient composer. I think what I’m trying to do is often less textural and less static in terms of movement than a great deal of Dark Ambient. I would also add that I’ve tried to avoid presenting my music with an overly polished sound (in terms of production) in general. Which is something that I would associate with a lot of Dark Ambient. Hence the term Necrochill. As the genre has become more popular through the good work of labels like Cryochamber and the inclusion of Dark Ambient music in mainstream video games, it seems that the Dark Ambient sound has become more homogeneous and less distinctive between artists. I want to avoid this.

Of course my music does have many elements that are common with Dark Ambient and I have no problem with it being categorised in those terms.

4. ‘A Taxonomy of Grief’ (by Sumatran Black) is one of my favorite Dark Ambient experiences of the year so far. Can you tell us a little bit about the Necrotrilogy and how this album came about?

The Necrotrilogy is a trilogy of releases under the name Sumatran Black designed to be thematically and musically linked, and to introduce the audience to my concept of necro chill. Which is essentially just a funny name to categorise my main musical interest which is dark music that is cathartic, emotional and has strong elements of lo fi and some elements of the 2nd wave of black metal necro sound but reimagined in a more ambient context.

‘A Taxonomy of Grief’ is the third and final part of the Necrotrilogy. Musically it’s supposed to be a summation of the sound of the previous two albums. Thematically it’s the most personal of the trilogy and is in the simplest of terms an album about loss and recovery.

https://sumatranblack.bandcamp.com/album/a-taxonomy-of-grief

5. What are the other albums that make up the remainder of the Necrotrilogy?

Part 1: In the Dread

Part 2: Fathomz

Part 3: A Taxonomy of Grief

Not part of the trilogy: A Page of Madness Soundtrack, Elegy for a Lost Cosmonaut.

6. Do you already have plans for any upcoming Sumatran Black albums?

Not an album but I have an EP ready to go into the next stage of recording. The demos are complete, and the EP is a spiritual successor to Elegy for a Lost Cosmonaut. Its working title is Broken Timelines.

7. Let’s shift gears to Black Box Memories. Another stellar project that combines Dark Ambient and lo-fi electronica. I’m so intrigued by this project but how did it come about?

Usually when I’m in the final stages of a project in terms of mixing and mastering I tend to get bored of listening to the tracks over and over again and so I often do some recordings in the middle of this process just to give myself some variation almost like a palate cleanser if you will. And so when I was finishing off In the Dread (which took a long time), I had a lot of other tracks I had been working on which would not fit that project but I thought was strong enough musically to stand alone in a music project in their own right. Those tracks would form ‘Transmissions’ the first Black Box Memories album.

8. Although the Black Box Memories recordings are very modern, they have an excellent retro vibe to them as well. Is this a sound that you were planning for or did it just come about through experimentation?

I don’t really know where the sound came from first and foremost it was initially probably a reaction to the sound of In the Dread. That album is very claustrophobic and employs some quite extreme audio processing and I guess Black Box Memories is sonically just more open and less demanding of the listener. And as I said before musical projects often dictate their own outcomes. So in the case of Black Box Memories the first demos had a very nostalgic and lo fi vintage sound to them and so as more tracks will created they became influenced by the initial demos. I think also at the time I had access to more sounds, I’d upgraded my system and invested in some 80s retro synth clones and my thinking was how can I create a musical idea that uses the nostalgic sounds of my musical youth but recontextualises them in a kind of more dark arena. if you can imagine how vaporwave manipulates old samples in a way to produce something that has a completely different emotional flavour. I thought maybe that would be possible with say for example a Yamaha DX7 VST. Could I take a very recognisable electric piano sound and then sonically manipulate it in a way that sounds even more vintage/lo fi – almost like a musical exaggeration – and then use this sound design in more dark and almost psychedelic musical compositions.

https://sumatranblack.bandcamp.com/album/this-loving-presence

9. On ‘This Loving Presence’, you use a lot of narrative samples – which blend perfectly with the arrangements. Is there an underlying story with these, or are they used to create a particular ambience for the listening experience?

I guess ‘This Loving Presence’ was greatly influenced by my mood and habits at the time of composition which involved lots of late nights and lack of sleep and watching YouTube videos to try and remedy the situation. Most of the narrative samples are heavily edited ASMR style video quotes. I took those snippets of dialogue and then edited them in a way that would create sentences that had a very sharp and poignant emotional resonance immediately.

10. Now, I definitely have to bring up Ataşehir, because out of all of your projects, this one is probably my favorite. This project is a bit more minimalistic and desolate that your others; what were some of the influences for creating this one?

Although it probably sounds nothing like it, the main influence at the beginning of the Ataşehir project was the work of Stars of the Lid and also GAS. Probably my two favourite drone and ambient artists.

https://sumatranblack.bandcamp.com/album/when-the-time-comes

11. I reviewed 2020’s ‘AVM’ album and I loved the theme that was represented within. Are all Ataşehir albums created with a concept in mind?

I think that I can safely say that pretty much every album and EP I’ve recorded (not only Ataşehir) has been what would broadly be described as a concept album. Sometimes I give an explicit explanation in the liner notes, sometimes the concept is hidden in the album and song titles. 

I have given a previous interview where I go into detail about the Ataşehir project https://ambientmusic.com/interviews/sumatran_black

12. On the latest album, ‘When The Time Comes’, the drone work is absolutely fantastic and has a wide range of melody in it. How did you go about creating these sonic soundscapes?

I think with Ataşehir I always have this overriding influence of abstract expressionism and then I’m always trying to find ways of manifesting that musically. I was lucky with ‘When the Time Comes’ because I found a very particular VST that I used throughout the whole process. I won’t name it because I don’t want to give all my secrets away but the person who designed the instrument is aware of the fact that it was used for the entire album.

Maybe I can just describe the overall composition technique that was used. Most of the tracks consist of maybe three or four drone layers that are intersecting with each other to create a musical foundation – and this is the drone element. Then on top of that the melodic element you refer to are improvisations with a synth or a guitar. These improvisations are cut and edited and looped in an asymmetric way to create kind of melodic tension across the pieces.

13. I love the song titles that you come up with for this project. Do they have a particular meaning, and how do you come with those?

I usually take a long time with song titles I really enjoy that aspect of creating music and it’s something I have a lot of fun with. In the case of the album ‘When the Time Comes’, the titles definitely all have a meaning and maybe I can try and clarify that. The album is supposed to describe a near future or alternative future Istanbul after some strange cataclysmic event. Therefore, the song titles refer to numerous locations in the city but some of those locations are real and some of them are imagined future locations. So, for example, the Istanbul Canal does not exist but it might do in the near future. Also, Levent 4.2 does not exist, but Levent 4 exists. If anyone is interested, on the bandcamp album notes I have included a location guide which kind of explains everything.

14. I recently became familiar with one of your older projects, Haram Tapes. These albums are a lot of fun and seem to defy genre limitations. What makes this project so different?

The main reason that project is so different is because it involves two people. Myself and my collaborator See Safari. It would take a long time to go into detail about all the concepts and ideas behind Haram Tapes, but here is a recent interview we did.

15. Are there plans for more Haram Tapes releases?

Yes, we are discussing the concept for the next album at the moment.

https://haramtapes.bandcamp.com/album/scorpions-fountains

16. Speaking of “releases”, do you have any physical releases (I.e. CD, Cassette, LP..) of any of your projects?

Yes, there are cassettes available for Haram Tapes. Logistically, it hasn’t been possible for me to produce physical releases for Sumatran Black Records. However, it’s my plan that all Sumatran Black Records will have physical versions available from now on. This will begin with a new dungeon synth project I’m currently working on. I also plan to slowly but surely add physical releases to the entire back catalogue.

17. Do you have a home studio in which you record and produce your work?

Yes I do. It’s quite minimal and now I also have made it portable. Before all my music used to be created in my home studio desk setup with big monitors etc but recently I’ve tried to do all my initial work just on a laptop so I can be portable add more flexible with my workspace. ‘When the Time Comes” and “This Loving Presence” were recorded and mixed almost entirely on a small laptop with headphones and they were only moved to my larger studio area (the big computer as it were) during the mastering process.

18. What is your gear setup like? Do you have a preference of analog equipment over digital (VST’s etc..)?

I tend to avoid talking about gear and setups too much because I’d like to encourage all musicians to just use whatever they have available. You don’t need expensive analogue gear you don’t need the latest DAW, you just need ideas and some dedication. the first Sumatran Black album was recorded on GarageBand with no third party VSTs for example.

But to answer your question I really do love both analogue and digital but my priority is practicality and pragmatism. So, I can tell you at this moment I own two or three very good analogue synthesisers but they’re not in the same country as my studio (and not one note from them has appeared on any of my records). I’m doing everything in the box just using vsts because that’s what I have available. I’m planning to build something more substantial in the near future with the aim of implementing some more outboard gear.

19. Again I appreciate this opportunity for the interview and I’m always looking forward to new music by you. Do you have any departing thoughts for your fans that may be reading this?

Thanks for listening and reading. If you got this far, please consider following Sumatran Black Records on Bandcamp as this is my main hub for all news and info about new releases. New Dungeon Synth project coming soon.

Links:

https://sumatranblack.bandcamp.com

https://www.sumatranblackrecords.com

https://www.facebook.com/sumatranblack/

https://youtube.com/user/reevespeterson

https://haramtapes.bandcamp.com

Dronny Darko & Ajna Are On A Quest For Bleak Supremacy With ‘Radioactive Immersion’

For the past couple of years, the Cryo Chamber label has been on quite a roll with releasing an impressive stint of collaboration albums. The Dark Ambient genre is already a special musical environment and on many occasions, it’s easy to identify certain artists based on their style. So, when these collaboration albums are released, I look forward to the fusion of the various styles of some of my favorite artists to see what kind of sonic concoction they have in store. In the case of this review, we have Dronny Darko – the King of dismal drones teaming up with Ajna – the majestic arbiter of ominous soundscapes to produce the enigmatic offering, ‘Radioactive Immersion’. This is not the first time these two Dark Ambient Titans have collaborated and hopefully it won’t be the last, as this is atmospheric modulation at its best.

Like music from a sinister movie soundtrack, “Anomalous Gravity Distortion” blasts out an array of malevolent effects to set a devious mood, providing a platform for a darkened endeavor. Haunting drones reverberate cautiously while a cluster of soundscapes create a claustrophobic vacuum in which there is no escape. “Bottomless Gorge” continues the bleak excursion through abandoned corridors and empty chambers of energy. Sudden bursts of pulsating modulations create a sense of dread as isolation becomes the driving factor behind the minimalistic drones and pads. “Electromagnetic Pulse” commences with a terrifying drone that crescendos from the depths of a radioactive inferno. As the fiery field recordings blaze on, nominal soundscapes keep the listener in suspense while subtle variance in the music is sparse but affective. “Uranium 235” begins with the crackles of positive radioactive energy before gravitating to a dense drone, combined with creepy synth effects and jarring sounds that are right out of a nightmare. Narrations can be heard deep in the mix but they are inaudible as a result of the mass decimation caused by the preceding, disastrous events. “Plutonium Clouds (feat. protoU)” begins with a lighter drone and ominous soundscapes that are a result of the fallout from the mass contamination that obliterated everything in its wake. There is a somber vibe to the synth arrangements and it almost has a Space Ambient sound. “Mutated DNA” starts with an eerie drone that builds and collapses over and over again, while various soundscapes and effects provide a sense of disparity. The sound bits are totally random, but fit in with the theme of the album and help describe what may be happening next – the creation of a new horrific being out of the ashes of an unprecedented nuclear fallout. The final track on the album is the near twelve and a half minute long, “Radioactive Immersion”. Instead of starting with a drone, it sounds more like a pack of crawling insects, scurrying for cover as an undisclosed disturbance is in the air. An assortment of field recordings and synth effects are the focus in this track as it’s primary objective is to create a dark scene of impiety and post-apocalyptic dread. About halfway through, sonic drones add a celestial balance as if the dawn of a new beginning were on the horizon. These ethereal tones fade in and out of the mix several times as if relieving tension of a desolate nature. By the end of the track, the synth effects have faded and all that is left is the oscillating drones.

‘Radioactive Immersion’ is an aural journey to an abandoned nuclear reactor, haunted by past indiscretions and the lackluster efforts of mankind. This album is dark & deep and the music really submerges the listener into a toxic wasteland of tarnished energy and the grim outcome of its horrific meltdown. Dronny Darko and Ajna are not only the best Dark Ambient producers to convey this energy, but their masterful efforts set the bar pretty high for collaboration albums. Please click on the link below and download this intense release immediately.

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Links:

https://cryochamber.bandcamp.com/album/radioactive-immersion

Multi-Genre Synth Extraordinaire, Jenn Taiga, Cultivates A Nostalgic Collection Of Deft Anthems On ‘Lunar Nocturnes And Esoteric Incantations’

If you’ve listened to Dungeon Synth, Berlin School or any style of Synth music in the past few years, then Jenn Taiga needs no introduction. For all others, well, you’ve been missing out on one of the most talented musicians across a broad spectrum of genres. Last years ‘Plight’, was in my Top Ten list for synth album of the year and remains one of my favorite synth albums of recent years. As time and space progress, I find myself anticipating new releases by my favorite artists – Jenn Taiga included. Earlier this month saw the release of ‘Lunar Nocturnes And Esoteric Incantations’, a collection of six exquisite synth songs that embrace a world of retro darkness and euphoric bliss.

Album opener, “Six Of Swords” first appeared on last years ‘Apostles Against Hegemony, Vol. I: Transitive Properties’ compilation and it was one of my favorite songs from that huge assortment of impressive tunes. Beginning with a dreamy arrangement that slowly builds with haunting leads and cosmic sound effects, this track will surely generate a hypnotic state for the listener and prepare them for the mesmerizing characteristics that gracefully infiltrate the remainder of the album. “Strength” has a beautiful (but mild) Berlin School backing arrangement that is completely lenitive and soothing, while layers of concordant synths provide a rollercoaster of emotive vibes that are unmatched in their scope of memorable influence. Although this track is five minutes in length, I wish that it lasted another ten minutes or so. After a short nostalgic intro on “King Of Swords”, we are treated with a hefty dose of conventional, Berlin School patterns that are soon combined with an ominous arrangement of swaying synth leads and celestial soundscapes that are otherworldly and reminiscent of 70’s retro Space Rock/Synth music that popularized the genre several decades ago. “Justice” is the shortest track on the album at just under three and a half minutes long. However, it’s a monstrous synth piece filled with melody and tasty backing arrangements, making this compact offering a delightful listen. “Braziers Are Burning” commences with a grueling sound, like a distorted warning alarm terrifying an unsuspected community. After that startling lead in, majestic synth offerings come into being and provide a mystical journey of harrowing cadence, cinematic effects and layers of sonic resonance that reveals one of Jenn’s most complete compositions to date. The final symphonic piece on this mesmerizing album is “…As Our Offerings Rise To The Heavens”. At just under nine and a half minutes, it’s the longest track on the album and is an epic ending to this modern-day trip down memory lane. It’s starts with a somber synth fill that sways of lush movements. At just over two minute in, Berlin School melodies permeate the audial channels and we find ourselves falling deep into another legendary excursion. The retro synth patterns are simply amazing and this track is like a continuous build-up to a never ending story. There are several layers of harmony that can be heard in a couple of spots that are hypnotic and could be considered the transcendent soundtrack to a trance-like state of mind. As you continue to ingest the enchanting rhythms of this track, it suddenly fades into the black, leaving you wanting more.

For me, Jenn Taiga is one of the ultimate musicians in the world of synth compositions. Never afraid to venture out beyond a single genre, Jenn Taiga pulls from a wide array of musical aspects to create a sound of her own. Although there is a huge amount of influence from retro synth styles, it’s the polished, modern take on electronic song writing that makes this (and other Jenn Taiga albums) stand out. Whereas ‘Plight’ was in my Top Ten synth album of 2020, there is no doubt that ‘Lunar Nocturnes And Esoteric Incantations’ will be in my Top Ten list for 2021. If you’ve not heard this mind-blowing album yet, please click on the link below and relish in the greatness.

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Links:

https://jenntaiga.bandcamp.com/album/lunar-nocturnes-and-esoteric-incantations

Sphäre Sechs Takes Flight On A Celestial Adventure With ‘Beta Pictoris’

Of all the ambient sub-genre’s, Space Ambient is without a doubt my favorite. There is something about the fusion of warm & dark drones and layers of cosmic soundscapes that I find completely captivating. Whenever I’m in the mood for such deeply atmospheric occurrences, there are a few artists that I can always count on for those undeniable sonic excursions and one of them is Sphäre Sechs. On their latest otherworldly offering, ‘Beta Pictoris’, they offer seven tracks of Exoplanet inspired modulations that are more than just a junket through deep space, but a mission through spectacular visuals told by supreme synth arrangements and articulate improvisations.

“Planetesimal Debris” commences with soothing, warm drones, like a space ship drifting through the outer reaches of a familiar solar system just before exploration begins into the realm of deep space. Cosmic soundscapes accent randomly as if vague transmissions become more distant and unclear. An accretion of synth effects begin to produce a thicker sound as the expedition boundaries become broader. I love how the jolting signals continue to play out in the background, increasing in strength but decreasing in clarity. This ten and a half minute opening journey is exactly what’s needed to create a celestial mindset for the remainder of this captivating album. “Doppler Spectroscopy” begins with an alluring drone that has a slight industrial edge to it. The spacious reverb effect really gives that feeling of floating in the depths of pitch black space, almost motionless, while random particles of space dust fly by at a blistering speed. These drones are layered so perfectly that you’ll loose track of time while lapsing into the intensity of its structure. “Seeking The Infinite” starts with a single drone and a variety of peculiar notes being played. A slight crescendo happens at various times, while the keys & pads create a cosmic sound of interstellar adventure. There is mystery and buildup in this track, as if a dark force is lurking around every corner and avoidance is creating an anxiety that continues to build until the end. “Collapsing Cloud” is my favorite track on the album as this is the point where things begin to turn dark and the drones start to sound quite menacing. As if the constant meander through space wasn’t enough, a sinister plot begins to develop as cosmogonal soundscapes establish an eerie sensation of doom and imminent catastrophic failure. The intense use of reverb continues to build an outer realm of darkness and horror and it doesn’t get much better than this. “Infrared Emission” is the longest intonation on the album at almost eleven minutes in length, and it’s an ethereal journey with alluring drones and consoling soundscapes that are extremely hypnotizing from start to finish. The sound of wind blowing is an added surprise, making this another standout performance. “Exosolar” begins with eerie effects that resonate abruptly in a horrific fashion. With piercing drones layered in a way that oscillates through the upper registers of the sound spectrum, this must be a true representation of what unexplored space must be like – creepy and desolate. The final excursion on this deep space adventure is, “Unstable Orbit”. Deranged effects place an incredible spin on the ominous drones as they continue to intensify and increase with electrifying resilience. Slight variations of synth modulations create dismal patterns of haunting fills and abrasive undertones. Whereas the album opened with warm colors, it definitely ends with a bleak performance, that is astounding nonetheless.

Sphäre Sechs continues their streak of masterful Space Ambient performances with ‘Beta Pictoris’. Although one of the most minimalistic sub-genres of the ambient community, this album epitomizes an array of soundscapes and dream-like drones to produce a celestial atmosphere that needs no words for explanation or understanding. This is an amazingly meditative album and I highly recommend it, especially for those that are seeking a hypnotic experience through sonic modulations. Click on the link below and download this fascinating album.

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Links:

https://cryochamber.bandcamp.com/album/beta-pictoris