Aleksis Tristan Shaw Reveals An Array Of Influences On The Cinematic ‘Drones Of The Hive’

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s hard to soak in and preserve a lasting affection for many of the albums that I review. It’s not that I don’t like them, in fact, I’ve been fortunate to love everything that I’ve reviewed up to this point. Once I’m finished with one, I tend to put that album on the back burner (for a while), so that I can move on to the next. However, there are many instances where an album stops me dead in my tracks and enthralls me for multiple listens, with an extended staying time on my iPhone. ‘Drones Of The Hive’ by Aleksis Tristan Shaw is one of those albums. Not your typical Dark Ambient release, this one digs deep into emotional wounds with grandiose, cinematic energy, ominous synth leads, and an endless supply of menacing soundscapes & textures that set the mood for continual meditative euphoria. The ten imposing tracks contained within, offer variety, horror, substance, and unequivocal entertainment for the better part of forty eight minutes. Let’s take a deeper dive into each of these tracks.

The album commences with the somber, “Human Remainder”. Soft keys and pads drift sadly as they create a lush melody that will instantly reel the listener in. Soon after, harsh, looping keyboard tones ring out like a warning alarm while the cinematic instrumentation increases. “Vestigial Cries” begins with low, tonal sounds that set a grim mood. High-pitched drones oscillate throughout the track, providing a glimmer of hope to the emotional vibe that was previously set. Layers of synths piece this track together boldly with hints of dissonance and conflict while never loosing focus on the contemplative state. “Shamanic Atavism” is brimming with discordant synth leads while the background sounds like a black metal style song into. This track is very dark, yet dreamy and introspective. “Tenement Graves” is another gloomy piece that features the sounds of a crackling fire and a nifty drum beat that fits right in with the pace of the synths. As the percussive parts change up, multi-layers of quixotic keys & pads provide a grandiose audial platform that’s so easy to get lost in. “Dukkha And Anatman” is a multifaceted track that goes from horror score, minimalistic droning, to cinematic bliss. The use of percussive elements really stick out as well, making this one of my favorite tracks on the album. “Drifting Consciousness” renders terrifying drones, looping soundscapes and unidentifiable noises that will keep the listener on edge. Although this is one of the shorter tracks on the album, it succeeds at masking a horrifying feeling of dread. “Fugitive Drone” is an addictive listen, as the quirky keys & pads fuse perfectly with the cosmic drones, proposing the feeling of a doomed celestial mission. About halfway in, a blast of malevolence alters the tempo, setting up for a lifeless finale that can’t be altered. On the polar opposite of the scale is “Untethered”. Looping tape hisses, minimalistic drones and obscure field recordings dominate this track and when the pulsating drum beat is initiated, it gets that much better. Amongst the crackles and pops, this is actually a really smooth and mellow song that deserves multiple listens. “Caravan Of Outcasts” begins with an ambiguous orchestral arrangement, like a symphony warming up in various keys just before the conductor provides the signal to silence everyone before starting a performance. However, there is beauty amongst the chaos, as melody can be heard throughout. Wind chimes and other field recordings add a layer of organic texture that makes this one stand out as well. The final offering on this wondrous album is, “The Wastelands”. Even though it’s less than three minutes long, this light ambient opus is full of emotions and provides a cleansing affect on the mind and soul. The energy surrounding these hollow drones is breathtaking and it seems to ends too quickly.

Aleksis Tristan Shaw certainly has an ear for not only Dark Ambient but synth music in general. Whether fascinating the listener with cinematic soundscapes, horrifying drones or melodic synth leads, Aleksis Tristan Shaw knows how to administer the perfect blend of music and emotion and the result of that fusion is ‘Drones Of The Hive’. If you’re into ambient recording with meticulous detail and a variety of flavors, then please show your support by downloading this amazing album from the link below. This is truly a masterpiece in sound quality and music depth and it deserves your attention.

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Links:

https://aleksistristanshaw.bandcamp.com/album/drones-of-the-hive

The Wyndham Research Institute Constructs A Retro-Grade Space Ambient Album With The Cosmic, ‘Interim Report No. 57: Io Transmitter Sub-Committee’ Release

When we think about the characteristics of space ambient music, usually deep, prolonged drones come to mind and they are complimented by resounding soundscapes that are celestial in nature. As a listener, we often feel as if we are alone on a spacecraft traveling through deep space on a doomed mission. However, not all space ambient albums have to carry out the same accord and that’s none more apparent than on the latest album by Wyndham Research Institute, ‘Interim Report No. 57: Io Transmitter Sub-Committee’. Elongated drones are replaced with retro synths and cosmic soundscapes that are more inline with a 60’s science fiction show soundtrack than modern space ambient. Fortunately, that’s the beauty of versatility in music and the creative complex. Although these compositions seem nostalgic, they are effective in creating a dark, intricate atmosphere that’s perfect for any ordinary space adventure.

Each of the seven tracks are presented as notes, as if to represent a transmitted sequence at a particular point of time. Right from the start, “Note I” has a retrospective feel and presents sound effects that could have be heard on a 60’s science fiction show. Minimalistic noises and tones serve as a beacon of nostalgia, just as older spacecraft lack the technology of newer ones. “Note II” begins with obscure modulation bends and frequency adjustments, as a smooth drone sets in to define the mission at hand. Organic effects tend to be a bit distorted and at around the halfway point, more antiquated tones generate a puzzling nuance as if an impromptu meeting with a foreign being is about to take place. The start of “Note III” reminds me of a special effect that Tool or Voivod would use, just before setting into a crushing riff. However, Wyndham Research Institute decides to dial back the noise to a low-frequency drone and more obscure soundscapes. Random ticks and buzzes play on throughout the track, making this a really unique experience. “Note IV” commences slowly into a hollow drone with piercing signals mixed in. Soon after, an 80’s-style horror themed synth pattern begins to play, making this one of the most terrifying tracks on the album. Assorted scratches and screeches intensify the scene as these unidentifiable patterns can only mean mayhem. “Note V” is like a spark of controlled chaos, as various discordances are fused together to present a grueling environment filled with intense moments and obscure happenings. Melodic keys are played throughout, adding a bit of peculiarity to this bizarre track. “Note VI” is one of the most accessible songs yet, as the smooth flowing drones prevail from the very beginning and ascend into layers of deep space bliss. Light soundscapes and an acoustic guitar strum are introduced as well, creating an intoxicating adventure. However, the additional attributes don’t last too long, as they slowly fade out and all that’s left is an austere drone to finish out the track. The final song on the album is “Note VII”. Commencing with a high-pitched frequency vibration and distorted ambience, the track shape-shifts into a mild-tempered hum with a slight Berlin School influence. The heartbeat-like percussive element is a welcomed sound to this final track as many new musical forms are merged together to what may be the best track on the album. The final minute consists of a continuous hiss, reminiscent of a combustion chamber of a spacecraft, thwarting a lonely cosmonaut into the far reaches of the universe.

Wyndham Research Institute have uniquely carved their own path for creating a variety of Dark Ambient, influenced by science fiction of an obsolete sound. This is also a breath of fresh air in the ever-growing Ambient community where modern, complex themes dominate most recordings. ‘Interim Report No. 57: Io Transmitter Sub-Committee’ is a rare treat for the Space Ambient sub-genre and is an unprecedented achievement for modern synth music. I highly recommend checking out this album so please support Wyndham Research Institute by download it from the link below.

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Links:

https://wyndhamresearch.bandcamp.com/album/interim-report-no-57-io-transmitter-sub-committee

Ashtoreth & Chthonia Join Forces To Conjure Ritualistic Ordeals On ‘Throne Of Astrōarchē’

To me, Dark Ambient is much more that a listening experience. It’s also a journey into ones own mind, to the realm where the conscious and subconscious rarely fuse together. Even though the soothing – often grim – elongated drones elevates our psyche to the realms of the unknown and produce a trance-like emotional state, there are other variables to consider as well. In the case of the magnificent collaborative effort of Ashtoreth & Chthonia, the use of ritualistic soundscapes, haunting narrations and chilling black metal-esque shrills can also produce a comparable outcome. On ‘Throne Of Astrōarchē’, four sinister compositions is all that is needed to coalesce the inner oracles of the mind, releasing a feeling of modular discomfort and ethereal tranquility.

To begin the ceremonial happenings, “Asir” boldly combine many of the elements I previously mentioned. Dark, liturgical soundscapes make a menacing introduction as they are combined with insane Black Metal styled vocal effects and sacred narrations that will have the listener fully engaged. Void of any prolonged drones, it is replaced by creepy sound effects that enhance the grim vocal arrangements. “Nehalennia” commences with a consoling drone that captures the essence of spiritual beauty, along with various soundscapes and ringing bells. I love how nothing is rushed, allowing for the mood of the music to take hold of the listener and bring them into this dark, captivating world. At almost seventeen and a half minutes long, there is plenty of time for many additional things to occur that will build this mystical journey to be remembered. At around the four minute mark, the drones begin to assemble in layers, creating a space-like vibe. However, as soon as the vocals come in, this track takes on a whole new meaning. This song has such an esoteric vibe that it’s so easy to get lost in its dark beauty. Even at its epic length, this song just isn’t long enough and is easily my favorite one on the album. “Marmarospilia” begins with a field recording of a rain storm and what sounds like crashing waves. However it is soon joined by warm drones and synthwave-like keys and pads, producing more of an obscure sound than on the previous tracks. The layering of these elements create such a massive atmosphere, even with a minimalistic arrangement. This fascinating combination carries on for the better part of twelve minutes and the time passes much quicker that it seems. The final track on the album, “Baetyl”, opens with ominous, howling winds that – at times – screech at piercing volumes. Soon after, the combination of soft, effervescent vocals and deep, guttural tones of throat singing begin to emerge as if providing the main drone for the near fifteen minute long track. Various spots of soft whispers and devilish shrills continue to tell an eerie story that remains gloomy and mysterious. Several times throughout the track, the vocal intensity increases, but always descends into darkness as to not take away from the ritualistic experience. The malevolent chanting that occurs in the last few minutes are epic and I really wish there was more occurrences of this on the album. However, that doesn’t distract from the fact that this song has a certain purity that is nearly perfect from start to finish.

I’ve been a big fan of Ashtoreth for quite some time now and I enjoy the emotional journey he creates through his music. His diverse back catalog crosses several music genres, yet his energy remains the same throughout. This effort, along with Chthonia, is no exception as it takes the listener on a bleak, ritualistic journey that is as haunting as it is cleansing. I highly recommend this album for those of you that like to wander beyond the normal boundaries of Dark Ambient, especially if the addition of harrowing vocals and narrations are your thing. ‘Throne Of Astrōarchē’ is the album for you and it demands to be taken seriously. Please support this outstanding collaboration and download this album from the link below.

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Links:

https://ashtoreth1.bandcamp.com/album/throne-of-astr-arch

Robert Eggplant Leans On Expansive Field Recordings And Tangible Surroundings To Offer The Organic Sounds Of ‘Fields Of Yarrow’

The recordings of Robert Eggplant are a rare commodity in the Dark Ambient community. Instead of relying heavily on intense drones, elongated synth notes & pads, he cultivates a unique sound built around field recordings, tape loops & hisses, and guitar manipulations. That’s not to say there aren’t any synths involved, but it’s just not the “go to” instrument of choice. In the end, Robert Eggplant succeeds in constructing a decaying sound that is grim and – at times – down right sinister. As if the sound exploits of the first two albums weren’t enough to blow you away, ‘Fields Of Yarrow’ is released as a magnifying effort to the stunning elements of the previous two albums. At just over an hour long, this seductive offering is meditative and trance inducing but the constant subtleties will keep your sensory level sharp and aware of the ominous effects that skulk without warning.

Album opener, “Absorbence” finds a myriad of field recordings fused together in a pristine effort and cemented by the lull strums of a guitar. Storm winds, rain and other natural sounds present the illusion of nature in its most sedative state. This is where Robert Eggplant excels the most, as though some of these nuances are dark and abrasive, he brings them all together in a soothing package that has complete meditative value. Continuing on, a few tracks later we find “9/18/20”. I’m not sure of the significance of the title but the field recordings suggest a date that may have been great for venturing out and enjoying nature’s elements. The placid flow of an isolated stream is powerful enough to calm the greatest of temperaments and the ominous instrumentation flows just as smooth. “Deer Park” is a short piece but is one of my favorite tracks on the album. The music is quite ghastly and a slight distortion on the drones creates a bucolic feel. “Poetry Is Best Read In Braille” is another standout tracks as it features monumental tape loops and deformed hisses, mixed with a rainstorm field recording. The additional “close up” rain drops add a personal touch as well. Twisted guitar chords produce a manic touch to this esoteric song. Skipping over a few more tracks, we find the dreamy “Absconded Prisoner”. Haunting guitar reverberations with a retro-style texture start things off and then fades into wicked drones, minimalistic soundscapes and field recordings. From start to finish this track is completely hypnotizing. The last track that I’d like to spotlight is the final song on the album, “Warrior’s Bracelet”. This track epitomizes the quest for complete sound manipulation as massive use of reverb, distortion and tape loop reconstruction creates an atmosphere of controlled chaos that is as much chill as it is anxious. The creepy vibe resonates throughout this near six minute track and the end result is beautifully disturbing.

Robert Eggplant is one of the most unique Dark Ambient artists I’ve had the pleasure of listening to and his releases are unprecedented with regard to sound deconstruction, use of field recordings and overall ingenuity of crafting experimental songs. The latest album, ‘Fields Of Yarrow’ is no exception and the thirteen songs contained within form a perfect bond between the listener, music and the dark side of nature. Please show your support for this exceptional artist and download ‘Field Of Sorrow’ from the link below.

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Links:

https://roberteggplant.bandcamp.com/album/fields-of-yarrow

Lenitive Drones Of An Evocative Manner Prevail On Afnimaran’s Supreme Composition, ‘Graveyard Orbit’

When preparing myself for music reviews, specifically ones of the Dark Ambient genre, I put myself in almost a meditative-like state – at least for a few listens – so that I can fully comprehend the atmosphere and theme of the album at hand. Even though the genre is mostly minimalistic, I receive a great sense of emotional fulfillment with every listen of every album. For me there is no greater force than the true power of music. Afnimaran’s ‘Graveyard Orbit’ epitomizes that standard with a renewed vigor for maximizing space with haunting drones and quaint soundscapes. There is a dark, lurking presence on this recording but it also feels like total fear of singularity as well. I can imagine the silent void of decommissioned satellites, orbiting the earth in a cold endless loop as their powerless shell continues its useless and endless saga. The seven tracks constructed for this album supply a grueling soundtrack for their lifeless mission that is not far fetched from the equivalent depressive state of human kind.

“Nostromo” glides on an ominous trajectory as airy drones and nefarious soundscapes collide in this colossal album opener. Like an orbiting satellite drifting silently at seven thousand miles per hour, its speed is almost deafening as it appears dormant to the naked eye. As the drones modulate from high to low tones, malevolent sound effects predict a soon yet violent ending. “Heighliner” begins with grim pads and keys, making sounds equivalent to the voids of deep space. Soon, a rush of steady drones come in to play, pulsating the track to vociferous heights. The moderate frequency adjustments warrant an agonizing intonation and the doomed trek further away from natural light sources continue. “BC-304” rushes in with urgency as soundscapes and haunting loops influence this piece. Piercing tones and buzzes placate at unknown variables but leave a pillage of audible distraught in its wake. Although the drones aren’t predominate on this track, a steady amount of background hum and dead air plays fierce surprise to the ears. “Enterprise-D” commences with disturbingly peaceful drones with subtle spots cosmic pads and piercing atmospherics. There is a particular dreary tone to this track that is increasingly frightening as the song continues to play out. This is the most grim and ghastly track on the album. “Super Star Destroyer” is another nightmarish gem of cruel intentions and is minimalistic in nature. Where as the velocity of deep space movement is represented by immense sound density, this track proceeds that and shows great veracity by intricate details in the pads and soundscapes. All of this combined make up a gratifying, yet mysterious track that continues the exploration of uncharted space. “Solaris Station” continues with the perilous tonal accents with careening drones and various instruments and samples that fuse together like several out-of-sync clocks that suddenly gather in unison. In the background, pure evil lurks all around in the form of audial dynamics. The final track on the album is “Atlantis”. At just over ten minutes in length, it’s one of the longest tracks on the album and concludes this doomed space mission. Right from the beginning, lengthy drones flow steadily without reason and crescendo when necessary. Background noises crackle and process continually as the dead satellite reaches the end of its orbit and begins a new cycle in the same fortuitous journey.

Afnimaran really knows how to create a daring, Dark Ambient adventure. ‘Graveyard Orbit’ consists of compelling drones, retro effects and soundscapes and other musical variants that thwart this album into a cosmic rotation. Instead of spinning out of control, everything is meticulously integrated to produce a magnificent album. If you’re into daring space ambient music with an ominous undertone, look no further than ‘Graveyard Orbit’ by Afnimaran. Please support this monumental artist by downloading the album from the link below.

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Links:

https://kalpamantra.bandcamp.com/album/graveyard-orbit

Nostalgic Tales Of Horror Told Through Enthralling Dungeon Synth On Mystica Visio’s Massive Debut Self-Titled Album

The Dungeon Synth genre has become an invaluable platform for many artists to harvest various styles of synth music. Most artists are able to maintain a strong foothold with typical genre topics, while venturing out to the far reaches of other subject matters, such as time & space, emotions, and horror. Whereas the majority of the brand resides around Medieval content and RPG-influenced arrangements, some artists extend for endless endeavors in order to orchestrate a different approach to the genre. In some cases, the outcome is a bit obtuse but in other situations, the outcome is magnificent. Case in point, the self-titled debut offering from Mystica Visio is a grim journey down an endless, morbid path that is more psychological thriller than horror. The music is deep, emotional, beautifully desolate and of course, Dungeon Synth! The six tracks contained within this thirty eight minute recording are fascinating and memorable, yet you’ll be watching over your shoulder in frightful anxiety as the tracks move from one to the next.

The maniacal terror begins with “Mystical Visions Of A Dead Past”. With deep, crushing synth effects that paint a vivid scene of solitude and anguish, this is the perfect opening for this sojourn of emptiness. Once the layered, high-pitched keys commit to the mix, the haunting melodies pave the way for an exemplary listening experience like no other. “The Glowing Figure” commences with a peaceful synth arrangement and slowly introduces layers of harrowing effects that take this track down a dark and daunting path. The low-end tone in the background create an ominous drone that extends a symphonic effect, while maintaining a discordant keyboard arrangement throughout. This is a somberly flowing song that maximizes the intent of a dreadful feeling or experience and it certainly succeeds like no other. “The Prophecy Was A Lie” is the closest this album comes to producing a tradition Dungeon Synth sound. The harmony on display in the layered keyboard chops is wondrous and without a doubt, you’ll be humming this restrained melody even after the song is over. Another key element is the beautiful drawn-out synths in the background that tell a story all on its own. Although it fuses perfectly with the synth leads, it would also sound amazing as a stand-alone track of a subdued nature. “Journey Across The Lake Of Lost Souls” contains a bewildering retro synthwave vibe that would be perfect to listen to on a late night (or pre-dawn early morning) drive. Although it doesn’t quite get into full on Berlin School synth mode, there are definitely hints of that style and this seven and a half minute long track seems just too short for the amazing music that is on display here. Up next is the absolutely stunning, “Spell Of Entrapment”. This song has everything that I love in a synth track; it’s dark, full of emotion, tells a wordless story, has a huge retro vibe and is almost eleven and a half minutes long. Genre’s aside, this is possible one of my favorite synth songs of the year (from any genre). There is nothing I can say in this review that will give this song it’s due justice other than, every time I listen to it, I’m mentally removed from my current state of being and taken somewhere that I never remember visiting. What a huge effect from such an amazing song. The final track, “Within These Damp Walls I Found My Home”, end the album on a brooding, yet sincere note. There is depth and pain in the intonations that are played, yet I also hear a lighter side of Mystica Visio at times. It’s obvious this arrangement tells of agony and foreboding of the unknown, yet there is a certain peace with knowing the gruesome outcome. Droning synths pace the musical scales while illustrious keyboard effects take center stage with a lead arrangement that is almost deafening, but necessary for the narrative. This is the perfect track for ending this album as it sums up everything that Mystica Visio is all about.

With one foot firmly planted in Dungeon Synth and the other floating around in various other synth genres, Mystica Visio is one of those special artists that has what it takes to create something unique and special. ‘Mystica Visio’ transcends the genre spectrum and delivers a synth masterpiece and I also consider it one of my Album Of The Year contenders – yes, it’s that good. Don’t let the fact of this being a debut album fool you, as Mystica Visio creator – Gustavo Jobim – is a seasoned, synth veteran and an award winning composer (for his Original Soundtrack for the ‘Os Principiles’ movie soundtrack). If you’ve not had the opportunity to dive into ‘Mystica Visio’ yet, now would be a good time. Please support this astounding album by downloading it from the link below. I’ve also included a link to Gustavo Jobim’s solo works as well, so please give those a listen.

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Links:

https://mysticavisio.bandcamp.com

Solo Works Of Gustavo Jobim:

https://gustavojobim.bandcamp.com

http://www.gustavojobim.com

Coelus Cataclysmus Take Us On A Vexing Adventure That Declines To An Abhorrent Demise On ‘Solus Plaga’

The mysteries of a musical journey can be just as mesmerizing as the theme it is providing a soundtrack for. When a daring story line begins with a typically painless setting and transcends obscurity to end up grim and twisted, there has to be a unique listening experience to go along with it. Coelus Cataclysmus contributes exactly what is desired on the extremely versatile, ‘Solis Plaga’. Adapting to just about every thematic scene imaginable – in this story of cosmic destruction and the inevitable downfall of mankind that soon followed – a diverse mix of genres are fused together to arrange a boundless album of energy and creativity. From traditional dungeon synth, medieval synth & neo-classical, to droning soundscapes and retro-synthwave, ‘Solus Plaga’ generates a hefty forty eight minutes of playing time across nine unique tracks.

“One Last Hike” commences the doomed adventure with lush keyboard tones and traditional dungeon synth effects that drone slowly, but in a harmonious effort. Eerie soundscapes give the feeling of solitude and despair, yet the journey must go on. “Darkening Skies” establishes a beautiful Medieval foundation with its orchestrated effects and sorrowful melodies. High-pitched keyboard leads have an ominous texture, yet mix very well with what all is happening in the background. “Night Eternal Sets” is one of my favorite songs on the album, as it begins to introduce elements of retro-synthwave, contributing to the bleak atmosphere of the story being told on the album. The layers upon layers of somber synths have a dream-like quality and will have you wanting to listen to this one over and over again. “Cataclysm” is where the darkness really begins to seep through, as low-end drones barely penetrate the audible frequency ranges. Suddenly, dungeon synth leads ring out in bizarre desperation as it paints an oblique setting. Toward the end of the track, heavily distorted drones come crashing through to represent the beginning of the end of times. “Chrestomathy Of Dread” is a stand-out track with its anomalous creativity and fusion of both slow and faster drum patterns throughout the song. There are spots of peaceful ambient endeavors and other times, the main synth melody of the track shines through like a discernible addiction. “Bring Out Your Dead” starts with a malevolent synth chop with indistinguishable narrations or screams happening in the background and off in the distance. This track has a crushing Medieval vibe and there are several times where brooding soundscapes penetrate the mix to provide something a bit different. This is another stand-out track and they seem to get more gloomy as we reach the final few songs. “Rapture” begins with a sulking drone that soon explodes into a wall of symphonic patterns that clearly portray the end of the world (in musical form). However, after a few minutes of this cacophony of sound, layers of glowing synths suggest a grim aftermath of harrowing desolation. “Empty Lands” is another sonic track that is heavy on the distorted keys, Medieval-like percussion and occasional soundscape to keep everything together. This track has several symphonic twists and turns that are not only pleasing to the ear, but fully show what Coelus Cataclysmus is capable of doing. The final song on the album is the dreary, “Red Rain”. Full of emotion, this dismal track really sends the listeners to an oblivious state, as the collapse of civilization is complete and the only thing left is the atrocities of nature itself. The droning keyboards and bleak ambience really set the tone for this nightmare as the main keyboard melody is so beautiful, yet at the same time, so painful to hear. What a great way to end this spectacular album.

Coelus Cataclysmus have created a monstrous album (and storyline), where the music not only acts as the protagonist but ends up as the villain as well. There are no musical boundaries here, as multiple synth sub-genres coalesce as one to produce a breathtaking listening experience. ‘Solis Plaga’ is an adventure that must be heard to be felt and understood, and this album ranks highly amongst my Dungeon Synth favorites for this year. If you’ve not heard this yet, I can’t recommend it enough, so please support this magnificent work of art and download it from the link below.

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Links:

https://coeluscataclysmus.bandcamp.com/album/solis-plaga

Neo-Classical Elements And A Conceptual Medieval Tale Give Life To Almesbury Abbey’s ‘Queen Guinevere’

There are many stories that depict the life of Queen Guinevere, the nefarious wife of King Arthur, but one of the most regarded chronicles is her lustful betrayal of her husband and consequent affair with Lancelot. After a period of time, she returns to the King and is forgiven of her treacherous disloyalty. However, King Arthur decides to go pursue Lancelot, leaving Queen Guinevere in the care of Mordred, who has an ulterior motive of his own – a plan to marry the Queen. Fleeing his proposal, Queen Guinevere seeks refuge in the nun convent known as Almesbury – where she subsequently remained for the remainder of her life due to the humiliation of her infidelities. Much of this was paraphrased for the sake of this review but it’s such an intriguing story and the major influence for the album at hand. Almesbury Abbey, one of many projects by Arnaud Spitz (and the material contained within), is a rediscovery of compositions previously written but finally released on this conceptual album based on Queen Guinevere’s concluding years in the Almesbury convent.

Somber opening track, “Guinevere’s Gone”, begins with a hauntingly alluring melody that seems so full of sadness, yet offers a bit of brightness with the extended synth tones that weave in and out of the main keyboard passage. Keeping it simple, this song doesn’t build upon layers of synth leads and rhythms, but instead draws the listener in with its beautiful simplicity. “Mordred’s Curse” is where the excitement begins and the grim, Medieval arrangements take over. Layers of obscured synths and a sudden bit of pulsating effects, followed by nightmarish sounds give this short track a big presence on the album. “The Creeping Mist” is another enticing track that is full of wondrous melody and droning ambience to give this brooding dirge a full and really clear sound. The lead synth chops are used sparingly and in good taste, as they provide an additional warming atmosphere. Next up is my a favorite song on the album, “A Madness Of Farewells”. Commencing with a mysterious synth effect that fuses into an elegant, yet melancholic arrangement, this has to be one of the most memorable moments on the album. Medieval-style keyboard leads and layers of dungeon synth melodies complete this monumental song and in my opinion, it’s just not long enough. “Almesbury Gates” starts with blasting cathedral-like organs before developing into a modest dungeon synth arrangement. These two styles battle back and forth throughout the track with the occasional pulse effect, giving it a percussive feel. Toward the end, the melody changes and contains an echo effect, providing a grandiose sound. “Heathen Of The Northern Sea” is an enchanting piece that compliments the style of Almesbury Abbey. The lead keyboard chops are magical on this track and pay further homage to the traditional dungeon synth sound. “My Sinful Queen I Forgive Thee” has the characteristics (and sound) of a classical guitar composition with hints of retro progressive synth arrangements, with regards to tone and its progressive time signature. The final track on the album is “Beyond These Voices There Is Peace.” The choir-like vocal effects are both ominous and mournful at the same time. Medieval synth interpretations slowly crescendo into the mix and ultimately overtake the vocal effects all together. As more synth sounds are introduced, the more dismal the track gets, painting a very grim picture to close out the album.

Almesbury Abbey is a very fascinating project that contains elements of neo-classical, dungeon synth and Medieval compositions. Knowing that all of these magnificent pieces were written and inspired by the latter days of Queen Guinevere, makes it all the more worthwhile. If you enjoy synth music of a more intimate setting with hints of harsher overtones, I would highly recommend checking out ‘Queen Guinevere’ and supporting this prodigious artist by downloading the album from the link below.

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Links:

https://almesburyabbey.bandcamp.com/releases

Artists Of The Obscure Realm Conjoin To Finalize The Overture Militia Compilation Known As, ‘The Plan’

Label compilation albums are the perfect introduction for not only finding new and electrifying bands and artists, but to also dig deep and explore in a vast array of genres that we – for the most part – tend to generally only skim the surface. Earlier this year, Overture Militia Inc., a small label that spotlights artists of the post-industrial and dark ambient domain, released a valiant, eighteen track collection known as ‘The Plan’. Examining genres such as dungeon synth, dark ambient, drone, harsh noise & industrial, ‘The Plan’ is an hour and forty six minute journey into the oblique side of esoteric music. Although this is an amazing, yet bleak outing, I will further examine a few of my favorite tracks below.

“Ruination, The New Dawn Cometh” by Old Tower is the second song on the album and one of my standouts overall. Although most of the album consists of harsh, industrialized noise and dark ambient, this dungeon synth track fits in perfectly, with its austere sound, doomy tempo, and thick synth tones. There is a great bit of melody on this song, which is hauntingly beautiful. However, don’t get use to it because that vibe stops almost completely after this song. “Nursery” by Aseptic Void is the fourth song and it contains some of the creepiest dark ambient emotions I’ve heard in a while. The sound bit in the beginning – of children playing on a playground – adds an extra sinister awareness to all of the malevolent soundscapes that continuously possess the audio waves. Low-end drones and the occasional guttural narration is enough to give consistent nightmares. “Unhallowed” by Ursuper is the fifth track on the album and it continues in the dark ambient arena with a brooding, minimalistic approach in the beginning. It’s one of those tracks that slowly grows and builds to a climactic ending but you never know what’s going to happen in between until it actually does. At around the four minute mark, industrial affects increase in volume as if total annihilation is soon to happen. Over the next couple of minutes, this mechanized sound crescendos before slowly fading into oblivion. “The Horsemen Ride Out On Foaming Steeds” by Nordvargr is the ninth track on the album and probably one of my favorites. Nordvargr is such an amazing artist that consistently delivers appetizing music that borders post-industrial, black ambient, and death metal (specifically with the vocals). This track is a standout masterpiece on the album and the guttural vocals are what make this so appealing and unique. I could listen to this style of music all day. “White Sun Over Our Children – Exhale 22” by Miracle Of Love is the tenth track on the album and is just over ten minutes long, making it one of the longest songs on the album. Beginning with a short blast of harsh noise, it soon settles into a rhythmic drum & bass loop with minimal synth effects and soundscapes. Every so often, the drum beat alternates rhythms and the occasional harsh noise sample is thrown in for good measure and in good taste. For the last three or four minutes, the drum beats are replaced with drones and maniacal sound effects. “Hackfleisch” by Rubber Nurse is the eleventh and most evil sounding track on the album. It’s a near three and a half minute grueling drop into the abysmal hole of blackened industrial ambience, with a fair share of barely audible voice samples. Never the less, this sounds killer and I want to hear more by this artist! “Euer Hunger” by Todesritual, is the twelfth track on the album and is like listening to a scene from a horror movie. There are layered whispers, obscure field recordings, industrial soundscapes, and mild keyboard sounds, but they all come together in a frightening way and the final minute is an excellent throwback to the retro synthwave sound of the 80’s.

Overture Militia did an excellent job putting together this compilation of artist from varied backgrounds and genres. For those that are into obscure music and for those that don’t mind venturing into territories of the unknown, then ‘The Plan’ is for you. This album is sure to contain some artist or tracks that will get your blood pumping (or boiling), allowing you to continue following their artistic endeavors outside of this compilation. That being said, do yourself a favor and support the underground by downloading this album from the link below.

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Links:

https://overturemilitia.bandcamp.com/album/the-plan

Lunch Cult Bends The Knee To A Variety of Genres And Musical Influences To Present ‘Knights & Knaves”

When it comes to exploring new territories of music for some artists, some are a little apprehensive about taking risks while others compromise their original sound altogether despite reproach. One such collective is Lunch Cult, a LoFi Garage Rock Band that transcends experimental creativity but has never strayed too far from the pop/rock genre…until now. On latest album, ‘Knights & Knaves’, Lunch Cult fuses an improvisational blend of Dungeon Synth, ambient textures, crypt hop moments and synth effect wizardry to produce an eclectic concoction of three Medieval tales that will have the listener spying for influences throughout each track.

Animated album opener, “Return To Cucumber Castle”, sets things off in high gear as the somber synth tones are reminiscent of a jazzy, noir setting that slowly begins to incorporate layers of effects, hip hop rhythmic beats and hypnotic keyboard effects that perfectly harmonize with the main chop of the song. At about the halfway point, a fast drum beat takes over and plays along side the main keyboard section. This combination of fast beats and slow keyboard arrangements go over really well and flow perfectly into the next section of the song, as if it’s taking after a 70’s prog rock instrumental track. As the song climaxes in the final minute or so, all of the arrangements come together in unison and slowly fade out to a improvised saxophone section. Up next is the eccentric “Knavesong”. Random keyboard licks, percussion grooves and saxophone notes, come together as individual improvisations but can be easily interpreted as a single and relevant composition. There are parts of this track that remind me of of the OLD (Old Lady Driver) track, “Backward Through The Greedo Compressor” from their 1993 album, ‘The Musical Dimensions Of Sleastak’. Like any fusion-era jazz composition – that seemed wildly random at the time – this kind of music is an acquired taste for some and an audible gem for others. I fall in the latter category and commend Lunch Cult for their creativity and output, and for remaining open to ideas that unfold across multiple genres. The final track on the album is the twelve minute long “Knightsong”. With more of a straightforward approach, Lunch Cult takes the listener on a Medieval journey with brooding Dungeon Synth sounds that are augmented by haunted rhythmic beats and ambient sections. Although it is more minimalistic than the other tracks on this album, it has a heafty output and at times sounds chilling. There are small bits of chiptune thrown in at random and the peculiar noises that fade in and out throughout, are done in great taste. There is an awesome video premier for this track below, and I highly recommend checking it out. It’s really entertaining and put together very well with a comedic, but impeccable storyline.

If you take the time to peruse through Lunch Cult’s Bandcamp discography, you’ll probably reach the conclusion that there’s truly no accounting for musical taste. The sounds you may hear on one album will be completely different from the next. That couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to ‘Knights & Knaves’, as it includes rich ambient textures, Dungeon Synth overtones, a little bit of quirkiness and a considerable amount of anything else that can be processed to compose magical musical endeavors. Check out the awesome video for “Knightsong” (below) and support this unique band by downloading ‘Knights & Knaves’ from the link (even further) below.

Video Premier of “Knightsong” (Official Music Video):

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Links:

https://lunchcult.bandcamp.com/album/knights-knaves