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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