We are living in dark times and whether we like it or not, we are witnessing a historical occasion that is effecting the whole world. Although many people still have to work, legions of the worlds population are under a strict shelter-in-place order. Not to make light of the situation, but what better time is there to check out some awesome artists that you may have never heard of before, or to revisit some newer albums that stand out amongst the others. These are some of my (current) favorite albums to listen to and I’m sharing them with you as a recommendation. Check out and support these amazing artists (and labels).
The term Pandemonium has several distinct meanings. The first definition that may come to mind is sheer and utter chaos, to the point where anarchy and uncivilized disorder can no longer be maintained or controlled. However, there is another meaning that is equally, if not more horrifying than the aforementioned. It is the habitat of a gathering of demons, simply known as hell. The characteristic for this definition is that the word Pandemonium is typically spelled out in all caps, is in the latest offering by Harrogat. ‘Pandemonium’ is a deep space, minimalistic narrative that will haunt you with its extended drones and creepy vibes. With a playing time of an hour and forty six minutes, this journey to hell will be a slow, agonizing descent, as Harrogat is determined to test sanity of all who are doomed
“Morning Star” is like the calm before the storm as the warm drones take you from a serene and peaceful existence into a realm of uncertainty. Like the dawn of a hazy sun on the distant horizon, this song gets brighter and continues to add more texture as it ebb and flows with soft velocity. The warmth ends there, however, as “Caronte” starts down the dark and grim path toward the evil destination. With field recordings that resemble the swaying and rocking of an old, wooden vessel, the drones in this track continue to build in layers, as if it is crossing the river Styx to deliver lost souls to the gate to the underworld. “Dite” continues to play on the psyche with eccentric pad effects on top of buried, rhythmic drones. During this twelve and a half minute bludgeoning affair, the tone stays constant for the most part but every so often, a frequency shift in the back end drones – which are barely audible at times – breath both life and death into this morbid manifestation. “Your Shadow, Your Name” features some towering soundscapes that provide an eerie depth to the overall theme for this album. Just like the deliverance of souls to the gates of Hades, this track signifies that there is no turning back and that the entrapped souls now belong to eternal abyss. “God’s Hypocrisy” uses broad soundscapes to set a true feeling of emptiness. It’s like a bleak space ambient tune set in a blackened void, where there is no sense of time or speed. “Evocation Of Lucifer” begins quiet and reserved but soon crescendos into an accelerated drone as if there is no inevitable way of escaping an anxiety-filled battle with faith. Random soundscapes in the background bridge the monotonous apex reached by the massively layered low-end noises. “The Death Of God” is a near twelve minute track of harrowing polar ambient sounds, set out to soothe the subconscious as the darkness prevails all around. There are several spots of inaudible spoken word recordings that are a cause for concern and angst. “The Shape” is a soundtrack-worthy ambient tune that provides a dark and emotional prelude to the massive ending for which is about to happen. The final track on the album, “Pandemonium” isn’t just the final stretch of the journey to hell, it is a colossal forty four and a half minute epidemic of dark ambient wizardry that sets the bar for long-play ambient tracks. Combining elements of dark, space and polar ambient, “Pandemonium” is a high-caliber dirge that is relentless from start to finish. The massive drone sounds escalate in volume, only to decrease – at times – to make way for other insanely penetrable commotions. At around the eight minute mark, the cacophonous space drones give way to a singular, grim polar ambient tone, deviating from an interstellar theme and bringing it back to and icy cold vibe. Incidental soundscapes push the boundaries of this section and give it a rather frightening foundation. At around the eighteen and a half minute mark, a barely audible deep frequency plagues the airwaves in a sense that it gives off an almost warping effect. It’s soon followed by added synthesizers, making it an absolutely gloomy section to fathom. At around the twenty nine minute mark, the reluctant droning tone is not as dark as usual but is in a subdued state, as if preparing the listener for a climactic ending. That’s exactly what the final four minutes of this track are, as luminous synths provide a final touch of melody and volume, like the souls finally reaching their gruesome destination of ‘Pandemonium’.
Harrogat has conceived quite an impressive album with ‘Pandemonium’. Not only does it take you on a spiritual, ritualistic and emotional journey, but there is enough depth to each track to provide a sense of realistic vision for the quest that is intended for the album. With each new album that is released, Harrogat’s exposure to the dark ambient elements become more impressive. This album is mind-blowing in the sense that it is nearly two hours long and the detail throughout doesn’t seem to repeat itself. Show your support for this exemplary artist and download ‘Pandemonium’ from the link below.
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I’ve been a huge fan of dark ambient for quite some time now but this is the first time that I’ve had to put together a Top 10 list of my favorite albums of the year. If the truth were to be told, this could have easily been a Top 50 list as there were so many exceptional releases this year. Instead, I want to give props to the following 10 amazing albums that have impacted me in multiple ways. Although there were many more astonishing dark ambient albums that were released in 2019, these are the ones that (in my opinion) have set the standard for modern dark ambient.
10. God Body Disconnect – The Mist Between The Mirrors
What a way to start this top 10 list. Right from the opening field recordings and narrative remarks, I knew instantly this was going to be one of my go-to dark ambient albums! Themed around emotional subjects such as disappointment & isolation, this recording is as therapeutic as it is relaxing.
9. Xerxes The Dark – Tower Of Silence
Xerxes The Dark is in my top 5 favorite dark ambient recording artists of all time, but XTD didn’t make my list based on a biased decision. ‘Tower Of Silence’ is simply XTD’s best release to date and one of my most listened to albums this year. Every track is haunting and addictive and will give you the feeling of being trapped in a post-apocalyptic industrial wasteland.
8. Melanohelios – VII: Warmth Within Endless Emptiness
When it comes to space ambient, Melanohelios is one of the best in the business. On ‘VII: Warmth Within Endless Emptiness’, the drones are longer, chilling, and gives the sensation of relentless confinement on a doomed space mission. Seventy two minutes of vacuum filled incarceration will leave your senses void of all intelligible emotions.
7. Ruptured World – Archeoplanetary
I’m such a huge Ruptured World fan and the second album of the Planetary series, ‘Archeoplanetary’ is as good as they come. Whereas most Dark ambient recordings leave room for the listener to provide an imaginative scenario to match the music, Ruptured World prepare a captivating narration throughout the whole recording.
6. øjeRum – Without Blood The Sun Darkens
‘Without Blood The Sun Darkens’ is one of the most haunting and mesmerizing dark ambient albums I’ve ever heard. Consisting of a single, fifty nine minute track of repetitive and impassioned synths and pads, this song is about reflection and memory. This is still one of my favorite meditative albums to listen to.
5. Winterblood – Finsternis
‘Finsternis’ is a very enthralling and hypnotic work of art that will leave you in a trance-like state throughout the hour long recording. Winterblood is like a dark ambient accomplice to the black metal band Paysage D’hiver, as I receive the same type of ardent pleasure from both artists. This album is a MUST HAVE for any true fan of dark ambient.
4. Neraterræ – The Substance Of Perception
Alessio Antoni has summoned an all-star line up for his debut project Neraterræ and the result is the impeccable recording, ‘The Substance Of Perception’. Each track is sonically different, yet they are produced as a seamless dark entity that is fathoms above most others. I cannot wait to hear more from this amazing project!
3. Ager Sonus – Mithra
‘Mithra’ is probably the most musically diverse album in my top 10. Taking us back to Ancient Rome, Ager Sonus uses subtle stringed instruments and grandiose drones to create a vision of enchantment and fascination. I still listen to this album on a weekly basis and although it was released in March, it continues to grab my attention with each and every listen.
2. Monocube – Substratum
Monocube has to be the dark ambient sleeper artist of the year. With almost no attention drawn to this album prior to its release, I downloaded it solely based on the reputation of the Cyclic Law label lineup. One of the best decisions I made all year, as ‘Substratum’ is a mammoth of an album. The hollow – but frightening – drones will make you feel claustrophobic and uneasy and will leave you with a sense of uncontrollable anxiety. Although very minimal and austere, I tend to find new ambitious elements every time I listen to it.
1. Metatron Omega – Evangelikon
Metatron Omega is another one of my favorite dark ambient artists and anytime there is a new release available, it’s an instant purchase from me. ‘Evangelikon’ is a mastercraft in ritualistic dark ambient music with beautiful Gregorian-style chanting and unnerving drones. I listen to this album continually and it’s without a doubt my favorite dark ambient album of the year.