[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
In their continuing evolution and perpetual re-writing of the rules of dark ambient, Vortex have, on this third album, dug deeply into Hindu mythology. The fourth cycle of time in the existence of the world is what is being chronicled and having read about it, the parallels between what has been written about Kali Yuga and how this place is now are a near mirror. Avarice and greed are rampant, virtue is a thing of the past. To stand on principle has become an alien way of doing things and, naturally, whatever morality may have once existed on Earth is rapidly vanishing. The seasons grow hotter and longer, those who were once considered wise and heeded attentively are now ignored. A hell-bent, progress-at-any-cost mentality now grips where we dwell as humanity. No one seems to mind. Perhaps those who hear this record and research what it is discussing, now will.
Multiple layers of instrumentation come into play, track after track wrings out its heart upon the altar of stone that conscience has become. Percussion thunders, voices lament, the air grows poisoned by malice; Vortex are unquestionably preoccupied by thoughts about the state of things in the larger sense. Outside the banal smear of social media and the vulgarity of talking heads who foment wrath, rancor and woe. These pieces which make up this collection are piercing, shrieking incantations you won’t be allowed to let go of, even after the last song has finished. If you do not come away from Kali Yuga unnerved and unsettled you have already been steeped in the cycle too long. It won’t matter how bad it gets, for you life is grand. Go watch television, augment that DVD collection.
Musicians used to do this kind of challenging material en masse back in the 80s, before everything had gotten so commodified and smugly defined. These days, we get primal jabs such as Kali Yuga only if we dig deeper than those who rule this world tell us is safe. “Prayer for the Iron Age” is probably my favorite composition off of here but with other titles such as “Gods of the Desert” and “Martial Destiny” jockeying for position, this could change easily.
Just the simple fact that this record progresses as it plays out and has such a fully realized story to tell is enough to get my undivided attention. Vortex have more written a book than made an album; the chapters unfold in stark, unrelenting clarity. Listening over and over I keep hearing more details, further nuances and stranger instruments coming to the fore. Yes yes I know, is there anything to compare this to? Well on a purely aggressive level, Apoptose’s ‘Blutopfer’ is a connective point but only on one facet. Vortex is fast becoming the most diverse and unpredictable formation on Cyclic Law, from Vorticism and now to the litanies of Kali himself the range is astronomical. His interests grow more abstract and obscure with each record he releases. Repeat these words while listening for maximum effect:
Strife. Discord. Contention. Quarrel.
Yes, that about sums it up.