Phelios ‎– Gates Of Atlantis


[Reviewed by Vitriol]

Phelios’ previous album on Malignant was the wonderful “Astral Unity” in 2010. After that Martin Stürtzer published a couple of self-releases: a live performance from 2011, and “Inside The Blue Vortex”, an ambient mix comprised of tracks from previous albums. “Gates Of Atlantis” is his first new material since “Astral Unity”, that I admit had made quite an impression on me, even after being heavily hit by this musical phenomenon when “Dimension Zero” was released – the album that established Phelios in my mind as a top-class dark ambient project. Having become known via another self-release, namely his first album “Passage”, and counting more self-releases in his discography than most established artists in the genre, Martin is living proof that ambient listeners can recognize quality music regardless of label promotion.

Atlantis is a word full of mythical and metaphysical connotations – conspiracy theorists, alien origins advocates, occultists, new agers, crypto-archaeologists, have all created their version of the truth for it. It has remained a fascinating mystery for a long time, and each of us at one time or another have allowed our imagination to wander off upon mention of its name. Lovecraft’s imagery of horrid, otherworldly deities hosting their strange cults in underwater domains, is connected here to this idea of a lost, submerged city, awaiting the eager explorer to unveil its secrets. The Lovecraftian mythos tints the vision of Atlantis with a hefty dose of danger and fear. Martin has chosen the Shadow Out Of Time to include in this release – a tale of an advanced race called the Yith, that resides in a vast Library City, where they collect the histories of alien races. The Yith’s abilities in swapping minds with other lifeforms and travelling through time, as well as their thirst for knowledge make them the ideal candidates for having built Atlantis.

This convergence of ancient and alien, future and past, fascination and fear, is perfectly expressed by the music. One the one hand the atmospheric ambient sequences and expansive drones have a powerful hold over the listener with their reverberating clarity. On the other hand the techno-organic sounds and tribal percussions, persistent and heavy, enrich the sound with a dominant, ritual rhythm – a dark, seductive invocation for the gates to open. Swirling layers of sound crumbling down and rising up like the destructive force of massive waves, looming over the city just for a few seconds, before swallowing it forever in the depths of the sea.

The first track, “Gates Of Atlantis”, is a majestic ritual/ space ambient invocation, masterfully heightening the mystery and anticipation, with its acoustic strings serving as a premonition to a hieratic revelation. The percussions come in, strong, rhythmic and effective, layering above a melodic, yet minimal and cold ambient sequence, making the opening of these Gates a breathtaking event. “Temple Of Yith” follows a more traditionally dark ambient direction, where instead of percussions we find a variety of bulky, wide-ranging drones. Very minimal in its nature, cold and calculated, it brings to mind the image of a diver having discovered this ancient temple beneath the sea, moving slowly through the masses of water to admire this thing of eerie, supernatural beauty. In the next two tracks, “Spiritual Possession” and “Hibernation” the percussions return but in a more subtle manner, pushed more to the background and accompanied by ominous, slightly muffled industrial sounds. These tracks escape their strict, rather minimal structuring only towards the end, where atmospheric drones are allowed to fade into the background.

In “New Stellar Age” we find ourselves once more in this slow-motion clearness, as if witnessing primal matter in space, moving to form planets and stars. This is one of the ‘lightest’ tracks of the recording, comprising exclusively of different types of drones – the main sequence is ethereal, supported by varying stages of expansion and deep-set drones. In “The Shadow Out Of Time” and “Ascension” the minimalism is increased and the tone becomes even more subtle. In “The Shadow Out Of Time” the rhythms of some of the previous tracks are replaced by scattered percussions, interrupting a perfectly composed dark ambient sequence, complete with faint eerie voices in the background, and Martin’s trademark spacey drones. “Ascension” could be the emergence from the depths of the ocean, or the dissolution of the material self in a wider abode somewhere in space – an existence in mind and spirit alone. The album ends with an alternate version of “Gates Of Atlantis” that is more ambient-oriented, without the percussions and tribal atmosphere.

“Gates Of Atlantis” is a fine example of harmony between concept and composition. The tracks are in perfect coordination, their musical themes emerging effortlessly from one another while at the same time following the thread of the narration: the lost Atlantis and its ancient alien creators. Martin’s captivating ambiences and unearthly rituals manage to keep the listener’s focus on the story intact throughout the album’s duration, and to create powerful imagery that remains with you long after you’re done playing the recording. Arguably among his best work so far.

Phelios ‎– Gates Of Atlantis
Malignant Records, TumorCD70

CD, 2013


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