[Reviewed by Vitriol]
As indicated in Atrium Carceri’s previous recording, “Void”, the protagonist of this long series of releases had reached a kind of revelation in his endless journey between two worlds, a fact that would affect his constant struggle for truth and liberation. He seemed to have made a decision as to how he would proceed, one that kept me wondering if this was the end of his journals as we know them and if we, the audience, would cease to be the spectators of his adventures. In a way I was right, because with “The Untold” a dawning notion haunts the minds of even those among the listeners who hadn’t suspected: we are not spectators, but participants. This seemingly distant, fictional drama takes place in the here and now – allowing always for a broader perception of words such as ‘here’ and ‘now’.
The release is accompanied by an extensive 17-page booklet created by Jason Hwang and Simon Heath, titled “The Untold Associated Collections” and comprised of texts and image manipulations of classic paintings. The colours have been completely drained from the paintings, depriving them of any flicker of life infused in the painted figures, of any possibility for identification and intimacy. Cultural elements from the whole of humanity’s duration on this planet have been thrown together to form a new kind of landscape. Buildings, statues, deities, angels, demons, historical figures, religious elements. Oddly positioned, malformed, disproportionate, appalling. A grey, lifeless habitat full of shadows and innuendos, where the veil has been finally rent to reveal a world behind a world. The true form of things, imprinted in time, monstrous and repulsive, hopelessly magnificent as it looms over the doomed representatives of a dwindling race; our own.
The texts imply the existence of a parallel dimension, identical to our own, where the Creator holds sway, mercilessly crushing anyone who is able to see what He wishes to conceal. At some point in the timeline, the remaining seers undertake one final expedition to descend into the core, where the Creator sleeps. What they find there is for you to discover on your own. This album as I see it, is bringing back into reality the long forgotten secrets of how and what it is; an attempt to record thoughts that, as mentioned in the text, are ‘anchors’. “We will need anchors soon”. Sound alarming? Perhaps it should.
The opening track, “The Expedition”, captures the sound of footsteps and muffled voices, as a group of people is moving through an underground cavern, accompanied by the processed sounds of the environment around them. “Unlocking The Seal” denotes the decoding of an artefact that will allow for the progression of this quest. A deep, heavily processed male voice looping in the midst of space ambient electronics and delicate melodies and choirs; like the flowing of water, or the intrusion of a ray of light in a dark dungeon. The short interlude of “The Way Down” that, while maintaining the ethereal chorals of the previous track, is characterized by its little noise bursts like spikes in an ECG, is succeeded by “Catacombs Of The Forgotten”. A basically dark ambient track with a distinct electronic feel to it, like the workings of an alien machine, an agonizing string sequence piercing through the whole. Around the ending of the track the repetitive melodic sweeps drowned in heavy static, create a memorable impression. On the other hand “Thorn Of War” with its monotonous clanging of metal and machinery is just as bleak and senseless as war, and it ends not with a soothing melody but with the same narrative voice as in “The Traitor”.
“A Flickering Hope” may sound optimistic but aurally speaking it is nothing of the sort. Rather, the distressing voices coming from all directions create an ominous feeling, that melts into a meditative, high-pitched ambient sequence mid-track, always maintaining its metallic, machinistic edge. A slow, heavy-hearted percussion drags along like the footsteps of an excessively tired man, trudging along despite the fatigue. And then the singular piano melody that we have come to love in Atrium Carceri – a hope that we can almost see, almost grasp, but somehow always slips between our fingers. The bitter taste of a lost opportunity. This same melodic element is also central in the mysterious and seductive “Comfort Of The Night Mother” and the last part of “The Untold” – a juggernaut of a track that holds a deeply religious, awe-inspiring aura blended with a technological, sharp finish and a cinematic quality, resulting in absolute fascination on the part of the listener. The setting of the environment, the minimal use of melody and building of suspense in this track are impeccable.
As we move towards the end of the recording the music becomes more and more suggestive. “The Traitor” is a long narrative by a distorted male voice, supported by a rhythmic, balanced sequence of noise/ deep ambient. It is followed by “Realitatem”, where the sound clears up from the noise and static, becoming minimal and serene. Male and female chorals, narrations, space ambient electronics and subtle percussions create an atmosphere of otherwordly beauty, driven by the isolation and coldness of an unreachable dimension. Where the “Great Old One” resides. A very minimal track filled with sequences of what sounds like horns and trumpets, breaking the silence like the wailing cries of mammoth whales. Music coming to us through gentle waves of static and reverb, its orchestral character implying the majestic and at the same time terrible nature of this presiding entity.
What could have been the outcome of an encounter with the Great Old One, besides nullification? “Ego Death” voids the tension with its 12-minute long suite of lo-fi ambient noise and organic ambience.
As you may have guessed by now this is a cornerstone release in the Atrium Carceri mythology, and just as the context and imagery are huge, so is the musical aspect of the album correspondent to the impact it is meant to produce. “The Untold” is definitely among the most dismal, hopeless and suffocating Atrium Carceri releases to date, one that is guaranteed to cause an abundance of nightmares and sleepless nights. As is the case with every precious piece of art that demands, if not enforces, inner awakening.