[reviewed by vitriol]
Following closely in the footsteps of the impressively atmospheric and mysterious “Cthulhu” collab, Cryo Chamber brings another noteworthy release to the light. Along with some very welcome news, namely that Foundation Hope is – finally – back. I’ve been lamenting the fact that we haven’t seen another release from this project since “Tunes For The Wounded” in 2008. So naturally I took Joep Smaling’s re-emergence as a positive omen that we may yet see another full-length release from him in the not so distant future. Fingers crossed.
In the meantime let’s deal with this four-way split, that is more than capable of holding our attention. With four projects involved in its unfolding, the concept is necessarily rather loose. Nonetheless the album manages to capture the subtle elegance of past civilizations, the nostalgia for these ancient times that have left their markings in our collective psyche, as well as the artists’ mood for exploration of their darker side, of how it could reflect on us. The black and white photograph of a ruin on the cover could be a link between past, present and future. A bleak, dystopian future that becomes more tangible as the music progresses.
As the album begins “Chimes Of The Unfortunate” greets us with atmospheric, expansive dark ambient tones adorned with layers of melodic synths, shrill drones, chimes and organic percussions. The feeling is that of clear, cold emptiness. Like an underworld filled with lost souls, projecting now and then into the world of the living. As far as first impressions go, we’re off to a great start. Labelmate Alphaxone takes over with “Mysterious” that is distinctively more electronic, but continues in the same minimal, isolationist tones. In the midst of melodic dark ambient passages we find a repeated, rhythmic thumping that might be of human or mechanical origin, as well as a variety of organic sounds. All of this coming through a haze that is just the slightest hint of static noise, like an old film reel that is a little corrupt. The sense of movement is constantly present.
“Comprehended” by Coph`antae Tryr is very different; a shamanic, ecstatic song toned by strings, high-pitched guitar drones and a culminating increase of tension that suggests communion with the Divine. The first word that came to mind upon listening to it was ‘pagan’, and the feeling that permeates the listener is indeed not very far from the pleasures and pains of the god Pan. In this ritualistic frame are presented the two next tracks that, as suggested by their titles, are interconnected. “Near To Nothing” by Alphaxone dispenses with melody and rhythm to make a purely ritual, dark ambient contribution that contains only organic sounds and the occasional hieratic male voice. The sounds swirl in the midst of a barren wind, as the visions come and go and the one meditating approaches a state of non-existence. However, when you stare too much into Nothing, Nothing stares back into you. And so we have “Nothing To Near”, Coph`antae Tryr’s last offering. That unwinds not so much as an oppressive vortex of self-extinction, but rather as the hand of god dissolving the essence into its primordial state. “Nothing To Near” is luminous, effervescent, ethereal. Its guitar drones and subtle melodies build a sacred atmosphere that denotes spiritual and mental transience.
Foundation Hope’s two contributions are backed up one against the other, starting with the enigmatically titled “The Kind”. The abstract interpretation of which matches the fragmentary, non-rhythmic, non-melodic layering of the music. Echoes of chorals, abrupt silences, intense, reverberating drones, compulsive repetitions of melodic extracts drowning into static noise. The musical experimentation detracts nothing from the introverted, intimate nature of the music or the forsaken, menacing undertones always present in Foundation Hope’s sound. The next track, “The Beacon”, is even darker and moodier than the previous one, the drones emerging out of thick, oppressive layers of sound like the light of a beacon in the midst of a raging storm. A dark set of strings giving rhythm to the intermittent flickering of the light. And an infernal whistling, like the sailors of a ghost ship coming out of the depths to take the helm for one last time. Haunting, spine-chilling stuff.
Empires end in fire and blood. Council Of Nine closes the record as it began, with the 12-minute long “Blood Lit Skies”, where the skillfully made dark ambient atmospherics are tinged with layers of noise, like the tongues of an immense fire licking away the remnants of existence. In the charred, deformed ruins all that’s left is death and desolation.
An inspired glimpse into a – supposedly – fantastic aspect of history that is bound to ignite your imagination and set you on a course of inner exploration. “Tomb Of Empires” signifies the return of a great artist, as well as the emergence of a new talent in the dark ambient field. All four projects deliver exemplary results, and the album’s detailed soundscapes and aural versatility will hold your mind captive for a long time, urging you into repeated listens. Not to be missed.