Various Artists – Occult Realm

[Reviewed by stark]

With this compilation we set off on another journey, a journey through the realm of the occult/ritual dark ambient with Raffaele Pezella and Psymon Marshall as your guides. Some of you may recognize them: apart from being a musician himself, Raffaele is – among others – the head of Unexplained Sounds Group and Eighth Tower Records, while Psymon is a dark ambient reviewer/editor, a damn good one, I tell you this.

These individuals have joined forces and founded a new label called Big Cypress Swamp, dedicated to the occult side of dark ambient music. The moniker refers to “The Statement of Randolph Carter” short story by H. P. Lovecraft. So as you can notice, The Great Old Ones are constantly one of the key inspirations within the dark ambient world.

So, twelve tracks by the artists from Europe and US. It begins with Adonai Atrophia from Bulgaria. Connected to the Eighth Tower mother label project offers a decent opening composed of deep bass drones, haunting sounds reminding of chirping birds, but… not exactly, and wailing out of this world. In the second part, all this is covered with the unsettling sound of digital rain. You catch the atmosphere immediately and get ready to what comes next.

The following composition by Cordis Cincti Serpente provides more atmospheric sounds, yet those dreamy drones do not bring you peace as you feel some kind of tragedy is hiding behind them. But where Cordis Cincti Serpente leaves you staring at the night sky, Moloch Conspiracy takes over and unlocks the gate to the underworld. This simple piano melody at the beginning is like a glow behind your back, faint and eventually gone. And you’re left with low frequency drones, weird sounds of horror provenancy (chains rattling, door slamming, footsteps…). Horror entourage is kept in “Rue d’Auseil” and this time once again we should bow to Lovecraft as the mentioned “rue” (street in French) appears in “The Music of Erich Zann” short story. The composition can be treated like a soundtrack for the story – using the typical gothic horror attributes (clock ticking, the sound of pen writing a mysterious letter, surreal violins) it creates the atmosphere quite effectively and the outburst of eerie force in the second half is pretty impressing. Good track, reminding me of Elend from the “Winds Devouring Men” era.

If you expect an Irish folk flavoured story about nasty Leprechaun after Ruairi O’Baoighill’s “Wrought”, forget about it. He may come from Ireland, but this tracks sounds like made in Sweden twenty-five years ago. Megaptera vibe is floating under the musty ceiling of my room. Caulbearer prefers the other means of expression; the guys use more layers, metallic clangs, horrific screams, deep drones (obviously), therefore their “Storm Chants” reach pretty amazing level of sound density.

Yet I don’t know if it’s not the Corona Barathri’s offering my favourite fragment of this compilation. Within a “satanic horror of the 70s-esque” frames with all those demonic whispers laughters and creepy piano melodies it hides an impressive wall of ambient sound which is as dark as tempting with its forbidden fruit.

Hence naturally it was tremendously hard to keep my excitement after Corona Barathri track, but Noctilucant has offered something else. A moment of relaxation. It’s a calm composition, wistful I would say. The title fits it, “Sentenced To Drift Far Away”: I’m guessing it is a reference to Lucifer cast away from Heaven. And when you think of it deeper, you may imagine Satan drifting through the nightsky like on the Gustave Doré illustrations.

I have been aware of Melek-Tha existence since the mid-90s, but have never been a devoted fan, and I’m afraid this piece will not change it. Solemn, full of pathos, solid all the way through, but not exactly of my taste and lacking that indeterminate “something” that would hook me. It will gain its fans, I’m sure of that though.

Apocalypse Sounds’ “ON” is the longest track on this release and yeah, my attention is switched “On”. It’s a one dense, slowly morphing and evolving, slightly distorted drone in the manner that is very much to my liking. Quite minimalist, without any unnecessary ornamentations it drills into your mind very effectively.

The last compositions are by the projects related to Sombre Soniks label. Seesar directly refers to Lovecraft works, but the project doesn’t solely use a common dark ambient attributes to summon the Old Ones, but also derives from an experimental, academic music, the pioneers from the 60s or 70s. “Slightly Luminous” is no different, it requires your attention even if it may seem just a plain dark ambient composition after the first or second listening. All these mysterious sounds and echoes run your imagination and each listening may produce a different impression.

And the last one, grand finale, Tribes Of Medusa. It departs from the characteristics of the preceding pieces. The atmospheric drone accompanied by distorted electric guitar ignites some cool atmosphere… and then it ends. Damn, it’s too short, it’s like an intro for some greater thing. Why?

I know why. Because this whole thing is an initial release of Big Cypress Swamp label and should be treated as such. As a teaser. But considering the undeniably outstanding level of the compilation we are obliged to expect some big things in the future.

Various Artists – Occult Realm
Big Cypress Swamp
Digital 2019

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