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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Various Artists - "Cthulhu"

Artist: Various
Album: Cthulhu
Year: 2014
Label: Cryo Chamber
Genre: Dark Ambient
Website:  cryochamber.bandcamp.com

I want to open this review by praising Simon Heath and his Cryo Chamber label for consistently working to push the capabilities of a digital label and striving to put out high quality, innovative work. Cthulhu is certainly an interesting release, not only for it's sound, but for it's methodology as well. It's a collaboration between the artists on the label (alt3r3d stat3, alphaxone, aseptic void, atrium carceri, cryobiosis, halgrath, neizvestija, ugasanie, mystified, asbaar, dark matter, and sjellos) who came together to create one monster track running nearly 80 minutes in length. From my limited understanding, each artist worked on a collection of sounds and submitted them to Heath/Atrium Carceri to more or less put together. As a huge fan of the works of H.P. Lovecraft I was of course interested to see if these artists (including many newcomers) were up to the task of creating a work of audio that captures a concept/entity of such epic proportion and renown. The cover art alone is excellent and fitting, so things are off to a good start.

As you would imagine, this album is filled with murky, aquatic, and subterranean ambiance. At any given point it's fairly minimal, but as you'd expect there are many shifts and different tones explored throughout the nearly 80 minute duration. I can pick out bits here and there that remind me of certain artist's individual work, but as a whole it sounds like a coherent, flowing song with singular direction and purpose. It also seems that any flaws present on individual artists releases have been polished here, such that it retains the usable essence of the work while the filler / extemporaneous material has been all but stripped away. I can't say that overall this conjures visions of specifically the great Old One Cthulhu per say, but there are certainly points that feel like standing in awe inside a colossal, dilapidated temple hidden within the earth (around 30-35 minutes), or swimming through sunken black catacombs, drowned for eons and unseen by the eyes of men (47-58 minutes). Sadly, no discernible sounds of squamous fish monsters. This somewhat subdued sound could be seen as an adequate representation for the search for R'lyeh in the dark, uninhabited places of the earth, and swimming around the sunken tomb of the one who lieth dead but ever dreameth.
While I did enjoy the bulk of this record, I would have liked to hear more defined elements such as melodies, choirs, percussion, "strange flute music", etc. Especially with something this long it would have been nice to have more diverse sections rather than 80 minutes of drone. I was also disappointed to find that I was, in fact, not driven to madness by this song.

This collaboration offers a strong example of why Cryo Chamber has, since it's recent inception, been a steadily rising force in dark ambient music. Definitely something fans of dark ambient should hear, and an label that absolutely should be on your radar. I really hope that Cryo Chamber offers more collaborative releases in the future!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The thing I love the most about Cryo Chamber artists is the subtlety. They leave all the heavy instrumentation and maddening drones to other artist in the genre and as a whole seem to find the perfect balance of isolation and warmth. But this is just the opinion of an anonymous observer.