Thursday, 5 September 2019

Obsidian Ritual - Hymns for a Dead Sun.

Album: Hymns for a Dead Sun
Label: Self-released
Catalogue no: N/A

     1.      Amongst the Astral Tombs
     2.      Ominous Signs
     3.      Voidsphere
     4.      Hyperborean Realms
     5.      Encroaching Draness, Encircling Wolves

Personally, I think it’s always good policy to write about not just the ‘big’ names in any scene, but also those who create in relative obscurity (just how relative is obscurity these days anyway, now that we have the internet?). Obsidian Ritual, whose Hymns for a Dead Sun is the subject of this review, hails from somewhere in California, and as far as I am aware this is his first full release. And, if you like your dark ambient with a touch of the cinematic about it, then I think you’ll like this.

‘Amongst the Astral Tombs’ sets the tone, with a deep bass rumble presaging mournful viola-like slow-bowed notes, evoking both a funereal claustrophobia and simultaneously a vast open space. Imagine yourself as an astronaut of the far future, coming upon a gargantuan necropolis out in the immensity of deep space, cyclopean edifices poised somewhere in one of an alien system’s Lagrange points, mammoth carved asteroid tombs adorned with indecipherable inscriptions. Are these the tombs of gods, or aliens? The stars look down coldly, bestowing little light and no warmth upon these structures – a sign, perhaps, that these graves are there for a reason, and that they are not looked upon with favour.

The freezing and deeply isolated ambience continues with ‘Ominous Signs’, a keening hymnal of cold wastes and methane-ice-covered lumps of rock circling a dead sun, the burnt-out hulk of which they still sullenly orbit. These vast ice-fields, wrapped in complete and utter dread silence, are home to nothing and no one, seemingly stretching out to an incalculable infinity – an emptiness that defies reason and dares anything or anyone to intrude upon its ages-long remoteness. ‘Voidsphere’ is the space between stars and galaxies, the incomprehensible distances beyond the understanding of tiny minds. A deep, boundless rumble announces its presence, an abyssal echo, an unleavened carpet of drone that’s spiked occasionally by a stray squeak here and there. This is colder than absolute zero, beyond which is a metaphysical quantum realm that rewrites the rules and dispenses with observed reality.

The hyperborean realms, here on Earth at least, were lands which were considered to be beyond the north, cold places that were completely outside the experiences of the peoples of ancient civilisation. In today’s global world, those realms have now moved into the darkness of space, the frigid wastes of airlessness and boundlessness. Temperatures here redefine the meaning of cold and frigidity, where nothing can survive. Grainy notes and faint bowed string-like notes reach our ears from unfathomable depths, accompanied by a seismic bass drone that speaks of inconceivable distances and the unimaginable vacuum of the universe. This space contains all that is and has ever been, and yet still has room for more, a fact illustrated by a tolling, echoing bell.

On the final track, ‘Encroaching Darkness, Encircling Wolves’, we’ve returned to the relative safety of Earth – relative because we’re ensconced in the northern wastes of this world, a place that harbours its own dangers. Earthy organ-style drones pulsate, ebbing in and out of time, until orchestral strings intervene and intertwine, a keening lament as mournful as the solitary wolf howling into the night. Lesser creatures run for cover but this is the wolf’s kingdom, his natural habitat, his rightful domain. His breath mists into the freezing air, a tangible sign of him giving voice to his declaration of his right to be here – his kind have lived here for untold millennia, and they have claim to this land. The moon looks down, satisfied with the wolf’s song, perhaps in part because they are close companions in darkness.

As some of you may have gathered by now, I have a penchant for the coldest of freezing ambiences, preferring them because they sing to my soul. This suite of tracks has been added to the library of virtual ambiences locked deeply inside the most inaccessible recesses of my brain, to be reinvigorated whenever I feel a longing for somewhere that’s isolated and remote. For those who like their ambient glacial and slow moving.

Give Obsidian Ritual some support by purchasing his download from here – it’ll only cost you a measly dollar:

Psymon Marshall 2019. 

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