Published on Wednesday, 28 October 2015 19:16
Album title: Back To The Mud
Release date: 9 September 2015
01. Befalling silence
02. The End (it's near)
03. The Upheaval Of Society
04. The End (it's near), part II
06. The Deep Dead Hour
07. Dawn/The Feast
08. No Light To The Sight That Cannot See
09. Signals From The Sky
10. Are We Safe Now?
11. The Cusp Of Catastrophe
12. Back To The Mud
Noctilucant's Back To The Mud is the first release by this very promising dark ambient artist. Noctilucant covers a range of the various elements of dark ambient making a well-rounded and quite polished album. The self-released Back To The Mud comes in an equally dark package wax stamped and numbered by Noctilucant and including a bonus track. It is always nice to see the different ways artists make their product unique and this package definitely looks nice. Back To The Mud is a highly cinematic dark ambient album describing the fall of humanity. Noctilucant adds the talents of several other artists for spoken word passages and a bit of singing throughout the album which really gives it the extra human emotion needed to relay this story.
On "Befalling Silence" Noctilucant comes out with a purpose, immediately captivating the audience with deep cavernous rumbles backing a beautiful vocal intro. The sense of humanity in the music starts here and is central to the albums theme. This quite serene yet foreboding track progresses into a more energetic and haunting sound as it leads toward its conclusion. "The End (it's near)" is a very subtle track, sort of the calm before the storm. A dark beauty is displayed in this drone and piano filled piece, with the underlying sense of foreboding still present. We hear Noctilucant whisper at the end of the track "The end... it's near". "The Upheaval Of Society" is a massive track and follows the theme alluded to by the title very well. A repetitive and pulsating drone underlies a plethora of screams which become intertwined and almost overwhelming. "The End (it's near), part II" returns to the beauty and serenity mixed with a sense of foreboding heard in the first tracks, however this track is a narrative, with Kara Philips of Magma Dragon telling of the end, and how it was not about god but about humans themselves as she whispers "We did this." in a quivering and frightened voice. The narrative is well balanced with the track and helps consume the listener in the story, rather than jar them from this trance. "TwoFiftySixAnteMeridiem" is subtle and ambient, allowing the listener to visualize this bleak and devastated landscape we once called home. "The Deep Dead Hour" is a very cinematic track, starting with a faint rumbling which slowly builds into a more chaotic feel as we hear the transmissions of a man, clearly in the midst of the devastation. This is quite unnerving and builds up the theme of Back To The Mud even more. However, this track is overall a bit of a distraction from the experience as the man continues to relay his transmissions to an unanswering recipient, he descends into screams and we hear the growling of some beast, then the track descends into silence. Interesting on the first playthrough, I will have to say this track is usually skipped on my following listens as it becomes a bit too loud and chaotic with the man screaming into his radio. "Dawn / The Feast" coming in at over 11 minutes is a slow moving, dark and rather subtle track, giving even more contrast following the death of the man on the radio in the previous track. Yet again towards the end of "Dawn / The Feast" we seem to hear the screams of thousands as they are devoured, followed by an unnerving silence which simultaneously sounds of a thunderstorm and the end of a record in its repetitive static. "No Light To The Sight That Cannot See" begins in this same static and fades into a dark and horrific soundscape and a narration by Noctilucant who asks if we will look back on this as the day the world ended. "Signals From The Sky" is reflective and minimal with gentle drones and sweeping synths that allow the listener time to take in the full magnitude of the theme on Back To The Mud. "Are We Safe Now?" slowly introduces the sounds of a campfire and a haunting synth/vocal loop. The sense of safety is fleeting as we slowly feel a sense that the worst is yet to come. "The Cusp Of Catastrophe" is a brooding experience which ascends into a coordinated chaos. Almost shamanic sounding chants by J. Messner of HollowHecatomb give this track an added layer of humanity only to give in to industrial, possibly nuclear, sounds which drown out and overtake the vocals ending in a climax that seems to overtake humanity itself. "Back To The Mud", the longest track on the album, slowly builds with a quiet ambient feel, giving the sense of emptiness on Earth as a bit of rain and wind seems to be all that remains, then the beautiful vocals of Kara Philips return for a final ode to humanity which dissolves into the nothingness. Some of the best dark ambient atmosphere on the album can be heard here in the second half of this track, which comes to a triumphant close with a dark and eerie rendition of Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" again by the talented Kara Philips. The last seconds of the album give a resounding close with a sample of Tom O'Bedlam saying the T.S. Eliot quote, "This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper." The physical copy also comes with a bonus track at the end entitled "Tender Womb / Callous Tomb" I will leave this one to those who pick up the physical copy!
Noctilucant shows many signs of brilliance on Back To The Mud. The overall theme and production are very well done and seem quite impressive for a first endeavour as a self-released solo artist. The short and well dispersed pieces of singing and narration throughout the album give it the human element needed to fully realize the devastatingly apocalyptic theme of Back To The Mud. For the most part these human elements are well timed and fit very well into the mix, with only "The Deep Dead Hour" seeming to get a bit too far into the cinematic side and for a few moments pulling the listener out of an otherwise well-balanced and interesting album. Back To The Mud is a debut by Noctilucant that comes out swinging. Take note of this artist he will most likely have plenty more of this brand of cinematic and apocalyptic darkness to come, but in the mean time this album has plenty of replay value!
Review written by: Michael