Published on Sunday, 10 January 2016 14:35
Band: The Human Voice
Album title: Silent Heart
Release date: 21 January 2016
Label: Cyclic Law
02. Early Hours
03. Silent Heart
04. Landscape Seen Through Tears
05. Deep Blue
06. Stay With Me, Until It's Over
07. Armchair Traveler
08. We Are All Alone
The long-awaited follow-up to 2008's Exit Lines has finally arrived! Harleif Langas, still making waves with his last release Istid I-II as his alter-ego Northaunt, and a contribution to the Azathoth collaboration for Cryo Chamber as Therradaemon, has returned with another brilliant addition to his discography. While Northaunt taps into northern soundscapes and Therradaemon shows a darker and more industrial side, The Human Voice can be considered the most personal and melancholic of his projects. With a focus on emotions and the human condition Silent Heart is filled with relaxing midnight-recording sessions of beautiful piano pieces, guitar drones, and field recordings overlay-ed with some very moving samples. The ability to bring forth deep emotions in the listener is a testament to the meticulous preparation and highest standards held by Harleif Langas.
"Midnight" takes us from a very unsettling sweep of distorted frequencies directly into a beautifully melancholic piano passage. On my first play-through the sample in this track struck abruptly, catching me off guard. I wasn't sure how I felt about this, but on following play-throughs I find that this is my favorite track on the album and I anticipate the start of the sample and am moved every time I hear the words, by their deep meaning. "Early Hours" is a hair-raising experience. Strange sounds layer together in this track to give it a dark and haunting feel. A persistent static seems to be blended with the sounds of a storm as the backdrop to a curious and thought provoking piano passage. This track also features a guitar drone that reminds me a bit of the desolation of "If Only My Heart Were Stone" the deeply moving Northaunt track from The Borrowed World split with Svartsinn. I should add that this is really the only time I feel an association between Northaunt and The Human Voice, every other aspect of the album seems to keep a full separation from Langas' alter-ego. "Silent Heart" is one of the most peaceful tracks here, slow moving drones rest on a backdrop of a sort of white noise, with another personal and emotional piano passage rolling in and out of the experience. "Landscape Seen Through Tears" takes the listener out into a cold rainy evening. I can close my eyes and imagine myself wandering through the industrial district of a city, wrapped in a raincoat, brooding on some deeply personal loss. "Deep Blue" has a sense of isolation, with its low rolling bass and dampened field recordings overlayed with a more subdued synth/guitar line, which then leads into a very lonely and melancholic piano passage. "Stay With Me, Until It's Over" features a powerful sample repeating throughout the track, its cinematic approach leaves a deep impression on me with every playthrough. "Armchair Traveller" conveys a sense of total loss creeping even deeper into the psyche of the listener before the final track. "We Are All Alone" ends Silent Heart with a beautifully melancholic piano passage over a subtle ambient backdrop, giving us time to fully absorb the album as it closes.
Silent Heart is a deep and moving experience from beginning to end. Never becoming overwhelming yet always holding onto the listener emotionally, it dives deep into our psyches and tears at what makes us human, what makes us feel. Silent Heart was years in the making and Harleif Langas proves yet again that the best things take time and patience to create. Silent Heart is arguably one of Langas' best albums to date, and probably the most emotionally gripping of all. While Northaunt often gives one the feeling of being in the midst of a dark and desolate landscape, The Human Voice manages to manipulate the mind itself, pulling us through deeply melancholic and personal passages, reflecting the dark waters of a tortured soul. Silent Heart is highly recommended to any fan of the more subdued and personal side of dark ambient. However, if that kind of thing doesn't usually tickle your fancy, you may find that this album is the exception. Silent Heart is truly a masterwork by Langas and yet another testament to why he is one of the most celebrated and essential names in the dark ambient genre.
Review written by: Michael