Published on Tuesday, 14 June 2016 15:08
Band: Druhá Smrt
Album title: Mythologem
Release date: 23 May 2016
Label: Sombre Soniks
Druhá Smrt have released their fifth album Mythologem on the ritual dark ambient focused label Sombre Soniks. Sombre Soniks is a label that I have been following closely over the last few years but here-to-now haven't written any reviews. This had to change with the release of Mythologem, the most impressive release to date from Druhá Smrt and arguably the best release yet from Sombre Soniks.
Mythologem has a larger than this world feel to it. There is a vivid soundscape here. I close my eyes and picture gloriously decrepit cities of the past. In contrast to many dark/ritual ambient releases this album has a very warm feel, perfect for enjoying during this summer season. The warmth seems to emanate from the use of thick and reverberating sounds, massive bells tolling in a deep bassy tonality, martial drum beats echoing in the distance, something like thunder striking which may not even be natural. These components all set a framework for the album. Added on top of this framework are more mystical, and quite personal elements. Melancholic violin arrangements are strewn throughout, not only adding darkness but quite a lot of beauty as well. Yet this beauty is never pronounced in the same way as is often found on dark ambient albums, it takes it to a much lonelier more personal place. I keep visualizing a man sitting alone in the ruins of some ancient cathedral, reflecting on his past, as a storm descends, darkening the landscape and the man's mind simultaneously. Jindřich Spilka's vocals add to this sense of the lonely man. A deep bassy tone, not quite raspy, adds all the more to the loneliness. His vocals seem to be a bit more active on this album than previous Druhá Smrt releases and I think this is one of the reasons the album stands out so much. The vocals blend perfectly with this style of ritual dark ambient, they don't pierce through the mix, they sit in a sturdy place, a gentle whisper in the storm. Loud enough to be heard, but never overbearing.
The ritual element is realized here through the use of various chimes and bells, the vocals ooze into the mix in a deliberate fashion, delivering incantations that are not quite discernible, keeping the sense of mystery in place. Listening to the album with a clear head, one can make many of their own assumptions and take this to personal places, different for each listener. But Druhá Smrt do have a bit of specifics in mind when it comes to the theme. In their own words, "In the background of this work is again the idea of the katabasis-anabasis process, but this time from another angle, conceived as realistically as possible for us. What may seem at first glance like an abstract is but always at the same time a real and very personal experience." So we can take this album in from various different angles. Whether finding the deep meanings behind their message, or finding something personal to connect to, is really up to the listener. As with any great dark ambient release, the ability to dive into an album from more than one angle makes the process all the more rewarding, and the longevity of its appeal all the more keen.
Druhá Smrt have accomplished something with Mythologem which is often difficult in the ritual dark ambient sub-genre. Mythologem is just as powerful of a background listening experience as it is from the front and center. Often with ritual ambient releases it is quite hard to find ones own interpretations, the artist is often hard-pressed to deliver their idea as vividly as possible. The beauty in Mythologem comes in its subtlety. The lonely yet beautiful vocals of Jindřich Spilka, the deliberate yet never overbearing string arrangements, bell tolls and almost industrial percussion all lend perfectly to the atmospheric darkness. None of them are pushed too far in the mix, everything sits in its place, adding just enough character and life to the album.
If our readers find a lot to like in Mythologem, I would highly recommend diving deeper into the vast and often underappreciated catalog of Sombre Soniks releases. Mysticism and ritualistic elements are always the main focus with Sombre Soniks and they have plenty of practice at it. Mythologem comes to the forefront of this catalog as something special because it is so easily approached from various angles, for wholly different types of listeners. It is as rewarding of an album from the active or passive listening perspectives. As Sombre Soniks and Druhá Smrt, in particular, continue to hone their ritual ambient styles, they seem to be becoming ever more influential in this particular niche genre.
Review written by: Michael