Published on Thursday, 07 July 2016 13:31
Album title: Moloch
Release date: 21 June 2016
Label: Cyclic Law
01. City Of Steel
02. Towers Of Glass
05. Freeway Underpass
07. City By The Sea
08. Dreams In The Witchhouse
Moloch, the third release on Cyclic Law by Vortex, is a highly complex album. The theme of Moloch is the downfall of human civilization. Vortex brings various guest artists into the fold, to help produce a unique soundscape, which has some highly cinematic elements while keeping a balance with its meditative nature. Some sections can delve into industrial/post-rock while moments later the album is deep in a brooding dark ambient. Rumbling field recordings and drones are paired up with ritualistic drums and devastating guitar dronework which paints a picture of a planet in disarray.
Moloch starts with "City Of Steel" an industrial-tinged introduction which immediately shows off the complexities on Moloch. What seems to be a wall-of-noise type track slowly morphs and evolves into something with percussion and even some classical instrumentation which has an almost jubilant feel to it. This feeling of positivity is immediately cut off by the following track, "Towers Of Glass", in which a very foreboding and darker element takes over the soundscape. True to its title, the glistening high pitched sounds give a feeling of floating high above a city, between glass skyscrapers which cut into the skyline. As a menacing guitar enters the fray, there is a sense of devastation setting in on the city. "Meatmarket" seems to continue with this narrative. As a tribal drum introduces the track, we get the sense of being in one of the older and poorer markets, in the shadow of the tall buildings from the previous track. As chaos ensues on the second half of "Towers Of Glass", we could almost imagine, watching the carnage from the market below. "Hunted" seems to be the aftermath to this ordeal. A chilling silence rolls over the land, before some protagonist makes his move, maybe attempting an escape from this city. "Freeway Underpass" is the most subdued track on Moloch. An analog sounding drone slowly oscillates over the track as some metallic industrial type sounds layer on, adding a slowly progressing sense of detail to this soundscape. This dark and foreboding atmosphere carries into the next track, "Skyline". As "Skyline" begins, there is a lonely piano arrangement, over a hollow sort of soundscape. Its as if we are watching a dark hazy skyline above the city, as some catastrophic event takes hold. The tense quiet abruptly gives way to some menacing guitar notes which seem to ring out through the city, as an unseen force devastates the landscape before our eyes. "City By The Sea" feels to me like we have been transported to a neighboring city. After the destructive events of the previous track, some onlooker is watching from a nearby coastal city as their inland neighbor is annihilated. First they see and hear the carnage, then the radioactive fallout slowly envelopes the coast dragging its residents into the same bleak narrative. "Dreams In The Witchhouse" almost seems to be disconnected from the preceding tracks. Much in the way "City Of Steel" introduced the album, we are now seeing it draw to a close, some nightmarishly dreamy guitar arrangement takes over the mix as Moloch comes to a finish.
Moloch has a lot of interesting layers and emotions which take place through out the album. All these elements make it really easy to get lost in the narrative and let these doomed cityscapes take full form in our minds. Where the previous two albums by Vortex had a heavy focus on the tribal/ritual elements, this album takes that narrative to its conclusion, as mankind rips itself apart. At a time in our history which seems to be a turning point for humanity, unlike anything we have previously witnessed in our thousands of years of civilization, albums like Moloch give us a deeply interesting and meditative way to ponder these ideas, and come to terms with our mortality, not only as individual humans, but as civilization itself.
I would recommend Moloch to anyone who likes a lot of complex layers and activity to take place in their soundscapes. Vortex does a great job here of combining various instruments and genres with a compelling story framework to make repeatedly revisiting these familiar and doomed lands all the more likely.
Review written by: Michael