Published on Wednesday, 28 September 2016 17:37
Band: Various Artists
Album title: Nyarlathotep: A Cryo Chamber Collaboration
Release date: 27 September 2016
Label: Cryo Chamber
01. Nyarlathotep I
02. Nyarlathotep II
03. Nyarlathotep III
Artist roster: Kammarheit, God Body Disconnect, Dronny Darko, Ugasanie, Kristoffer Oustad, Alphaxone, Svartsinn, SiJ, Gydja, Atrium Carceri, Darkrad, Flowers for Bodysnatchers, Aegri Somnia, Randal Collier-Ford, Neizvestija, Metatron Omega, Wordclock, protoU, Northumbria, Sjellos, Sabled Sun, Council Of Nine, Cryobiosis, Apocryphos, Enmarta, Mystified
Cryo Chamber has released a giant with this one. In order to fully appreciate what it is, and how it came about, a bit of history is in order. If this isn't your thing, or you already know, just skip down to the third paragraph. One of the early crowning achievements on Cryo Chamber was the collaboration album Cthulhu. Cryo Chamber delved into a concept which had its fair share of musical interpretations. They came at this concept from a different angle than many had attempted in the past. Simon Heath of Atrium Carceri, Sabled Sun, and owner of Cryo Chamber, surrounded himself with a dozen dark ambient artists, most from Cryo Chamber. Through the power of the internet, they all contributed to a vast library of sounds. Each artist had the reign to pull sounds from one another as they pleased. This allowed them to create their own piece of the story, without becoming disjointed. Then, Simon Heath took these sounds and mixed them into an uninterrupted whole. Coming in at almost 90 minutes of blistering dark ambient. Fans didn't let Cthulhu slip by unnoticed. Cryo Chamber found a large following of dedicated listeners through Cthulhu. Cthulhu brought fans from all the separate artists together. They also found the interest of fans of H.P. Lovecraft's works. All parties came together in this one central location. Here was an album that focused on the most well known of the Lovecraftian Gods. An album which didn't display any tricks or sci-fi gimmicks. The full album was a sweeping, brooding, under/other-worldly experience. Through the subtleties, listeners felt Cthulhu moving through the depths of the sea. All the while just enough Eldritch flavor gave Cthulhu that astral and all-knowing presence.
After the success of Cthulhu, Cryo Chamber dove right back into the Lovecraftian Mythos. This time they conjured another god of the nether-realms, Azathoth. Azathoth is a less documented Outer God, who resides in deep space. Azathoth has an ambiguous nature. This led the artists to take more liberties with their sound direction. On Azathoth, there are less terrestrial sounds. The focus is on the deep and unknown abyss, far from Planet Earth. Cryo Chamber took the basic framework of the Cthulhu album and again applied the formula here. But, this time around, there were more artists and the album came in at over two hours. Again, fans were blown away by the sheer scope of the project. Cryo Chamber recruited the talents of even more artists from outside the label on Azathoth. A few being: Therradaemon, Svartsinn, and Taphephobia. The wider spectrum of artists on Azathoth helped to secure a sound that was vast and often quite disturbing. The other difference here was the greater range in musical dynamics. Cthulhu focused on the brooding terror. It moved through the depths of the sea, emerging to reek havoc upon humanity. Azathoth opened the sound dynamics further. It added in sections which were more musical and a bit less drone oriented. This difference seemed to help introduce the album to an even broader fan base. It marked one of the first steps in Cryo Chamber's evolution. Cryo Chamber has recently showcased a wider variety of artists. Many of these artists' display sounds that don't fall directly into the cinematic dark ambient spectrum.
On Nyarlathotep, Cryo Chamber releases a more ambitious addition to their Lovecraftian Mythos series. Nyarlathotep takes into account everything Cryo Chamber learned on the previous two outings. Yet, it pushes the limits even further. Nyarlathotep consists of 26 artists. Cryo Chamber artists, as well as a handful of artists from outside the label bring forth a whole new tale.
Cthulhu had represented a terror which emerged from the deep seas. Azathoth was a god from deep space. Nyarlathotep is the first time the series has come into direct contact with humanity. Nyarlathotep has taken various forms throughout the works of Lovecraft and his successors. It would seem that he is one of the more sinister gods within the mythos. The thing that makes Nyarlathotep especially interesting is that he has taken the form of a human from time to time. Nyarlathotep most often resembles an ancient Egyptian pharaoh when taking the human form. In the mythos, he walked the Earth, gathering a cult of followers. Meanwhile, the planet comes to the end of its lifespan. In later stories, he took the manifestation of a nocturnal, tentacled, bat-winged monster. Given these two manifestations, there is a lot of room to interpret this wretched being.
Collaborators tap into the various themes throughout this massive three hour excursion. The Egyptian aspects can be recognized as they make appearances throughout the album. The nocturnal and winged elements also show their faces quite often. Cthulhu and Azathoth focused on more abstract concepts. But Nyarlathotep has a much more personal diagnosis. Feelings of fear exhibited by humanity are present. They are evident through the sounds of weeping women and children, among many other things. Movement through the winds, high in the clouds, gives an airy quality. At times there are sinister chants, focusing on the cult of Nyarlathotep. As they chant it seems as if the god is pleased with their reverence. At other points, we feel as if we went inside the mind of Nyarlathotep itself, witnessing the vile inner workings of The Crawling Chaos. A mind, in which dark and horrifying urges meet a sheer sense of enjoyment.
Field recordings and conventional instrumentation are brought brilliantly into the mix. The use of field recordings on this album seems to reach magnificent heights. When listening in lossless quality on headphones, there were numerous times that I was startled by the field recordings. They seemed so realistic that I didn't even realize it was part of the album. I found myself glancing around the room, looking out windows, peering over my shoulder. The presence of The Crawling Chaos cannot be overstated. The use of so many different instruments within the album adds yet another layer of Earthly realism to the mix. Often these instruments take on a Near Eastern quality, usually of the Egyptian variety. This gives us a sense of location as well as a mental image of Nyarlathotep dressed in the garb of a great ancient pharaoh.
Nyarlathotep bolsters 26 artists and a run-time exceeding three hours. It is the most ambitious release yet from Cryo Chamber. It could be the most ambitious project by a dark ambient label since the inception of the genre, decades ago. With so many artists, there are moments when I think I can discern a specific artist's work standing out. But this is a worthless endeavor. Each artist contributed sounds to a massive cache of samples, which then were able to be picked through by all artists involved. So even when I'm thinking I hear something from Metatron Omega, for instance, I have to second guess myself. Maybe it is his audio stem, but was it he who incorporated it here? This question is pretty much impossible to answer without directly asking the artists involved, and even then, we are almost sure to be given some sly and ambivalent answer.
Taking everything into consideration, I am already thinking this is a solid candidate for dark ambient album of the year. From concept, to studio integration, to technique, to mastering, and everything in between, Nyarlathotep hits the intended mark. With each of these Lovecraftian Mythos collaborations, somehow these artists seem to keep topping themselves. Nyarlathotep is one more step up the ladder, one more masterpiece from a label that keeps pushing the boundaries, without alienating the origins of the genre. Nyarlathotep is an absolute must have album for any dark ambient fan. Over the three hours of music, there is never a dull moment, everything is orchestrated to perfection.
Nota Bene: For further reading about the Nyarlathotep Mythos have a look at my article specifically about the god, Nyarlathotep. Not about the music. Link.
Written by: Michael