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Apocryphos, Kammarheit, Atrium Carceri - Onyx (2015) - Review

Bands: Apocryphos, Kammarheit, Atrium Carceri
Album title: Onyx
Release date: 08 September 2015
Label: Cryo Chamber

01. Immemorial
02. Ones Atop the Unknown
03. Night So Close To The Tongue
04. A Londely Strain
05. Aphotic
06. Cavern Of Igneous Flame
07. Onyx
08. A Pale Sign Revealed
09. Avenoir

"Some things were just meant to be, and other things, we can only dream of. Onyx will be one of those albums that catches the genre by surprise, bringing together 3 of the most notable names (and styles) in the genre, to create a work of art like nothing before." says Randal Collier-Ford, an expiremental dark ambient artist on Cryo Chamber. I couldn't start the review better myself, so I didn't. Onyx is one of the dark ambient albums that we will still be speaking of in 10 years. The level of workmanship on Onyx can't be understated. After the first few play-throughs of an album for a review, I am ready to move on, refresh my palate for a bit, not so with Onyx. I am left hungering for more immediately upon completion of the album, time after time. 

The intricacy of each layer is astounding. There is attention to the minutest details given throughout the album. Listening in FLAC on a decent headset seems to synchronize my brain to this dark gloomy mood. I am left feeling that Onyx is more of an experience than an album. It has no beginning and no ending; it stays with you once you have experienced it. I constantly fall into a trance-like state of listening where the experience as a whole becomes part of my life not a separate soundtrack in my ears. I have to remind myself to listen and every time I do, the details are complex, dynamic, melancholic, and executed with perfect precision. One track will induce a calm meditative state while the next will unnerve you just enough to feel the evolving emotions yet not be jarred from the experience.

These three artists are all well-known veterans within the dark ambient scene. It is no surprise that they would produce such fine work together given the time and dedication. Each contributor's passion is obvious here. I feel like I am hearing the best of each artist, painted into a dynamic and darkly beautiful composition. Atrium Carceri's lonely piano pieces enter at just the right moments focusing the emotions and drawing them closer to the real world. Kammarheit's signature sounds of cavernous drone give us a feeling of isolation and gloom. While Apocryphos seems to add a more sacral tone to the project. Of course this is my interpretation of their contributions, with "over 3800 lines of studio notes to finalize the album" as noted on their Bandcamp profile, it seems impossible to fully comprehend where each artists influences begin and end on any given track.

Onyx is the kind of album that can be interpreted or experienced however the listener chooses, I will give description of my take on these tracks, but as I listened I found so many elements and layers, that it is best for the individual listener to find their own interpretations which are most meaningful to them, as I'm sure the artists intended.

Onyx begins with "Immemorial", a relaxing track full of gentle rain, celestial yet melancholic synths and a slowly building drone, which leaves us with a sense of foreboding. "Ones Atop The Unknown" builds into a harsher more industrial rumble. I close my eyes and see myself, as a god standing atop my ruined city watching the world around me. There is an unsettling feeling to this track yet it isn't too harsh or chaotic to turn alienate the more sensitive listeners of the genre. "Night So Close To The Tongue" paints a gloomy picture of a windy night. A soothing yet quite ominous track following the gentle ebb and flow of intensity showcased on Onyx. "A Lonely Strain" is one of the longer tracks and my favorite on Onyx. It has a masterful and slow moving progression from the soothing sounds of the previous track into something more intense, then gently fading back into peace. It is a highly meditative experience. "Aphotic" brings out more of a ritualistic and sacral sound with gentle chimes and a deep, yet soothing, drone. "Caverns Of Igneous Flame" is the most intense experience on the album, as the title may suggest. A deep reverberation takes us into the depths of some inhospitable caverns. We don't seem to be entering as man, we enter as the gods. The sounds surround us. The fires roar, constantly piquing the senses. I have also been able to interpret this track in a much more apocalyptic and real-world perspective, almost as the sounds of the end times, all around us. Either way it is a deeply disturbing track, giving a sharp jolt to the senses. By the next track, "Onyx", it seems like something new has begun after the chaos and doom felt in "Cavern Of Igneous Flame". We are started with an up-tempo bass line and a much more suspenseful feel, where before we seemed to be creeping out of light and into total darkness and fire, now we are hearing a new emotion emerge, hope, however distant and obscured. While I don't take Onyx as a concept album following a given protagonist, I couldn't help feeling a real-time shift in events. "Onyx" ends decisively as if some conclusion has been drawn from the previous chaos. "A Pale Sign Revealed" coming in at a length of 13:10 feels like the most cinematic track on Onyx. I close my eyes and wander through the remains of a destroyed city. I can't help feel a strong post-apocalyptic theme to this track. Yet the gods still seem to be presiding over this wasteland, even if only to mock humanity. "Avenoir" which means: the desire that memory could flow backward, is a short reflective track. It seems as if humanity is speaking to the gods, but those gods may only be deep space, and humanity may be responsible for its own destiny.

Onyx is an instant classic of the dark ambient genre. The talent of the individual artists throughout cannot be understated, and the mastering work and vision of Simon Heath bringing it all together at the end is possibly the best yet on Cryo Chamber. Onyx is a nonstop pleasure from beginning to end and a must have album for any fan of the dark ambient genre. The dynamics on some tracks and slow progressions on others showcase the breadth of sound arrangements which fit into dark ambient and the ability to blend them all together for one epic release. This album is sure to send reverberations through the genre, as it has through me.

Review written by: Michael
Rating: 9.5/10

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