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Shibalba - Samsara (2015) - Review

Band: Shibalba
Album title: Samsara
Release date: 22 December 2015
Label: Malignant Records

01. The Magick Of Mirrors
02. Dharma And Alchemy
03. Stellar Oracle
04. Samsara
05. Nekyia

Shibalba return with Samsara, a magnificent offering to the gods and their first on Malignant Records. Their special brand of ritual dark ambient is an invocation of the highest order. Great halls filled with worshipers and priestly hooded figures are brought to mind. Ancient structures of dilapidated stone-works surround the congregation as they chant their prayers and pound their drums. This experience is something of a meditation for the listener, giving us a channel into the depths of our own inner gods and demons. Shibalba perform a rite which is larger than life, a worthy soundtrack for the gods as they manipulate our every movement here on Earth.

Having not been familiar with their previous work, I was immediately enthralled with Shibalba's latest release. The sounds are vast and all encompassing, just as the subject matter suggests. "The Magick Of Mirrors" introduces Samsara with a beautiful choir singing ancient texts, enshrouded in a plethora of ritual instruments. Chimes, bells, tribal drums, and a synth that brings to mind a large ancient Byzantine pipe-organ are only a few of the many sounds present. The track starts out as an upbeat hymn with a cold wintry feel. A chilly breeze engulfs us as the music takes an ominous turn. A steady hammering drum enters the fray. It is as if the track has gone from a devotional worship to the summoning of some dark entity. As the drums continue to pound away, a dark presence overtakes this ceremony, sounding as if it is swooping in and out of the arches, diving down into the pews of an ancient ceremonial chamber. "Dharma And Alchemy" begins as the dark entity seems to be fully invoked. Its presence is all encompassing, a thick atmosphere overwhelming the congregation. It seems to reverberate off the walls of this place of worship. Opening the mind's eye, I see a deep dank chamber, carved from subterranean stone foundations of the earth. A male priestly voice speaks, as if giving a sermon, yet he is fully encompassed by the gods, their will directing his every syllable. As the sermon proceeds a silence creeps over the congregation, yet the deity remains, as if orchestrating the whole ceremony. "Stellar Oracle" builds upon the empty darkness of last track's finale, frigid chimes ring out in the vast emptiness, the congregation silently meditates basking in the beauty. A brisk wind seems to be rushing through the chamber, chilling to the core. As the muses slowly return to their invocations and the drums once again hammer their ritualistic beat, a warmth gently creeps into the halls, as if a fire has been lit, throwing its heat over the congregation as they watch, enthralled, as the rites proceed. The deity has receded for now, allowing its mortal worshipers to do as they please. "Samsara" brings on the next step in the rites. As the priests ring their bells and chant to the deities, another chilling wind seems to rush through the chamber. With it another deity seems to enter the chambers taking hold of one of the chanters as their voice becomes distorted and decidedly inhuman. They are given full reign of the rite, as the congregation watches the magnificence unfold. "Nekyia" begins with a sort of tranquility as if the residing deity has left its host, re-entering the atmosphere. Drums pound as it slowly creeps through the chamber filling each observer with the immortal essence. An ominous presence takes hold of the rite, as the darkened deity holds every worshiper in its grip. The congregation falls to silence, only the deity remains active swirling through the atmosphere of the chambers, its all encompassing darkness gripping tightly before all falls to blackness.

Samsara is a deeply moving experience. Shibalba have obviously taken every precaution in piecing together this ritual. The listener is able to fall deep into their trance, feeling an ominous presence, feeling the cold rushes of wind gusting through the ancient dank chambers. From beginning to end this release is powerfully gripping, entertaining, and thought provoking. Where some ritual ambient albums tend to become overly repetitive or fail to hold an atmosphere or mood, Shibalba succeeds in keeping the listener enthralled and intent, at the same time allowing for plenty of replay value. While there is surely light in this release, the overarching theme seems to be of an ominous darkness, giving the album a chilling effect. Samsara has enough energy to attract the attention of fans of more doom or black metal oriented music, yet it holds the subtleties needed to satiate listeners of darker ambient style releases. I would highly recommend this to anyone that has ever been interested in testing the waters of the ritual ambient genre, as it is quite an all encompassing experience, a true feast for listeners to devour.

Review written by: Michael
Rating: 8.5/10