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Cryo Chamber - Locus Arcadia (2016) - Review

Band: Cryo Chamber Collaboration
Album title: Locus Arcadia
Release date: 12 July 2016
Label: Cryo Chamber

01. Randal Collier-Ford - Into The Maw Where All Men Die
02. Flowers For Bodysnatchers - Black Echo Of Morgues And Memory
03. Council Of Nine - Pale Sister Of Sanctuary Lost
04. God Body Disconnect - Prisoner's Sacrifice Facing Arcadia

Locus Arcadia, is the latest collaborative release from Cryo Chamber. One of the most notable acts on Cryo Chamber is Sabled Sun, which took the concept of extremely cinematic sci-fi and masterfully blended this with dark ambient. The Sabled Sun 214x series, leads us through a forgotten and wasted Earth a century and a half in the future. Locus Arcadia, a unique type of collaboration/compilation between Randal Collier-Ford, Flowers For Bodysnatchers, Council Of Nine and God Body Disconnect, takes the listener into a wholly different place, but has strong stylistic similarities to the Sabled Sun project. In order to fully understand the concept of their album, it is best to be first introduced to the prologue, written by God Body Disconnect:

"I can barely hear them now, their thin reverberating voices quickly fizz in and out. The crackling sounds of half garbled transmissions dance erratically in my ears, desperately trying to break through a crunching wall of distortion. My last connection to home is quickly disintegrating. The only thing I could muster from the broken transmissions was that there used to be a prison on this station and also some kind of archaic cyborg research facility. As I struggle to hold back the closing walls of helmet induced claustrophobia, I soon fear everything will be buried underneath a smothering film of my own sticky breath. I hate the feeling of being trapped in this glass prison.
My attention shifts, and I begin to notice just how cold it's become. It's dropped 30 degrees since my initial inspection; the meter now reads -87 Fahrenheit. Ahead of me awaits a mammoth of a station. A rust colored metallic structure with hundreds of slits like eyes peering out into open space. I slowly slide a vigilant gaze along its seemingly endless perimeter, and in complete awe of its massiveness the reality of what awaits me firmly sets hold. A fine pointed sting of uneasiness slowly climbs through my sternum and into my throat.
Now just twelve meters from the entrance, my steps turn deliberately cautious. I hesitantly raise and press my boots into the ground, compressing the tiny granules beneath me. The closer I get, the quieter it all becomes, and the more alone I begin to feel. As the distance between us diminishes, the anticipation grows feverishly tall like the dozens of rectangular glass lookouts adorning the otherwise dilapidated station. The main entry hatch now within arms reach, I punch in the code: 7-5-1-3. The door opens..."

This prologue sets the stage for Locus Arcadia and gives the listener plenty to ponder. I listened to the album many times, trying to piece together the story as much as I possibly could. Many hints are placed throughout the entirety of the album to give us a concrete direction to take our thoughts. Yet, given the prologue and all the hints, I am still only beginning to grasp all there is to be found hidden within Locus Arcadia. Taking notes and putting together timelines, repeatedly listening to certain segments, all kinds of amazing concepts and pieces of the story began to unfold. My initial intention was to lay that framework here, giving listeners a bit more to help guide them through. But this would be wrong, as with Sabled Sun, the main beauty of this collaboration is the ability for the listener to sit in a dark room, put on a headset, close your eyes and let the story unfold within your own imagination. The album is best appreciated in full, from beginning to end, without searching too hard for the clues. Letting these clues and new concepts naturally come to the surface gives this album a ton of replay value, without even taking the plain beauty of the music itself into consideration.

So putting any chances of an explanation of this intricate and amazing story aside, there is a surprisingly well-crafted dark ambient album at the core, considering it has been produced by four separate individuals, spread across the globe. While the album is only four tracks, one from each artist, it is just short of an hour in length, longer than many dark ambient albums. With all the artists working in communication with one another, and possibly a bit of oversight by Simon Heath who mastered the album, Locus Arcadia has a true consistency among its tracks. Keeping an even feel throughout the album had to be no small feat considering the varied directions we are taken in this journey. Each of the artists seems to have brought a different aspect of the story to the table. It was surely made a bit less daunting by using the prologue written by God Body Disconnect and the cover art by first time contributor to Cryo Chamber, Michal Karcz, as a basis for their direction.

The overarching feel of Locus Arcadia is a sense of claustrophobia, blended with suspense and discovery. Randal Collier-Ford takes an approach which seems to dive directly into the psyche of the listener, using a plethora of futuristic electronic sounds and some drones that are sure to grasp the core of the listener. Yet the approach here isn't fully abstract, there are very direct cinematics and clues to the greater story to be found within "Into The Maw Where All Men Die". We can hear a breathing apparatus throughout much of the track, the occasional sound that could be a transmission attempting to come through in the protagonist's helmet, among many other things. On "Black Echo Of Morgues And Memory", Flowers For Bodysnatchers built a highly atmospheric piece, bathing the listener in a blanket of machine noises, signals, radio chatter and a point that is a potentially critical moment in the story-line. "Pale Sister Of Sanctuary Lost" by Council Of Nine is similar to the opening track in that it seems more content on creating a sense of the landscape as well as the mindset of the protagonist, yet again, there are specific moments that could potentially be of great importance to the overarching story. "Prisoner's Sacrifice Facing Arcadia" is definitely the most cinematic track on Locus Arcadia. There is so much here to contemplate and it seems as if the story is really allowed to bring its concept to full consciousness. As seen previously, God Body Disconnect is a master at the cinematic, all sorts of techniques have been brought together here to make this track an absolute wonder. I would love to start going into the specifics of what I've pulled out of it, but that would take away all the fun, so instead I will urge listeners to make sure they dedicate their full attention here, even if its highly recommended to do so for the entirety of the album.

The greatest thing about Locus Arcadia is its versatility. If you don't feel like diving into the story and picking the sounds apart, what you will find plainly on the surface is a well crafted and very enjoyable dark ambient album, capable of being played in the background without much distraction. However, when you are ready to close your eyes and really open your ears and imagination to Locus Arcadia, you are guaranteed to be amazed with its intricacies. The longer track times not only allowed each artist to genuinely leave their mark on the album, but it gave them time to let their tracks slowly expand and tell their stories without any need to rush. With all that said, I could highly recommend Locus Arcadia to any one willing to imagine a cold metallic space far from their earthly comforts. This album could absolutely drag in a whole new crowd of listeners given the right exposure. The cinematics themselves are enough to help keep the attention of listeners who would otherwise grow bored with the majority of dark ambient albums. Yet Locus Arcadia manages to pull this off without feeling like there are gimmicks. In other words, it never feels cheesy, forced or too over-the-top. There are down right magnificently constructed soundscapes throughout Locus Arcadia, which are sure to be appreciated by long time fans of the genre. I can only hope to hear more of this type of release in the future. With the uniqueness of its presentation, its really hard to predict where this could take these artists, potentially with contributions from even more of their colleagues, in the future.

Review written by: Michael
Rating: 8,5/10

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