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Kolhoosi 13 - Monuments Of Power (2016) - Review

Band: Kolhoosi 13
Album title: Monuments Of Power
Release date: 2 August 2016
Label: Cryo Chamber

01. From Comradery To Sustenance
02. Uprising Of The Spirit
03. A White Sea
04. Glow From The Depths
05. Rainout
06. The Monument Of Power

Kolhoosi 13 are a brand new addition to Cryo Chamber's ever growing and ever impressive roster of musicians. Kolhoosi 13 brings with them a take on dark ambient which isn't necessarily new but has been lacking in the Cryo Chamber roster for sure. I speak of a dark-ambient-based martial style. Kolhoosi 13 have perfected the art of subtly portraying a concept which is often not so subtle. Kolhoosi 13 use a combination of drones, field recordings, and various instrumentation to build waves of sound which wash over the listener efortlessly.

The first impression of the concept behind Monuments Of Power can be witnessed in the cover-art. The album-art was jointly realized by Simon Heath of Atrium Carceri/Sabled Sun and Erik Osvald of Keosz. The photograph depicts a run-down industrial complex on the sea, overlayed with a heavy and emotionally jarring darkness of distortion. This cover perfectly fits with the album's sound as there is so often a background of industrial noises as well as an overall nautical sense. It is easy to imagine this landscape, teeming with gas-mask donning mercenaries, filthy and desperate refugees, and multiple invading armies. The skies seem to be filled with fire and a thick smog as the seas below shimmer with their oily black hue. Mankind has clearly gone too far this time, burning every bridge to redemption as we travel further into the void.

"From Comradery To Sustenance" starts with an old radio playing a happy song, which reminds me of the beginning of Fallout 3, in which we hear "I Don't Want To Set The World On Fire" by The Ink Spots. These parallels to the Fallout series can be felt throughout the album, in no small part because of the abundance of similarities between the two settings. After hearing the opening clip of music, we are tossed head-long into the fog-of-war. We hear artillery fire among other unsettling martial sounds. The war, perhaps the final war, is underway, it has been for some time, and it rages on all around us. Mankind is on his last leg. The title and accompanying sounds lend to the idea that mankind has re-entered world war status. Where once we were brought together, albeit in warring factions, we are now moving into a totally fractured state of affairs, for even these factions are beginning to crumble, leaving all of humanity with the basest of animalistic instincts: survival, shelter, sustenance. There is no place left for rank and file, the world has crumbled taking with it all previous social constructs, leaving mankind in a state of emergency and collective helplessness. "Uprising Of The Spirit" portrays a subterranean feel or at least a sense of low and dense atmosphere, dripping water, and a deep bellowing drone, like some great machinery at work in the vicinity. The deep bellowing factory sounds continue to morph as if taking a life of their own. A fleeting bass-line momentarily enters the mix, giving a more cinematic feel, bringing out emotions of curiosity over-arched with bleak despair. "A White Sea" is highly peaceful, filled with flowing drones, everything very fluid and gently drifting. But, the sense of darkness and hints of warfare are still present throughout. This sea concept seems to be recurring through Cryo Chamber's discography. We have previously heard similar tracks from Atrium Carceri on Metropolis in the form of "Across The Sea Of The Dead", where Atrium Carceri took us to an even bleaker and more desperate reality. Dronny Darko "Plazma Lake" took us to a futuristic and extra-terrestrial lake of fire, which could also be said of "Caverns of Igneous Flame" from Onyx. This seems to be a worthy theme for multiple artists to touch on, showing their own versions of these various seascapes. The minimalistic elements of all these tracks lend themselves to a sort of different form of drone, which craft a drone-like track from a very specific and field-recording heavy concept. On each of the tracks mentioned above, we are given a lull in the musical narrative, a place to sit motionless, in each case, at the center of the album, where we can contemplate what has happened previously, as well as the continuation of the narrative to follow. "Glow From The Depths" is cinematic drone-work at its finest. The details and subtleties of this track will unravel at a glacial pace. There is no hand holding to be done here. The theme and emotion of "Glow From The Depths" are largely carried over from the previous tracks, giving a lingering continuation of subtlety from "A White Sea". Extremely dark, murky, almost sci-fi, as if some massive otherworldly equipment has entered the fray. "Rainout" doesn't seem to portray a literal rainstorm as might be inferred by the track title. It seems instead to be capturing the emotions of claustrophobia and the inner workings of the mind as it tries to fully embrace the new reality of a war-torn Earth. Where exactly the threat has come from and what this means for the future of humanity are the overarching concepts which I seem to return to while pondering on "Rainout". "The Monument Of Power" displays rumbling atmosphere, pulsing drone, heavy machinery, the gentle bassy synth which was fleeting in "Uprising Of The Spirit" has returned more noticeably to this final track of the album, reinvigorating the sense of wonder and curiosity, yet never leaving the emotions of dread and despair behind. There is no upbeat or positive note to leave the album on, we are left in darkness, fending for ourselves in the post-apocalyptic landscape in which we have been rooted. The world is worn-out, decaying, just like its inhabitants. There is no chance of blue tomorrows when we are confronted with the destructive machinery of modern warfare. Earth, or at the very least mankind, has reached its final chapter, a bloody dark devastation, of which we find ourselves at the epicenter, the makers and the destroyers of our reality.

Kolhoosi 13 have delivered one of the best martial-tinged dark ambient experiences in recent memory. They clearly have an full understanding of the various intricacies of the dark ambient world and have molded them effortlessly to their own style. Monuments Of Power has an extremely high replay value, as the album is full of subtleties which will slowly take form before the listener. Where some albums of this genre can be easily summarized and memorized within the first few listens, you'll find that Monuments Of Power still has secrets to unfold long after the first play-through. The subtlety blended with the martial element make for a very unique experience, as so often, martial and noisy can be synonymous, yet here, there is nothing noisy, all elements of the album seem to have been crafted with painstaking detail and an attentiveness to the emotions of the listener. With this said, I would happily recommend Monuments Of Power to any dark ambient fans, or fans of post-apocalyptic themes in general.

Review written by: Michael
Rating: 8.5/10