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Atrium Carceri - Codex (2018) - Review

Band: Atrium Carceri
Album title: Codex
Release date: 11 September 2018
Label: Cryo Chamber

01. The Void
02. From Chasms Reborn
03. The Seer
04. A Memory Lost
05. The Empty Chapel
06. Path Of Fallen Gods
07. The Ancient City
08. Sacrifice To The Machine
09. The Maze
10. A Hunger Too Deep
11. The Citadel

One of the most estimated acts inside the dark ambient scene, Atrium Carceri, finally returned with a brand new opus named Codex. I can easily say that this album was one of the most anticipated this year for every fan of the genre and Simon Heath, the man behind Atrium Carceri, slaked with mastery everyone's hunger for the high class cinematic dark ambient music. Yes..., three years in the making, since the previous masterpiece Metropolis was released, and after many collaborations, of which the most interesting in my opinion was the last one with Herbst9, Ur Djupan Dal, Atrium Carceri presents his eleventh album already, exploring a mystical world beyond the illusion.

Atrium Carceri is without any doubt a proper powerhouse of cinematic dark ambient, with first seven albums released on the now defunct legendary label Cold Meat Industry, Simon Heath later created his own label, Cryo Chamber, which has soon become because of high quality products one of the most esteemed labels of dark ambient and similar genres. Atrium Carceri is one of those acts that doesn't follow the trends of the genre, but rather than that is making new trajectories and exploring new grounds, and Codex is simply another proof of that. Even if the album is quite "short" for a dark ambient release (45 minutes), it offers a lot, more than you might have expected and is maybe the most adventurous, the most musical, the most enigmatic, going deeply into the fields of industrial music, and as well is the most dynamic album that Atrium Carceri ever made.

"The sorrowful melancholia of a thousand whispered prayers lies heavy about the place..." Codex is a journey into the dark sun through dusky horrid corridors and caverns of ancient cities where those fallen from Elysium kneel here, with blissful smiles and fearful eyes. Codex is a very dark album in its essence, but with use of many of not so typical elements, like for example a plentitude of industrial insertions, brooding choirs, neoclassical subtleties and dark drone, Atrium Carceri makes an astounding sorrowful atmosphere with soul consuming subtle melancholic melodies and kind of a rhythm that makes this sonic journey somehow flowing. From the opener, "The Void", on we are forced into somekind of an unrestrained feeling of sombre warmth that transcends through its many layers. Strong but subtle industrial beats that are in consensus with broad dark ambiances and mystical atmospheric keys offers an unimaginable and rarely heard vivid sound that outreaches our perception of space and time.

Speaking of that, Atrium Carceri, to deepen the extravaganza of his rendition puts into the mix also some well inserted psychedelia, perfectly heard on rather disturbing "From Chasms Reborn", but soon with "The Seer" lets us know what this magnificient act is all about in the first place. Short piano driven sorrowful melancholic intermezzos with kind of a gothy ambiance, like "A Memory Lost" or "A Hunger Too Deep", give some necessary air between the darkness that penetrates our minds in the tracks like is the magnificient dark apocalyptic ambient/drone with inherited cryptic melodic pattern, "The Empty Chapel". The sense of desolation and entrampment grows and falls throughout the album, mostly because Simon Heath knows how to play with listeners feelings, just listen for example to the expansive ambiances of "Path Of The Fallen Gods" and you'll know how manipulative it can be.

The album perfectly builds up in tension, it's highly suspenseful and sound seems to become from track to track more alive and somehow breathing. How very intense is "The Ancient City" with those thumping industrial beats, deep bass, intertwined with freezing cold atmospheric keys and deadly drone, or how powerful, almost out of the borders, being more typical industrial, almost martial at certain parts (also fans of Laibach should hear this) than ambient, is the tumultuos pulsating rhythmic line in "Sacrifice To The Machine". "The Maze" is simply darkness in all of its glorious extravaganza, but the highlight and the perfect closing chapter is "The Citadel", maybe the most extravagant track that Atrium Carceri made in all his career. All of the elements mentioned before perfectly converge in such an unique way here that it's almost impossible to stay calm... such a depth, such a symbiosis of melancholia and suspenseful cinematic horror is rarely heard.

Codex is meant to become without any doubt a cult album, from every single point of view, performance, composition and production are just top notch. Even if each track offers something different, everything seems to be in perfect harmony and still well connected to render an outstanding sonic adventure. Codex might not be that kind of album for dark ambient "elitists" if they exists, but it's certainly a work of art that explores and sets new borders, it's an album with a drive, it has no unnecessary long repetitive parts, but it has pathos and it's maybe the most musical dark ambient release that I have had a chance to listen. It's a perfect soundtrack for autumn and winter days, absolutely an album that will appeal to many different listeners, from those into any kind of dark ambient and its subgenres, to fans of soundtracks, melancholic and industrial music, it's also highly recommended to those who are new to the genre and want to hear how a cinematic dark ambient masterpiece should sound.

Review written by: T.V.
Rating: 10/10


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