Harrowing Slumber

Album Title: 
Sleepwalking The Path Of Ea
Release Date: 
Saturday, July 29, 2017
Review Type: 

Recently I got in touch with one Verst, a guy from the Wiltshire region (U.K.) who runs the (small yet interesting) label Ancient Trail Recordings. He’s the guy behind Instinct as well; quite recently I did publish a review for Instinct’s newest album Manifesting The Dark Rural Ethos (Schattenkult Produktionen; for the review, follow this link: http://www.concreteweb.be/reviews/instinct). Verst also created the outfit Harrowing Slumber in 2016 or so, performing ‘Eremitic Night Music’ (indeed!). With Sleepwalking The Path Of Ea, we can have an idea of what all this stands for.

The album was recorded in 2016 and 2017 by Verst and no one else involved (sonically), performing all guitars, drums and percussions, vocals, samples, sounds and field recordings (+ effects) (no synths / keyboards were used, despite some hints of…). Sleepwalking The Path Of Ea was released via the guy’s own Ancient Trail Recordings label via digital sources, and on digipack (glass mastered) compact disc, in an edition of 200 copies. Half of them do come, by the way, with a very nice patch. There are seven quite lengthy compositions represented, clocking in between five and then minutes (total running time: fifty-three minutes). And oh yes, despite the extremely sober artwork (or is it: thanks to the soberness), the physical part is just fabulous, and does fit totally to the concept.

Raison d’être (and this part I just stole from different sources, but it gives a reflection, a glimpse of the essence): For the black hypnagogic fire, the corporeal chaos and beauty of earth and the elements, the rural scape and nocturnal fauna of the Vale & Chase, the secluded night and its astral revealment [sic]. For the inexorable return to soil and air of all through the will of cyclic law. For modern mankind and its weak monotheist delusions of ascension. For Ea; symbol of the telluric nexus buried deep within the slumbering European consciousness. This is a statement that reflects Verst’s isolationist’s vision, his anti-human, even misanthropic thoughts on mankind, and his dedication to Mater Terra / Mother Nature. It is not a new / renewing concept, but when brought with honesty and persuasion, I cannot but support such vision. All praise the spirits of Nature!...

Sleepwalking The Path Of Ea brings darkened ambience for sure, but this album differs from the ‘traditional’ definition of Dark Ambient, for the atmosphere and execution are unlike for the better part. Take the opening composition, for example (with the sweet title Abatures On The Edge Of Consciousness / Elaphusian Glade Of Death). As from the very beginning, as listener you get immersed by an atmosphere so suffocating, so haunting, yet at the same time so dreamlike and infinite, even interminable. Gloomy synth-sounding (yet there are none) floats-of-sound and eerie dronescapes are like the aural expression of a desolate landscape, a post-nuclear desert where no life dwells anymore. We, human beings, caused extermination and extinction. Step by step, the noises crawl further, eventually adding more exciting details, like percussion-alike sampling, sudden noises (quite disturbing) and more layers of hypnotic ethos.

With Black Hypnagogic Fire I - Sleepwalking The Path Of Ea, Harrowing Slumber go even further. Striking are the melancholy within the mesmerizing melodic structures at the one hand, and those semi-progressive percussion / drum patterns at the other hand. There is a huge dose of sonic discordance going on, strengthening the message of duality in between the existence of mankind and its relationship to both nature and other human entities. Without calling it ‘avantgarde’, the experimental character contrasts with the bleak, dismal spheres, but this contradiction intensifies the ethos.

The next track, Faunocturnalis (you can’t deny the ingenious creativity when it comes to the procreation of titles), is different once more. Mainly based on (semi) acoustic guitars, this piece represents an aural minimalism with meditative depth, yet also with whimsical temper.

Yet with The Warning Of Europe, Harrowing Slumber trespass any limitation. Based on ‘traditional’ instrumentation and extremely grim, wretched voices, this piece is like a Black Metal translation of some symbiosis in between Atmospheric Black Metal (with hints of DSBM) at the one hand, and post-industrialised Drone at the other. The Warning Of Europe comes with a dissonant approach and an eccentric attitude, creating something quite uncomfortable and obfuscating. This nine-minutes long piece offers confusion, confrontation and, in a sense, enlightenment after all. especially towards the end, the conscious divulgation of what out future might bring, gets brought so clear…

Astral Monument is, in essence, strongly ‘basic’ in performance, yet the ‘simplicity’ brings such outspoken identity, such vivid, even lucid, attitude… Low-tuned strings paint a pallet of colourless and formless shades, mournful, mirthless, feral…

Like the first Black Hypnagogic Fire track, the second one, with sub-title Strix Circled Flame, represents a mixture of capricious progressive drum patterns, gloomy melodies and idiosyncratic strings. Don’t expect ‘easy-listening’ elegance, for the conflicting details, though existing in equilibrium, bring nothing but confusion and turmoil. But that’s such a strength!

The album ends with Telluric Return / Harrowing Slumber, one of the four tracks that lasts for more than eight minutes. Here too a certain minimal approach, at first sight (or better: at first listen), seems to reveal, but once again there is such depth behind the quasi-minimal execution. Once again, there is a lot to dissect if you dare to skin the different layers, but that what you will find beneath each level is like a manifest of another concept, paradoxical to normality, to superficiality, to parochialism.

Sleepwalking The Path Of Ea is not, as I mentioned in one of the first paragraphs (the fourth, to be more exact), a traditional or conventional Ambient recording. It takes you away towards empty places, far away from anyone’s comfort zone, deep into the subconsciousness, beyond the ordinary. Isolationist’s sophistication…

listen in nocturnal solitude