various artists (Occult Realm)

Album Title: 
Occult Realm
Release Date: 
Friday, December 27, 2019
Review Type: 

A new label curated by Raffaele Pezzella, that does not sound bad at all, does it. Well, actually, Raffaele (the guy behind the project Sonologyst, behind the semi-cult radio program The Recognition Test, and behind the labels Unexplained Sounds Group and Eighth Tower Records [and since a couple of seconds ago, Zero K too]) joined forces with UK-born writer (novelist and reviewer / blogger) Psymon Marshall under the Big Cypress Swamp moniker. The label was created to ‘pursue the highest quality that occult and ritual ambient has to offer, both as a listening experience and as an aid to ritual’.

The first release on this new label (and the sole one as for now) is the compilation Occult Realm, a sampler with twelve tracks by as much international artists. It is a digital-only release (link: see below), based on the concept of mankind’s eternal pursuit for knowledge, and this via rituals, hidden quests, mental transformation and hypnosis. All civilizations, throughout the existence of mankind, all over the globe, have been searching, and mankind still does. Religion and belief, mysticism and ceremonies, as well as contemporary investigation and science, have the mutual aim to search after wisdom and knowledge. And Music has always been part of such rituals and ceremonies.

This album gathers twelve artists that deal with occultism, mysticism, mystery, pan-religion, ancient cults and the likes. Other sources of inspiration, like Mister Lovecraft and his (unique) works, are part of this magnificent concept, this opus of magic and mystery. I am not going to deep into each contributing artist’s biography – it would bring us too far (I did, and still will do so, when reviewing a release by that specific musician) – but in brief I’ll focus on the sonic content, the aural essence of each composition on Occult Realm. Some artist already released material via Unexplained Sounds Group or Eighth Tower Records, or did contribute on another sampler on one of those labels; some are new on these labels’ roster (and then I’d like to refer to 2018’s Heresy especially).

  • Adonai Atrophia, Rhodope (I Was A Queen Until I Grew Up A Mountain) (07:10): Bulgarian one-man army by some Seraphim Veluvian. This piece is quite a disturbing one, based on doomed-out drones and spooky synths, added with some spacelike elements and bizarre samples, like from exotic birds or so (?) – continuously growing and evolving towards very low-tuned and arduous distortion.
  • Cordis Cincti Serpente, Antimusa, Anticlimax (07:40): I knew this Italian project from some releases on Industrial Ölocaust Recordings. With Antimusa, Anticlimax, they bring an oppressing mixture of haunting ambience, hypnotic noises and cinematic samples, being down-earthed yet somehow uplifting as well.
  • Moloch Conspiracy, The Forest House (06:12): not a stranger at all on Eighth Tower Records’ roster, this outfit of Julien A. Lacroix, and a project I adore a lot. This contribution also mingles instrumentation with sampling and field recordings, and especially percussions and beat noises, as well as found sound sources from Mother Nature, in combination with an unusual performance on different instruments, make the whole a disturbing and confusing listening experience. The result is gloomy, even ominous in essence.
  • Static Of Masses, Rue d’Auseil (05:46): Texas based project with its roots in the Industrial scene. On a layer of sounds and samples, this entity adds screeching strings, doomed Grand Piano and chants, eventually followed by frenzy violin rape and an energetic disturbance that slowly yet convincingly marches forward with a martial attitude.
  • Ruairi O’Baoighill, Wrought (05:43): another artists on Eighth Tower Records, hailing from Ireland. With Wrought, this artist contributes in a most obscure manner. Based on nihilistic, isolationist dronewaves and repetitive samples at the background, the addition of sinister whispers and ritualistic percussions transform this sonic experience into an abyssal-meditative soundtrack for incubus-injected hypnosis and tortured prostration. This might one of the darkest works ever created by this artist!
  • Caulbearer, Storm Chants (06:10): This New York based duo combines several layers of droning synths and (metallic) percussion elements, which get accompanied by many field recordings and agitating noises, sometimes industrialized in nature, and climbing up to a mostly horrifying climax – which, eventually, will fade away into eternal oblivion.
  • Corona Barathri, Hægtesblod. The Legacy Of Keziah (09:25): a track that will appear on their upcoming new album, featuring no one but New Zealand’s Moon Chalice (Chthonia). This is a sonic definition of evil and horror, an aural ritual that causes convulsion and delirium. Moon Chalice’s voices (mainly whispered, yet oh so bleak, as well as blackened and (en)chanted) and frenzy violin lines drag you along into the abyss beyond normality, while the different layers of synth manipulation darken the suffocating atmosphere that covers this dim journey. Fine is the gothic piano melody towards the end.
  • Noctilucant, Sentenced To Drift Far Away (09:56): another fine project from American soil. Like part of the score for a Horror movie, the combination of direful keyboards and distorted sounds (plus elements like church bells) get canalized into one majestic opus magnum of a bleakest order. Sentenced To Drift Far Away permanently arouses, despite its desolate, doomed and metaphysical embodiment. The foul tranquility is insidious, for this piece secretly enthralls.
  • Melek-tha, Impertire Gloria Satanas In Medio Terrae (08:23): a great French outfit that I do follow as from half of the Nineties. They contribute with a monumental opus, a majestic, and magic, orchestration of a most obscure kind. A soundtrack for forgotten / forbidden ceremonial rituals; in a perverted way, Impertire Gloria Satanas In Medio Terrae defines an invocation of pernicious and depraved spirits. Evoking spoken words and, towards the end, operatic female chants, go well with many, thick synth layers and some additional martial percussion.
  • Apocalypse Sounds, ON (12:50): hailing from France, Apocalypse Sounds are represented with the lengthiest composition on this album, simply called ON. This piece slowly yet convincingly crawls forth, step by step, and it asphyxiates, for the icy drones and menacing ambience create sort of an apocalyptic atmosphere. It somehow biologizes, though the meditative character rather is of a violent, evil nature than a levitating or alleviating one. The crackling noises, appearing unnoticed yet suddenly overwhelmingly present, and the other initially subtly appended samples, cover the whole sonic nightmare in a poisonous mist that paralyzes and benumbs.
  • Seesar, Slightly Luminous (09:42): part of the Sombre Soniks family. This piece somehow starts with a meditative identity, with tribal percussion and floating synth lines, yet it slowly transforms into a creepy collection of wretched noises and severe sound manipulation. Strings and samples live (or die) in a grey symbiosis, lightless and ominous, threatening and disturbing until its inevitable climax.
  • Tribes Of Medusa, Subsurface (03:18): outfit of Thomas Zmuda, recently also joining Sombre Soniks’ roster. Mesmerizing and metallic guitars and ambient synth lines form an incapacious congregation, a complex and twisted yet, at the same time, disclosing entity, grotesque, resplendent, and somehow elegant too. A pity that this piece lasts for three minutes, but it is a magnificent closure for such impressive Lovecraftian tribute.