Dark Awake

Album Title: 
Release Date: 
Friday, January 12, 2024
Review Type: 

The power of the will directs the destiny. And so, in the perpetual cycle of life and death that defines the tragic fate of the human, a gloomy epilogue can unexpectedly lead to an auspicious prologue…

For about sixteen years, the Dark Awake project delves deep into the ancient and archaic abysses of spiritual, occult, ceremonial, esoteric and ritual concepts, through philosophical, religious, psychological and historical contexts. All these ideas, concepts, manifests and more, get a sonic dimension via quite an impressive amount of metaphoric in-depth recordings in the meantime.

This review deals with a four-tracker that was recorded in 2022. Everything (i.e. composition-writing and recording, production, mix and mastering, yet also the artwork) was done by Shelmerdine, the human spirit behind Dark Awake, at his Fleurs Du Mal Studio. It got released on compact-disc (and digitally, evidently) via the young yet excellent Canadian label Dark Odyssey Records. That physical edition is a two-folded (or four-panel) digipack with remarkable cover artwork (is it a claw or a hand?) and intriguing inner artwork in general (created by Shelmerdine himself, as mentioned).

In ancient Greek mythology, Archemoros (or Opheltes) was the son of Euridice and the priest Lycurgos from Nemea, and who got killed as an infant by a treacherous snake. His name means ‘bringer of doom’ or, more literally, ‘forerunner of death’, referring to his young decease. It’s a fine story, yet since this is a review on an album and not about a mythological theme, I’d like to refer to your local library or the worldwide net.

Within the wider Universe we do not live in relation to anyone, we are undefined in our Being Continuity. Death will truly have no power over art. That’s an in-depth reassurance!

As said, Archemoros consists of four chapters, each of them clocking more than ten minutes (total running time: 49:19 minutes). They go on in Dark Awake’s characteristic style of mystic and occult Dark Drone, Dark Ambient, Ritual Industrial and the likes, yet each effort has its own nuances. That’s the very same right here.

The album starts with Sympan (10:32), opening with a prolonged sequence that holds the middle in between quite old styled Ambient and little astralic Drone. Of course, this gets veiled in a mostly endarkening nebula. It’s an abundant interplay of multiple synth-melodies, with doomed drones, mesmerizing harmonies, anesthetic waves and rumbling textures. The whole of the time, subtly evolving elements pass by, adding hints of finesse and elegance (yet still drenched in an abyssal obscurity). As from two third of this piece, the composer explores rather electronic fields, with the whole experience expanding into vast sonic dimensions of post-conscious majesty.

The second epic, which is the title track (Archemoros, as you know), is the lengthiest piece, clocking thirteen minutes. Initial, ethereal soundwaves mingle into territories of mysterious, even magic storytelling. It teases the listener’s brain, creating visions of misty lands, isolated areas, hidden worlds beyond imagination. Slowly, step by step, things evolve, with hints of despair and nostalgia, like memories of long-forgotten beauty. At about half of this symphony, reverberating and hypnotic electronic elements join the mystical and cosmic journey through unphysical spaces and unmeasurable moments of motion.

Lachesis (10:47) returns to the darkest notion of fate and fortune, through multifarious layers of the most beautiful yet deeply hypnotic Dark Ambient (once more). Anesthetizing at first, things (quite) soon transform into a celestial dimness, with glimmering keyboard-lines and murky shades of secretive and dismal symphonia. You feel the contiguity of impending death as well as the hope for precious vivacity. Lachesis is like a soundtrack to accompany you through questions about the nearness of mortality’s limitations.

Archemoros (the album) ends with Iapetus (11:02), which goes on in the very same claustrophobic, ominous vein as Lachesis. It’s like a confrontation with one’s Inner Eye through grim drones, melancholic soundscapes, doomy electronics, transcendental lines, and guileless drama. In a distance, industrial additions and martial aspects are secretly yet ingeniously woven into the tragic orchestration, fortifying the asphyxiating ethos that surrounds this specific composition, and in extension, the whole album.

This newest epos differs once again from all former ones, and still it floats in comparable orbits of abundant yet very sombre and gloomy ambience. It’s a narrative of life and death, inseparably connected despite their opposite character, and that’s exactly what Dark Awake’s Aural Art stands for: the conflict of beauty and transiency, the contrast of meditative resignation versus one’s inevitable prostration. With Archemoros, Dark Awake succeeds, once more, the translate these opposites, and a philosophy of man’s limitations, through majestic yet fair sonic artistry…