Empty Chalice

Album Title: 
Ondine's Curse
Release Date: 
Wednesday, June 10, 2020
Review Type: 

[older material, but way too interesting to ignore; and a (late) promise / commitment to the guy behind the label involved; actual release-date: June 10th 2018, but since I can’t go back that far in the release date’s scroll-down-menu on top…]

HgM is the name of an Italian artist, also known as (H)organism.(G)ravemente.(M)alato., active within the Experimental / Noise / Ambient scene especially. HgM also is the entity behind the independent DIY label Ho.Gravi.Malattie, hailing from Avgvsta Tavrinorvm / Turin, Italy, which focuses ‘on noise, insanity, pain and blood’. Artists must deal with disease or disorder, listeners better do as well…

The purpose was to create a series ‘to dissect the numerous diseases that affect population’, and each release would have to refer to some illness, mentally / psychologically or physically. Several of these releases were partnerships in between HgM and other artists with, eh, psychic health problems (I admit that I, as a ‘fan’, must be as mentally ill as those fine musicians / anti-musicians, such as Fecal Vomit, N0123NOISE or Mademoiselle Bistouri), but sometimes HgM is not involved sonically.

This fourth release in that series (after investigating Hepatitis C, Tetanus and Bipolar Disorder) was done by another Italian artist, Antonine C. aka Empty Chalice. Known from explorations in crossover genres like Death Industrial, Harsh Noise, Dark Ambient, Drone and Power Electronics, it is not that strange that this project became part of the sickened tribe. With exception of the lay-out and artwork (by Omega Kunst and HgM), Empty Chalice created and executed all stuff himself.

The material is available via the contemporary digital sources, as well as on tape; the latter, however, being extremely limited, all of them individually hand-painted (thus differing from each-other) and hand-numbered, and including photo inserts. The cover picture on top is just one example.

Empty Chalice focuses on, and now I will do a copy-paste on what I found on the label’s biography, ‘the deep and dark ravages of the human mind facing the symptoms of Ondine’s Curse: a rare sleep disorder that causes alveolar hypoventilation, convulsions, cyanosis and even personality disorders’. Ondine was a nymph who put a spell on her husband after he did commit adultery. He would die if he fell asleep, for he once promised his every waking breath to her. So he better stayed awake.

The material was conceived, created, registered at The Bunker Studio in Spring 2018. It follows Empty Chalice’s This Way Is Called Black (2015) and the great Emerging Is Submerging, The Evil (2017), and offers another vision on Sonic Supremacy once again, with references to both former albums. It consists of five elegies, exploring the state of awake (The Awake), transition (II, III and, indeed, IV), and of sleep (The Sleep). Total running time: forty-five minutes and something.

The Awake is like how one desires not to be awake. This track expresses doom and claustrophobia through a symbiosis of haunting and ominous drones (including deep-rumbling strings), horrific and, at the same time, intoxicating waves of sound, and mesmerizing melodies, sometimes even shamanistic in nature. It gets interspersed from time to time (cf. the short opening sequence) by a bizarre, spacelike piece, very short but deeply effective, fortifying the eldritch essence of the underlying concept. For sure it reflects the mythologic aspects of the nymph Ondine.

Transition often comes with meditation and transcendence. II explores the hidden corners of the mind through ritualistic Aural Art, coming with a semi-religious character. Chimes and bells, divine chants and sung rituals, additional metallic percussions; a ceremony of soporific state-of-mind. III goes on within this vein, yet it’s a louder expression of solemnity, for it comes with harsh field recordings from different sources, heavier percussion additions, and wretched noises on top of the floating ambience. IV, then again, holds itself back, I mean, it’s not as harsh and intense as III anymore. However, the sphere that surrounds this third part of the transition surpasses the hazy border in between dream and nightmare. Obtrusive drones, psychedelic soundscapes, provoked percussions and clamorous strings, joined by weird field-recorded noises, are canalized into an unusual, surreal sonic package, balancing in between frenzy and energetical havoc and oppressive ambience-settings.

Sopor-related rest, however, will be achieved afterwards, although The Sleep disturbs and confuses. At the one hand, beautiful layers of synth-performed finesse accompany the listener into an hypnagogic state. However, at the other hand, shrieking and piercing aural ravishment destroys any condition of inner tranquillity or peaceful relaxation. This permanently ongoing contradiction in between contrasts characterises the whole album once more through this fifth composition. It needs endurance and persuasion, as listener, yet it creates awe and reverence, even exaltation at last.

Ondine’s Curse is a mighty epos of mentally disturbing yet aurally satisfying nature...