Album Title: 
Release Date: 
Wednesday, February 14, 2024
Review Type: 

Slithering Black Records is quite a young label, but it fastly grew up to be(come) one of the most important and influential labels within the worldwide Industrial / Ritual / Dark / Martial Ambient scene. Handalien, Scott Lawlor, Mike Benoit, Omensworn, Fabio Keiner, Maris Anguis, Her Menacing Pet; it’s just a small selection of fabulous artists involved with this label from Rhode Island (the smallest state, by the way, from the U.S. of A.).

Insectarium (or insectarium, without the capital ‘I’) too is no stranger to this family. This outfit gets run by Joel Hinkle, who did record this album, Ensouling (grandiose title), in 2023, in his hometown, Springfield (the Illinois-based one; not the city where the Simpson family lives, hehe). Everything was done by the creator himself: song-writing, recording, production; except for the stunning artwork, which is courtesy of Omen North (who takes care of about all artwork duties for Slithering Black Records). And I know that this review needs a focus on the aural aspects in the first place, but I just feel like having a small word on these visuals too. The cover is such amazing work: an old man handing over a (human) heart to an extraterrestrial (female) being, almost passionate and seductive. Yet it’s the color palette that strikes me at least as much as the painting itself: totally black-and-white, both fore- and background, yet with the heart subtly shining in shades of gold.

Ensouling consists of seven relatively lengthy sonic creations (from about six to eight minutes, with a total running time of more than three quarters of an hour). It’s themed around love that ‘will make us do the most unholy things’, yet with a kind of dystopian, horrific context (conceptually and, explicitly, aurally as well). The loss of a loved one makes the story’s protagonist visit the darkest corners of his environment, searching for a passionate reunion with his beloved one. But how far will he go; and did he not go too far already?...

Anyway, this sounds cheesy, like a theatrical love-story. Sorry for that. Well, from sonic point of view, or listen, Ensouling is not an effort of faintly-sweet Pop Music (at all), evidently, yet a desperate jump into a blackest, bottomless void, where light, air and life are non-existent. It is a soundtrack that delves into the bleakest, most morbid pits of the mind…

Throughout the whole of the album, the tension permanently evolves and transcends. The better part is created around several layers and levels of synth-based drones and spheres, somehow melodious, yet ultimately doomed and dreary. The atmosphere is oppressive and claustrophobic, like imminent horror lurking behind the corner. Desolate drones, eerie textures, ominous waves of sound float by, intertwining into and with each-other. This gets injected by creepy sound sculpting, discomfortable samples (often from natural origin, like birds or water drops, if I am not mistaken), glowing noisescapes of metallic nature, references of industrial and electronic provenance, and the permanently returning yet, at the very same time, subtle use of different beats and percussions. It reminds me of several Lovecraftian, sci-fi-like or Horror-themed Dark / Black Ambient recordings.

In general, this record moves on slowly, which does strengthen the asphyxiating encounter. Step by step, yet without hesitation, these harmonies develop, expand, sometimes seemingly fading away, but continuously extant. Whether a chapter sounds compact and dim, or, then again, more energetic and unfurling (the title track is a great example of this sense of aural escalation; are there ritual-chanting voices at the background by the way?), it always certifies that inevitable veil of enigmatic, even ceremonial nebula.