TOP 10 ambient releases of 2015 (by Simon Heath)
You most probably know Simon Heath from the Swedish project Atrium Carceri which originally released its material via the cult industrial record label Cold Meat Industry. He recorded 11 full-length albums so far, as well as 4 collaboration albums together with other artists of the genre.
In 2011 Atrium Carceri left Cold Meat Industry and Heath started the dark ambient label Cryo Chamber which established itself as a quality label in record time (the label only exists since 2012) embracing also new distribution models.
Not surprising that we asked Cryo Chamber label boss Simon Heath to give us an insight in what he considered to be the best 10 (dark) ambient releases of 2015! The TOP 10 comes in no particular order and of course includes a lot of Cryo Chamber releases (the label has after all seen a constant high quality output).
1. Wordclock – “Self Destruction Themes”
Simon Heath: “While I was featured on this release, Pedro Pimentel of Wordclock completely blew me away when submitting the final album. The beautiful cello of Amund Ulvestad is a perfect fit for the warm noise riddled serene drone works and shows just how much an artist can change his direction and still maintain the essence of his project. Wordclock is one of those artists you should be watching very closely.”
With “Self Destruction Themes” Pedro Pimentel aka Wordclock returns to Cryo Chamber, after having spent the early year working with Nine Inch Nails’ Robert Finck on the “NOCT” soundtrack.
2. Yen Pox – “Between The Horizon And The Abyss”
Simon Heath: “A majestic and sub rumbling album of golden goodness, Yen Pox seldom disappoints and there is some interesting saturation on this one.”
Yen Pox is the dark ambient project by Michael J.V.Hensley and Steven Hall. The project has released records via several different labels including Malignant Records, Circle 9, Drone Records and Cohort Records. The “Between The Horizon And The Abyss” album was released in 2015 via Malignant Records.
3. Sphäre Sechs – “Enceladus”
Simon Heath: “Sphäre Sechs keeps improving his game with each release, this one such an isolated experience that makes it the perfect backdrop for space exploration both inner and outer.”
Sphäre Sechs is yet another Malignant Records project run by Christian Stritzel and Martin Stürtzer. So far the project released 2 records, the 2012 released “Tiefschlaf” album and the 2015 released “Enceladus” album.
4. Kammarheit – “The Nest”
Simon Heath: “While this was one of those albums you go around waiting for and hype it up too much, once this on landed there was no question that Kammarheit delivered once again. As we know by now, his trademark sound of feedbacked darkness just works no matter which way you look at it. This album is as timeless as his other albums, pure black.”
Kammarheit is a Swedish dark ambient project. The only member of this project is Pär Boström, who is a resident of Umeå, Sweden. It currently is signed to the label Cyclic Law. They so far released 3 official albums (“Asleep and Well Hidden” – 2003, “The Starwheel” – 2005, “The Nest” – 2015) and several so-called ‘unofficial’ albums. You can get the latest Kammarheit from the Cyclic Law label webshop.
Note that Boström is also behind the project Cities Last Broadcast which released only 1 album, “The Cancelled Earth” (2009). Also this record was released via Cyclic Law and is mostly produced with urban field recordings.
5. Apócrýphos – “The Prisoners Cinema”
Simon Heath: “I had not heard of Apócrýphos before getting a request to do the artwork for this release, but after hearing the direction and previews of this album I was sold. Robert of Apócrýphos is delivering a whole bunch of filtered harmonic layerings which is long overdue in this genre. After a lot of back and forth studio focused dialogue between each other, it was clear we shared the same passion for this genre and had the same outlook on studio flow which lead to a collaborative album with Apócrýphos and Kammerheit the same year titled Onyx.”
The album can be ordered directly from Cyclic Law and is available on 500 copies only, in a 4 panel digipak.
Apócrýphos is the main project for dark ambient/industrial musician Robert C. Kozletsky from Indiana, Pennsylvania. After the dissolution of Psychomanteum (a project he ran together with Jakob Detelić), Apocryphos was slowly formed by the now sole member.
6. Flowers for Bodysnatchers – “Aokigahara”
Simon Heath: “This album is oddly outside the genre of dark ambient and inside it at the same time, the tracks often evolve from sadness and beauty to droney darkness and back in just a few minutes. It is the album of the year that is the hardest to just put on in the background, this piece of work is exciting and demands your attention.”
Flowers for Bodysnatchers is a project by Duncan Ritchie who went solo in 2010 after the industrial dark ambient duo The Rosenshoul went into hibernation. While the first album “S O L A R I S” was self released, it was Cryo Chamber who picked up the 2nd album “Aokigahara”.
7. Apócrýphos, Kammarheit, Atrium Carceri – “Onyx”
Simon Heath: “It feels odd putting an album on here that I was a part of myself, but I would be lying if I said I had not listened to this album a lot this year. This is the most natural collaboration I’ve ever been a part of, with Kammerheit and Apocryphos both being on the same page all the time. No inflated egos, no problems, just pure passion from everyone involved. I think this album will stay with me for a very long time and it would come as no surprise that we are all pre-planning for a followup.”
The “Onyx” collaboration album unites 3 veteran producers in the genre, Apocryphos, Kammarheit and Atrium Carceri. The signature analogue darkness of Kammarheit is combined with the layering of Apocryphos and the rhytmical and isolated pianos of Atrium Carceri. This album was created by cross linking 3 studios in Oregon (US), Pennsylvania (US) and Umeå (Sweden). It took over 3800 lines of studio notes to finalize the album.
8. Metatron Omega – “Gnosis Dei”
Simon Heath: “This album caught me by surprise, it had been many years since I heard an album with gregorian chanting and such a clear cut occult influense, it seems like something from back in the Cold Meat Industry days, yet Metatron Omega manages to fuse that style with a far improved sense of studio production making it flow well, weave emotion into it’s rises and falls and even conceptually delivers a standout effort all around. A multilayered dark occult album is a rare thing in a genre filled with overdistorted ritual ambient.”
Metatron Omega is the project by the Serbian musician Scorpio V. The dark ambient project is inspired by a variety of Eastern/Western esoteric and religious traditions. “Gnosis Dei” is the first album for the project.
9. Council of Nine – “Dakhma”
Simon Heath: “Maximillian of Council of Nine arrived out of nowhere with his Tomb of Empires split submissions and quickly caught a fan following for his sad emotional texturing and harmonical composing. The debut album Dakhma is so hard to pin down conceptually, functioning instead as a backdrop for whatever you want it to be, be it deep space, sunken temples, or a drive through forest fires.”
“Dakhma” is the debut album for the one-man project Council of Nine aka Maximillian Olivier. Based in Redwood Valley (California, USA), he was previously known for his work on the “Tomb of Empires” (2014) split album which he recorded together with Foundation Hope, Alphaxone and Coph`antae Tryr.
10. Northumbria – “Helluland”
Simon Heath: “Dorian and Jim of Northumbria has been producing and playing instruments for a very long time, both musical geniuses and it shows, the level of craftsmanship on this album is outstanding recorded live. While more cold than dark, this is an album you can repeat listen to over and over again.”
Northumbria consists of the Canadian duo Jim Field and Dorian Williamson. “Helluland” is a guitar based ambient drone album and is the product of recording sessions during late 2013 and most of 2014. It was heavily inspired the Norwegian discovery of Baffin Island in Canada over a thousand years ago. The Vikings called this new discovery Helluland… “the land of flat stone” in old Norwegian.
The project so far released 2 albums (an untitled debut on Thisquietarmy Records – 2012, “Bring Down the Sky” on Consouling Sounds – 2014) next to the current release.