Band: Rites of Fall
Title: Towards the Blackest skies
Release Date: 23 August 2019
Format reviewed: MP3 320kb
I wouldn’t consider myself veteran of dark ambient, but I have spent a significant amount of time trying to explore this genre and so I can say that I am familiar with it and I know what to expect when I start listening to a record. Even though the music can be characterised as being somewhat simplistic, along the way I found variations of the formula that I enjoyed. And then I discovered RITES OF FALL, that just threw conformity to the wind.
This project hails from Poland and “Towards the Blackest skies” is the debut full-length, released two years after a short EP. The album consists of eight tracks that add up to 41 minutes of play time. What first drew me to this record, was the cover. It had a very mysterious air to it and it also gave me a familiar feeling, but it took me a while to figure out why that was. It reminded me of M. C. Escher’s famous lithograph print, “Relativity”. Granted, the artwork doesn’t resemble it that much, but I believe the music does.
What makes “Relativity” special is the fact that in the picture there are three gravity sources. Each of the characters depicted obeys only one of said sources, so if you isolate each figure, there is nothing peculiar about them, but taken as a whole, the print depicts something that defies the laws of nature. In a similar fashion, “Towards the Blackest skies” has different points from which it can relate to the keyword “dark”, but it does not make this album odd, but rather enchanting. For example, “Void Instinct” has an industrial sound, with a prominent bass beat pounding almost for the entire duration of the track, at different intensities, creating the image of a dystopian city choked by smog. However, the title track goes in a different direction, forging a picture of a cold, empty space with a vast soundscape and a calculated build-up that ends only with a clear synth and the same huge sound, while “Continuum” injects a feeling of anxiety with a thumping beat, like a disturbed heart, and a vertigo-inducing synth.
All these different approaches make this album shine. Even if these diverse sounds and textures should resemble a stitched up monster like in “Frankenstein”, the record is surprisingly cohesive, and all that is due to the fact that every song revolves around picturing darkness. Another aspect that separates RITES OF FALL from its piers, is the fact that the songs are surprisingly dynamic and gripping. The first time I started playing it, I did it while I was preoccupied with other things, but I ended up putting everything else on hold so I could process what I was listening to and that was something that never happened to me before with a dark ambient record.
“Towards the Blackest skies” is more than a fine album. It’s damn near perfect. I just wish it was longer. 41 minutes feels rather like a teaser, but even with this short play-time, there is a lot to unpack. There is no reason to sleep on this memorable and compelling record. 9/10 Metal Gentleman
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