Monocube: The Rituals
Malignant Records

There's no shortage of dark ambient available these days, but anyone hankering for the darkest of the dark need look no further than The Rituals by Ukrainian artist Monocube (real name Andrzej Gladuszewski). It's no exaggeration to describe some moments on this release as so extreme they suggest a new genre classification like snuff ambient might be in order.

The second Monocube full-length on Malignant, The Rituals takes no time at all to set its bleak, all-consuming soundworld in motion. At the outset, “Visiones III” plunges the listener into some cavernous lair, one buried so far beneath the ground no surface creature will ever hear its inhabitants' moans, after which “Drowned Sun” pushes the album's sound to even more horrifying levels with a monstrous array of piercing tones and muffled noises suggestive of ancient tribal rites. The zenith is arguably reached in “Totem Incantation” when sickly groans intone alongside shrill howls and violent reverberations. If ever a piece of music simulated convincingly the sounds one expects would emanate from a torture chamber operating at peak capacity, it's this one.

Misery loves company, as the saying goes, and to that end Monocube's joined by collaborators Apocryphos, Treha Sektori, and Asmorod on separate tracks. There are times when the album feels like a single, protracted shriek, but not everything on the album is so severe: with Apocryphos and Asmorod respectively involved, “Downwards” and “Initiation” feel almost pastoral compared to some of the other nine pieces, even if by dark ambient standards the tracks are still black as coal, and some semblance of sanity is maintained throughout “Fires Shifting – Nocturnal Motion,” its thirteen minutes evoking the image of a ruined, smoldering cityscape long abandoned by humanity. Listen to The Rituals on a high-quality system at peak volume and you might find yourself irrevocably transformed by the experience. It certainly could turn out to be one of the most terrifying hours ever spent in a recording's company.

January 2017