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the ultimate expression of a frozen soul - 99%

sublime_wreckage, July 21st, 2011

I'm actually of the opinion that this is Protector's best moment from any music genre he's dabbled in. Ultimately this will be one tough nut to crack for fans of Summoning, DKVE, or even darkwave & dark electro-industrial music. I've known numerous folks into the cyber-goth scene and a good majority of them find this tedious. So understand that I do not exaggerate when I say this is music for less than 0.1% of the world's population. The truth is that it's an utterly unique take on the modern, dark industrial genre. Its stark, sable sophistication stands as a monolith of epic radiance, eclipsing numerous inferior groups supposedly fraternal in nature. This Killing Emptiness innovates, and not because it seeks to, but simply because it is sincere, reflective and quixotic. A singularity, nevertheless, and completely alien in its framework from the vapid circle of countless electro-ebm groups, all utterly contrived and clawing for the top of the "industrial" scrap heap, so to speak.

As you may, or may not, have imagined, the music on This Killing Emptiness is cold, lurid, mysterious, somber, and full of pain; and virtually unlike anything you will hear abroad. While most groups that get lumped with this project seem content to make repetitive, up tempo dance music, Ice Ages' focus is on plodding, slow and calculated mid-level measures. The beats make heavy use of polyrhythms, and are fairly intense most of the time, yet the tone takes on a clearly introspective and imaginary intent at several junctures. The majority of the songs achieve these respective ambitions through a simple, but extremely effective formula that typically consists of a healthy balance of additive and subtractive synthesis; perhaps making use of frequency modulation, phase distortion, or even physical modeling, but without reference it's difficult to say with any certainty. The primary focus seems to orbit around the construction of other worldly atmospheres and this is accomplished through slick, but unusual, string/brass melodies that initiate, or sustain entirely, the expressive lead rhythm, and slow, moody waveforms which often provide the illusory expanse of space or miles of frozen tundra as the backdrop.

Commanding the listener's attention in many instances is the explosive percussion track which often utilizes reverberation and abrasive filtration to positive effect. At times the bass kicks, with their processed and mechanical timbre, thunder and boom through the mix via copious amounts of delay... rendering a rather spacious and impressive sound. Other times the reverb is foregone in favor of pure distortion, and the rest of the percussive components pick up the slack, crashing down and cracking around the listener like military air raids, each as dynamic and destructive as the last. And all of this is executed according to procedure, with the aim that arrangements build upon themselves with successive stratification, until a fairly intense, harmonic structure unfolds. More or less, this is managed through escalating various percussive rhythms which counterpoint the remaining, multi-layered frequencies in a particularly profound way. The resulting effect is rather poignant, easily holding the listener cogently spellbound in its wake.

The final aspect which makes quite an impression is the vocal track; being equally as callous and suggestive as the music itself, the vocals consist of deep, baroque harmonies that are modulated to a harsh, cavernous effect. Perhaps even more impressive is the poetic and emotional lyric sheet, which, when rendered in the given medium, pierces the imagination with visions of a post-apocalyptic, nuclear winter world, centering around anthropic themes of loss, isolation, longing, resentment, consternation, et al. I suppose the closest relative to the music found on This Killing Emptiness might be darkwave/goth artist Adrian Hates, of Diary of Dreams, but his modus operandi is less caustic and certainly more humane than this. Anyway, the compositions on TKE are so potent and addictive, its hard to imagine a better offering in this particular style---provided you can find any other performing artists of similar ilk.

I suppose the real brilliance of This Killing Emptiness is that true beauty can be found within its embrace despite the foreboding tone. Clearly, I feel we're dealing with a graduated and classically trained musician here, as every aspect of the arrangements are well-thought out and purposeful, yet not coming off contrived or laborious. Make no mistake about it though, this is unequivocally dark, industrial music and Richard is sublimely adept at what he accomplishes here. Perhaps the most important issue is whether to buy this one or not, and I would have to argue against that. If you happen to be so inclined, however, you must account for the idiosyncratic and personal nature of Ice Ages before taking the plunge into This Killing Emptiness. For me, it simply astounds on each and every listen, but I can't deny that the average music adventurer would turn away with only the coldest, bitter feelings about it. If you do happen to enjoy the odd and unusual, by all means, check it out by way of download at least once before shuffling off this mortal coil. Don't be surprised if it's just a bit too inhospitable and distant though, as this is music undoubtedly very few will come to identify with or appreciate. 99/99