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A deeply unsettling and moving work of raw depressive ambient BM - 83%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, January 23rd, 2019

Spell of Dark is the solo project of V T who was living in Astrakhan when he first formed the project back in 2009 with the aim of expressing the vast expanses of the Russian landscape and the nature of winter, and the legends associated with it, in his country. Intro track "The Breath of Cold Silence" may be more fiery and aggressive than freezing-cold and forbidding, but it's a good introduction to the SoD style: old school melodic depressive ambient BM with a guitar sound that bleeds harsh paint-stripping noise, rapid-fire blast beat percussion, ominous ghost rasp and muttered vocals, and a droning synth background. The one thing that really sends your body temperature below zero Celsius is the susurrating wind sweeping behind the solo raindrop guitar riff in the ambient instrumental coda.

"Frozen Lands and Horizons" is a deathly bleak number of droning raw guitar tones, pained synth melody and whispering ghost vocal. The depressed music, repeating listlessly over and over, builds up through splattery acid guitar corrosion and sedate percussion into a dark and powerful entity that burrows deep into the brain with that simple yet bleak repeating motif. V T might not bring much new to depressive BM but he sure knows how to extract the most desolate and painful emotions from the layers of painful guitar texture and doleful lead melodies. There are some great rhythm hooks in the later moments of the song. Just when you think this recording couldn't be sadder and more despondent than it is, along comes "Light of Winter" with a piano melody sure to get you out of your funk long enough to look for a long rope, a chair and a high enough tree branch. The ubiquitous synth wash might be cloying through sheer repetition, and the guitars do little more than burn holes through your brain, but eventually a quite catchy pop tune (even if it is slow) develops and ends up in sheer guitar noise burn.

Those listeners who haven't done themselves in at this point are treated to a bonus instrumental track of muted keyboard melody drone that sounds a bit like an old archaeological relic found in an abandoned building of the sort you'd find in Andrei Tarkovsky's famous post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie "Stalker". A solitary guitar riff, dark and a bit subdued, starts up and keeps repeating all the way to the end. The general feeling throughout the song is one of fatalistic resignation.

While V T doesn't seem to do much here, technically anyway, the general mood throughout the EP is intensely desolate and often the music is deeply unsettling. The use of whispered vocals, shrouded in cold reverb, turns out to be more effective than the expected raspy shrieking. Clear solo guitar melody contrasts with layers of harsh scourging noise guitar texture or treated keyboard wash to produce feelings of cold, severe alienation. The low-key subdued approach here produces a work of deep emotional power. Pity that the EP is so short - but then if it were any longer, any fans it gains would probably end up doing themselves in ...