Welcome to what is certainly the article with the longest title ever featured on this site. I doubt I’ll be seeing a trophy in the mail for this any time soon, but I digress. We always delve into dark music here at Nine Circles through our exploration of various forms of extreme metal, but Rainbows in the Dark gives me a chance to explore a different kind of darkness, and there is hardly a better vehicle than Common Eider, King Eider‘s new album, an imposing slab of dark ambient music.
Dark Ambient is an interesting beast. Ambient music on its own is formless enough to where no two artists will have the same take on it, but dark ambient music usually also incorporates elements of spiritual or esoteric ideology, making it even more personal and also harder for the casual listener to wrap their head around. Common Eider, King Eider would be an artist that I would recommend to someone who was looking to get a foot in the door of this dense genre. Though the collective has been releasing music since 2009, it wasn’t until last year’s Extinction (released on the fabulous and wildly underrated tape label Sol y Nieve) that I first was introduced to the group. Their ritualistic, nature-worshiping brand of dark ambient instantly enchanted me, and now the hooks have sunk in further with their newest offering, Shrines for the Unwanted, Respite for the Cast Aside.
Shrines is a sparse album, but one that easily draws the listener in. Steeped in a hazy atmosphere, the reverb-soaked instrumentation and clacking percussion (when there is percussion at all) evokes the feeling of sitting in a foggy woodland in the early morning. This fosters quiet contemplation and introspection, while simultaneously providing enough interesting sounds and textures to keep the listener from tuning out entirely. The centerpiece of the album is its twenty-five minute closing track “Litha.” Featuring guest vocals from Sutekh Hexen’s A.C. Way, this track encapsulates the entirety of what Common Eider, King Eider is capable of. Moving from a dark and nebulous intro, “Litha” builds into a crescendo of unsettling noise, featuring Way’s yelled vocals, feedback, and ominous droning tones. Then, just when the tension builds to a maximum, things do a 180 degree turn, and the song leaves quietly, in whispers of looped feedback. While not as soothing as some ambient music can be, there is catharsis here, like a deep breath after a stressful day has passed.
Common Eider, King Eider have succeeded here in creating an album that will appeal to both newcomers and devotees of the dark ambient genre. There is enough ritual darkness here to please diehard fans, yet there are enough elements of more structured music to keep the attention of anyone who might otherwise find the experience uninteresting. The band even included a visual component in the form of an accompanying photography book, featuring shots of the band’s recent European tour. Shrines for the Unwanted, Respite for the Cast Aside is a monolithic experience of an album, but one I would highly recommend.
Shrines for the Unwanted, Respite for the Cast Aside is available now on Sentient Ruin. For more information on Common Eider, King Eider visit their Facebook page.