Illudium, Ash of the Womb (Prophecy Productions 2021)

The second album from California’s dark dreamgaze trio Illudium extends and embellishes the ideas of its predecessor.

Illudium is fronted by Shantel Amundson (guitar, vocals, synth), with Gregory Wesenfeld on drums and Josef Hossain-Kay on bass. Their first album, Septem, came out five years ago. The new album “was born in the fiery pandemonium of the burning season of 2020 when huge tracts of the sunshine state went up in flames, while skies glowed orange at night.” You can hear the creative destruction in the compositions as they demonstrate both clashing bursts and gradual progressions as a path for change.

Ash of the Womb is a six-track set of thoughtful ruminations, reflections, and explorations. Shantel Amundson’s voice is beautiful, filled with emotion and power. Her tone and delivery match the sentiment of the accompanying instruments at every turn and from the very beginning, with “Aster.” Shades of Tori Amos can be heard from time to time, tinging Amundson’s unique vocal delivery. Heavy guitar riffs push in over quieter acoustic layers only to retreat and live on as memories and echoes later in the songs and after the music has ended.

Every track has both heavy and lighter moments. On songs like “Madrigal,” the metal entry strains the continuum against the light and lyrical alternate expression. Elsewhere the transitions are more linear. Sounds of nature open for a couple of the songs, providing an elemental grounding from which the music grows.

“Where Death and Dreams Do Manifest” is the capstone and can serve as a sort of summary statement. I hesitate to declare a favorite because each song, while being self-contained, also is an essential and integral part of the whole. The album is an ethereal, melancholy and also insistent musical ecosystem in the macro sense, as well as in all its individual micro pieces. Recommended.

Ash of the Womb comes out on Friday, October 15th through Prophecy Productions. Bandcamp has the digital, too.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://illudium.bandcamp.com/album/ash-of-the-womb

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/illudiumband

Prophecy Productions, https://us.prophecy.de/artists/illudium/illudium-ash-of-the-womb.html

Illudium, Ash of the Womb (Prophecy Productions 2021)

Katla, Allt þetta Helvítis Myrkur review (Prophecy Productions 2020)

The new album from Katla is Allt þetta Helvítis Myrkur, and it lives up to the promise of the band’s namesake.

In their follow-up to the 2017 album Móðurástin, Iceland’s Katla continues the well-established sound of the former and extends their musical scope like a growing network of fumaroles. While that first album pushed you down with a glacial weight, the new one is darker, even heavier.

The band is Einar Thorberg Guðmundsson and Guðmundur Óli Pálmason interacting together in a musical partnership that brings the boiling black blood of the earth to the surface. The music is in the Doom universe, nearing Funeral Doom sometimes with many ambient passages. There are also more active guitar solos than you would typically find in Doom albums, a key feature that sets this music apart.

The album’s title Allt þetta Helvítis Myrkur translates to All This Damned Darkness, according to the press release, and you feel that right away. “Ást orðum ofar” opens the album with a menacing soundscape that could be a soundtrack for a particularly terrifying scene in an Ari Aster film where the violence and horror happen in slow motion and the voices of the constituents are silent while this music plays on. “Villuljos” is next and presents that first strong example of guitar solos I admire so much in this music. Beyond that, the composition of the piece is unusual in its pace changing and surprising turns.

The vocals are engaging, sometimes presented in harmony, and occasionally bursting forth. As I don’t speak the language, I hear the voices entirely as another instrument and therefore the tone and emotion are the primary impressions I receive from them when listening. In “Salarsvefn” there are strong Death Metal presentations, and in other songs, like “Hvitamyrkur,” you hear a beautiful melancholy guitar. Throughout the feeling is mystical and dark, but within the music is deliciously variegated. The title track is twelve minutes of solemn, dire music that sets up the fourteen minute closer, “Svartnaetti.” There is so much here to explore and experience that you want to hear it undistracted so you do not miss anything. Katla’s new album is a rich, dark discovery. Recommended.

Allt þetta Helvítis Myrkur will see its full release this Friday, November 13th from Prophecy Productions and available through Bandcamp. There is also a deluxe version (Luxus) that has additional music. You can order physical copies through the Big Cartel link below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://katlaiceland.bandcamp.com/

Big Cartel store, https://katlaband.bigcartel.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/katla.band

Label, https://us.prophecy.de/artists/katla/

Katla, Allt þetta Helvítis Myrkur review (Prophecy Productions 2020)