It would appear that Russian ambient black practitioners of very dark arts Karna are no more. This is a shame as they released some excellent albums such as the excellent Raven (2006). It is not the last of them you will be hearing of here as I also have a swansong rarities compilation to review on my pile. Out of every funeral though there is a resurrection and Horth from Karna and Goatspsalm has joined forces with Asterius of Sol Solaris to give us a brand new project [Coldstrain]. The debut album I is out on what appears to be a new Russian label called Spectral Halls Productions and is a very interesting introduction to both the project and the label.
The gloomy cover art of an abandoned building sets you up for this journey and with one track spanning 31 minutes it is a long one that you can settle down with in an uninterrupted fashion as soon as play is hit. It is strange at first and noisy with voices coming out the speaker around an abrasive rumbling noise. The juddering sound is all consuming and really is unsettling, it is akin to when your washing machine goes into fast spin and you cannot take in any other sound around it. The bass heavy boom of it thunders out the speakers but weird static noises are also present then what sounds like a woman being tortured. Is this deserted urban hell a premise for a snuff movie perhaps? If it is, it is all too quick as the rumbling is back again, the torture cut off in its prime. We are in dark droning dissonance but the strange synthesized noises start to take form and mutate with bristling electric discharge. My imagination goes into overdrive, what was alive is dead and is being summoned back to life perhaps?
It all quietens and we are really in the lair of a mad scientist, samples come out the speakers and I try to place them but cannot. The hum and throb of futuristic machinery is overwhelming and cavernous; I find myself both mesmerised and terrified. The mind is a terrible thing to taste, close your eyes and see what crawls out of it around these soundscapes of dread and doom. After a long ambient passage you are snapped back into digital hell by humungous spikes of noise and rasping voice that sounds like it is trying to break through from hell. Like a good horror film you realise that you have been lulled into a false sense of security but it is futile, there is no escape here at the half way mark.
Passages expand and then flow into other parts, although this is listed as one distinct track and should be listened to it as such there are defined breaks of pace and the sound and tonal aspects do change. We are now in more radio static with speech eerily coming out the speakers, the fact it is Russian makes it all the more alien to me. Nothing is rushed, the sounds are almost breathing as they take form. A mournful tone can be heard almost weeping in the background and suddenly we go into a structured part with guitar being strummed and loudly reverberating around everything else. It is the first time we hit anything structured amongst this otherwise chaotic realm but thankfully it fits in. Whispering and sinister vocals are there, what else can this deliver as time is running out? Will the climax be fitting, will hell take control?
Well that would be telling.
What I will say is that this is a richly imaginative piece of work which will no doubt be appreciated by those with rich imaginations. It is going to be getting a lot of late night plays from me whilst settled down with a good novel. It is totally original stuff and will easily be enjoyed by anyone who likes dark ambient, soundtracks, noise, drone and bands as diverse as Gnaw Their Tongues, Urfaust and MZ 412. Check it out but be sure to take a change of underwear.
(7/10 Pete Woods)