Industrial mind games greet us. This would normally be the intro and then we would move onto other things, but this is En Nihil. The clue is in the name. This band, which has been around since 1994, specialises in capturing through their darkly ambient experimentation and deathly industrial sounds the “ongoing apocalypse”, as they call it. A US version of Blut aus Nord? Same ballpark, I’d say.
So as we leave “The Tombs of Empire” and enter “Frozen Postures”, the winds sweep across the cosmically industrial soundscape. The cold isolation recalls “2001: A Space Odyssey”. It’s quiet and unspeakably ominous. “The Heart Relent” is more calming. The indistinct echoing may be the sound of whales. The notes are lengthened, there is the sound of birds and it’s less sinister momentarily. Within this layered structure is an eerie air which runs through the background, foreground and middle. There is the occasional cry as if there are the remnants of life in the middle of a forest. Faint human strains however are overwhelmed by a magnetic power, and it is no surprise that there is a return to industrial processes. The heat and the sparks can be felt. “Human Animal” is like being in a steel factory. This particular piece of ambient darkness seems to concentrate on process, before being interrupted by a terrible wailing. Then it stops. So too does “Futile Man – The Weight of Absolution” tamper with our brains. A typically plodding industrial electro beat is accompanied by the high-pitched squeal of a train braking. The train starts up again after its stop. Somewhere there’s an attempt at communication with an alien outside world. But it’s like reaching out into a darkness where you can’t see anything. Crackling sound waves contrast with the steady ethereal element. As it ends with a hammering sound, I wondered what’s the point? But those “extemporaneous noise bursts” go with the solid black atmosphere. Somehow that is the point.
An avalanche occurs in this cosmic obscurity. The destruction is relentless. From a musical point of view it’s repetitive. Not for the first time, the interesting development occurs at the end of “Souls to Cease”. The switch is turned to “off”. Then “Vulture Reign” is like a conveyor belt with ghastly sounds all around it. The process may be fluid but it sounds as if the machine needs a bit of oil. Electronic waves drill into the listener’s brain. It stops. The intrigue and uncertainty at the same time come from the indistinctiveness of the sounds. That must be the attraction. In that cosmic crackling, it’s not clear if someone is sawing metal or is there something rubbing on the machine. Nothing that a bit of maintenance wouldn’t sort out, I’d suggest. It’s very repetitive. Finally, a Kraftwerk-style strain emerges. It’s pure and out of keeping with this ultra dark affair. After a slight pause, the mood becomes darkwave, gothic and funereal. The winds blow in the background of “Darkfall”. It sounds like there’s a harpsichord but in common with most of this, it’s never clear what it is. The atmosphere is bleak and cold, Burzum-like in fact. In the distance there’s a rumble of thunder or is it an avalanche?
“The Approaching Dark” is a strange album. Although repetitive in accordance with its apocalyptic theme and its representation of lifelessness, it is nevertheless very atmospheric. The slant of the atmosphere changes, and the indefinite sounds invite the attempt to define the experiences that En Nihil create through their dark and ambient music. “The Approaching Dark” is interesting and disturbing.
(7 /10 Andrew Doherty)