Ancient Mariner- Ancient Mariner


Artist: Ancient Mariner

Album: Ancient Mariner

Label: Fiadh Productions

Released: 02/27/2023

Country: Germany

Written by: Aaron Michael Kobes

Every so often, a release will come along that reaffirms one’s love for a genre, making the listener want to revisit old favorites, and explore whatever genre all the more deeply. These releases revitalizes us and excite us by either pushing boundaries, experimenting with those already in place, or staying close to home in the simple and just knocking it out of the fucking park in execution. Ancient Mariner’s self titled debut, from the mind behind Willow Tea, mixes a little of all the aforementioned, in a foreboding, yet theatrically whimsical take on Sea Synth- an offshoot of Dungeon Synth, that feels as harrowing a tale as the Latin phrase found on the Bandcamp page, Psalmi Nautae Moriendi (Psalms of the Dying Sailor).

Beginning the album is the track Through the Fog it Came, a rather standard opening to any Dungeon Synth or Dungeon Synth adjacent project, though with perhaps a bit more production and beauty. This is laid to rest after a few moments, in a fade out as a sort of retiring of the contemporaneous Dungeon Synth scene, and leaving of tranquil waters. What emerges from the fading echoes is the beginning of what makes this album truly special, a layered string synth that is the product of a surplus of dubbing to the point of lo-if overload, resonating a charm of the old DS spirit. This is before braying horns add to the cacophony of an already heavily burdened track creating a feeling of oppressive, yet malformed dread; resulting in the ebbing and flowing of sonic pressures mimicking sea swells and the watery blackness of the deepest parts of the sea. Further cultivating this atmosphere is the experimentation with Drone and Doom elements, which additionally create a depth to the piece. Through the Fog it Came then recedes upon itself ever so slightly as it diminishes towards the end of the track, lessening in intensity, but never severity.

I Fear Thee and Thine Glittering Eye, quickly follows in a rusted jaw yawn that has every bit of gristle expected from a salt-soaked derelict. The sustained focus on a singular synth chord that is brazenly simplistic yet remains fifty feet tall in presence derives a tension from focus that is a masterwork in minimalism, that drives home the oppressiveness and impending isolation. Soon there is a resurgence of the braying horns, higher in pitch than before that match the pitch and tumble of the action, a sort of allegorical differentiation between the sailors cast adrift and the swelling storm that cast them as such; or perhaps the sailors isolated amongst themselves in their despondency- each feeling adrift against the storm of others. Driving this supposition home is the alteration later in the track that then focuses on the braying horn as the subject, a screeching Drone that pierces through the lower tonality creating a harsh etherealness, before bookending the track with the yawning reverberation of a synth that seems more like a closure than anything.

Following is, As If Through a Dungeon Grate He Peered a dynamic and theatrical piece that interestingly lumbers along. At first sounding like a retrofitted soundtrack to Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages with a stabbing, yet subdued string selection that is then followed by a rhythmic introduction of percussion which all lend to a ritualized progression. Being the halfway point of Ancient Mariner, As If Through a Dungeon Grate He Peered serves as a haunting introspection or interlude that still edges into the oppressive with its momentary surges of sound walls. Tinged with bleakness even in introspection, the track continuously cultivates an atmosphere of Doom that realizes a harsh truth about our storied and pictured sailors featured within the album artwork, this storm will not abate, and it will not end without befalling a tragedy.

Entering into the home stretch of the perilous journey is the track The Horned Moon. Starting similarly to Through the Fog there is a momentary reprieve of the heavy before the overburden sound engineering makes a comeback. While there is still a maintaining of atmosphere and swaying motion to the track as we have seen on tracks previous, The Horned Moon begins to take a turn for the even darker. Just south of the halfway point of the track, when one is lulled into a sense of nigh comfort, even in the oppressive swells of the aspects of Drone, the listener is jarred when an edge of violence is interjected within the track. Created using a differentiation between razor sharp trilling to cut through the deafened fuzz, introducing an aspect of the real and tangible to what has thus far been nebulous. Following this is the final track, He Rose the Morrow Mourn, hinting at a finality of survival and perseverance, but not necessarily whole. Not only is this the longest track on the release, it is also the cleanest, in terms of production value, and leveling, with just momentary glimpses of the buzzing synths that have overwhelmed us throughout the piece. He Rose the Morrow Mourn, is an experiment in solemnity that plums the depths of the Drone and Doom aspects without sacrificing any clarity, or fully succumbing to the despondency we have experienced prior. It is a resolute track, and envisions a lone sailor standing on the bow of a broken vessel that might not see another sunset, let alone sunrise that they are casting their glance upon after such a night of harrowing adventure. Tinged with just enough hope as to not feel utterly dispirited, He Rose ends things on a note of ambient ambiguity that leaves the listener wondering what is to become of the sailor(s) and yearning to hear another tale.

Be righteous by listening to and supporting Ancient Mariner


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