Writing your band name in a clever fashion may feel like a good idea, but makes trouble for reviewers who want to utilize proper English spelling. Since Ramon Moro, the man behind daRKRam, has chosen to spell his project’s moniker with an unconventional mix of capital and lower case letters, we are now unable to ever put the band name at the beginning of a sentence. Combined with the musketeer mustache of mr. Moro, this must be seen as a challenge. A challenge we accept!
For reasons completely inexplicable Stone and Death – the debut release of daRKRam – is promoted as “dark ambient black metal”. The first two words make perfect sense, the second very little. The notion of black metal either refers to a very specific musical sound, which most of the readers of Archaic Triad are probably familiar with, or a specific ideological niche (originally pure satanism, later augmented with various forms of paganism and fascism and the pure poser activity of being “against religion” or whatever). None of these things apply to daRKRam, and to speak of this project while speaking of black metal is mainly confusing. The idea is not entirely taken out of the blue, though. There are heavy similarities with the atmospheric works of Burzum, from the point of view of mood, which is probably why anyone ever got to talking about black metal to begin with. Maybe you could speak of “dungeon synth” – except there are little to no synthesizers to be found here.
Ramon Moro (possibly related to Aldo Moro, the beloved Italian Christian Democrat politician kidnapped and murdered by the Red Brigades in 1978) is not your typical rock musician. With a background as a trumpet player in genres ranging from Jazz to progressive metal, he has a grip on music which most underground metalheads will never have. On Stone and Death he utilizes his audial weapon of choice in very interesting ways, and together with the flugelhorn it serves to create a rather uncommon and peculiar atmosphere.
Droning and dark, but in many ways utterly different from the type of dark ambient most industrial and metal fans may be used to, daRKRam masterfully creates musical landscapes whose implications go far beyond the rather simplistic titles. Naming songs things like “Male Role” and “Reaction to Conflict” creates connotations which, at least to us, seem a bit limited and too worldly to really express the sublime, almost transcendent qualities of the music. Because this is good. Any complaints we might have on the choice of genre, band moniker or song titles pale to insignificance before the exceedingly fascinating sound constructions weaved by Moro. This is no mere imitation, no genre dark ambient – the instruments used and the creative spark involved indeed moves this closer not to Jazz (about which we give zero copulations, pardon our French and lack of “culture”), but to classical music. Which you either love or don’t understand.
Whether we’re talking about the Cold Meat Industry-sounding “Connection” or the pulsing, dream like drones of “Work” building up to a truly intense, cinematic climax spanning most of the track, this is absolutely brilliant for all its darkness. In the closing track “Inner Essence”, as well as in other compositions, the ambiance is complemented by explicit, articulated melodies performed on trumpet, and the overall impression is one of competence and musical extremism combining to something close to a perfect storm. The commercial potential of this recording is difficult to assess, but luckily that is not our task here. Suffice it to say, any fan of dark ambient (and, despite it all, also many a fan of black metal) should give daRKRam and this album a serious, thorough listen. Perhaps two.
Stone and Death is unleashed on the 26th of February by Club Inferno Entertainment.