When I first saw the announcement for this release, I ended up with a lump of disappointment in my gut. The reason was simple: a few seconds I thought that Dark Age Productions had decided, and received permission from, Akrabu to reissue their old material on CD. When I realized I had read too hastily, my happiness faded. Not because of Akhkharu, mind you, whose music I had simply never heard. Luckily, it took only a brief time before D.A.P. actually did decide, and did receive permission from, Akrabu to reissue their old material on CD. Because of this, now that the promo has arrived, I can finally engage with this reissue, safe in the knowledge that Akrabu is also on its way.
Akhkharu released a few tapes in the mid 90’s, that wonderful time in human history when music peaked, presaging a fall from which it would never recover. Dark Age Productions, in its original tape-oriented manifestation, released Nos Noctium Dominarium in 1996. The reissue is on CD as well as on cassette, and has been lovingly and non-invasively remastered to deliver on all or most frequencies.
The style was and remains ritual ambient/dungeon synth of a sort still quite rare in today’s resurrected DS scene. There are more or less epic synthesizers, music samples and timpani percussion – the epicness being a wee bit impinged by the production. Other parts are more low-key and ambient, dark such of course. Over all of this, massive amounts of ritualistic vocals worm their way. It’s mainly spoken word, though there are also chants, whispers and growls to round things out. In a way, this is a more sinister version of other D.A.P. classics like Equitant’s The Great Lands of Minas Ithil, though it is more experimental.
Conceptually, the album deals with vampirism and black magic connected thereto, which (considering the project is American) made me think of Baron von Abaddon of Black Funeral, Valefor and Darkness Enshroud fame. His long interview answers on topics vampiric filled many a fanzine page back in the day. Perhaps not surprisingly, Michael Ford (i.e. Mr. Abaddon) is actually credited as a member on the band’s Discogs page, bringing great glory to my name and my ability to detect the presence of underground celebrities in various bands and projects.
It would be possible to go on for quite a while trying to define this music: mystical, lo-fi yet well-composed, heavily experimental yet rather clear in its musical and conceptual direction, etc. In the end, the evaluation of Nos Noctium Dominarium will probably come down to two issues: atmosphere and production. I didn’t hear Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas until well after 2000, and I still immediately recognized it as akin to the other Norwegian classics with which I grew up. In a similar way, the distinct sense of porta-studio produced American atmospheric dungeon synth, from a time before the genre received its name, colors my perception of this album to a point where objectivity is impossible. This is goddamn awesome. It brings back memories of forest beer drinking sessions, and candle-lit boy room sessions of musing about the world and reality with wholly unjustified confidence.
The roughness of the sound, the upfront spoken word, whispers and growls, and the obvious cassette origin of the entire album, mastering aside, may be off-putting to some sensitive souls with bad taste. Given that this is not meant for them and their terrible, metalcore-infested lives, we must still endorse this, and endorse it hard. Iä! Iä! Akhkharu!