Dead Melodies is a UK dark ambient act which seems to have come into existence rather recently. Accelerating from zero to a hundred quickly Tom Moore, the man behind the project, is now about to release his debut album on Cryo Chamber. Legends of the Wood is described by the label as “a journey through the isle of mist”, and that is indeed a description as good as any. Like many Cryo Chamber releases, this album paints a picture – but while many dark ambient acts focus on massive things moving in the dark, post-apocalyptic hellscapes or occult mysticism, Dead Melodies is half nature romanticism and half ghost story.
Non-synthetic sounds abound, with waves coming in, winds blowing, birds chirping and trees creaking. The synth sounds are fairly concrete and structured, only going for the traditional ultra-long attack time drones when it fits just right. Granted, that is quite often, as in the closing track “Beautiful Coalesce” and the droning anthem “Peach Black Descent”. Often, however, Mr. Moore is perfectly content with playing slow, beautiful melodies over thick layers of field recordings.
Speaking further of the field recordings, they may be a major reason why much of this album feels rather grounded and common sense-like. Having spent much of my life on various islands, I can easily relate this music to many an evening walk in less-than-optimal weather conditions. Oceans, fields, winds and a trickle of rain. The occasional assembly of malnourished trees, struggling to survive on what is basically a pile of rocks in a massive body of water. Other times, the mind travels rather to mires and – of course – moorland. All that being said, as the initial paragraph hinted, this sense of the natural world constitute only half of the album’s total atmosphere.
Many of the titles, as well as many darker passages, hint of classic ghost stories rather than stiff-upper-lip hiking in the wild. Novels like Le Fanu’s Uncle Silas or Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables would be obvious references. Turning to the world of movies, it may well be that the British origin of the project has colored my perception, but I sense more than a little Hammer Horror here. Not that the music actually sounds much like an oldie horror flick soundtrack, but somehow it fits right in with the ambiance of something like The Gorgon (1964). Finishing off the free-form association game with a little television, the 1988 TV movie Sherlock Holmes: The Hound of the Baskervilles, starring Jeremy Brett needs to be mentioned as well. Once again, not sure how much the nationality of the artist plays into all of this, but have a listen and see if you agree.
Legends of the Wood is released in a couple of days, on May 16th, and is as usual available as a great looking digipak and a fine digital download.