Cryo Chamber as a label has a very particular brand, of a type that sometimes almost supersedes the relevance of the individual artists it releases. Not to complicate things all too much, whenever this label makes a new release, at least this reviewer sometimes thinks “great, a new Cryo Chamber album” just as much as “great, a new [insert artist here] album”. If this could be viewed as a problem, it is obviously also a great advantage for the label as such – publishers of physical records rely at least somewhat on collecting these days, and it is not hard to imagine a rather solid base of Cryo Chamber completionists. Furthermore, it is equally clear that the work of Simon et al often elevates the artists at least a notch; while virtually every project signed to this Oregonian Valhalla of dark ambient has plenty of innate quality, the characteristic layouts, the quality mastering and other such typical Cryo Chamber additions are bound to add a couple of dimensions to the end product.
Randal Collier-Ford may sound like an academic whose name appears numerous times in the references of a book part of the required reading for your Sociology 101 class, but is in fact a dark ambient artist. And a damn fine one at that. Promethean explores various corners of the ambience of duskiness, while retaining the genre’s basic atmosphere throughout. Hence, we can enjoy an opener consisting of walking around field recordings, dark and guttural voices, drones, and a quite cool bass line (“The breach”), a largely piano based piece sounding a whole lot like the score of some arty-yet-dark movie (“Flesh Reconstitution”) and a very traditional drone/rumble based dark ambient track (“And Hell Followed”) – all on the same album.
Randal Collier-Ford pushes the limits of the genre at times – closing track “Rebirth Through Fire” has a regular beat, for Christ’s sake! – but the album has a great sense of continuity and coherence anyway. The mood is not despairing or miserable, but there is also very few of the more major oriented, dreamy passages that many dark ambient artists (especially on Cryo Chamber) often dare to experiment with. The adjective of choice to encompass as much as possible here would be somber. Somber and serious. Two of the tracks are collaborations – “Apotheosis” features Northumbria, “Reverence of Wounds” features Simon Heath himself. Both stick out somewhat from the other tracks, with the Heath collaboration featuring one of the rare instances of “lighter” ambient – but they complement rather than disrupt the overarching tone of the album.
Promethean is a great piece of ambient – ominous in its softness, relaxing in its ominousness. A few candles, a few beers and some Jaloviina, and you’re all set for a temporary glimpse of something better than this life. Substance abuse and escapism are often seen as expressing various forms of social maladaptation (Collier-Ford, 1965), but we’re all about the maladaptation here at Archaic Triad. The album is released on August the 8th, and is as usual already available for pre-order from Cryo Chamber.