Label: Malignant Records
To be honest, I doubted myself on this one. Upon the first few listens, I had the strong feeling that Between The Horizon And The Abyss was something very special. Of course, being that this is the first album from Yen Pox in fifteen years, it was always going to be the case that it would carry some extra weight and sense of importance. But, even if that were not the case, this is still one of the best dark ambient albums I have heard in… well, ever, really. So strong was the initial impression the album created, that I had to leave it a while to make sure it would hold. And thankfully, it did; so it’s with some confidence that I can say that Between The Horizon And The Abyss is something all fans of dark music should pay attention to, as this is one of the best releases of the year thus far.
Whilst most dark ambient albums create impressions that are ghostly and fleeting, there is something stronger and more concrete to Between The Horizon And The Abyss that helps set it apart. For sure, the core dark ambient aspects are there – haunting drones and loops, the impression of space and ruin, and a deeply unsettling atmosphere. There are extra touches and aspects that help give the album a greater sense of weight and strength, though, and help leave a lasting impression. This is clear right from the first track, “The Awakening”, which opens with deep bass drones, supplemented by weaving sounds that are perhaps more musical at points than might be expected from dark ambient. “White Of The Eye” opens with something remarkably close to a riff, bringing to mind the more extreme types of doom in feel and movement (though without being so musically heavy). Such a sense of overt musicality – rather than just sound – underpins the album, with the synth movements and textures in “Tomorrow In Ruins” being a particular highlight. Elsewhere, an industrial feel is more apparent, as on the deeply unsettling “Grief Ritual” and “Cold Summer Sun”, as well as during the later parts of “The Awakening”. It’s all used to great effect, and really helps make Between The Horizon And The Abyss stand out amongst the dark ambient genre.
There is a movement toward decay in all things, though. The previously mentioned synths on “Tomorrow In Ruins” gradually fade and are overtaken by haunting noise, static and drone, re-emerging towards the end of the track in dramatic fashion. “Ashen Shroud” features wordless vocals, whose laments of loss become buried beneath the surrounding sounds, and the use of space on the track tells its own tale. Meanwhile, “In Silent Fields” gradually adds more elements and textures, building the track in to something deeply unsettling, before thankfully starting to strip itself down as it moves towards its end, and with no loss of force or effect. Special mention must also go to closer “The Procession”, which is one of the strongest tracks on here, shifting through a variety of movements and atmospheres before fading away.
It should be noted that all of the tracks on here are long – opener “The Awakening” is shortest at 6 and a half minutes, and most run over 9 minutes. They never feel excessive or repetitive, however. Rather, their length gives each track plenty of time to move and evolve, for all the ideas and textures to flow together naturally and smoothly. Crucially, it also ensures that each track has time to draw you in to its dark embrace, wrapping you in a cocoon of sound that – whilst certainly dark and unnerving – is rarely unpleasant. Likewise, it also means that the cinematic feel of the album – the visions it conjures, the stories half-told and hinted at through snippets of sound and song titles – is free to roam, with the tracks providing the inspiration for and background to all sorts of dark daydreams and visions. Played alone at night, it is quite an experience.
Even so, for a dark ambient album Between The Horizon And The Abyss is surprisingly accessible, perhaps because it has a more overly musical feel than most other records in the genre. As such, I can imagine it appealing to people who do not normally care for the style, as well as more devoted fans.
Overall, however, it’s hard to quite sum up and put in to words how strong this album is. Whereas most dark ambient albums feel interchangeable, Yen Pox have created something here with distinct character, whilst remaining firmly within their chosen style. Yet at the same time, there are hints that they could – if they chose – branch out in to other areas, expanding upon the industrial flourishes and hints of extreme doom presented here. As such, it will be very interesting to see what they produce next, even if we have to wait another 15 years for it. But in the meantime, Between The Horizon And The Abyss deserves to be recognised for the superb, stand-out release that it is.