Phelios – Gates of Atlantis CD Malignant Records 2013
For long term fans of the dark ambient genre there can inevitably be a degree of presumption of what a new album will sound like, particularly given the parameters of the style have now been long established. So whilst Phelios broadly aligns within a dark ambient style, the project does manage to carve out a particular niche of their own with their animated and dynamic approach (…which is primarily achieved through the infusion of strong compositional structures).
On their previous offering (2010’s ‘Astral Unity’) that album encompassed a brooding cosmic / sub-orchestral style, which included the occasional use of prominent percussive / rhythmic structures. On ‘Gates of Atlantis’ Phelios has continued within this established template, but this time around have increased the focus on the deep tribal/ percussive aspects. As such the opening title track is an excellent example of this approach with its moody sub-orchestral brass, mid paced tribal percussion and melodic song structures. From this launch point the album then moves through a wide variety of sounds and textures. Some passages display a degree of restraint, such as the deep sweeping cosmic radiance of ‘Temple of Yith’, whist ‘Spiritual Possession’ storms out of the gloom with a pounding almost militant percussive streak set against doomy layered synth lines. Mid album track ‘Hibernation’ arrives as another album highlight, delivering brooding widescreen drones which are underscored by rolling percussion which falls somewhere between a tribal and militant tonal aesthetic. On the concluding track ‘Ascension’, as the title might suggest it is lighter in tone with a hint of the serene and the ethereal, which sets it apart from the heavy sub-orchestral gloom of material which precedes it.
Given that much of ‘Gates of Atlantis’ inhabits a strong compositional framework, its atmosphere is highly dynamic rather than benign or abstract, which is a pitfall dark ambient music can occasionally fall into. Likewise in recognition of the song based structures, interestingly these seem to ever so slightly hint at influences from other ‘electronic’ music genres, which in part explains the individuality of Phelios’ sound.
For the cover imagery, this acts as a pertinent visual representation of the breadth and scope of the album (…a shadowy miniscule figure stands entirely diminutive against a massive imposing structure which extends out of frame…). What this image visually articulates can be easily applied to audial aspects of ‘Gates of Atlantis’. That is, Phelios composes music of such an imposing nature and colossal scale it all but dwarfs a mere human scale perspective. In a word – monumental.