Terra Sancta – Exile

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Terra Sancta – Exile CD Malignant Records 2014

The long-standing yet semi-obscured (and perhaps rather underrated) Australian dark ambient project has finally returned with a new album.  This is their third, following a long 6 year break since 2008’s full length ‘Aeon’ (…although 2011 saw the release of the ‘Sunken | Buried | Forgotten’ EP, this rather short 21 minute ‘between albums’ release simply did not achieve the pinnacle heights of the early full lengths).  So with regard to ‘Exile’, Terra Sancta is still concerned the sonic representations of windswept desert landscapes, yet on this new release there is a sense of an even greater clarity and expansive tonal breath, as in comparison earlier material was slightly more murky, echoed and ‘deep mineshaft’ in tone. With its minimalist ambience, there is also an additional undercurrent of minor keyed drone chords and buried melodies which provide a sense of vague harmonic structure and is what really makes this material shine.

‘Empires of Ashes’ and ‘Kingdom of Dust’ combine to introduce the album over a span of 15 minute which is monolithic in scope. Here the barren and windswept desert drones are offset with ambient sub-orchestral harmonics, which include synth layers which function to replicate the mood of deep resounding horns, maudlin strings and choir like vocals with truly sublime results.  ‘Celestial Extinction’ arrives as the album’s collaborative composition and features the inputs of fellow label mate Rasalhague.  As such the track differs with (ever so slightly) more movement and animation to its ebb and flow and by being a touch heavier and more bass driven brooding composition.  ‘Desolate Land’ is then positioned at the centre of the album, where the title is very much evoked through the use of ‘whipping storms’ field recordings coupled with minimalistic atonal drones.  Alternately the later sections of ‘Vanishing Point’ sees the introduction of some heavy scrapping metallic textures, but these are partially blunted in tone so as not to be obtrusive alongside the heavy maudlin synth drones (which partly resemble orchestral motions and choir like layered textures).  Being the shortest track at less than 4 minutes, ‘End Path’ concludes the album again reflecting the sound of the buried orchestral drone chords which are found throughout the album.

By now with dark ambient being a rather bloated genre, Terra Sancta handle their sound with class and style and sidestep becoming clichéd, or worse forgettable background music.  Whilst Terra Sancta do not seek to break the mould of the genre there are really a sense of something MORE within this album – the sound of a project which has been refined and elevated above even the high standards of earlier albums.  With its illustration of barren, desolate and abandoned landscapes, the imagery of the 6 panel digi-sleeve suitably rounds out the visuals of the album.

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