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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Unquiet Void

Poisoned Dreams

Review by Gary Hill

While I’m not 100 percent certain about putting this disc into the category of progressive rock, certainly the electronic, ambient texture is in keeping with some of the material of a number of the more sedate prog bands. When you consider that the uneasy nature of the music it certainly doesn’t fit into what you would think of as “new age.” This disc is the first of a trilogy that Jason Wallach, working under the name Unquiet Void is set to release exploring the works of H. P. Lovecraft. As one might guess this distinction has earned the disc a place in the book that I recently released, where Wallach shares some of his insights on the album and other things.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Troubled, Dream-Infested Slumber
This cut begins with sounds that feel a lot like wind in a storm, but they grow into a full tempest. Then elements resembling monstrous roaring and a tinking a bit like Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” emerges. The track begins growing upward ever slowly from there, and then a crescendo of noise enters to transform it. This really feels like some sort of powerful horrifying otherworldly storm for a time. Then a growing wave of keyboard textures come over the top of this backdrop to bring in new elements. While never becoming anything really musical, this one segues directly into the next number.
Cyclopean Monolith
A lot of noisy rumblings and crashing resembling an extended lightning strike start this one off. Then it drops back to more textural atmospheric tones - not yet musical, really, but more a controlled noise pattern. Eventually hints of other worldly, rather creepy music begin to emerge over this backdrop and rise ever steadily upward. Still rather cacophonic, this has a certain emotional appeal that really needs to be heard to be fully appreciated. While it is not overly “music” oriented, it really gets under your skin. Nothing happens very fast, but it does begin to take on more musical textures later. It just sort of starts to wrap around you with a dark nature that is both beautiful and unsettling. I would hate to fall asleep to this, as the dreams you would experience would certainly be (as the album title suggests) poisoned. This grows incrementally becoming more and more horrific as it carries forward. After building for the first ten or so minutes, it seems to drop back in intensity (this one is over thirteen minutes long), but the horrors just get more pronounced as odd sounds resembling monstrous voices are brought into the picture. This is one of the strongest cuts on the disc.
Necronomicon
The most musical tones thus far, in the form of dramatic keys that feel like the soundtrack to a horror film begin this one. They move along ever so slowly and methodically, carrying the track by themselves with waves of sound for quite some time. Hints of a percussive track emerge beneath this eventually, and then begin to become more and more pronounced. Then an echoey, distorted sound, not unlike an alien monster’s growling is heard several times. Then a new rhythmic structure emerges and begins growing. This feels at once more rock music like and a bit like the ticking of a clock. This rises in an almost Kraftwerk meets punk rock texture, with even hints of mid-era Hawkwind. The keys from the opening are still present even here. This rhythm basis, it must be noted, is the most rock oriented sound we’ve heard thus far and it begins taking more and more control of the composition as the other elements previously introduced seem to work their way in almost a fight for dominance over the music. As the arrangement becomes more lush, it begins to feel a lot like one of the keyboard based interludes Hawkwind frequently produces. Eventually it dissolves downward to more sedate patterns as it feels like the cut is winding down to nothingness. A scurrying, scratching sort of noise remains in the background to take the number after a time to its conclusion.
Return To Innsmouth
This one starts by rising up from the ambient sounds of the prior piece. It has a rainy day sound, but also waves of dark and dramatic keyboards hint at some sort of powerful horror that is about to begin. This moves slowly upward as it carries forward and the sounds of the sea join the ever more intense modes of the storm. After a couple minutes an electronic rhythm emerges to accompany what has dropped back to nearly just the storm and wave sounds. This rhythm takes control for a while with more of the keyboard textures occasionally wafting over the top of this. The main emphasis by this point is the drumming sounds and the nature noises merged together to create a unique soundscape. Later it becomes more musical, again in a pounding rhythmic jam that seems to call to mind some of Hawkwind’s work to a degree. This is another track on the album that is more easily accessible and a bit more “rocking.”
The Esoteric Order
This comes out of a lightning strike or explosion that ended the last track. A very creepy sort of breathing or snoring texture is in the background along with what sound like footsteps and more echoey sound effects. Then a spoken recitation of “In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming” comes in repeated over and over to create a chant like effect that is both creepy and extremely effective. More chant like spoken distorted vocals enter later, when the cut begins to take on a more rock oriented rhythmic texture. As this carries on with the recitations fighting with weird keyboards and sound effects for control, it turns quite rock oriented and actually almost catchy in a weird way. At about five or so minutes in, it drops back to just noisy atmosphere to carry forward. This section does get a bit tedious, but eventually other nearly musical elements begin to take it from there. For a short while this gets extremely chaotic, but then it moves back into a new take on the chanting type of themes. Percussion with only more of the odd sounds to accompany it then takes the track for a while before there are more groaning, growling sounding keys occasional showing up. Then another recitation, still drawn from the works of H. P. Lovecraft takes it. Eventually rhythmic sounds with just noise type sounds take it for a while, then more chanting enters. This combination eventually ends the track and segues it into the next one.
The Shadow Over Innsmouth
Opening with the sounds of storming, textural sounds that are somewhat keyboard-like in texture (are they keys?) come over top in the form of lines of atmosphere. Once again, this grows gradually upward. This one doesn’t move quickly at all, instead creeping along with only very minimal changes. Even so, it doesn’t get boring, since the sounds of the storm and other unknown horrors work to keep an uneasy and rather frightening texture to the track. Late in the number choral vocal like sounds (in fact they might be processed or sample choir voices) come in to add a drama and power to the track. It is a well-needed boost to a number that was beginning to drag a bit too much. This section serves as the outro.
We Shall Dive Down Through Black Abysses
Appropriately, weird undersea type effects start this one. Keys come over in definite unsettling waves of sound. Then a hammering, rhythmic structure comes in, followed by more dramatic keyboards as the cut builds upward. This one becomes quite lush and is another that is almost pretty, since it is more melodic than a lot of the material on the disc. This one has a sort of majestic texture to it, but also maintains a mythical horror quality and a sense of mystery. This is probably my personal favorite on the CD. It eventually drops back to atmospheric sounds and something that feels a bit like whale song to end.
R'lyeh ReRisen
The disc closer comes in with sound effects left over from “We Shall Dive Down…”. Then dark, but very beautiful waves of keys come in to join this element. The sounds merge and rise in a somewhat noisy, but still quite dramatic mode until it changes gear to resemble a noisy sort of horror film soundtrack with pounding percussion serving as the timekeeper in a nervous pattern. This is a track that becomes extremely creepy in its mood. It is also one of the louder numbers on show here. It drops back to mostly just the keys late in the piece and the arrangement is both powerful and lush. This mode ends it after a while.
 
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