It has been a while since I have had the opportunity to catch up with the work of Dark Sky Burial. For those unfamiliar, the project is the brainchild of Napalm Death bassist Shane Embury. The extreme metal stalwart had been experimenting with ideological concepts for his dark electronic music for a long time until the focus of the pandemic allowed him to finalise his ambient soundtrack.
Having revealed the first in April of 2020, he would release a flurry of albums between then and July of 2023, bound together by thematic concepts and complicated Latin titles.
Seemingly unstoppable in his pursuit of exploring this project to the full, Embury is back again with the latest attempt to mix sonic experimentation and a desire to delve into the big questions of the inner workings of his identity. Unlike the previous releases, the new statement under this banner marks a shift in concept and features a title those unwilling to attempt to pronounce the previous names can actually say.
And A Moon Will Rise From My Darkness is based around the stages of the Alchemical Process with each of the first seven of the nine tracks named after the steps and signed off with some musing thoughts that connect to the overall theme. In an apt metaphor, the stages have values that are seemingly hidden under obscure symbolism but relate to spiritual development with the ultimate end goal being a state of awareness, harmony and completion.
This certainly seems true for Embury, who reflects on the past few years that give weight to this project as having, ‘raised challenges to my question of self… and what is really important to me my true identity’.
This searching the self for deeper layers has given rise to a freedom of exploration, informing the loops and beats that have been swirling around for years, now emerge in what is the most hopeful and sonically light of all the Dark Sky Burial albums thus far.
Calcination in alchemic terms is turning the prima material (the starting base of all matter) into ash. In spiritual terms, this is seen as a starting point, the breaking of attachments to the physical world, numbing ourselves to start a joinery and is represented here by mechanical crackling and swirling drones that ebb and flow like dusty machinery beginning to work after years of inactivity.
This nagging, skittering is joined by other metallic ringing sounds that almost evoke church bells and a sense of beginning and rising anticipation. This isn’t going to fill any dance floors and those new to Embury’s work here should strap themselves in for a different kind of ride.
the most hopeful and sonically light of all the Dark Sky Burial albums thus far…
The chemical process of Dissolution is to take the ashes from calcination and dissolve them in water. Likewise, the track has the subtle sounds of water running through it as growing walls of synth, twinkling sounds and samples begin to emerge feeling very much like the lapping of waves washing against a shoreline, before growing in urgency as a feeling of tension rises with stabbing sounds that are almost human in their vocalisations.
Separation, where the alchemist separates the products of dissolution, sees a breakout of keys and is slightly shocking in the ability to resemble a conventional song in format. Lighter than air, its bolstered by choral effects and bird-like calls that ring through the track. Given the heavy, oppressive nature of the majority of the music associated with Shane Embury and Dark Sky Burial, this is a notable departure.
In Conjunction, the elements deemed worthy in separation are combined into a new substance and musically the track picks up on the upbeat feel of the previous, with a stuttering beat and playful sounds coming through which means that And A Moon Will Rise From My Darkness works in a much more defined thematic relationship with itself that creates a linear journey of evolution.
Putrefaction-Fermentation represents bacteria and other living organisms being introduced to the substance to continue its breakdown and immediately the track is darker, more menacing and claustrophobic at the outset and almost straying into Godflesh territory. In the spiritual sense, this phase denotes the challenges and trials we must face and interspersed with this creeping darkness are breakout moments of light that lift the mood.
In Distillation, the solution is then boiled and condensed in order to purify the substance and sonically this is a harder, more dub-washed track than initially expected, but again retains that ringing major key clarity. It returns to a structure that resembles more of a conventional song, making this release something of an interesting prospect as moments could easily be taken from the confines of the concept with ease.
The last elemental track, Coagulation, details the substance being crystalized into a solid state and has a strength of finality to the music that sweeps with drama and would befit a film score, making the core elemental journey a remarkably satisfying one for the listener, something that Embury has found gratifying in the composition process and has talked of utilising solid themes more often on future albums.
The last two entries, the title track and Projections Of My Unconcious (sic) revert back to more familiar territory for long-time listeners, the latter of which dates back some fifteen years, so it is unsurprising they are darker and more gothic sounding in nature, but as the man himself describes they’re ‘bleak with a faint fresh smell of promise’.
Dark Sky Burial is a deeply personal project for Embury and one he clearly finds much peace and joy in the exploration process. The newest addition to his catalogue is more accessible than almost all of the previous releases. That is not to say it will strike a chord with everyone, but to expect that would miss the point.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden