Review: Dark Sky Burial ‘Omnis Cum In Tenebris Praesertim Vita Laboret’

Napalm Death man Shane Embury has been an incredibly busy man over the course of the last two years. Whilst his day job has been forced to sit out their usual relentless touring, he has thrown himself into his long mulled over side project, the dark, experimental, ambient electronic Dark Sky Burial. Since April 2020 under the DSB moniker, Embury has released three albums and even managed to squeeze in a rare live show this past September at the Camden Underworld in London. As 2021 draws to a close, he’s dropping the final act of phase one of the project, the fourth full-length album, Omnis Cum In Tenebris Praesertim Vita Laboret.

Dark Sky Burial ‘Omnis Cum In Tenebris Praesertim Vita Laboret’

Sonically the album picks up where the previous album, the surprise August release Vincit Qui Se Vincit left off. Moody and evoking the overarching themes of the project, the title literally translates to ‘Life is one long struggle in the dark’. Produced by Emery and long-time friend, collaborator, and producer Russ Russell, seeking to encapsulate the frustration and angst of the past few years which has seen the death of Embury’s father and other personal turmoil, not to mention the ongoing global events.

Omnis… sees Dark Sy Burial sonically spread its wings further than previous efforts, possibly as Embury has gained in confidence. The first album was largely written and conceived whilst the guitarist was off melting faces with Napalm Death and this release, in particular, feels richer and more well-rounded as the quasi-title track Omnis In Tenebis opens with high pitched synths, like the slow cycling up of machinery and crawling mechanised, clanking beats usher in a multitude of layered sounds. The track subtly builds flavours of light and shade with atmospheric choral effects before bell chimes stop the momentum and the whole process resets.

Mind Rat breaks this calm with skittering, urgent sounds built on top of a stuttering beat. Highlighted as one of the albums focal points, the track is awash with a nervous, uneasy edge that is engineered to unsettle the listener, described as disjointed, Mind Rat is designed to push people out of the warm calm that was built over the opener.

Deliberately much more dramatic in tones and tempo shifts than the previous albums, Omnis… feels much more of a complete piece of work and a storied journey. From the dub collisions of Necromanteion which follow a nervous tick feel with quiet, muted sounds, but frantic beats over ominous chanting, to the cavernous echoing and mellow deep bass groove of Splintered Reflection that morphs into dark, ambient techno, like the downbeat cousin of the Pet Shop Boys later works.

as Phase 1 draws to a close with this latest release, the project feels more alive and complete than ever…

This constant progression means that the tracks, whilst seemingly blending into the background as an incidental soundtrack at times, actually carry weight and gravitas beyond its understated feel. There are moments like on the expansive Nekyia where there are space like drifts making everything feel at peace, comparable to beautiful shots in a grandiose sci-fi movie, where the floating stillness in the echoing notes create a sense of ebb and flow, before the likes of Flesh Altar snatch you out of this and send you careening down a Pale Sketcher style freak out.

It’s hard to try and assign an emotional response to Dark Sky Burial that equates to what Embury must feel composing these complex arrangements. There is definitely a visceral element of how Omnis Cum In Tenebris Praesertim Vita Laboret makes you react subconsciously to the subtle dance that DSB have laid down with the atmospherics during the eight tracks.

The quadrilogy of albums have often been hard to define, such is the exploratory nature and just how alien they are to Napalm Death, but this latest offering is by far the most complete, mature, and evolved as the duo learn what makes each other tick, and how to get the best of out of the project.

There are times when you feel it’s a labour of love that we’ve been permitted to share in and it almost doesn’t matter what your opinion is. Embury is using this vehicle to work out his feelings and shake off any shackles and preconceptions about what ‘the guy from Napalm Death can do.

There has been an element of Dark Sky Burial finding their feet over the course of the previous releases, which given their genesis is more than understandable, but as Phase 1 draws to a close with this latest release, the project feels more alive and complete than ever.

Label: Extrinsic Recordings
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Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden