AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Various Artists – Dracula – Music Inspired By The Bram Stoker’s Novel (2022; Eighth Tower Records)

Given its fame as perhaps the most well-known and well-studied example of gothic horror, the story of Count Dracula and the vampire hunters who eventually slay him is part of our modern consciousness. With multiple film adaptations and an absolutely massive sphere of influence, Bram Stoker’s story undergirds an entire sub-genre of not just literature but also television and movies. Its premise is simple, its horror is efficacious, and scholars still debate its statements on gender roles and immigration, two topics that remain of import. While Stoker did not invent vampires, he introduced them to popular western culture so effectively that they persist today.

Music about Dracula and vampires is also not new – this is ground well-trodden in heavy metal, for example. While the dark ambient genre has a handful of albums under the vampiric influence, these number relatively few (I fully expect someone to disagree with this statement and provide a list…). Now we have Dracula, a compilation of dark ambient material from Eighth Tower Records that specifically targets the Stoker-verse.

Contributors include, among others, Dead Space Chamber Music, Onasander, Michael Banoventure, Grey Frequency, Rapoon, Kloob, Mario Lino Stancati, and Howlround. And on the very first listen, this effort defied my expectations – there is rather little in the way of loud, grating, or unduly angular passages. Instead, these tracks are subtle, their horror psychological rather than overt. There is a strong emphasis on synth and drones, with various accompaniments. On the other hand, the album does get stranger and more abstract as it progresses.

For instance, Dead Space Chamber Music (a UK-based quartet) employs a simple yet haunting theme overlaid with airy lines from acoustic instruments and indiscernible vocalizations. Subterranean Source (Andrea Bellucci) follows up with a track that features animal noises, deeper drones, rumbling, loops, and effects. Grey Frequency (Gavin Morrow) provides the sounds of waves on a beach being slowly consumed by long-held synth chords and rattling object percussion. David Strother takes things in a different direction with woodwind-sounding lines over quiet drones and a sparse beat.

Moving on to the second half of this compilation, Rapoon (Robin Storey) contributes a track that is one of the most overtly experimental, with large shifting masses of metallic sounds. Dani Kloob’s piece is a suffocating amalgam of dark horror, with dense drones, chanting voices, and aleatoric percussion. Mario Lino Stancati explores higher-pitched noises that are largely acousmatic and impressionistic in nature. Howlround continues this trend with a set of gritty loops and patterns of sculpted sounds. Henrik Meierkord rounds things out with a return to ominous dark ambience.

Needless to say, this is another must-have release from Eighth Tower Records, and it arrived just in time for Halloween. Like many electroacoustic / ambient offerings that exhibit subtlety, this one needs to be experienced at high volume to appreciate the details.

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