As with their previous full length, the latest album of Equimanthorn's mesmeric Sumerian-influenced soundscapes also comes to us from the Dutch label From Beyond, which normally specializes in cult death metal and grind releases. There's nothing metallic in the slightest with the music of Equimanthorn, though, even though the band is made up of members of the (similiarly Sumerian-obsessed) black metal bands Absu and Melechesh. Equimanthorn also includes musicians who play in the occultic neo-folk projects Hexentanz and The Soil Bleeds Black, which is a little closer to the sound of Equimanthorn, though not by much. This is definitely dark and intoxicating stuff though, completely immersed in esoteric ritual magic and intensely researched Mesopotamian mythology, and the members of Equimanthorn use a combination of lush Middle Eastern folk music and dark ambience and dark proggy synth music as soundtracks for their strange recitations. Like they say in the booklet for Exalted, "These recorded efforts should only be listened to under the influence of candlelight". That's entirely your call, but this is definitely music best experienced with a minimum of light and outside interference, an immersive soundscape for sure.
There are some differences between the last album and this. Where Second Sephira Cella equally mixed the Goblin/John Carpenter-esque synths and Middle Eastern folk and industrial elements together into a strange sonic whole, these elements are explored in individual detail on Exalted. The first five tracks are almost entirely made up of the Middle eastern folk music, each track dramatic and mysterious, assorted percussion instruments and
the high-pitched hand drum called the darabukke (or "goblet drum") interweaved with the stringed bouzouki, chimes, flutes, recorders and other exotic instruments, the sound wreathed in shadow and hash smoke, with deep black ambience swimming below the music.
We don't hear those buzzing vintage synth sounds until all the way at the end with the last two tracks, but both are fantastic and totally worth the wait. Both "Irkalla: To Enter the Great Above and the Depths Below" and "The Submissive Myth Genesis of Mirror Waters Rising" are synth-heavy, dread filled progscapes...sinister low-end synthriffs repeated over swirling black ambience and swells of spacey keyboards as pounding martial drumbeat enter alongside a dramatic spoken word passage. The heavy synths are straight out of the 80's, and the first of the two sounds like an old British post-industrial band with John Carpenter on the Moogs. "Submissive" is more ambient, with almost no rhythmic elements until the very end when slow, minimal gongs and cymbals arrive to ceremoniously lead the creepy synth hook straight into the void. Together, these two tracks make up favorite part of the album, but the entire experience of Exalted is great. Not as deliciously strange as Second Sephira Cella , maybe, but still thoroughly narcotizing and hypnotic...