It’s hard to imagine the world of dark ambient growing to incorporate many more elements than it already has — it does, in fact, seem at the moment that it has ‘all been done before’. There’s a certain feeling of stagnation plaguing the genre that has been evident for some time; a stagnation that not only threatens the ability of any one artist to find much ground for originality, but one that also threatens to take away much of the fanbase itself. As with many styles of music, if there isn’t something new and unique to keep the interest of the listeners, it is doomed to fade into obscurity as we’re seeing with many post-industrial styles at this moment. Teatro Grotesco, in that sense, are bringing a sort of tribal post-rock vibe to their distinct style of dark ambience that seems to combine the best moments of artists like Ulf Soderburg and Mathieu Vandekerckhove’s Syndrome and turn it into something not entirely new, but full of inspiration. That said, it appears that at a time when most of the most beloved and well-known artists in the genre seem to be suffering from either a lack of interest, motivation, or passion, there is a modest wealth of upcoming unknowns to fill that void if you’re willing to seek them out.
Teatro Grotesco, in that sense, is doing something very special with their project. This isn’t your typical industrial-influenced dark ambient work of vast bleakness, though there are plenty of those moments to go around; a fact which firmly places Teatro Grotesco within the dark ambient genre. Rather, it’s a sprawling thirteen-track album of complex instrumentation and deep, detailed production that impresses not only with every cinematic monolith that each track is destined to become, but through its ability to represent a variety of different beauties through the present compositions. Beauty in melancholy, beauty in primitivism, beauty in harmony and countless others. It, then, shouldn’t come as any surprise that there is a great revelation to be found here; that is, the revelation that the artist behind the music already has a great deal of success with another: The Joy of Nature — a psych folk endeavor that has found a great deal of support in the folk community since its inception in 2006. Elements of this project do appear in sparse quantity within Teatro Grotesco, but for the most part, this is something entirely new from the mind of Luis Couto.
Despite describing this album as a work of dark ambient, there is a surprising amount of intricacy within. There certainly is a fairly typical minimal nature surrounding the release, perhaps mostly due to its industrial roots, but it is difficult not to find a sincere respect for the amount of instrumentation found within. Moments of primitive tribal rhythms illuminate the soul of the project, taking us to a primordial time and back to man’s true essence. Guitar textures these industrial and tribal rhythms through lushly produced post-rock guitar melodies (“Maya”) that are often teamed with a subtle distortion that can both serve as a thickening agent in the back in of the mix and also work as an accompaniment to the tribal nature of specific tracks. Bells and piano further texture this modestly melodic effort, lending more depth to the atmosphere itself than actual instrumental prowess. There is, of course, the other primary point of Teatro Grotesco which lies in the reason behind their foundation — the tenebrous, visceral elements of industrial music that makes up the foundation of this release.
This dark sound is accompanied by the band’s own definition for the project; that it is, bluntly, the theatre for human suffering. The paralleled human heights of pleasure and pain make up the inevitable theme behind Teatro Grotesco’s music, an idea that may seem medieval, or even more ancient, at first glance, but in truth speaks of the present more than anything through only the hints left behind by the track titles. Where this style of music is plagued by a necessity for vocal silence and typically leaves projects only able to offer a vague understanding of the influence behind their music, Teatro Grotesco’s stance is all too familiar and clear. The very first track, “The Erosion of the Spirit”, spells it out in clear enough form right away. If that isn’t enough however, further reading leads us down a path into a seemingly anti-modern critique on modern habitual living. From the tongue-in-cheek distaste for the work ethic myth and corporate control of “Slavery was never so Widely Spread” to the tracks that define the soundtrack to our downward spiral into oblivion in “Signs of the Times” and “The Real Dark Age”, “Kroni’s Empire” perfectly embodies the modern human struggle, both in terms of our enslavement to consumerism and the complete loss of free will and spiritual awareness.
Perhaps the music behind the release isn’t quite this politically motivated, but its anti-modern stance cannot be denied, assumed or not. After all, Kroni himself is the original manifestation of evil, and what better subject to represent his empire than the current human decline. Furthermore, the album artwork is a lone candle in a dark existence — our own light leading us through the dark, burning dimmer with every passing day.
01) The Erosion of the Spirit
02) Noise and Progress / Silence and Tradition
03) You can Only Fight Horror in the Heart of Horror
04) Slavery was Never so Widely Spread
05) From Shamanism to Witchcraft
07) Signs of the Times
08) The Real Dark Age
09) Materia Stigmata Quantitate
10) Children Staring at Lucifer’s Strange Dreams
11) Psychic Residues
12) Requiem Nr. I: At the House of the Dead
13) Requiem Nr. II: Everything is Flowing