Andrzej Gladuszewski is a sound designer from Kiev, Ukraine. Monocube is his primary project—foggy, bleak, ritualistic dark ambient at its absolute finest. The Rituals is his third album under Monocube, released on the legendary Malignant Records, housed in beautiful six-pannel digipak with stunning occult-esque artwork conceived by Ksenia Gladushevskaya. This album is just what it claims to be: music for rituals.
What I loved most about this album is that Gladuszewski is setting us up for a few different rituals—nine to be exact—and that each one of them is slightly different from the next and is used to invoke different spirits.
The Rituals does have a ‘general atmosphere’, and the album as a whole can definitely be placed under the ‘dark ambient’ umbrella. Yet, each track, each ritual, has its different and unique sound and atmosphere. The Rituals is very diverse and rich in its many textures and styles, moving through pretty much all the subgenres of dark ambient and touching a few other styles such as industrial, drone, elements of noise, and even some tribal music and chants. Yet, Gladuszewski keeps a very natural flow throughout the album.
Even though this material is extremely diverse, The Rituals is not the kind of album which sounds like ‘a compilation’ of different sounds; in fact, it all ties together very nicely in a way that creates a sense, after the sixty-four-minute journey, of a full experience. Each track sets the mood to the next one, and at the end, you get the complete frightening picture.
Some rituals are preformed using chants or hellish screams; for some, percussion and reverb-laden guitars follow Monocube on his path towards a greater darkness. The sounds, as cold as they surely are, are very sharp for the most part. You can hear the finest details, and they all come at you, penetrating through your head as you breathe in the atmosphere. In that sense, The Rituals reminds me the work of Raison d’être wherein Peter Andersson‘s new-legendary attention to detail makes the dream (or perhaps, more appropriately, the nightmare) so much more concrete and real, drawing the listener ever so slowly deeper and deeper inside the music.
There is just so much consistently happening in the background of The Rituals. For example, in ‘Drowned Sun’, there is a contrast between the guttural vocals and the beautiful heavenly sound-platform mixed with high-pitched shrieks that makes for a powerful track; it all merges in such a manner that at the very least captures the ears and manages successfully to remain interesting throughout.
On ‘Father Fenris’, another track based mainly on vocals, the devil again is in the details. While I know (or, well, am at the very least confident) that these are human vocals, it sounds like a grave opening in slow motion. At high or low volume, this album will absolute haunt you.
Besides the fact that Gladuszewski is obviously a mastermind when it comes to production, credit is also due here to the person who helped shape the sound of these rituals: John Stillings, who is a growing name in expert-level mastering in post-industrial music (and who has helmed that chair for many others releases in the Malignant catalog, as a matter of fact).
A very impressive list of collaborators have offered up their expertise for The Rituals, including: Apócrýphos (Robert C. Kozletsky) on ‘Downwards’, which is more on the drone side; Treha Sektori (Dehn Sora), who contributes the slow-moving ritualistic drums and whispers on ‘Anthracite Glow’; and Asmorod (Nicolas D. Faure), who joins in to deliver the final ritual, the ‘Initiation’, which seals this album. This final track is a classic dark ambient piece with a repetitive chilling keyboard line smeared over low-tuned clicks, noises, and bass. The last couple of seconds of the album resemble a beast breathing, about to wake up and rise.
And then it ends. Monocube only summons the beast and leaves us with it, where it’s up to us to deal with the invocation.
While too many dark ambient albums sounds like echoed wind noises with an occasional bell ring, The Rituals offers something else: a full journey in the desolate wastelands of darkness. Perfection.
01) Visiones III
02) Drowned Sun
03) Downwards (featuring – Apócrýphos)
04) Totem Incantation
05) Fires Shifting – Nocturnal Motion
06) Through Our Blood
07) Father Fenris
08) Anthracite Glow (featuring – Treha Sektori)
09) Initiation (featuring – Asmorod)