Phelios – Astral Unity

Phelios - Astral Unity

CD, Malignant Records, 2010
www.phelios.de

A title like “Astral Unity” gives worrying images of hippies enjoying psychedelic experiences, but luckily this is German dark ambient artist, Phelios, with his fourth full length album and there is no departure into lighter territory. This album is a pleasingly sombre affair, highly suitable for a quiet evening contemplating the sorry state of your life or perhaps reading up on the mysteries of the occult. The album flows exceptionally well as a full soundtrack piece, with a cohesive sound and feel, but with plenty of events and occurrences to keep listener interest throughout. Minor key synth progressions give a hauntingly classical touch, while frequent appearances of subtle percussion move things along well, as dark drones and ambiences maintain an overall sense of dread and fear.
“Astral Visions” opens well with some uneasily odd background noises suggesting some quite worrying hallucinations, the monumental strings and drums slowly rising giving the impression that some sinister magickal ritual is afoot. In “Mind Control”, denser drones and threatening metallic tones portray suitable imagery of some terrible brainwashing procedure, and then the queasy electronics of “Deadspace” illustrate our unfortunate victim’s warped mind lost in a hypnotic trance. There is a calmer, more serene feel to the opening section of “Voyage”, tribal drumming depicting journeys to strange lands, before “Origin” brings the story the music and track titles are creating to a scene showing the history of this mysterious sect of astral shamen, with an unsettling rising and falling theme repeated for much of its duration.
Having thought up that scenario, “Cloud Sector Beta” then takes things much further into the cosmos, now bringing to mind a story of actual space travel in the future, leaving a dying planet to seek a new world to inhabit, all the time aware of the high chance of succumbing to old age before one is found. Finally, we have the closing track “Cold Unity”, with rather hollow sounding percussion played over drawn out bell sounds, back to the imagery of the astrological cult of witch doctors, perhaps the end of a story of a daring attempt to rescue one of their victims and defeat their wicked actions, but with no happy ending here as it is they who have been victorious! As a surprising electro bass line strides purposefully into view, the film credits roll and the audience leave the cinema disturbed and thoughtful, yet thoroughly entertained for the most part, and that is why Phelios is a very good dark ambient artist, creating soundtracks to films you create in your mind.

[8/10]

— Nathan Clemence