CD+DVD, First Fallen Star, 2009
Karsten Hamre has been a figure in dark ambient music for quite a number of years now. You may perhaps know him as one of his many aliases, which include Dense Vision Shrine, Penitent, and Arcane Art. Coming from someone with such a large number of similar genre releases under his belt, I had high expectations for “Through the Eyes of a Stranger”.
If you can overlook the packaging, which looks like a bootleg B-horror film you’d get offered in an alley in Chinatown, you’ll find that Hamre delivers with some of the best dark ambient soundscapes I’ve heard this year. The album is full of big, dark passages which purvey a mood not unlike walking through an endless field, moist after the rain, which is shrouded in dense fog and lit only by the soft glow of the unseen moon somewhere far overhead. Beyond the field you will travel through dungeons, withered ruins of antique castles, and perhaps even venture outside the terrestrial. The dark, subtly evolving drones are supplemented nicely with a plethora of distant sound effects and weird, almost uneasy textures; both of which help immensely to define atmosphere and take the listener to some place beyond this sphere. Gloomy melodies even make an appearance in a few spots. This is provocative, active ambient which works as more than simply background music. This is a good mix of the slow moving, meditative sound usually found on Cyclic Law records, coupled with the more active, intense, and almost industrial-tinged sound usually found on Cold Meat Industry ambient.
My only complaint with the album is that on a couple of tracks he brings in these cheesy, retro-future sounding synths which I don’t feel mesh with the atmosphere or mood of the track at all. Sadly, the last track is plagued with these sounds for pretty much its entire duration. Beyond that, though, this is a great dark ambient album and I would encourage all fans of the genre to give it a listen.
This album also comes with a bonus DVD. This disc is pretty much just the entire album as the audio track with cycling black & white still images as the video track. The images are not bad; they’re of good quality, they help to solidify the overall disposition of the album, and they would probably work as visuals for a live show, but seriously, how many people are going to (repeatedly) watch a DVD of still images? Though it may not be very practical, it’s tacked on as a bonus to the album, so I can’t fault its inclusion; and some people may in fact enjoy it.
— Dan Barrett