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Battlestations - In A Cold Embrace CD (album) cover

IN A COLD EMBRACE

Battlestations

 

Post Rock/Math rock

4.05 | 109 ratings

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AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
4 stars Battlestations' album "In A Cold Embrace" provides some rather striking artwork that conjures up some very disturbing atmospheres even before the music starts. The cover depicts a nightmarish image of a demented doll open armed and uninviting with an umbrella hiding its secrets. The booklet is a real master touch, totally cryptic and compelling; it seems to convey the dark shadows of madness, death and the blurry undefined decay of corruption and fear, and is totally open to interpretation. Inside the lavishly illustrated booklet are images of blurred silhouetted figures in isolated forest settings, a corpse in a coffin, a woman in a bath, a child facing her shadow and details of flowers, a mirror, and a vase with glasses. With the type of imagery that I have seen associated with the music of Opeth, Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Steven Wilson's solo albums, one might expect the music to be bleak and dark also. However, this music is more of an ambient lucid journey; organic and ominous yet beautiful in its 44 minute running time.

It begins with the 'Prologue: Nature morte // You're not welcome here' that clocks 13 minutes and builds slowly into various shapes, with a tension that threatens to break out into mayhem but never does. Instead there is a melancholic mood throughout, genuine shoegaze music, and the atmosphere is thick with a wall of mournful desolation. I particularly feel drawn by the tranquil keyboards embellished by acoustic vibrations. There are some startling voice intonations to break the musical passages, and they enhance the experience.

'Comrade// The way we grieve' is another musical interpretation of despair with a faster cadence but a steadily building intensity. The modulations of guitar and rhythmic drumming are repeated motifs that have enough variation to create interest before the music breaks at 5 minutes into a new feel. The music becomes softer and blanketed with real ethereal tension; hypnotically conveyed with a slow measured delivery, and the deep bass sounds are portentous and fitting to the bleak imagery. The sadness in the music is unmistakeable but it doesn't feel pretentious but more a genuine attempt to convey loss and depression. The music drips down like honey, very slow and crawling patiently and inexorably to the Interlude.

'Interlude: Time stands still' is a short break highlighted by backwards keyboard violin sounds. The creepy feeling of being trapped in time is strong with tantalising visions of utter frailty.

'Breaking bad news// The faces we remember' features a steady cadence of guitar notes and a heavy reverberated drone. The music evokes the emptiness inside the protagonist as he or she hears bad news, perhaps of a death; bleak to be sure but so powerfully executed. I especially like the sparseness of the music, the way the guitar is allowed to breathe over that menacing drone. The ether is charged with a haunting nuance. This is perhaps the best track as far as my ears are concerned. The simplistic playing is understated to provide some effective dense atmospherics.

'The semblance of fate // Epilogue: Citizen creep// The end' is another lengthy track at about 12 minutes in length, and there is a real atmosphere of isolation. The piano is gentle and forlorn and the sizzling keyboards evoke paranoia. The music becomes darker at 3 minutes when some ghostly voices are heard. The music is spacey in the next passage with reverb guitar and howling wind sounds. It feels like walking outside on a cold frosty afternoon alone and deep in reflection. The icy music builds into heavy drumming and layers of keyboard. It changes at 7 minutes with violin sounds and beautiful piano. So the albums segues into peaceful hopeful music, before a barrage of low chilling thunder effects and more preternatural voices.

Overall Battlestations' music is otherworldly and sprinkled with dreamy ambience with heavy stormy atmospheres. It is like a more accessible Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and in this sense easier to digest as far as RIO music goes. The almost subliminal droning guitar sound that is at times unearthly and sonically ethereal is well executed. There is a dark beauty of guitar notes that compete with delicate embellishments of keyboard. The music patient and is ideal to chill out to after a long busy afternoon, it perhaps encompasses quiet reflection about the frailty of life and the sadness of loss.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |

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