Dark Ambient Ritual Music: A Primer for the Dark Pagan, Volume 3

[Ed. note: This is archived material from the old blog; links and other info may be out of date. It will remain here as-is for reference.]

By popular request, here is volume three of my series on dark ritual ambient music for the discriminating dark Pagan.  (Also see volumes one and two, if you haven’t already.)  As I’ve mentioned before, this list is driven by my sensibilities as a dark fusion dancer.  I select tracks for inclusion on this list based almost entirely on how deeply they move me to dance, and how well they suit the ritual space I want to create for my dance.  As usual, there are 13 tracks.  Enjoy!

1) New Risen ThroneDead, Scourged Sun

“Chthonic ritual doom ambient” is the phrase I came up with to describe the music that stirs up the most primal responses in me, and I think it fits the music of New Risen Throne perfectly.  There’s at least one NRT track – and usually several – on every dark ambient playlist I’ve compiled so far.

Gabriele Panci (a.k.a. Stielh) from Italy is one of my top two favourite dark ambient musicians.  So far, I have not heard a single track from him that I dislike, and since I have very finicky tastes, I can count on one hand the number of musicians I can say that about.  His music is pure bone-chilling sonic wonder, and “Dead, Scourged Sun” is apocalyptic and haunting in the best possible way.


2) Desiderii MarginisCome Ruin and Rapture

From my Grief and Mourning playlist comes this forlorn, melancholy lament from the 2012 release “Procession” by the Swedish musician Johan Levin.  This track speaks to me as a form of barely-restrained, raw emotional honesty spilling over in the wake of a profound loss.  I wear a black diaphanous veil to help me translate the grief in this track into the language of ritual dance.


3) Robert Rich and Brian WilliamsUndulating Terrain

The “Stalker” album from Robert Rich with Brian Williams of Lustmord is a classic in the dark ambient genre for good reason, and this track has long been my favourite.  I love the calm and mesmerising progression that lures the listener in at the outset, then builds into a creepy crescendo at the end. The atmospheric black-and-white video is nicely coordinated with the flow of the music; I particularly like the part with the slow-mo dripping water, and the way it follows the chain into dark waters at the end.  Hypnotic.

(Note, added 25 Sep 2013: It has come to my attention that the video I originally linked to has been removed by YouTube for copyright violations.  Here is another link to the track, but without the video, unfortunately.  And while I’m at it, I apologise for any broken links in my earlier posts.  Chasing down broken YouTube links in these posts is going to get old.  Perhaps from here on out I should stick to tracks available on sites like SoundCloud, last.fm, and Bandcamp only.  I’ll give this some thought.)


4) TaphephobiaWaiting for the Silence

Top-notch deep drone ambient soundscapes from the “Black City Skyline” album by Ketil Søraker from Norway, who is also involved with Mulm (another project I love).  The atmosphere of this track is so beautifully reflective, mystical, and melancholy…it’s a perfect musical accompaniment for midnight tea rituals at the Hermitage.  When I dance to it, I find that improv works better than choreography.

Looking forward to Taphephobia’s new album, “Escape From the Mundane Self,” which will be released this autumn on Cyclic Law.


5) Lamia VoxMetasilentium

What lurks in the abyss…?  This track may inspire you to find out.  From my playlist for The Dark Divine comes this track from the “Introductio” album – a musical nigredo from the talented Russian musician Lamia Vox.  Sounds an ominous note right off the bat, and doesn’t let go.  Creepy, compelling, and a perfect accompaniment to my devotional rites for Móðguðr, guardian of Hel’s gate and the river Gjöll.


6) GydjaBeyond the Earth’s Edge

Outstanding music from Abby Helasdottir, a.k.a. Gydja, of New Zealand – the person who coined the word Rökkatru.  I remember how excited I was when I first discovered her Shadowlight website.  At the time I had never heard of anyone who was doing esoteric work like this – focused on the Rökkr as well as dark and subterranean worlds…and she’s a dark ambient musician too?  I was – and still am! – very impressed.  Her website and music has been a big influence on me; it helped me find the courage to accept my own darker spiritual path.

“Umbilicus Maris” is my favourite of her albums; it inspires visions of descent into dark, watery subterranean worlds.  This track and “Snakestone” are my favourites for ritual dance.  The album can be heard in its entirety on her bandcamp site.


7) HyiosCrater

Hyios is music for dark Earth mystics and Underworld travelers.  “Intense” would be an apt description of “Consuetudines,” the album this track is taken from.  It deepens my meditation like nothing else.  The album was an acquired taste for me; when I first heard it in 2009, I was very much enthralled with the imagery and liked a couple of the tracks well enough, but then for whatever reason I set it aside and focused my attention on other music.  It sat on my shelf for a few years, as if it were waiting patiently for my musical tastes and awareness to shift, such that I could fully appreciate it.  I rediscovered it earlier this year, and now I wonder how I could have failed to appreciate its depth and brilliance for so long.  This track, “Crater,” speaks to me of the eternal lure of subterranean stone passageways and stalactite-draped chambers.  Listen, and immerse yourself.

As a great review by Kaliglimmer puts it:
“Upon leafing through the digipack I am…enthralled. Runes, greek letters, a pyramid and a pharaonic individual and several oblique and mystical references…The inside cover also contains the words “cultus subterraneus”, and this translates well to the images that float around in my head as I listen…I can nearly feel the cold granite against my bare feet as I descend a spiral staircase into the bowels of mother earth, dressed only in an acolyte’s humble garments.”


8) Lapis NigerBlack Serpent Dance

This mesmerising, meditative track from Swedish author and musician Tommie Eriksson (also of Saturnalia Temple) has inspired many nights of shadowy serpentine ritual dance choreography at the Hermitage.  The album “At the Throne of Melek Taus” was released in 2008, and it is excellent for ritual.  Here’s hoping he makes more dark ambient music in a similar vein.


9) InadeDisconnecting States

There are many tracks from Inade that I’ve loved for years – “Through the Gates of Death,” “The Engine of the Mind,” and “The Tellurian Vortex” come to mind, for starters.  But I found the spoken word parts in this track off-putting at first.  Over time, though, it’s grown on me to the point that it has become one of my favourite Inade tracks, and now I dance to it unreservedly.


10)  Dead FactorySilesia

It would be a stretch to call this restrained track from the Polish musician Maciej Mutwil, a.k.a. Dead Factory, “dark ritual ambient”; it’s probably best described as cold, minimalistic ambient with industrial elements.  But it inspires me to dance nonetheless, and since this list is driven not by genre boundaries or conventions but by my sensibilities as a dark fusion dancer, here it is for your enjoyment (and mine, of course.)


11) CisfinitumDistrict Delta

Does it get any sadder than this in dark ambient?  I’m not sure.  Astonishingly beautiful…this track from the Russian musician Eugene Voronovsky is overflowing with heart and soul.  Sometimes I avoid listening to this track because I know it will make me cry, and I simply can’t handle any more tears at the moment.  (Just in case it isn’t clear, that means I’m giving it my highest recommendation.)


12) PheliosDeadspace

Crisp, cold, richly layered atmospheric beauty from Martin Stürtzer of Germany, swirling and spiraling into the depths of the void, exploring deadspace…yet breathing life into it at the same time.

The new Phelios album, “Gates of Atlantis,” has just been released via Malignant, by the way.  I’ve heard that it is his best yet, and “Astral Unity” (from which this track was taken) was marvelous.  I eagerly await my copy.


13) PhragmentsThe Return

This dramatic, orchestral track from “Earth Shall Not Cover Their Blood,” a superb and highly recommended album by the Slovakian duo Phragments – Matej Gyarfas and Sonic(k) – dredges up grandiosity, desolation, and dread…and exquisitely so, I might add.  ‘Tis a fitting conclusion for this list.


As I read through this list, one thing I especially appreciate is the international reach of dark ambient.  In this post alone, I have tracks included from musicians in Italy, Sweden, the USA, Norway, Russia, New Zealand, Germany, Poland, and Slovakia.  Nice!

Up next for Volume 4 of this series, I will be posting 13 of my favourite tracks from one of my most beloved playlists: Chthonic Ritual Doom Ambient.  Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!



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