HDR - 009 : Old Forgotten Lands/Ancient Tundra - Equinox



Released: September 2nd, 2009
Details: ProManafactured-CDr, 8 page booklet/standard jewel case - Unlimited Quanities
Genre: Nature-influenced Neo-classical Dark Ambient


By: Matthew Caughlin

What would happen if Bob Dylan and Jean Sibelius got together to write a dark ambient film score?

Since this is a split release and each artist contributed just a few pieces, I am going to do this differently and review the release track by track.

First up on this split comes the contribution of Old Forgotten Lands. If I could be bold I would like to make the statement that OFL is like a Bob Dylan of dark ambient music. I say this because, the music seems to be very run-of-the-mill for the genre, yet behind it all is a very powerful message that makes up for the basic musicianship.

The release begins with “Five Birds Defied the Winds,” which as stated is a typical ambient track. However, this is one of the most pleasing to the ears of Élan O’Neal’s track list, yet at the same time doesn’t seem to portray the message as strongly as the follow-up tracks. As a musical piece it is a bit repetitive, but slowly transitions into different melodies and offers a good opening not only for his section but for the split as a whole. The repetition of a nice harmonious yet, primitive melody relaxes the listener very nicely. (72/100)

The follow-up track, “The Fallen Oak; the Resting Stone” I was personally not a fan of and consider it the weakest song on the whole release. We are greeted by a drearily dull and monotonous basic piano triad that is only saved by the superb field recording quality of raindrops. This seems to drag on for too long, until the listener is finally given mercy with a transition into a more dronish style of ambient, which as a matter of fact brings in more of a variety. I think the tedious feeling is expressive in that it seems to reflect the nature of the title, and it does portray a sense of uneasy dissonance. Nonetheless, this is a matter of art over entertainment, which I tend to applaud, but this particular piece is not my cup of tea, not that it’s abysmally bad or anything, just a little subpar.(58/100)

To finish off Old Forgotten Land’s side of the split is undoubtedly O’Neal’s best work of the three, “Tempestuous Retaliation,” which transitions without error from the previous track. Here we see the most emotional expression behind his music, with the track incorporating a subtle bit of influence from the noise genre and much more variety than the last two pieces. This opus demonstrates Élan’s strongest point; his understanding of timbre in music. After the end of the track the listener is spoken to with a whispering speech that strangely depicts ominousness and tranquility simultaneously. (80/100)

Overall, the Old Forgotten Lands section spreads a very powerful message, yet for the most part tends to present generic nature influenced dark ambient music. However, when it has its moments it really does stand out, and in the end is worth listening too, at least for the first and last track. (70/100)

To finish off the CD, there are four tracks from Ancient Tundra. To begin these is the piece “Visions of Tomorrow.” This one actually seems to transition from the conclusion of OFL’s side, which was a very intelligent choice in ordering the tracks. It also transitions from a more forest-like setting to a wintry one, like it was Autumn moving into the Winter. This whole track seems like something Sibelius would write; powerful and pompous, yet simple composition. The only difference being of course the synthesizers instead of an orchestra. There is also an incorporation of nice black metal vocals that are in the background and do not overpower the music; all in all, on the same level as OFL’s highlights. (82/100)

The follow-up song I consider this release’s magnum opus and is entitled, “And Silence Finally Prevails.” It seems like Nick Skog is taking a slightly different approach with Tundra from a pure winter inspiration to a more progressive wintry film score style. This one makes me think I am watching a holiday tragedy. Think of the majority of Christmas films. They are very generic and are just there to make profit on the holiday’s commercialism. Throw all those videos out the window, and you have maybe a handful of actually good Christmas classics that can be enjoyable anytime and not just during December, such as “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Take that particular movie, make it darker and get rid of the happy ending. This is what I feel this track would portray if it was on a soundtrack; a very dark and depressing piece, yet with a strange twist of mystical beauty. I consider it one of the top five best works of Skog to date. (95/100)

The next track is no disappointment as a follow-up; “Wandering along a Lonely Path.” I consider this the most progressive track Nick has wrote for AT. We are introduced from the previous track to a more menacing opening, that transitions strangely, yet flawlessly into a mysterious emotion which tends to progress back and forth from beauty and horror like a loose cannon. Somehow, this not only works, but works excellently. (92/100)

The concluding track of both Tundra’s part and the split is entitled, “Fade” and appropriately so. A perfect finishing track, this one is very similar to Visions in that it incorporates distorted vocals. I feel they are weaker than the previously stated track, but they do bring in a variety of vocal styles which is a positive. The usage of clean singing is almost in a gothic rock style, such as “The Cure” yet seems to fit the music well. The music itself is very powerfully executed, and portrays an aesthetic depression and the haunting melodies can put a lump in ones throat. The only disappointment is the fade out at the end of the piece seems a bit hasty and doesn’t seem like a way to finish off an album even when the rest of the work does. (91/100)

Even though this is Nick’s most progressive work to date, I still feel it doesn’t quite hold up to the previous release “Requiem for a World Lost” as well as the three tracks that were intended for the canceled split with FjellElv, “Mørket.” (Which will be on a forthcoming split with Symbiosis) Nonetheless, this is an excellent feat in the maturing of Ancient Tundra as a project and is well worth the listen. Nick is even going to college for music now, so that can only mean even more progression in his sound, which I welcome with open arms. (90/100)

In conclusion, this split as a whole is worth purchasing. Both acts truly display great nature inspired dark ambient music, which sticks out from the rest. As mentioned earlier, OFLs personally music philosophy tends to follow that of Bob Dylan in ambient form, while AT tends to derive his ambiance from a classical inspiration. Both these ideologies may be different, yet both have a sense of progression and complement one another well enough to make a solid release. (80/100)


From: Marty the Devilman's Music Promotions

The 9th Album released on Hypnotic Dirge Records, a dark ambient split album, with Old Forgotten Lands being more nature influenced dark ambient, and Ancient Tundra being more neo-classical dark ambient. In a first since I began reviewing, my dad actually said he enjoyed what he heard blaring from my room, he said it reminded him of King Crimson, though I can't recall what track that was. I asked Nick Skog of Hypnotic Dirge Records and Ancient Tundra if he was a fan but he said it was just coincidence. I found the album to be quite relaxing, very atmospheric. My personal favorite is the song Wandering Along a Lonely Path, a theme I am quite familiar with, though I liked each one on the album, another great pick to listen to during my wanderings in the cold. Thanks to Nick Skog for sending me the demo all the way from the great white North.


From: Defiance Magazine www.myspace.com/defiancemagazine

This split album between Old Forgotten Lands and Ancient Tundra definitely hits two sides of the spectrum. We have Old Forgotten Lands with their nature inspired dark ambient style and then we have Ancient Tundra with their Neo Classical/Dark Ambient side of the fence. This album is meant to be opposite ends of the spectrum and the theory behind it works.

This album very much reminds me of the relaxation CD's' I used to have as a kid, with the long synths and the birds in the trees effects in the background, and rightly so the first half of the cd is nature based. Infact so relaxing I'm trying not to fall asleep. For me personally I find the first half of this CD hard to get into, I'm not feeling it. It feels long winded and dragged out. Even for a sit down and relax, I just find it hard work. The second half I found had more going for it. It's subtle but enough to keep your attention, I think I'd rather have had Ancient Tundra first and then Old Forgotten Lands second. It's not a bad CD but for me personally it was a little hard to get into until the second half. The hardcore Ambient fan will love this however, If you like Atmosphere then grab it, because it does just that.


From: Hierophant Nox Webzine www.hierophant-nox.com

The idea for Old Forgotten Lands and Ancient Tundra to collaborate on a split release was a very fortuitous one; between the two of them they create extremely different worlds, but share similar enough dark ambient roots and compositional traditions that their audiences to a large extent overlap. The dangers of showcasing artists who are overly similar or different is easily sidestepped by these two imaginative and passionate artists, who, on "Equinox", use the same brushes to paint in contrasting shades of blue, grey, green and black.

Old Forgotten Lands open proceedings with the warm, slow "Five Birds Defied the Wind". This act focus on the dreamier, driftier capacity of synthesisers, building everything with glacial slowness, cresting without drawing too much attention before slipping back off into limpid depths. "Falling Stone, Rising Stone" introduces clean piano and choir synths, and is the most varied track that OFL offer, later breaking into searing sounds over deep, threatening drones, before veering off to be punctuated by chimes and vocalised breaths. "Tempestuous Retaliation" goes back to slow synth glides and cold effects, with piping tones and a surprising, morbid whisper to finish.

The contribution of Ancient Tundra is a little more substantial, comprising of four different tracks, which have a greater complexity and lesser reliance on pure ambience than those of Old Forgotten Lands. "Visions of Tomorrow" is at once more active, with a building pattern and building depth that evoke an image of wandering deeper into an ice cave. Skog’s evil whisper-growl is the perfect confirmation that this isn’t a safe place to dwell, whilst a light, shimmering ending defies expectation and keeps interest and suspicion high. "And Silence Finally Prevails" seems to glisten, being calm and majestic but also building in a sense of narrative with its dynamic tones. "Wandering Along a Lonely Path" is equally good, with some soaring synths, cut through by clean piano, and eventually finding a quite epic scope, with a strong melody at its conclusion. "Fade" makes more use of the growled vocals as well as a more chanting style, and is surprisingly rich considering the sparseness of elements.

In all, this is the kind of release that is perfectly built for maintaining interest. The seemingly peaceful but mysterious poise of Old Forgotten Lands is shaken up by Ancient Tundra’s more patterned, developing style, to the benefit of both artists. While OFL have perfected the use of slow electronic movements to evoke landscape, AT have a really interesting style, with the kind of structuring and feel that reflects a deep interest in the coldest of black metal, even though there’s not a hint of a guitar or the echo of a blastbeat. Both are definitely worthy of your time if dark, imaginative ambient brings you enjoyable shivers.

Ellen Simpson


From: Chronicles of Chaos Webzine www.chroniclesofchoas.com

Hypnotic Dirge Records and EEE Recordings presents the long-thirsted for Old Forgotten Lands / Ancient Tundra split 'Equinox'. This release brings together two underground labels and two monumental ambient forces. Both of the independent labels release an eclectic array of artists with EEE Recordings releasing black and unblack metal along with grind, death (even some techno and hip-hop) while HDR holds a ton of depressive black metal and dark experimental / ambient acts sorted within N. Skog's shelves.

Old Forgotten Lands is the first to leave offerings to Mother Nature. "Five Eagles Defied the Wind" builds up from a birthing aura of repeating lines that gets louder and stronger as the end nears. The same, ultra relaxing and basic rhythm repeats in different skins, starting off as clean with a backdrop of bird twitters, becoming higher pitched, wavier, more piercing and somewhat gothic, finally ending with a strained and dying chord. "The Falling Oak, the Resting Stone" continues with, slow, repetitive lines and doesn't deviate that much from the previous track. It doesn't play like floating along the water, drifting and passing new sights, but like being stuck in one part of a small lake. Then, it sinks into a drowning, thick drone, like falling into the water as your surroundings become darker and darker with a hoarse and breathy ending section. The last appearance for Old Forgotten Lands is "Tempestuous Retaliation." OFL leaves you with a great accomplishment as dusty noise infiltrates the classic drone, finishing with Élan O'Neal's augural voiceover.

Next arrives the wintry Ancient Tundra, providing four more tracks on 'Equinox'. "Visions of Tomorrow" maintains OFL's themes and hoarser vocals (a very soft scream), this time from N. Skog. The gentle closing piano brings a compelling end to "Visions..." and fitting start to "And Silence Finally Prevails...", a track mostly consisting of otherworldly synthesizers. "And Silence Finally Prevails...", "Wandering Along a Lonely Path" and "Fade" all bring something new to the table and further darkening the mood of 'Equinox'. N. Skog use of the synthesizers shows a dichotomy between the first half of the seasons (spring and summer) and the second half (fall and winter) as they play frostily against a background similar to Old Forgotten Lands. This last section of the split encompasses haunting and mysterious melody. "Fade" has the most vocals out of all of the tracks (though still barely any) and also invokes the most emotion.

'Equinox' provides beauty in simplicity and doesn't claim to be an overbearing and monolithic piece. The communion relaxes to promote creative thought instead of filling the mind with images from lyrics and an overly stuffed song structure, allowing air to flow between every note and transition. Both Old Forgotten Lands and Ancient Tundra are bands to go to for dark ambient music, 'Equinox' being a great example.

Reviewer: Yulon Zhu - 6.5/10


From: Nocturnal Cult Webzine www.nocturnalcult.com

Hypnotic Dirge once again plunges my mind into sorrowful landscapes with this split of dark ambience from Connecticut's Old Forgotten Lands and Canada's Ancient Tundra. Though both artists shape mental and emotionalvisions through ambient textures, their styles are slightly different.

Old Forgotten Lands' three tracks are more subtle and based mainly on minimalist construction. The split opens with Five Eagles Defied the Wind. Visions of sheer stone cliffs staring out over forests and the sea are conjured by the stern main notes and the shimmering noise underneath. The occasional avian noises and teh uplifting passages towards the song's close release it from its earthly shackles. The Fallen Oak, The Resting Stone is a despondent piano with haunting synths and cresting rain beneath it which drifts into icy sheets of noise creating an atmosphere of despair and isolation. Like calm water on a cold pond Tempestuous Retaliation slowly gathers itself in stillness, as if the unforgiving breath of winter were creeping across the landscape, exterminating all motion and life.

Ancient Tundra's material is comprised of four tracks. The opener, Visions of Tomorrow is an probably the best track on the release as its synth textures mimic futuristic horns with ominous rumbling and the occasional bubbling of nostalgic notes rising to the surface. Black metal-ish vocals cast a deathly pall across the track's astral serenity. And Silence Finally Prevails slips even deeper into realms of ghostly sorrow through its use of layered synths and muted drums. Certain notes rise like souls to the heavens while others bring a dreamlike quality to the composition. Fade (Ambient Mix) sees magical keys swaying gently in the snowy breeze while deep, mountainous vocals set up the arrival of gentle heathen chants.

Though slightly different in their approaches, Old Forgotten Lands and Ancient Tundra are perfectly balanced off of each other on this dreamquest of nostalgic ambience.

Reviewer: Bradley Smith


From: Meridian 9 Magazine; Issue #5

The first three tracks on this highly professional and utterly engrossing Dark Ambient album belong to Old Forgotten lands. These soothing and contemplative tracks are interspersed with a variety of field recordings of everything from bird song to wind and waves. Darkly nature centric and captivating these songs lead the listener through a world untouched by man and inhabited by an ethereal presence that is slightly less then benevolent. This juxtaposed sense of tranquil un-blighted nature and looming darkness is enhanced by some quite eerie voiceover provided by OFL’s mastermind Élan O'Neal. The four songs contributed by Hypnotic Dirge label owner Nick Skog’s Ancient Tundra are a fine addition to the body of work that has come before them. Placed throughout are film clips and even a few distant screams and some horse chanting that help lift and accentuate these haunting and mysterious melodies. Frankly I think Nick has outdone himself in both the arrangement of the synths as well as the interspersement of the additional sound bites. Professionally mastered by Andrea Marutti at Lips Vago Studio in Milan, Italy with artwork from the highly regarded Niels Geybels of 'Depraved Designs' the visuals called up the music contained on this uniquely printed disc (texturally the CD itself is quite unusual) match perfectly with the faded images of branches, wheat and earth that adorn this split. “Equinox” is indeed a fine example of what the lighter side of the Dark Ambient genre is capable of. Both thematically and sonically I can’t think of a better album to help accompany the transition between seasons.

Reviewer: Owen Wears


From: Lunar Hypnosis Blog www.lunarhypnosis.blogspot.com

After a ten day hiatus from writing due to the downfall of my laptop, I'm back with an new/old desktop computer and ready to resume my work on this blog with more interesting releases for all you audiophiles and music maniacs out there.

In early September of last year, Hypnotic Dirge released this split album between Old Forgotten Lands and Ancient Tundra. Old Forgotten Lands is up first on this split and this solo project from a guy named Elan offers up three dreamy and surreal sounding ambient pieces that really manage to fully capture my mind and take me to an ethereal world that's filled with both beauty and melancholy. There's also definitely a ghostly like quality to this music that gives the music a chilling sort of feeling. Somehow in my mind I can picture myself walking through a forest shrouded in fog without any way to escape. I always like when music is able to create strange feelings like this and I must admit Elan achieves these sentiments with flying colors. There's also a variety of nature samples mingled into the music, which just makes the visions in my brain expand further and take me to even greater worlds of wonder. I don't believe there are any Old Forgotten Lands full-length albums just yet, but I will surely keep my ears open and ready for one when it arrives.

Ancient Tundra was already mentioned on this blog a few months ago, but I'll surely have no problem reviewing this exciting act once again. Ancient Tundra's music (like Old Forgotten Lands) is within the ambient genre, but where OFL is otherworldly and dreamy AT is far more despondent in it's delivery with a cold wave of freezing bitterness added to the mix. AT much like OFL seems to tell a story within these four compositions and although there are only a few spoken passages I find that the music speaks to me and I'm able to conjure up a mysterious icy cold world when listening to this music. Again I can picture myself wandering within this world; in this case some sort of frozen castle forgotten by humans and betrayed by time. Melodic, melancholy and truly cold in it's delivery; Ancient Tundra is truly not an ambient artist to miss and definitely another one to keep in mind.

At just a little under fifty minutes and featuring seven quality songs, 'Equinox' is a fantastic ambient record to add to your collection and one I think I'll even appreciate more so once the weather turns cold again and snow starts falling from the sky.

Reviewer: Joe Mlodik