A master of dark ambient, Christopher Walton became first known through his time as one-half of Endvra. The duo released a series of excellent albums, with The Great God Pan standing out, infusing neo-classical perspectives and tribal rhythms into their dark ambient core. Since the end of Endvra, Walton has focused on his solo project TenHornedBeast, which takes a dystopian turn when it comes to dark ambient.
TenHornedBeast is as the name suggests a feral entity, one which is evolving through the years. In the early days, and up to the excellent Hunts & Wars, Walton injected drone and doom elements into the music creating this devastating, post-apocalyptic scenery which exploded in heavy guitar riffs and endless feedback. This begun to change with Elphane, and it is a transformation that carries on to this day with Death Has No Companion.
Walton makes a leap towards complete minimalism, leaving behind the drone/doom influences in favor of total ambient surrender. Slow progression advances glacially, gradually revealing the sceneries of TenHornedBeast, which could have easily come out of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. The post-apocalyptic world does not appear to be in flames and failing anymore, but rather completely destroyed; a place where the air is toxic and nothing grows.
At first look it appears as if Walton has trapped himself in this minimal scenery, and in effect created a more repetitive record. Without the heavy riffs to set ablaze the scenery, some of the variety has been extinguished, but it is their absence that makes Death Has No Companion as dark as it is. This is a record that never sets off, never explodes in agony, a record in which catharsis is never reached. A place that is doomed to remain in the dark, obtuse to all, always appearing menacing, but never acting on it. Come to think of it, the monster is always scarier when you cannot see it, and Walton makes sure to spread signs of its presence, but never reveal it.
In terms of the variety, sure Death Has No Companion is a more difficult album to come to grips with than its predecessor, but Walton's experienced navigation of dark ambient restricts it from losing its focus. Elements of sound design are introduced, morphing the dragged out sounds, enhancing the ominous tone. In a similar manner, the cymbals in “The Wanderer” are a simple addition, that drastically changes the direction of the track, granting an eerie quality with their sharp extensions. It is the most basic of means that Walton is implementing and still he enacts grand moments of processional, ritualistic height with “The Lamentation of Their Women” or pitch black drone recitals with “In Each of Us A Secret Sorrow.”
7.5 / 10
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