Review: The Elemental Chrysalis - The Dark Path to Spiritual Expansion (2007)


artist: The Ele­mental Chrysalis
release: The Dark Path to Spir­itual Expan­sion
format: 2xCD
year of release: 2007
label: Glass Throat
dur­a­tion: 1:57:55

detailed info: dis​cogs​.com

The duo of James Wood­head and Chet Scott is back with their second album, and a long jour­ney it is, this time! The Dark Path to Spir­itual Expan­sion is, like the title sug­gests, a long and dark musical per­eg­rin­a­tion, spread across two discs, each con­tain­ing four tracks and an hour of music. On the jour­ney, the main musical strain seems to be dark folk, but with this pro­ject, influ­ences from ambi­ent, blues, and even doom metal don’t seem to be very far away.

The first Col­lec­tion starts off with the very long “In Through a Desert Door…”, which is based almost purely around slowly evolving gui­tar, bouzouki, and organ melod­ies. In a track like this, one can draw a par­al­lel to some funeral doom metal, like per­haps an acous­tic ver­sion of Mourn­ful Con­greg­a­tion. Actu­ally, this track is quite com­par­able to the opener of the debut album: long, but good. “Pro­ces­sion of Burn­ing Flowers” is a nice ‘short’ piece, based mainly around bluesy gui­tar, later embel­lished with nice per­cus­sion and vocal samples. “Hehaka” starts slow, with a dark and subtle ambi­entish intro, but includ­ing a heavy skin drum in the back­ground. After a couple of minutes, the main gui­tar melody kicks in - kind of bluesy, with a typ­ical folky touch as well. The vocals on this track are also quite nice. The title track is also one of the bet­ter tracks on the album. Even though it’s com­pletely based on one repeated bouzouki melody, it doesn’t get bor­ing; rather, it’s simply utterly hyp­not­ising as you’re drawn into the dark jour­ney described in the lyr­ics.

The second col­lec­tion begins in a way sim­ilar to the first one, though “Our Limbs…” is some­what shorter than the open­ing track of the whole album. The main track, and hefti­est piece of the album is the excel­lent “Grey Like a Moon…”. Clock­ing in at nearly 27 minutes, it’s quite some­thing to take in, but that won’t daunt the exper­i­enced listener, I guess. From a subtle ambi­ent wood­wind intro (reminds me quite pos­it­ively of Far Black Fur­long), the track launches into an epic ritual of skin drum per­cus­sion, organ drones and plead­ing faint vocals. It swells and swells, adding some excel­lent dark strings into the mix as well. After the track cli­maxes, the last quarter of it or so is a beau­ti­ful calm part with bass, strings and elec­tric gui­tar. The third track is one of the shorter ones, based on the lyr­ics about the Ban­shee, but also fea­tur­ing guest Ban­shee vocals by Chet’s wife (and pack­aging designer!) Rachel. The final track is also deserving of par­tic­u­lar men­tion though: a beau­ti­ful piece of drift­ing ambi­ent with excel­lent inter­play between piano, drones and sea samples.

While I feel the album might drag a tiny bit in some places, it’s impress­ive how these two men man­age to make an album last two hours and be inter­est­ing and ful­filling at the same time. The vast vari­ety of instru­ments and sounds give the music a great aural detail, and although those with short atten­tion spans will most likely not be dig­ging this, any exper­i­mental music lover worth his or her salt will want to check this one out. There’s still room for improve­ment, but there’s no doubt in my mind that The Ele­mental Chrysalis are head­ing for more great­ness.

Reviewed by O.S.

Track­list:

Col­lec­tion One:
1. In Through a Desert Door of a Wooded Heart (23:41)
2. Pro­ces­sion of Burn­ing Flowers (7:32)
3. Hehaka (10:14)
4. The Dark Path to Spir­itual Expan­sion (14:48)

Col­lec­tion Two:
5. Our Limbs Your Shel­ter… Our Roots Your Den (13:00)
6. Grey Like a Moon Under­neath Waves of Storms… Her Shroud Falls Faint as a Clouded Embrace (26:55)
7. A Banshee’s Blackened Wail (9:33)
8. Jeweled Blue Waters of a Slum­ber­ing Ocean (12:12)