Reliquiae Reviews



Here is the seventh album by the well respected Simon Heath; spanning 19 tracks, we once again have a real treat on our hands with impressive Dark Ambient, cleverly wrapped and woven into a mass of free flowing underground atmospherics.

‘Unveiled’ gives us gorgeous ice like piano and is a stand out moment, along with  ‘Knowledge of the Few’, utilising harmonies that float along in soundtrack form over a sea of gently padded bass, with machine like whirs that click in the atmosphere in between.

Heath is a master of variation; in a scene that can quite often become bogged down in the blackest of paths, he manages to reign in the oppressive beast and tames it with ingenious mastery; adding his own individual flair for precise flickers of sound, he creates an entirely different aural landscape that remains as threatening as much as it does beautiful and majestic.

‘Reliquiae’ is a glorious release; a thoroughly engaging affair, with more than its fair share of nooks and crannies to explore.  Seven is a lucky number for us as well, as Heath has once again delivered the goods, outshining many of the scenes greatest; one of the best Dark Ambient acts on the market with more to offer than the genre tag implies.



After two years of expectancy since the previous ATRIUM CARCERI album, “Phrenitis” (CMI, 2009), Simon Heath returns with yet another masterpiece of atmospheric, otherworldly dark ambient. Loyal to his meticulous vision of an environment just abstract enough, that could be located somewhere on a distant planet, or here on Earth in a not so distant future. Like a prophet of doom, he populates his post-apocalyptic landscapes with elements ranging from ancient deities and occult rituals to underground tunnels, spectral figures and wasted deserts of abandoned cities, silent witnesses of a civilization long delivered into the dust of ages.

“Reliquiae” adds a few more building blocks to this majestic structure, thus furthering the concept and music. A female deity holds sway over the citadel, and the recording describes the journey of the acolyte to reach her knowledge and experience. He is initiated by the adepts, his body and mind are submitted to the necessary alterations. He receives the blessing of the Goddess and is led through the underground tunnels, to the “Factory Of Souls”. After the truth has been discovered perception of the Creator/Demiurge can be disassembled, leaving only the reality of the one true deity, initially veiled but now revealed in all her divine magnificence. That is merely my interpretation of the story. ATRIUM CARCERI however belongs to my favourite brand of ambient artists, the ones that create a complete concept and give you just enough clues to get entirely absorbed in their environment, but also allow for the imagination to fill in the gaps. This is undeniably the case here, and for the listeners who happen to be acquainted with ATRIUM CARCERI’s previous work, the ability to introduce so many new components to the world we have already imagined is an added pleasure.

“Reliquiae” retains the melancholic, eerie tone that is a trademark of the project. The sounds reach us from afar, maintaining at all times the feeling of something precious and significant manifesting before our eyes. An antique music box, the functions of which we accidentally triggered in our exploration of this strangely familiar domain. Haunting piano melodies and atmospheric synths fall heavily among suffocating drones, hollow percussions and metallic sounds. In many occasions all of these elements are combined with expert skill, for instance in “Manufactured Minds” where the repetitive, menacing rhythms are blended with the mournful piano repeating the same monotone, obsessive sequence. Or in “The Long Walk”, where the portentous, escalating dark ambient sequences are pierced by persistent drones.

In other tracks, such as “Through The Tunnels”, “A Factory of Souls” and “Recovering Fragments” the organic, almost tangible malevolence of the created atmospheres chills the blood. A cold, merciless ritual magnificence can be discerned instead in “Truth Revealed”, “Portal Key” or “Synchronization” (my personal favourite along with “Unveiled”), where the sombre melody of neoclassical strings briefly breaks through the hieratic, graceful organic space/dark ambient of the rest of the track. And of course, the biggest surprise of the album, “Godess”, a completely ritual track of the darkest of timbres, mixing male and female chants in a spine-chilling incantation. The male voice is demonic just as the female voice is angelic, and as the listener is utterly mesmerized by the incantation, the acolyte’s attainment is achieved. He is now one with the deity.

In this recording the vision of ATRIUM CARCERI is once again perfected, while the term “cinematic dark ambient” that is often used to describe its music is fully justified. Suggestive horror, agonizing emotions, imposing landscapes, obscene rituals and furtive appearances of vaguely shaped creatures, assemble to form a claustrophobic, asphyxiating world. One that exercises a strange, irresistible charm. Dressed with admirable compositional and technical skill and truly wonderful music that defies boundaries or expectations, “Reliquiae” is the product of an undoubtedly charismatic artist. I cannot recommend it enough.