For the first time in memory, we at Maelstrom are highly recommending an album based on the work’s packaging and care in putting it together.

The AL 100th Anniversary is a 2CD compilation of dark ambient bands (separated into „songs“ and „electronix / experimental“ disks). The impetus for this release is the 100th anniversary of a significant even in the history of Aleister Crowley, the patron saint of the occult.

The CDs come packaged in a black cardboard box with the artwork shown at left (the same art on the booklet). The CDs are in their own double sleeve, each side featuring with each one’s specific art. You also get a fold out poster of the fetching art work. The booklet is the same size as the box, approximately 10″ x 6″. The track listing, like every other visually stunning aspect of this work, is carefully and professionally laid out.

Before we continue, a disclaimer: as far as dark ambient goes, I am little more than a dilettante. And by that, I mean I’m a casual, disinterested party, mostly keeping up with it through the ardor of ambient-loving staff. But it is with strong conviction that we can say that this compilation is a must have for any enthusiast of dark ambient music.

For one, the track listing. Names like The Soil Bleeds Black, Atrium Carceri, Musterion, Chaos as Shelter, and Za Frûmi are no strangers to positive reviews in our pages. And while compilation albums have become entirely worthless in general due to the advent of, this 100th Anniversary collection works as all the tracks were made specifically for this album.

You can complain about how many of the tracks feature way too much theatrical talking (well, you can make a case that any is too much), and that the album’s sinister proceedings can often err on the side of the cheesy. But that goes along with the genre’s territory, and bemoaning it would be like pointing out a power metal album is bad because it had high vocals. Besides, the whole compelling mystique that surrounds Crowley is pretty cheesy anyway, so this album is indeed an apt musical mirror of that.

What is apparently positive about the album is that much of the material is indeed musical, with frequent occurences of singing and melody. Even the experimental disk features tracks that have indications of arrangements and originality from one another. That disk is unexpectedly the best of the two overall, as it generally weaves a consistently effective web of plodding, misty, occult atmosphere.

Although you can make the case that dark ambient as a genre is artistically suspect as it relies far too heavily on plagiarism (if you hear an orchestral arrangement in a dark ambient album, you can be sure it’s lifted from an old, obscure LP), again, it goes with the territory.

Is this the best dark ambient music you can find? Possibly not, but it is in all likelihood one of the choicest additions you could make to your dark ambient loving collection. Hell, even I couldn’t give it away to my staff.


Roberto Martinelli