Lamia Vox - Sigillum Diaboli [Cyclic Law - 2013]The fact is worthy of mention in a predominantly male-dominated scene, Lamia Vox (Lamia being the name of a child-eating, serpent-tailed creature of the Greek mythology immortalized by John Keats in a poem of the same name written around 1820) is the pseudonym of a young Saint-Petersburg-based Rose McDowall-lookalike – or at least a younger and lighter version of her – whose ritualistic take on the dark ambient canon brought to the attention of Russia’s premium dark experimental label Der Angriff, responsible for the release of her first full-length album, the suitably-titled ‘…Introductio’, in 2010. She has now traded the vast, frozen Russian expanses for… the vast, frozen Canadian expanses that are home to Frédéric Arbour’s Cyclic Law, without a doubt the most respected industrial imprint north of the Niagara Falls.
Let’s be honest. If the likes of Reutoff, Sal Solaris, Stalnoy Pakt or Lucisferrato float your musical boat and you’re thinking about adding yet another like-minded Russian project to the list of well-known industrial acts hailing from Europe’s Eastern reaches, chances are you’ll be disappointed. ‘Sigillum Diaboli’ is a lot more professional-sounding and sleeker than most of what the young girl’s compatriots active in the field have accustomed us to and features the sort of production job that is sure to put off those of us gravitating towards the grittier end of the sound spectrum. With an unmistakable ear for melody that makes this a very immediately ear-pleasing album, Lamia Vox sometimes sounds dangerously like dark ambient’s answer to Enya and some of the material wouldn’t be out of place on a dance-floor. That being said, you’d be mistaken to write it off immediately.
Another strong characteristic of this album is the wide array of influences prevalent throughout, which make it a lot less one-dimensional than most of today’s dark ambient and could potentially serve as a good introduction to those making a first foray into the genre. Veritable melting pot of styles, ‘Sigillum Diaboli’ features genuinely dark soundscapes which would do early Raison d’Être proud (whether her sharing the stage with Peter Andersson in Moscow a couple of years ago has anything to do with it remains open for debate), ritualistic material of a very filmic quality (album opener ‘At the Crossroads of the World’s’) and even some martial industrial leanings here and there when the snares are brought up (the very Arditi-sounding ‘Enemy of Heaven’ or title track ‘Sigillum Diaboli’). The material is mostly instrumental in nature but does feature the occasional voice or whisper, in a way that is sometimes reminiscent of Austrian neo-mediaeval legends The Moon Lay Hidden Beneath A Cloud (closing track ‘Witches Night’ could have been lifted straight from TMLHBAC’s ‘A Night in Fear’ split with Deutsch Nepal).
Despite this occasionally eyebrow-raising dilettantism, the album manages to retain a well-needed cohesion and, extraordinarily enough, never sounds like a collection of loose tracks waiting to derail at the first given opportunity. And when Lamia Vox decides that she doesn’t want to sound like any of the above-mentioned projects and sails her own course instead, there are hints of greatness and genius hidden in the mix (the deliciously trippy ‘Evil Comes from the North’). Two full-lengths into her career, the young Russian still seems to be refining her style and only time will tell whether the sonic gems found on those albums will ever be given the chance to coalesce into a musical sum greater than its constitutive parts.
If you can get past the obscenely cheeky cover art of the sort which normally graces third-rate German gothic compilations and are ready to leave aside your sexist prejudices for a moment, ‘Sigillum Diaboli’ will prove the kind of pleasant, middle-of-the-road affair which will make for a nice breeze of fresh air in your listening habits every now and then. Ground-breaking or genre-pushing it isn’t by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly a decent, well-executed piece of music by a young artist it would be a crime not to follow in years to come.