Henrik Nordvargr Björkk / Margaux Renaud - Anima Nostra [Cold Spring Records - 2016]Anima Nostra is a ritualistic, dark ambient release from Henrik Nordvargr Björkk and Margaux Renaudin. Coming from industrial juggernaut Cold Spring, the duo crafts a thick, hypnotic soundscape that unfolds further with each successive listen. With a prolific catalog already behind him, Henrik Nordvargr continues to add impressive releases to his resume with the likes of Anima Nostra.
Combining the elements of dark ambient with grim, foreboding, vocals, Anima Nostra takes on a ritualistic vibe with the listener in front row seats for the vile spectacle that unfolds. Opening up with plodding drums over a slowly oscillating shimmer of sound, "Sunyata" lures the listener in with a hypnotic calm before introducing him to the spectacle of a dark, chanted ritual. Setting the stage for what's to come, "Sunyata" is a great intro track for Anima Nostra. "Spiritus Omni" continues with the subtle drum, and adds a bit more of a chthonic summoning to the ritual. Slow, brooding, and somewhat distant, "Spiritus Omni" increases the somberness and gravity of the message Anima Nostra conveys. Interestingly, the track that follows is an alternate version of MZ. 412's "Mourning Star." Having been written ten years prior, "Mourning Star" fits into Anima Nostra quite well, with its hypnotic drum work and subterranean synth vibes. The vocals are less intense, but this serves as a bit of a respite for the listener, while increasing the industrial feel of the album a bit. This isn't meant to last for too long, though, as "KMT" stretches out time and adds a realm of cavernous sparseness. Stray drum hits and pained shouts punctuate the low, drawn out, slowly twisting synth in the background. Resurrecting the industrial vibe, "Runik Hexagram II" adds some metallic tones to the now familiar chthonic ritual of Anima Nostra. Eschewing the drums for a more subtle, sparse creep, "Runik" is well placed on the album. A growing, thriving buzz welcomes the listener on "Gjallarhornet Ljuder." The mingling of high and low drones builds a sense of discomfort that builds until the last minute, when the tones split enough to get almost musical. Strange, but almost comforting vocals appear alongside somewhat dancey drums on "Lavenement Du Neant." While carrying the same, subterranean, ritualistic tone as the tracks before it, "Lavenenment" manages to break free from the grimness and almost brings about a feeling of ease and freedom. However, "Maladia Skandinavia" puts an end to that, and the summoning begins once more. Low and plodding, but with stray, airy elements, a horrifying growl makes the listener feel as if the ritual has hit its peak, and the gate has been opened.
Henrik Nordvargr Björkk and Margaux Renaudin's Anima Nostra is a well done composition of ritualistic, dark ambient. Mixing slight industrial elements in with traditional drumming and droning, the duo craft something worthy of repeated listens. Nordvargr works with many other artists, so I hope that he works with Margaux Renaudin again in the near future.Paul Casey