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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Raison d'être - The Empty Hollow Unfolds (Expanded Edition 2021) [Old Europa Café - 2021]

Originally released in the year 2000 The Empty Hollow Unfolds was the ninth album from Raison D'être. It saw the Swedish project deepening and expanding its use of metal- be it junk texturing, gong hits, or brooding bell tolling. These elements were layering and set around the projects traditional use of mournful monk chants, glum drones, and general arcane ambience to great dramatic and bleakly searing effect. Here from Old Europa Café, is new expanded edition of the album- with the two-CD set- taking in on the first disc the remastered album, and on the second disc a selection of related tracks- be they studio or live recordings.

The two CD’s come presented in a six-panel mini gatefold- this features a selection of monochrome pictures of metal church bell towers and weathered aged industrial conveyors belts. With small/ minimal textures around the packaging. The packaging is a nice low key and mood-setting affair- fitting the albums sound- halfway between dramatic metal texturing and forlorn ageless ambient.

I recall hearing The Empty Hollow Unfolds when it first came out in 2000, and at that point, I had little or no appreciation of noise as a genre- so as a result, I found the very pronounced metal elements too much, and they seemed to lessen the ambient elements. Playing the album today I get the completely reverse- the carefully placed and largely very nuanced metal tones, both enhance and deepen the pull of the ambience. Creating a rather compelling yin-yang quality, which summons up images of vast rusting and long-forgotten factories, moving with the spirits of their long-dead workers and battered by winter storms.

The album opens in prime Raison D'être form with a single mournful monk chant as we enter “The Slow Ascent”- and fairly soon the metal elements appear- with the use of desolately knocking chimes, slowed grates, and sudden short rushes of metal bashes. Around these, we find drifting through barren corridors bass harmonics & distant rising voice chant.

As we move on through the album we come to the slow forking, dragging and brooding steel hits meets hoovering female choirs of “The Wasteland”. The original album was finished off with the just over twenty minutes of “The Eternal Return And The Infinity Horizon”- which is set around a hauntingly building-then-receding structure of slicing ‘n’ knocking metal tones, and their reverb trails. As the track progresses deep simmering drones and sinister low horn-type hovers are added to the sound picture, along with the addition of more atmospheric metal knocks, rattles, and drags- with the track being finished with distorted horn drones and angelic choir simmer as it plays out. A wonderfully brooding end to the album.

This new edition features two bonus tracks on the first discs- we have the just shy of eight and a half minutes of “The Wasteland II” which blends mournful ambient string hoover, moody metal drags ‘n’ grates and hints of the brooding horn work from the previous track. And there’s the nine minutes twenty of “The Eternal Returns” which finds eerier knocking and dragging’s, been joined by the billow horn breed from the album final track. These additional tracks nicely expand some of the albums sonic themes well, and don’t just feel like stuck on bonus tracks- but instead work as rewarding extra chapters to the same sonic story.


Moving onto the second disc in the set, this takes in eleven tracks- these have runtimes between two and ten minutes, and we find a mix of tracks from/ near the release date of the album, and live versions of album tracks. And highlights here go from “Moulding And Destruction I” and Moulding And Destruction II”- the first track is built around sinister percussive simmer and sudden jarring hits, with an undercurrent of shadowy ambient unease. And the second features fading in 'n' out moody metallic knock & drag, with an undercarriage of billow unease. We get a live recording of the album track "The Mournful Wounds”- which features a blend of slurred bassy vocalising, dense hovering monk chant mass, and eerily tapping ‘n’ knocking percussion.  And a live version of none album track “The Eternal Horizon”- this is built around very hazed percussive hammering/ glow, which is lightly ebbed by dark industrial ambient touches. This disc is very much a bonus material affair, and while it has less flow/ consistency to it, there are still some worthy moments here.


The Empty Hollow Unfolds stands as an important and distinctive blend of ambient and moodily casted noisemaking. And It’s great to see it getting this recent double CD reissue on Old Europa Café, which is certainly something you’ll be wanting to pick up if you enjoy where ambient and noise meet & co-habit in an arcane and haunted manner.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Roger Batty
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