Kemic-Al - The Dark Journal (Butterfly Records 2006) CD


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Aalborg, Denmark
Kemic-Al – The Dark Journal


Hi-res cover: front + back

Artist: Kemic-Al (Malta)
Title: The Dark Journal (1431-1476)
Format: CD (jewel case)
Label: Butterfly Records (Malta)
Cat. #: BTF CD 02
Distribution: Wirikuta
Date: 2 May 2006

Track listing:

01. 05’31†Welcome To My Home…
02. 05’21†The Hostage
03. 05’24†Birth Of Justice – Part 1 (The Beginning)
04. 02’29†Birth Of Justice – Part 2 (Rage Of Terror)
05. 07’40†Vlad Dracula (The Impaler)
06. 07’13†Birth Of Justice – Part 3 (Reclaiming The Throne)
07. 06’36†Boyars Of Tirgoviste (The Revenge)
08. 07’29†Stakes
09. 05’09†Accepted Darkness
10. 06’16†Eternal Life
11. 06’42†Buried Alive
12. 01’43†End Of Journey
13. 04’51†Forest Of The Impaled
14. 06’29†The Last Battle With The Ottoman

.m3u-playlist: (all tracks!)


One story, fourteen chapters…

With his debut album Twisted Parameters, Maltese multi-talent Aldo Lombardi, made an impressive entry into the darker realms of the psytrance scene. That album still ranks very high in my personal chart of best artist albums of 2005 and I’m still amazed by its diversity, stamina and staying power. So naturally I’ve been eagerly awaiting the follow-up and the internet hype surrounding the album was also in a league not often seen with a ‘darkpsy’ album.

Aldo wanted to try something new this time, and for almost 20 years he had to idea to create an album that was much more a continuous story with chapters, as opposed to an album filled with individual tracks. The theme for this album, dubbed The Dark Journal, is the life and death of the notorious Vlad Dracula and his reign of terror in and around his native Romania in the fifteenth century. The booklet tells the true story of Dracula and each story represents a chapter in the story of his life – interpreted by Kemic-Al. I’m not gonna reproduce what people can read in the booklet, but I’ll try go express what I make of the individual chapters… They are meant to be digested as a whole, but to make it easier on the readers; I’ll use my usual track-by-track format. Let’s dig in!

Let me take you thru the tracks…

#01: Welcome To My Home…
With majestic orchestral pads of neo-classical music, Kemic-Al starts the first chapter of the story… Pounding drums, raven cries and eerie voice samples establish the atmosphere nicely. We’re definitely in the early fifteenth century now – and it’s a dark, troublesome age. An impressive intro of majestic proportions… Scary as fuck, but frightening as it may be, it’s extremely compelling…

#02: The Hostage
After the lengthy intro the first proper beats are introduced amidst a ghostly, terrorizing reign of medieval horror. The church bells are shimmering and the harpsichord is playing a familiar, melancholy tune… Add some subtle, twirling acid-lines and some ancient choral work and you’re deep into this pounding track. There isn’t much progression going on, but do not despair, this is just one step of the way…

#03: Birth Of Justice – Part 1 (The Beginning)
As the story progresses, the intensity level is raised a few bars – we’re digging deeper into the dark realms now and the old acid-meter has been cranked up a few notches… There’s a slightly retarded melody going on here – it’s tweaked up and down – and eventually beyond recognition… It’s very emotional and in that regard it reminds me of some older The Muses Rapt stuff – it has the same melancholy touch – though obviously here, it’s confined in a much darker, more underground musical universe…

#04: Birth Of Justice – Part 2 (Rage Of Terror)
The second part of Birth Of Justice is more intense than the first one… All the energy conserved in the first part is reignited and reassembled as a fast-paced, maximal, propane-injected burst of energy… The acid is flowing freely and this is the most psychedelic moment thus far…

#05: Vlad Dracula (The Impaler)
Impaling is one of the most gruesome ways of execution, and I actually think that somehow Aldo has managed to channel some of that grotesqueness into this track… This is evil, perverse, dark-as-fuck, sick, haunting stuff… Just like the horrific image of Vlad The Impaler and his ghastly ways…

#06: Birth Of Justice – Part 3 (Reclaiming The Throne)
“I am Vlad Dracula. Son of the great prince Vlad. In the name of my father, I hereby reclaim the throne of Romania….†The last part of the threefold, and once again the energy level from the first two ones are surpassed here – and this is easily the most intense of the threefold… Syncopated acid-lines are morphing back and forth – spanning a wide spectre of sound… This is climactic, layered, persistent night music… The first part of this chapter is the best, and it seems like some of the focus and energy seems a little lost halfway thru… But after a couple of bland minutes during the middle passage, the track picks up again towards the end… Intensely frightening!

#07: Boyars Of Tirgoviste (The Revenge)
With the next chapter, the impressive orchestral pads are introduced once again – along with a bunch of silly (in a good way) samples of all kinds… We’re dining with the mad hatter and all his crazy guests – and in that sense, this track sends a friendly nod back to the first Kemic-Al album Twisted Parameters… After a bunch of very nocturnal tracks, a lighter, oddball track like this was needed to break the mould, clear the senses and reassure 100% focus… And oh my, is this track lovely… It’s very hectic and ever-changing… And I cannot even begin to count the layers here… Intense, multi-flavoured and immensely trippy stuff… Brilliant!

#08: Stakes
The next chapter has some of the same less-dark quality as its predecessor… This is still murky night trance, but not as über-dark as some of the previous stuff… It’s more like evil full-on and the acid-stabs and subtle bassline also indicates just that… Very danceable and very max-power like… And those howling wolves are placed *just* right…

#09: Accepted Darkness
“He has forsaken the truth and the light – and accepted the darkness!†This chapter starts with an AWESOME, totally unexpected climax already @ 0’37!! Wow, I love little surprises like that – totally goose-bump inducing stuff! Damn, now this is pure dancefloor fodder if there ever was dancefloor fodder… It’s fast-paced cyber trance like this, which shreds the mind, body and soul to pieces in a swift chainsaw movement… Brutal stuff – but oh my, there is beauty in brutality!

#10: Eternal Life
The brutality continues without hesitation in the next chapter… The church bells are still ringing, foreseeing the imminent doom that waits in the near future… The bass is pounding and the distant screams are haunting and remind us of Dracula’s horror… The chainsaw acid-lines from the previous chapter are still causing havoc and basically the senses are bombarded with all kinds of freaky sounds from the underworld…. The Gregorian chanting really tops it off, and this is truly a horrendous chapter… The final bridge part is maybe a tad monotonous, but it’s all part of Aldo’s master plan…

#11: Buried Alive
Imagine the claustrophobic, life-fading experience of being buried alive. Frightening, horrifying and devastating – just what Dracula went thru when he was sentenced by the Catholics… This chapter does its best to portray the soundtrack of the loneliest place in existence – Dracula’s tomb! Again the acid has taken control of the main sound picture – and this chapter revolves around some hi-pitched, twirling acid-bits accompanied by some nocturnal, doomsday rhythms…

#12: End Of Journey
With marching rhythms marking the final retreat of Dracula, this short chapter marks the beginning of the end… It’s a breath of fresh, unpolluted air and it’s another gigantic, orchestral sound collage of epic proportions… It’s beautiful!

#13: Forest Of The Impaled
This chapter is perhaps the most graphic of them all – the title refers to Dracula’s favourite way of executing his enemies: He impaled them on stakes! When the Turks marched into Tirgoviste, they were met by 20.000 stinking corpses impaled on stakes… This chapter describes in sound the horrors of that experience – in one acid-ridden, synth-riddled piece of night trance… Maximal power in this piece of terrifying history…

#14: The Last Battle With The Ottoman
With the final chapter and the last battle the story draws to a close, and if you were imagining a chilled, relaxed final track; well think again! This is upbeat, experimental, in-your-face hyper trance… Riddled with acid, strange FX, digital farts and electronic burps… Very Penta-like actually, but still unmistakably Kemic-Al in all his relentless glory! Phew! The final couple of minutes are dedicated to a sort of outro and it’s time to sit back, catch your breath and think about what you’ve just experienced… Like walking out of the movies and just slowly trying to absorb what you’ve just witnessed… Phew, what a rush! What a trip!

Setting out to create a themed concept album with basically one album-long track, could easily have ended in pompous, pretentious, introvert garbage… But this is VERY far from that, this is actually a very, very special album. Very interesting, and refreshingly different! Anyone expecting Twisted Parameters Pt. 2 will be disappointed though. This album is much more mature – and in the same regard, it’s less easily accessible. Some of the tracks are indeed introvert and with the continued story concept, it’s not like you wanna skip tracks and enjoy them individually… This works MUCH better as one long story track. With that in mind, allow me to compare this with similar concept albums released in recent years. It’s not as amazing as Artifakt’s ground-breaking and diverse Artifakts II (Timecode 2005) but it’s even better than Megalopsy’s The Abstract Machine (Trishula 2005). But were milestone albums in their own right, and The Dark Journal finds it place steadily between them.

Musically this album doesn’t sway far away from the so-called darkpsy genre. The BPM is kept at a steady 148 throughout the album, but Kemic-Al still manages to keep the vast majority of the tracks interesting with all kinds of tweaks, twists and turns. Yes, there are a couple of dull moments, but they are scarce and as they are an integral part of the story they don’t bother me as much as they would on, say a compilation. Aldo also made the artwork and the impressive, informative booklet himself – as well as all the music + mastering and so on. How’s that for multi-talent folks? Very well done Aldo, you’ll have a hard time topping this album!

All in all, this album is a gem within the darker realms of psytrance. But, it’s not as easily accessible as most albums. It requires the listener to listen to all of it at once, and as a minimum a couple of repeated listens. Fans of melodic full-on and other purists will take a bit of convincing before they get this. But invest some time in this, and the reward will come back to you tenfold… This album is brilliant! …Enjoy!

Favourites: This is supposed to be enjoyed as a whole – like one long track. Chapters 1, 4, 7(!), 9(!) and 12 are particularly well-executed though…


External links:
Tower Records (Japan):
HMV (Japan):
Saiko Sounds:


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Album: The Dark Journal (1431-1476)
Artist: Kemic-Al
Label: Butterfly Records


What's This About

The arrival Aldo Lombardi’s second installment brings a concept album, wrapped around a single theme. Contrary to popular believe, the ‘Dark Journal’ is not Kemic-Al’s black list of ex-girlfriends and Isratrance downloader’s, to be dealt with when the time is right. It’s a homage (of sorts), exploring different aspects in the life of Vlad Tepes Dracula, up until his eventual demise. The story follows along chronologically with attention to historical events (or at least widely accepted) notions of our anti-hero. After all this is dark trance and we are talking about, and the guy held a popular reputation for being a blood-sucking meanie. If the album has opened your appetite for a dark historical fiction (alongside factual information) regarding this enigmatic character, I suggest you check out Elizabeth Kostova’s lengthy book The Historian. In the meantime, I have adapted a review that will -hopefully- fit the model, guiding us through the contents of the entire album in the hopes of capturing the message in its totality.

The Journal

A moody intro filled with violins, crows and atmospheric entanglements reigning with an impending sense of doom. The location is Dracula’s palace of Tirgoviste. As the heavy doors inside the castle slide open, Vlad himself stands proud of his dominium, Welcome to my home .

Let’s rewind and attempt recapitulating accordingly: Vlad was apparently in captivity from a young age with his brother Radu, in the hands of the sultan Mehmed III until he was 17. It doesn’t take a psychologist to figure out this might have not been the most ideal setting for a child to grow up and The Hostage explores these ideas accordingly. For Kemic-Al, this is a great excuse to churn our fast rhythms straddling along with juicy toms and screechy lines, contorting on top of church organs to give it an appropriate gothic flair. That is basically what Aldo has conjured in the Dark Journal, the use of medieval organic elements, mixing it with his particular take on Psy-chi-dellic trance.

Vlad is released from the Turkish compound after learning his father and older brother (Mircea) had been assassinated by Vladislav II a year earlier. It is not clear when, but the story indicates Vlad and his older brother were tortured and buried alive by the boier’s (Romanian aristocracy) of Tirgoviste, where he would one day rule supreme. The Beginning of a brutal Birth of Justice thus transpires. Musically there isn’t much variation in the undertones, except a few clever bass changes. The synth continues stretching through in painfully spluttering noises.

In the second installment or Reign of Terror , we can rely heavily on the contextual name. Evidently all hell is breaking loose and Mr. Dracula is doing his thing loverly. In the name of revenge to ascertain his authority, like any good despot should. Musically speaking, this is not offering new inroads to the madness, except total synth diffusion. Then again, this is a continuation of sorts… so, let’s keep riding…

The ship has reached full steam, as we navigate in dark treacherous times. In Vlad Dracula, the phallic torturing method of choice is made ever so apparent as The Impaler lays down the law. The musical arrangements fit accordingly, tying us down with more spatial distortion, spooky voices and a lot of bang… I mean what else right? Very involving number, that does not look to stray too far from the birth of justice.

Reclaiming the throne is the last chapter in the justice saga, marking the time when Vlad defeated Vladislav II to become the prince of Wallachia and ruler of Romania. Like any new politician, promises of equality and an end to oppression speeches are given and later forgotten. The joyful event is marked with screams polluting the high ranges and the abysmal sense of foreboding, this guy might just not be the right one for the prince job.

Recalling the time when the Boyards of Tirgoviste buried him and his brother, Vlad seeks to round them up for a feast on a given Sunday, mainly to show them a jolly good time. I don’t know you, but if I had tortured Vlad a number of years back, there just wouldn’t be much of a reason for me to show up at his soiree...Yes, I consider myself smarter the average Boyard. Kemic-Al’s take on the matter shines with violas, background samples and eerie cues. A good builder with a healthy doze of twists, displaying Kemic-Al’s sound signature all over.

More Stakes folks, this time in the form of a jagged bass and no truce until you pass out… or you stop dancing for a second. Historically speaking, this is the continuation of his revenge and the ones that get impaled are the older boyards, from the aforementioned party. The rest are kindly invited to assist building his new castle or die trying.

Despite the fact people did not have internet, rumors travel faster than the speed of light (even in the Middle Ages), and it is no surprise Vlad’s love for asserting his revenge with good ol’ stakes, reached the ears of the Roman Catholic Church. Disgusted by Dracula’s actions he was forsaken by the church and asked not return again for the holydays feasts. Interestingly enough, it wouldn’t be long before the church started its own inquision party, looking to punish all those who had Accepted Darkness … or anything other than Christ. The musical version is a slow builder with all sorts of wrought atmospherics and faint chanting in the background before the kicks take it all way, and by then it is pitch fuckin black. Fraught with noises attacking the speakers in stereo mode, there is not much of a melodic intent (like is pretty much the case with every track here), but Aldo manages to push his sound through with all the right discordant elements.

When you are excommunicated by the church there isn’t much you can do, but renounce to your faith and change dogmas in hopes other folks will allow in their own version of Valhalla. Aldo takes this opportunity to explore the hidden mysticism that surrounded Vlad concerning his passion for blood and Eternal Life , the Goth kids love to revere. As for the track, it is harsh and steady pounding with a few creases of light, but it is mostly another chapter in the accepted darkness saga, if the intermittent synths are anything to guide us by.

By now I have lost count of how many times this guy has been Buried Alive and my guess is Vlad was on the same boat. Technically this is slightly more industrial, taking as starting point the recurrent metallic noises in the background, the lines and the steady bass that seems to gain depth at patches. Very entertaining.

At some point the cunning bastard manages to escape –yet again- his own burial, probably because he is immortal and all that. So, the final clash is coming and without much help from friends -having impaled most of them- he has to drag himself back to his place in Tirgoviste, scorching the earth along the way to leave nothing for the Turkish army. In most respects, this is the End of the Journey for him.

The Forest of the Impaled is another highlight in the album, bringing back juicy lines twitching with quasi-melodies… this is classic-al Kemic-Al. As for the history, it relates to the cover picture in the album, depicting the horrid scene when Vlad impaled 20,000 Turkish prisoners for the army of Mehmed III to witness on its way. It’s probably the most fucked up scare tactic I have heard off and you have to give it to him, not many people would have been able to sit down and dine in front of such sight like Dracula did. So, bon appetit and all that…

It was a long, arduous and at times monotonous journey, but the Last Battle with the Ottomans is here. I will save the historical babble and let you read that part on your own, suffice to know Vlad did not go down quietly, and Aldo saved his best sonic ammo for last. This is creepy, involving, leading down to cinematic bliss with screams conjured in the midst of mayhem.

All in All

I will be damned If I didn’t see this one coming. Musically is what I could have hoped for, except for the overpowering sense of involvement in the story and the gothic psychedelic archetype Aldo created. My only quip would be the recurrent rhythmic elements, which throughout the whole thing never really go out on experimental tangents. That is partly why this whole ride moves at around 148 BPM’s, without fractured or syncopated arrangements, not forgetting this was supposed to be a whole story in itself. What Aldo does here, he does well though. That is mixing history, psychedelia, horror and lot of fun, introspective chapters with potential on the floor. The rest is waiting to be discovered in the cool booklet included in the CD, from where I took most of the events that are herein described… roughly… the rest you’ll need to unearth yourself. May the stakes be with you.

Where to get

Saiko Sounds >




getting through it... puff what a read.. hehehe... keep my ears and eyes open for this one!

Full Lotus

Hob Nob King
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It's a great album :Smile3: