DARK AWAKE: Abaris Hyperboreios
Release year: 2023
Label: Steinklang Industries
If you’d go by what artists are mentioned in various social media groups and forums, you’d think neofolk and martial industrial basically consists of Death In June, Arditi, Blood Axis, Forseti, Darkwood, Current 93 and maybe half a dozen other acts. It’s sometimes rather frustrating – both as a musician and a listener within the genres – to find the wealth and breadth of the scenes continually reduced to just the most famous artists.
I suppose this happens in all scenes to some extent, and the relative smallness of the neofolk/martial industrial scene only aggravates the problem. For example, in black metal and death metal groups, new, upcoming and unknown names are mentioned with great frequency, and I’ve spotted more than one group I’ve ended up buying albums from that way. In the neofolk/martial groups – not so much. New names only seem to pop up when artists promote themselves, usually to the ringing din of absolute silence. Nobody is interested.
And that irks me.
Case in point: Greek Dark Awake. They’ve been publishing albums since 2008, but because they’re not one of the few “in” names, rare are the occasions when you see them mentioned. Judging by the amount of followers on social media, the group does have a real fanbase, but such are the inexplicable laws of the neofolk/martial scene, that this does not translate to a whole lot of hype surrounding the project. You didn’t see much buzz about this album in advance!
Abaris Hyperboreios, the group’s 16th album, counting a couple of splits, is certainly deserving of attention. Taking its name from a mythical Greek sage, it’s a multifaceted dive into esotericism and tradition. Being largely instrumental, and the rare vocal passages being pretty much indecipherable without a lyric sheet (not included), it’s hard to say exactly what the angle is, but already the track names hint at a vast array of themes. The Birth Of Vahagn focuses on the Armenian sky god, Shava Sadhana delves deep into Tantric esotericism, and Sons Of Arius appears to evoke the father of so-called arianism, one of the doctrines regarding the nature of Jesus Christ. And so on. Suffice to say, the thematic quintessence of the album is steeped deep in Indo-European mysticism.
Musically, Abaris Hyperboreios is a rather timeless take on martial post-industrial music, though the themes are not overly warlike. Driving, dramatic percussions, pompous and theatralic orchestrations, atmospheric choirs and various industrial rumbles and drones are used to create tracks bustling with tension, a flair for the dramatic, and evocative atmospheres befitting the thematics of the album. The overall sound of the album does not seek to conceal that it’s constructed from synthesized instruments – quite the contrary, Abaris Hyperboreios lets it shine through, thus firmly anchoring the album to the classic sound of yore within the scene.
Ranging from the decidedly martial marching drums of the title track to the almost dungeon synth-like atmospherics of Whispering Of Gotos, Abaris Hyperboreios is a broad take on the various strands of martial, neoclassical post-industrial music. Complemented by a clear but still warm production, it goes to prove that the naysayers of the scene – those who would so loudly proclaim martial industrial dead – are in the wrong. More activity, and more grassroots support within the scene would be welcome, but the fact that albums such as this are being released proves that martial industrial is indeed alive.