A-Sun Amissa drowns listeners in waves of beautiful melancholia and haunting darkness on its fourth full-length album, Ceremony in the Stillness.
Since 2011, Manchester-based multi-instrumentalist Richard Knox has been creating highly textural, forward-thinking soundscapes under the A-Sun Amissa moniker. Aided by a revolving cast of collaborators, Knox establishes a unique sound that blends and transcends elements of drone, ambient, post-rock, jazz, and more. From the sprawling dark ambient pieces featured on Beneath the Heavy Tides, to the dense and abstract jazz elements of 2017’s The Gatherer, A-Sun Amissa frequently changes direction while maintaining a pervasive moody feel that is found throughout its works.
On its newest recording, Ceremony in the Stillness, the direction shifts yet again and presents a completely immersive sound that touches upon elements of its predecessors and showcases more emphasis on guitar-driven dirges. This becomes clear right from the beginning with the nearly 10-minute, brooding opening number, “The Black Path”. The slow-burning composition revolves around thick, reverberating guitars that echo out against a backdrop of oscillating drones that eventually overtakes the entire track. This Earth-meets-Godspeed You! Black Emperor hybrid builds into a doom-laden march enveloped by dense atmospheres populated by hazy saxophone, icy guitar leads, and an unnerving ondes Martenot that wails like a banshee during this apocalyptic cut.
The towering guitars return in post-metal-esque tracks such as “To the Ashes”. This six-minute composition begins with somber guitar notes that float within a soundscape populated by snow-like ambiance and droning strings. Soon the track bleeds into a powerful section of crushing bass and melodic, anthemic riffs that are accompanied by a blizzard of atmospheric guitar leads that glide over the top of everything. Things take a darker turn in “No Perception of Light”. The album’s penultimate track begins with a tension-building soundscape of hollow drones, buzzing electronics, and piano as menacing guitars slowly gain more prominence. Everything builds into an explosive wall of dark, post-metal-tinged instrumentation that brings the likes of Amenra to mind.
Things get a bit more subdued in the album’s second track, “With Wearied Eyes”. This hypnotic ambient piece revolves around entrancing, repetitious guitar riffs that are wrapped in thin, gossamer-like threads of wavering atmosphere that prove to be almost transcendental. A-Sun Amissa hark back to The Gatherer on “The Skull”; a somewhat more abstract piece made up of layers of various instrumentation and spearheaded by haunting sax work. Everything then comes together in the final track, “Remembrancer”. The track features familiar processions of doom-laden guitar riffs that build into crushing walls of sound, which then decays into an orchestral section that brings the record to a gorgeous and somber close.
Just like previous A-Sun Amissa releases, Ceremony in the Stillness stays true to the project’s roots while presenting something new. But its overwhelmingly dark and sad feel, its dynamic instrumentation, and its prominent and expressive guitar work arguably make it Knox’s best project with A-Sun Amissa to date.
Release Date: September 14, 2018
Label: Gizeh Records/Consouling Sounds
Favorite Tracks: “The Black Path”, “No Perception of Light” and “Remembrancer”
For Fans Of: Nadja, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Locrian, Mamiffer and Ben Frost