Cryo Chamber- Mercury Mission Diaries

Cryo Chamber: Mercury Mission Diaries – Music Review

The release of Mercury Mission Diaries was something of a surprise to me – not the usual dark and brooding various artist compilations that Cryo Chamber had released in the past, but a more science-fiction/space horror themed one. And to my even greater pleasure, it’s bloody good. It’s very much like a soundtrack to a great, deep cinematic sci-fi film that doesn’t exist. – featuring some of my favourite artists on the label. Let’s look at the tracklist first to see who’s who:

Album Tracklist

1. Skrika – Escape Transit [09:15]
2. Red Fog – Caloris Crash [10:34]
3. Keosz – We Are Going In [07:40]
4. Sole Massif & Tineidae – Prominence Forms [05:00]
5. Dronny Darko – Suspended in Emptiness [07:59]
6. RNGMNN – Point of No Return [06:18]
7. Onasander – Red Hot Harvest [06:04]
8. In Quantum – Mercury Return Mission [07:26]

Mercury Mission Diaries Release Notes

Cryo Chamber legends combine their efforts on this epic ambient space album. Analog Synthesizers combine with Space Drones and Cosmic Textures as each artist brings their space faring arsenal of instruments. 

“The harvester class ship came to life with a low, guttural hum as the crew prepared to activate the propulsion systems. They were ready to move to a safe distance, having received no response from the on surface crew. The last message was received over two minutes ago, and the eerie silence was deafening. 

In the midst of solar eruption, protocol called for sync-messages every thirty seconds as the peak drew nearer. But with no response, the crew was left to wonder if their communications had been jammed by the blast, or if they were the only ones left. 

The last log entry detailed an unusual energy surge detected beneath the surface of the planet. With each passing second, the possibility of escape dwindled, leaving the crew with nothing but their fears and a haunting silence.” 

Recommended for fans of both subtle droning and dramatic space scenes

The Album in Detail

Escape Transit by Skrika was a total surprise. But given my experiences of the artist were the much darker and ambient ‘Fifth Nature’, this was… different. It’s a great opening, placing the listener in the perfect space of witnessing the launch or departure of the craft that will transport the crew to Mercury. Sequenced analogue synths, rising tones and pads lift the listener up out of the atmosphere into the cold dark of space.

Caloris Crash a more abstract, sound-driven piece with a longer more dark drone vibe to it. Starting with an ominous deep horn, we are plunged into a void of space as we mentally travel towards Mercury. It builds in intensity in all the right places.

We Are Going In is another drone-style piece, more haunting and melancholic this time. Keosz creates some lovely tube-synth style sounds with which to create this amazing track. Lots of distortion, but tastefully done – and there’s exquisite attention to sonic detail to make sure that those base, hollow sounds are still clear in the mix throughout the rises and falls of the other elements of this piece.

Prominence Forms is probably the most epic thing I’ve ever heard coming out of this label. Searing analogue sequences, massive, grandiose pads evoking a mental image of structures the size of which would boggle the mind of the listener. One of my favourites of the album by an astronomical unit.

Suspended in Emptiness is a great Dronny Darko track. Minimal, dark, brooding drone to counterpoint the aforementioned track. There are a number of elements of field recordings, processed into unnatural soundscapes, something alien. Disembodied voices permeate some sections as if the listener is lost in some strange, unknown structure and trying to find their way out, at moments receiving signal either from the structure itself or from the rest of their team.

Point of No Return is another darker drone style piece, with a more classic sound I would say. It’s like a fusion of mellotron with string synths – hard to describe. It’s discordant, unsettling, with a dark thumping bass pulsing slowly underneath and smaller sonic elements adding to a track that just oozes uncertainty. Lovely.

Red Hot Harvest really sums up a searing desolation. It’s a strong track in its own right. Dark bass pads start us off, then some more noise/wind oriented style sounds fill in the sonic palette adding a sense of heat or haze as higher pitched pads come and go. Distant machine or industrial style sounds add to a desolate soundscape reflecting an almost unbearable scene. It’s not a desert, it’s rock, blasted by the heat of the sun to almost 450ºC.

Mercury Return Mission is a fitting end. More analogue sequences, a wonderfully delightful solo synth and pad sounds really put this in a melancholic ‘end credits’. Delightful and with some interesting sound design, it evokes late-70’s synth soundtrack to low budget sci-fi movies, but with a much higher production value.

Final Thoughts – A Deep and Moving Soundtrack

I loved this direction that Simon Heath at Cryo Chamber took with this project. Combining two forms of ambient/dark cinematic music and centring it around a theme is vaguely reminiscent of his work as Sabled Sun with the 2145-2149 albums. Having different artists contribute in their own ways to create a musical narrative is a master stroke. I sincerely wish there were more concept compilations like this. I do love their annual Lovecraft collaborations and the concept that has been mastered there, but this is a great and different idea that has worked really really well.

As for notable tracks, the opening track Escape Transit is a remarkably uplifting piece which really sets an optimistic tone, only to be immediately hammered back into its place by the following track. I loved this opening. The amazing sequencing and pad melodies of Prominence Forms was just pure frisson to me and my ears revelled in every part of that track, immediately earning it a spot in my “Personal Favourites” playlist. The searing heat of Mercury could also be felt through my other notable favourite track, Red Hot Harvest.

10/10 would endure the heat of the Sun whilst standing on the surface of Mercury again to experience this. Looking forward to seeing if a sequel ever appears on the Cryo Chamber Label. How about it, Simon?

Mercury Mission Diaries is available on Bandcamp and the usual other places.

Read more of my Music Reviews here.

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