Ogre’s brand new long player Gates of Nessus, which is the second release from Tom McDowell’s Library of the Occult record label, is described as “ambiences and mood music for deep dungeon crawling, pen and paper RPGs, and cult paperback fantasies of yester-decades.” I’ve never dungeon crawled and was never much of a fantasy dice roller, but listening to the dark synths, sonic incantations, and wicked soundscapes on Gates of Nessus I think I’m sort of regretting that decision.
Robyn Ogden has built a musical fortress of darkness. It’s a place to enter and explore at your own discretion. According to Library of the Occult, Gates of Nessus is “Inspired by Gene Wolfe’s The Book Of The New Sun, Hidetaka Miyazaki’s Dark Souls, Kentaro Miura’ Berserk, Fighting Fantasy, Dungeons & Dragons, and many other great adventures.” You totally get the vibe of losing yourself in another world. Spells and malevolent creatures hover around every corner, while the shadows close in on you. Cobblestone walkways lead to underground dwellings where ancient rituals once took place. Left behind are the spirits and malevolence to hover in the air. It’s compelling with just the right amount of dread.
Gates of Nessus opens an entryway between here and the other side. “The Barbican of the Black Tower” marches into the darkness. Ogden captures a sort of timelessness in this opening salvo. “Harbinger” is a steady, plodding, sonic dread. There’s a touch of mania here that feels like walking into a new dimension. Lead track “Gates of Nessus” puts me in mind the music you’d hear in some late night horror flick you’d find on cable access. Mid-60s, so-so acting, but the technicolor picture keeps you watching. And the music freaks you out enough that you don’t want to get off the couch for that walk down the dark hallway to your bedroom.
Ogre’s sound on Gates of Nessus is vintage. It’s of the old school variety, complete with gauzy synths and lo-fi soundscapes. I’d love imagining some teens sitting around in 1979 in a suburban sunken living room playing D&D as this album plays in the background. It’s a perfect match, really. But then I hear something like “Winding Stairways” and I’m totally taken back to the mid-80s and playing Castlevania on the NES. There’s an 8-bit quality to these songs that puts me in mind of classic video game soundtracks.
Elsewhere “Antechamber(Beneath House Absolute)” is vast and gorgeous in its desolation. You can almost see the castle within the mist. “Benisons of the Nightmare Realm” locks into a mixture of Japanese folklore and Lucio Fulci, all in one. Album closer “The Court of Avern Flowers” lets us pass through the gates one more time, with more of an upbeat feel. As if we survived the night and can see the sunrise in the distance.
Gates of Nessus is another absolute stunner from Ogre. Wrapping fantasy and horror vibes into one Gothic album, Robyn Ogden gives us an engaging, darkly-lit masterpiece.
8.1 out of 10