Five techno and downtempo cuts with a horror/occult twist
Based in Berlin, Occultists is a label concept born out of the idea of "finding the light within the darkness". The brainchild of one James Demon, its musical output is mainly techno that has been given an esoteric flair.
The full title of this EP is Book Of Shadows: Various Spells Vol 1. Though it's actually a sacred text of the Wiccan (pagan) religion, The Book Of Shadows crops up a lot in horror films, where it's used to summon unworldly creatures and curse your foes, but in this instance it brings forth five musical outings. First up is Adra with Ami, a straight-up techno affair with a relentless kickdrum and deep synth stabs that develop. through layers of percussion and slowed-down vocals, into a dark, brooding track with an unnerving edge that sits well with the theme of the release. This is followed by Occultists regular Dugong’s Heart Of War, which begins with a dark synth riff and builds with a full female vocal and lots of eerie sounds in the background, all of which sound suitably unhinged and deranged.
That's followed by Demon’s Old Magick, which ups the tempo with stereo panned vocals and a synth riff that gets progressively louder, with echoed percussion and a sinister pad sound ever present in the background; then in comes a vocal sample about “worshiping the old gods” and a suitably shadowy feeling is gleaned from listening to it. Next up is F600 with CH2=CH2, which lowers the tempo and begins with a throbbing bass sound, skittish snare rolls and dark vocal pads, then adds bleeps and insidious sounds that are quite unnerving, along with what sounds like a vocoded radio transmission. Finally, you have a non-techno track from Berlin duo Zoid^ in the form of the more downtempo Freak, which features a female voice telling a silent listener how she wants to cut their skull open to get to know them better. There are orchestral strings in the background, and a slow breakbeat drum pattern: it's all very macabre and theatrical, but without sounding too weird for the sake of it.
So to recap, we have five tracks, all in an occult vein, on a release that is definitely on the dark side. But does it manage to sound convincingly strange, or just cheesy? For me it pulls it off with the first four tracks but the fifth is perhaps a step too far even for me, a self-confessed gorehound! The first four would definitely work in a club setting, but by its very nature this EP's probably one for the box marked 'specialist appeal'.
Words: Danny Slade
Release date: 12 May
Review Score: 7