I always look forward to receiving music packages from Russia. The quality and innovation of new music of this country never ceases to amaze me. Kicking off the latest batch of releases from Zhelezobeton is the debut release by Astralfluidz titled 'Mysterium Magnum,' and it is definitely a winner. According to their Facebook page, this project began in 2015 and consists of one classically trained musician (who presumably handles the synths, keyboards, percussion programming, etc.) and one self-taught musician (acoustic, electric guitars, bass) from Vladimir, Russia. According to the promo sheet, the music on 'Mysterium Magnum' is "entirely dedicated to Alchemy as Royal Art," and "the music language of this opus may be characterized as a combination of epic symbolism and thoughtful sonic occultism." The track titles and artwork in the accompanying booklet definitely support this - "Prima Materia" (I. Chaos); "Enigma Regis" (I. The Red King; II. The White Queen); "Tria Prima" (I. Sulphur; II. Salt; III. Mercury); Quinta Essentia" (I. Terra; II. Aqua; III. Aer; IV. Ignis; V. Aether).
Of course by now you're wondering what the music sounds like. Well, many things really. From the opening track it's cinematic dark ambient full of ominous spacey drones and cosmic effects. It had me hooked right from the get-go. It only gets better as you move deeper into this album. There is dark ambient juxtaposed by angelic voices. From this a somber, melodic musical theme emerges, orchestral with percussion, rich and vibrant, yet mysterious. And voices, lots of wordless voices. More dark ambient, sonic rumblings, tinkling of glass, wind chimes, water, cosmic drones, legato strings, and much more. A snippet of Russian liturgical choir, then the Goth-Industrial kicks in with a powerful and rhythmic intensity in the melodic progression, building and expanding to its inevitable industrial-neoclassical conclusion. The windswept plains of a wasteland appears, with ominous rumblings and the chittering of strange creatures. Something submerged yet melodic begins to rise in its inexorable climb to the surface. The tinkling of glass chimes, then the bellowing of what could be a great steamship horn, ominous thundering in the background and an airy lead synth before the percussion kick in and another melodic theme emerges. Lots of voices and drama, reminding me somewhat of Mike Oldfield's more orchestral work (forget "Tubular Bells", think more like Ommadawn"), and yes, kind of proggy symphonic. But I love it! The last track is just about impossible to describe; it just has so many elements. It is the culmination of everything that has gone before it, and then some.
It is rare that I come away from a listening experience saying, "WOW! That was incredible!!" but I just did. Comparisons pale in the wake of this - Tangerine Dream? Bah! Early Delerium? Not even close. Vangelis? Nah. This is its own duck. And to think - this is Astralfluidz's debut album. Where will they go from here? But for now you have 'Mysterium Magnum' and I highly recommend you buy it. It is ever so worthy.