CD Review

Virgil - "Out of the Ether"

By Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Out of the ether they came, an unknown fugue like creeping death... Sounds like a good opening to a potentially disastrous grade-Z movie, doesn't it? Despite the liberty of my embellishment here, I say it would be nice to know the background of the artist(s) called Out of the Ether, but there is little information on them, save for the source material presented here. A very apropos name for a seeping, misty craft of ambience, the eight-song Virgil takes liberties of his own, some to good effect, some to downright laborious.

The 47 second opening The Tomb is a quick-flash glimpse into the often dismal spirit that prevails on Out of the Ether. Outer Darkness continues the somber trend with its monotone bassline, but it is nonetheless an intriguing synth composition that rises in timbre with each minute. Gloomy yet stylized, Outer Darkness is reminiscent of the opening score to Stanley Kubrick's version of The Shining, reinvented on updated equipment.

Blue Crypt utilizes subliminal voice integration amidst its hushed melody, perhaps Dead Can Dance at its barest essentials. The track is so reserved one tries hard to concentrate on it before simply yielding to its contemplative quietude.

On The Lost, the ominous stop-go back rhythm serves as the jungle gym to a series of playful synth notes that constantly toy and slink in slavering fashion. The song would be a perverse delight would that Out of the Ether, seemingly mesmerized by its own craft, overextends the punch line to a full eight minutes, kind of like a joke everyone has heard a few times in one day from the would-be comedian who doesn't realize his curtain call wasn't asked for.

Undertow delivers its namesake; like an off-kilter foghorn, the quirky melody is only given air by random high notes and like its predecessor, Undertow drags us under its murky current for a self-indulgent seven-plus minutes while Chasm of the Soul redeems Out of the Ether with its twinkling layers and peaceful melody that is soothing and meditative, a real plus to this project.

Possession returns the mood of Out of the Ether back to the macabre sensation felt on the opening tracks, while Torment concludes the project satisfactorily, utilizing all of the components previously heard in a rousing and adventurous sweep, accented with hard keystrokes that convey a sense of purpose to the composition. More expressionistic than abstract, Torment doesn't leave a happy ending, but it certainly delivers an exciting one.

Whoever these artists are, they have a sense of dexterity and technique. I would only recommend they learn to scale back at times, or learn the art of switching time signatures and bridging to justify the length of some of their overwrought numbers. Otherwise, Out of the Ether is hardly grade-Z material. They just need to make their presence a little more known instead of hiding in the shadows of their work.