Looming and spacious, French atmospheric metal band Dirge present their latest work Alma|Baltica. Honing their dark, climatic sound, Dirge present deep, echoic drums, abstract guitars, and haunting, cybernetic sounds to create a bleak, hollow experimental project that is somewhat tedious with very little drive. While the album has masterful builds and beautifully eerie, quiet moments, the sparse nature of instrumentation gives the songs more of a redundant, droning quality. Minimalism is not a strange concept in metal, especially in regards to atmospheric metal, but the majority use of electronic instrumentation over guitars and drums makes the album mostly atmospheric with small metal fragments that are barely present throughout the work.
Starting off with the track “Alma,” the listener is greeted with a heavy, synth bass laying the foundation for other electronic parts to chirp back and forth like computerized mockingbirds. A distant guitar echoes throughout the piece, playing angelic melodies as the drums and electronica howl and wail like angry winds through a frozen, dead cavern. The album, during its peak moments, does a great job painting a desolate landscape in the listener’s mind, but is not engaging enough to keep that image alive. The dreary builds start off with great effect; instantly creating a dark mood for the listener. However, as it progresses with little change, the effect is lost in the monotony of the build and makes the long passage superfluous as opposed to necessary.
“Baltica- Sine Time Reoscillated” is another track that starts off with strong, thematic sounds, but is eventually lost to the excessively scant instrumentation of the song, relying more on computer-generated pieces to unsuccessfully create intrigue. Though there is very little change throughout its 7-minute exploration, the song does have some moving parts as the band overlays more of their electronic sonic experimentation over synth bass and distant guitar work. Even though the songs are presented as ambient, the work as whole blends too much in the background due to the spaciousness and duration of the tracks.
What Dirge has created with Alma|Baltica is a haunting ambient project that creates more a void of sound rather than a landscape. The drum and guitar parts are too sparse throughout the album to create any significant energy to the songs. As a result, the album becomes more of a collection of droning experimentation rather than one cohesive, engaging work. The instrumentation that makes up the songs is dark and grim, yet by minimally applying these parts, the songs become meandering; they become too drawn out. If the empty space in the songs were better utilized, the songs duration would be more acceptable, but alas, the atmosphere created by Dirge is only seen in small moments in Alma|Baltica.