Synth Album Review: "Anno Domini" by Polytaem
Anno Domini by Polytaem Is the musical tale of time travel gone wrong with horrible consequences. It’s an album that is drenched in atmosphere with moments of darkness, bursts of light and a feeling of driving energy throughout. The imagery generated by the music suits the feeling of tension and danger that it seeks to convey.
One of the ways in which Anno Domini generates a feeling of darkness is through the bass. There is a great deal of weight and depth to the bass on much of the track, those dark rumbles and drones add to the sense of shadows moving through the music, always there in the background. It cloaks everything with a feeling of omen and foreboding.
The energy of the album is driven by the drums. There are many hard-driving, rapid pieces of music on Anno Domini that are propelled by thundering, rushing drum parts that really give the listener a feeling of being energized and add to the relentless feeling that moves through the music.
Another way in which Polytaem ratchets up the tension is through tight, tense synth sounds. There are tracks where the synths are high and rapid arpeggios spin out. The result is to create a feeling of everything becoming tighter and more intense. There’s a feeling of nervousness that those parts create which helps sketch out a sense of danger.
There are well-written melodies on Anno Domini. While some of them are predictably minor key and dark, others contrast with that by adding a feeling of uplift and more major key feelings of positive energy. There are often several melody parts in each track which adds to the variety and some of the lead synth solos are quite unique and full of a great deal of feeling.
The choice of synths is also interesting on the album. There are many that have rough and dark sensations about them, but also some that glow and sparkle. Polytaem chooses well in how they deploy those synth sounds. If darkness is required, the synth has suitable weight to it and if something lighter and more uplifting fits, the synth choice adds the right level of shimmer.
I also feel that Anno Domini is particularly well-produced with sharp, clearly delineated parts that all interlock without any one element overwhelming another. The sound quality is good and that always contributes to the overall listenability of an album.
Track by Track Breakdown
“Into Darkness” starts off with a feeling of tension and danger generated by electronic bleeps, dark and distorted synths and a hard driving beat with real force to it. I enjoyed how the track evolved and created a sense of energy and forward motion with a bright lead synth that shines out over the weight and energy underneath it.
The synths on “Revolution” are high, tight and nervous feeling. They feel full of tension and danger as they move into the track. The throbbing beat slams into the track and there’s a twisted, minor key lead synth solo that has a feeling of doom and foreboding about it. In fact, this whole piece of music is laden with the ominous feeling of things on the edge. I also enjoyed the bright synth patterns that made me think of Baroque harpsichord music.
“Leather Apron” begins with sinister washes of dark synth that are joined by arpeggios that also feel touched with shadow. I liked how the steady mid tempo drive of the beat supports the arps and sparkles of chiming synth that move through in bursts. The lead synth melody is bright and has the feeling of progress and adventure about it over the smooth throb of the beat. There is a feeling of discovery in the way the melody shines but under it, there’s still the promise of danger from that dark bass that continues to rumble underneath it.
There’s a pounding, almost trance-like beat that jumps into “Zombie Renaissance” and the feeling of danger is amplified by the lead synth that plays minor and nervous sounding lines over the rapid beat of the drums. The beat has a relentless quality that I thought was effective. The dark synth swirls provide a Stygian feeling to the music as they press onward. I liked the secondary melody that has an ancient and folk-like quality it. It’s played on a synth that reminds me of a hammered dulcimer.
“Black Mass” nails the overtones of religious choral music that contrast with dark, heavy bass. The melody is blocky and thick as the energetic drums propel it, adding a sensation of triumph and shadow in combination. I was drawn to the whirling organ pattern and bright chimes glowing over that unstoppable beat. I think that this track was effective at generating the sensation of a dark ritual being performed.
Everything about “Zodiac” generated a feeling of velocity from the beat that sends the track into overdrive, the hefty feeling bass and spinning arps that flicker out through the music. The melody has a feeling of driving and racing forward that I enjoyed. The high synth patterns that circle over the driving beat add to the feeling of the highway rushing past as that lead melody sings out. There’s a cinematic feeling to this track that I liked.
"Dealey Plaza” has some unique percussion sounds in it that add a dramatic feeling to the music. The melody has a high, drifting quality that imbues the track with a mysterious feeling as it floats over the moving beat. I like the sense of deviousness in the melody and the way a slowly rising series of notes adds tension to the whole track.
Anno Domini by Polytaem is an album that creates atmosphere through a wide variety of musical elements. There’s a definite sense of danger and tension that lingers, leavened by bright and energetic melodies which add some contrast and by doing so make the darker moments seem all the darker. This is a brand of cinematic synth music that I like to hear.