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Synth Album Review: "The Labryinth" by Rust Cult

Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.

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Overall Album Impressions

Rust Cult’s The Labyrinth tells the classic tale of Theseus and the Minotaur in shadowed, layered and powerful synth tones. The music is defined by well-crafted melodies, a darkly atmospheric feeling and a synth palette balancing weight and a rich fullness. I enjoy the moods and sensations conjured by the album.

Rust Cult has put together some memorable and well-considered melodies on The Labyrinth. The melodies are clear and accessible, but skillfully combine a range of emotional states. They can move from triumphant to melancholy as they evolve, conveying feelings of victory, loss and pain along the way. Part of the album’s atmospheric strength comes from the melodic content.

The overall atmosphere of The Labyrinth is another strong component of the album. The music does a superb job of evoking the oppressive darkness, deadly threat and magical power of that mythical maze. The powerful percussion, muscled bass energy and adventurous-feeling melodic content paints vivid images of the quest through the hallowed passages of the Labyrinth. As a whole, I found myself drawn into the album’s musical world and held there.

The diverse and layered synth palette on the album contributes to its musical strength. There are synths that rumble, others that flash brightness and still others that have a spectral quality to them. All of these varied sounds intertwine and interact to weave a spell over the listener as the album’s tale unfolds.

My Favourite Tracks Analyzed

“Entrance” starts off as a martial drumbeat echoes powerfully into cavernous space, adding an element of drama. The great drums thunder and a sharp-edged, haunted synth drifts in slowly rising and falling notes as steady synth chords swell up, warmer and more caressing. Floating, elevated synths slowly glide now along with gentle choral sounds. Drums roll as a steady, hard-edged synth pulse cuts over extended, rumbling bass.

Shaker percussion adds a hissing flow and aching synths drift in descending lines. as the lost, painfully majestic melody soars on medium-high, glowing synth. The lead synth melody is full of ancient strength while the drums pulse out a steady heartbeat and a medium-low synth makes a tremulous descent. I enjoy the way in which the melody mingles tragic emotion and triumph, while a smooth flowing sonic background supports it. After a rumbling drum flourish, soft sonic clouds flow and the track ends on choral synth.

Harsh drums pound out into space, smacking into the track as a heaving steady oscillation of bass ominously repeats to bring “A King’s Creed” into being. Above the ferocious drums, hollow synths with an ethereal voice flow in a ghostly glide.

Diaphanous choral synth trail the melody delicately over the gigantic drums and urgent bass surge in an intriguing contrast. Distant, elevated notes cut in to add brightness and gruff bass moves under mistily sliding synth. The spectral melody is joined by a repeating pattern of higher, gleaming notes that add nervousness.

The drums drop away and the track moves into a caressing segment in which warm piano notes float out and gruff synth moves below them. Drums throb in again and the flowing synth melody glides above their weighty pulsation. The gossamer melody drifts, the drums batter and the bright synth pattern flashes before fading.

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“Born Ov Woman & Beast” commences with crackling static and a hypnotically repeating synth pulse that joins the slightly uneven drumbeat. Rough-edged, medium high synth circles along with unsettling moans. The lead synth melody trembles and surges, carried on a medium-high synth over static hiss before the powerful drums slam into the music. The lead melody’s leaping dynamism is carried on a sharp-edged, shining synth. I am drawn to the melody’s darkly victorious feeling as it cries out over the drums and bass.

Long synth notes flare out over a steadily ticking drum, feeling more settled and light as the shimmering lead synth slices into the music. The steady drum and bass heartbeat guides the music and hollow, choral synth adds more mystery. Heavier, darker synth moves in shaking lines and the percussion hits hard. The “A” section leaps in again, razor-edged brightness carrying the melody’s mingled sense of victory and omen over the unrelenting drum and bass pulse.

Threatening choral synths create a visceral sound alongside thunderous drums and a dark bass rumble to open “14 Innocents.” This is music wreathed in shadowy veils as hefty drums break into the weighty bass pulse. Medium-low synth forms a rhythmic melodic pattern over the bass oscillation. Round, wide notes burst into the music over the drum and bass heartbeat before surprisingly warm synths ripple out along with flashes of shining sound.

The textural tapestry these synths create adds a layered quality to the music that I enjoy. Round lead synth climbs in rising lines that glow with lambent energy over the darker drum and bass throb which comes to the fore again. Velvet darkness flows thickly as the drums add power and the echoing space is full of clotted sound. Crying synth floats out over slowly revolving arpeggios in a plaintive line, while warmer sounds soften the harsh depths. The track ends on spinning arpeggios and a forlorn cry of elevated synth.

“I, Slayer” starts as a wandering, medium-low synth rambles in a lost-feeling pattern as drums provide a guiding throb and forward motion. Full, nasal synth wanders in a repeating melodic pattern as a secondary distant synth creates a desolate feeling. I am enamoured of the shimmering lead synth melody that creates a mournful glow which also contains the seeds of hope.

Underneath it all, the solid drums and rich bass well up to lift the other musical elements. The broken melodic pattern roams through, cut by percussive elements while bass oscillates below. The roving melodic pattern is accented with gigantic drum pulses and the aching melody flows in gleaming light. Lonely piano drifts above the sound of rain and out into silence, full of pained emotion as it fades.

Sharp-edged, round synth drifts in slowly expanding notes through open space while a hollow sound repeats to kick off “The Redemption of Asterion.” A ponderous, powerful drum and bass throb adds muscle to the track as a twisting, minor key synth melody winds through the music.

The melody feels cloaked in darkness as a churning pipe organ introduces a pleasingly chilling feeling of lurking danger. The heaving drum and bass pulse surges before the track moves back into extended synth drift. A hollow, tapping sound adds to the music’s empty feeling as arpeggios whirl quickly in the distance.

Now pipe organ tumbles down through the music in dread-filled lines as the drums batter and the dense bass rumbles. A high, bending synth sweeps through to ratchet up the tension while the solidly throbbing drums shape the music. A void of oppressive darkness wells up as gentler, smoother sounds glide to slowly bring the music to a gentle conclusion.

Conclusion

Rust Cult's The Labyrinth does an excellent job of capturing mood and conveying it to the listener as it combines all of its musical building blocks. The end result is deeply atmospheric, richly layered and full of intriguing sonic contrasts.

© 2022 Karl Magi

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