For as long as mankind has existed, we’ve always had a fascination with the stars. To this day, you’ll find that each of us look up toward the sky on a clear night and, from the experience, each one of us comes out with differing views about what space means to them. For some it holds spiritual significance – during the age of classical antiquity, many believed that their gods resided in the once unassailable skies, and their war heroes were painted on the canvas of the night sky. Even today, people will look up and smile, believing that their loved ones are there, looking down on them. The cold reality is that outside of our atmosphere, dark space is an uninhabitable vacuum. It is a vast and unforgiving expanse – one of which ironically hosts a vibrant array of magnificence. With such contrasting elements, you can understand that a metal band would be able to find inspiration from such a source, and that’s exactly what Alrakis has done.
Alrakis is an enigmatic one man atmospheric black metal band from Germany, featuring a multi-instrumentalist who goes by the pseudonym ‘A1V’. There isn’t much background information on the band out there, and all I really know about this album is that ‘Alpha Eri’ is the band’s official debut release, following an unofficial release in 2010, titled ‘Omega Cen’. The main concept of this album is space, which is conveyed through thick ambient synths that wander about amidst slow, sustained riffs and mid-paced tremolo picking, all of which have been generously (and appropriately) been coated with reverb. Following black metal tradition, the production has a lo-fi aesthetic which brings out a charming icy quality from the sound. I’ve no possible idea what A1V could be screaming about, but his screams pierce through the mix and add a chilling additional layer to the overall ambiance. ‘Alpha Eri’ is a subtle black metal release, one which retains a slower pace in favour of creating a grand, digestible and discernible sound. Depending on whether you believe in the existence of such a genre, you could consider this to be a blackgaze album. When I first heard the album, I instantly drew a comparison to Darkspace, though Alrakis is much less about abrasion and more about comfortable immersion.
I don’t really know if I can pick out a track that I like the most. I feel that for full enjoyment, you need to listen to the album as a whole and nothing less, but that is probably most likely what you’d expect from any album that is predominantly ambient. Though the entire album is quite emotive, I particularly like the way the album ends – it finishes with two ambient tracks, ‘NGC 6611’ and ‘NGC 3242 (Ghost of Jupiter)’. Combined, they’re a little over 20 minutes. While the rest of the album paints a picture of the darker side of space, these two tracks show its much more tranquil and beautiful side. If you do an image search, you’ll find that NGC 6611 and NGC 3242 are nebulae. If you look through the pictures of them and listen to these two tracks, your entire being feels like it resonates with the music, filling you with an overwhelming sense of awe and inspiration.
I think ‘Alpha Eri’ clearly shows what space means to A1V, and I can’t say I disagree with his sentiment. This is a strong album that won’t soon leave your mind after hearing it.