Dead Neanderthals is the ambient project of René Aquarius and Otto Kokke. The duo hail from Nijmegen, Netherlands and they create an unnerving sort of dark, ambient jazz with their freeform style. Craters is their newest release and is their 10th album to date, the first of which came out in 2011 on Grindcore Karaoke. This album, the first on Consouling Sounds, is a single, longform track entitled Craters. The 36:38-minute track is an unnerving journey through aural transformation. As a whole, it feels like the process of a rite of passage, difficult, relentless, and transformative, with all the ritualized touches such a moment in a person’s life brings.
“Craters” rumbles into the speakers with a low, oscillating drone that hums with an almost cutting edge. The tone flutters in a chaotic moment and is joined by a distant, bright tone that has a metallic tinge. At about 1:57, feedback enters the experience and that is the moment of warning as the listener heads toward a more difficult time in the aural journey. Dead Neanderthals have a brilliant sensibility about texture but they are never quick to introduce the listener to it. They are patient, allowing the composition to progress and grow. There are these prescient moments in the track where feedback looks to swell but sits there, ever present, quiet and not rising, waiting for its moment. It creates a tension in the beastly piece. At about 9:30, the feedback makes an appearance, like the ghostly monsters one must confront in a ritual depicting the underworld. Symbolic death is coming and there is nothing one can do about it.
Like the initiation in the ancient mystery rites in Greece, the ghostly underworld is a kind of death in the ritual. There is a rebirth coming, just as frightening and painful as the initial shock of the transformative journey. This beastly track begins to rumble, exercising its guttural aural threats about halfway through. The bass is pounded, raspy and growling, all teeth and claws. Rattling and rumbling in the background are threatening vibes, peering out with a sort of hostility every once and awhile. A deep, ominous drum pounds in the background every once and while as the composition heads towards its conclusion.
Dead Neanderthals have created what I think is my favorite album in their prolific catalog. Craters is an unnerving, unsettling, grinding tour de force that actually lets the listener breathe in places only to take that relaxing moment and up the edge. Craters is unforgiving and for that I applaud! Aquarius and Kokke have composed a 36:38-minute bleakscape and it’s breathtaking. Give Craters a listen and immerse yourself in its ritualized atmosphere.