On Hilyard’s latest entitled Division Cycle, we’re told via the label that the “gears of hatred and wrath grind down the bones of humanity into sustenance, digested deep within the bowels of the earth, where the roots of it’s ancient trees pull the flesh from the ramparts of civilization and giants move as clouds of remnant dust above the lungs of the Internal Forest. Beneath our feet the earth quakes with hunger below, awaiting the spoils of Division Cycle to rain down and fertilize the Innermore landscape.”
Yes, dear reader, the earth itself is a ravenous entity, and it needs an endless supply of flesh and blood to keep it’s belly satiated. It’s an interesting concept to consider as we walk across the surface of a super sized and starving organism, one that makes for an unsettling experience if you really think about it. And it’s also a concept laid out track by track: 1. Division Cycle, 2. Equal Segments, 3. Of Hatred and Wrath, 4. Altars of Warflesh, 5. Feed the Earth, 6. Roots and Bones, 7. Heartwood Reverie, 8. Abandoned the Ramparts, 9. To the Warmth of Pyres.
Written, produced and performed by Bryan Hilyard, it appears to me to be a cycle that divides us into life and death, food – or the freedom of waiting to be ultimately consumed, separating the living from those we have lost. Mike Borella writes, “Hilyard begins this journey in a style that is not unduly harsh, with plenty of airy layers. But by the third track, Of Hatred and Wrath, an ominous presence begins to rear its head in the form of background patterns that resemble animal noises.”
When that ominous presence is, in fact, the earth itself, it makes for a stark and unsettling listening experience. This is Darkness agrees, noting, “The strange and otherworldly nature of the Division Cycle is evident within the first 2 minutes of this latest release from Hilyard, as unsettling field recordings play over an eerie ambient soundscape. This is the soundtrack to that strange nightmare that you can’t shake loose, even after you’ve sat up, switched the light on, and caught your breath. Absolutely incredible.”
What’s incredible to me is what Hilyard is up to here, particularly in relationship to what we know about him. He didn’t start out as an ambient artist; in fact he played in a few death metal/grind bands, then his eventual interest in ambient came from his need to escape a tragic reality where the deaths of close friends and family couldn’t be counted on both hands and feet. Division Cycle, in my opinion, is also an album regarding the all consuming nature of grief, that takes us into the darkness before returning us to the surface, only to eventually begin the cycle all over again.
On the final track, To the Warmth of Pyres, he collaborates with Cryo Chamber label mates and fellow dark ambient artists, Dronny Darko and ProtoU. The finale is an 8 minute multi-drone fest with primal distant voices echoing like marvelous monosyllabic gregorian chants. Headphones are essential to take in all the beautiful subtleties, field recordings, tiny chimes and more. The cycle is carried out only to essentially bring us full circle to where Division Cycle began – which makes this epic aural journey a cohesive, thoughtful and rewarding one.
Bryan Hilyard is a multi genre music artist/sound designer with a heavy focus on creating immersive and often long form dronescapes. He resides in the quiet fog soaked forests of Maine these days, on a family homestead.