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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Divine Matrix Heart of the Shaman (2021)

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

What a wonderful album that is not perfect, but not far!

1 Into the Deadlands 9:30

2 Call of the Ancients 6:18

3 Dreamlife 6:18

4 Mouth of the Temple 7:52

5 Between life and Death 5:00

6 Summon the Storm 5:30

7 Shadow Whispers 5:14

8 Lament of the Dead 5:08

(CD/DDL 50:50) (V.F.)

(Ethnic E-Rock, Psybient)

Electronic growls, spinning like a giant slingshot, and Sunday bird chirps open the very surprising Into the Deadlands. A sequential bass line emerges early on to create a rhythm in the genre of electronic rock with suites of 6 balls, rubbery in outlines, that rise and fall in a psybient mood. You can hear chords clashing, distortion effects like knocks and twisted scarlet streaks. And 30 seconds after the 3rd minute, it's a soaring rock in a more industrial than spiritual ambience that bursts between our ears. The electronic percussions complete a structure where the lines of synths, like those sounding like a guitar, draw musical arguments with strange twisted forms, like in the beautiful years of hashish and patchoulis. If a short line of harmony is well lodged in the ears, this dull clamor, proper to an infatuation generated by a state of trance, has quickly made it sink further. Creating its structure around a horde humming a psalm to servitude, Divine Matrix reaches a paroxysm of intensity that culminates in a scream of fright around the 8th minute. Dizzy, the music and effects of Into the Deadlands stagger to hook at a semi-shaky structure tin order to return to hide under the songs of the Sunday birds. In a communiqué to introduce his new album HEART OF THE SHAMAN, Steve Barnes would like to feel that his audience is as submerged in the atmospheres of the Aztec forests like he is. It's a little what happens with Into the Deadlands which creates a first feeling of bewitchment. This sensation develops with the tracks that pass between our ears. By the way, the sound quality of this album is exceptional. Divine Matrix pills up several layers of ambiences, chants and incantations while laying down fleeting harmonies and elements of psybient, if not psychedelic altogether, which ignite structures that are both ambient and bewitching. The sequencing patterns as well as the percussions are top notch with a clever vision for the aboriginal's ones. What surprises the most are these electronic rocks which animate titles born of atmospheric phenomena. And from title to title, we feel a form of bewitchment taking a hold of us. A bit like if Steve Barnes had really cast us a spell from his own studio in England.

Call of the Ancients opens in a pagan procession atmosphere. A line of circular sequences emerges between two beats and two chants for the elders, creating an electronic rhythm whose velocity flirts with the dance and trance style. The aboriginal percussions, coupled with the sequences, structure a massive wild rhythm that is interspersed with other incantations to return in a more dizzying form. We find another form of orations with divinatory whispers in the very ambient and dark Between life and Death. Then comes Dreamlife with another form of prayer, recited in English, on a semi-ambient structure. A structure which gets livelier with manual percussions where a musical incantation interpreted by a guitar is joined. And as the structure vibrates with its strobe-like surges, we hear those whispers that gradually lead us to the finale. To date, Steve's wish is working wonderfully. And it's not Mouth of the Temple that will turn this around. On the contrary, Divine Matrix offers us on this track nothing less than a delightful structure that compliments Into the Deadlands in a more hypnotic rhythmic vision. Summon the Storm starts without any preamble, except a thunder in a stormy night where a guitar and its plaintive solos is crying. A celestial choir descends to install its vision of tranquility that will be banished by a circular and stroboscopic approach of the sequencer. I love these battles between the electronic and the organic that show up quite often in HEART OF THE SHAMAN. If the singer mumbles, the percussions are without appeal by hammering a big rock dressed in pastiches and twisted effects by a synth rich of its sound expressions. An electronic alternative rock with a Latin chant! What can we want more? Let's hear what is next... Shadow Whispers starts with the resonance of a drum kit with an electric accent. We are in the middle of the jungle with a lascivious rhythm brilliantly structured by an ingenious drum pattern and sequences. The clashes of cymbals and the whoooffs from voices are among the elements that captivate our senses. One hears the chants of the natives as well as whispers that bring me to the ambiences of Mind Over Matter (Freak Street) and their hymns to the Earth. The sibylline waves of the synths and a furtively whispered conversation are other elements that take us into the spells of HEART OF THE SHAMAN. Bewitching and disturbing! Lament of the Dead offers an ambient and ethereal texture with beautiful mellotron chants in one of Eden's gardens. There where these celestial birds whistle, we feel carried by lush synth layers that are like these giant birds transporting us to our last and ultimate place of eternal rest...or just not!

What a wonderful album from Divine Matrix! And I totally agree with the press guide that HEART OF THE SHAMAN is the best album yet from Steve Barnes. Everything is calculated in this work so that the listener becomes captive of a gradual bewitchment that comes from title to title. You don't feel it coming! It's with Summon the Storm that the doubt settles, the certainty coming from Shadow Whispers. Not perfect, but not far!

Sylvain Lupari (June 6th, 2021) ****¾*

Available at AD Music

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