“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”
“… A haunting sci-fi lullaby that quickly escalates to the soundtrack of the worst nightmare…”
“The Descent” is the discography debut of Pact Infernal, a new production outfit hidden behind a veil of anonymity and mystery. Inspired from and thematically based on the epitome of medieval literature “Divine Comedy”, written by the poet Dante Alighieri in the 14th century, the theme title (‘The Descent’) is an implicit reference to Dante’s allegoric narrative of his epic journey through the underworld, guided by the spirit of the eminent Roman poet Virgil.
Although it could qualify as a full studio album around the aforementioned theme, the release has been split into two chapters (EPs) and consists of nine tracks equivalent to the nine circles of hell, as described vividly in the “Inferno”, which is the first part of the “Divine Comedy” trilogy (the other two parts being ‘Purgatory’ and ‘Heaven’ respectively). The first chapter (Circles I to IV) was released to public and critical acclaim on April 2015, whereas the second and final chapter (Circles V to IX) is due on March 2016. Both chapters have been licensed to the exquisite outlet of experimental bass music Samurai Horo.
“The Descent” is a futuristic, riveting musical interpretation of a dramatic theme. The prevalent components are imposing percussions over subtle melodies, wind chimes, eerie echoes, rattling chains and gusts of howling gale, creating an unearthly feeling of anxiety. The lower the descent, the more claustrophobic and breathtaking the atmosphere becomes. Ceremonial bells toll ominously, the tempo gradually gets faster, arcane fears are unfolding and the musical ritual reaches its climax with chants, mumbling indecipherable, cryptic invocations; a haunting sci-fi lullaby that quickly escalates to the soundtrack of the worst nightmare. Pact Infernal’s modern take effortlessly encapsulates the narrative and would be the perfect score for a film adaptation.
Background notes on “Inferno”
The notes below provide a brief description of the setting used by Pact Infernal as a canvas to musically capture the dramatic atmosphere of “Inferno”. Academic review, plot and character analysis, allegories and symbolism, as well as additional reading, are available in abundance, scriptum or online, and are well beyond the purpose of this feature.
“Divine Comedy” is Dante’s narrative of a journey through the underworld (Hell, Purgatory and Heaven, the three realms of the dead), as it was conceptualized by the medieval church of his day, which considered Earth as the centre of the solar system. The journey represents rejection of sin (Hell), redemption of the soul (Purgatory), the unification between soul and God (Heaven) and mirrors medieval catholic theology and philosophy.
“Inferno” opens on the evening of Maundy Thursday in the year 1300. Dante has strayed from his righteous path (having committed an undisclosed sin) and wanders in a deep dark wood, where he is assaulted by three beasts. He is rescued by the spirit of Virgil, who represents the voice of reason and promises to lead Dante on a journey through Hell, so that he may be able to enter Paradise (Heaven). Their first stop is at the vestibule (Ante-Inferno), where the gate is marked with the poignant inscription “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”. Soon after, they both reach the banks of the River Acheron, where souls await passage to Hell. Charon, the ferryman, reluctantly (because Dante is alive and not a spirit) agrees to take them across the river and before the gates of Hell.
The physical aspect of Dante’s visualization of Hell is a funnel-shaped world (or inverted cone having its apex at the centre of the earth) that extends all the way to the center of the earth. It is situated underneath the city of Jerusalem, which is at the center of the northern hemisphere. Opposite Jerusalem, at the center of the southern hemisphere, is the mountain of Purgatory. Lucifer is immobilized at the bottom of Hell, where he fell after the defeat in his rebellion against God.
This funnel is made of nine concentric circles. The first circle is the widest and progressively the ninth circle is the smallest. This ninth circle surrounds Lucifer. Each circle is reserved for a different category of sinners. Dante and Virgil travel through Hell and Dante recounts the sights of sinners being ceremonially punished according to the rule of retaliation (suffering in a similar or exactly the opposite way of the inflicted sin).
Structure of the Nine Circles
The landscape is quite evocative; darkness, dense woods, treacherous swamps, rugged mountains and abysmal chasms. The characters Dante meets, from iconic historical and mythological figures to Dante’s contemporaries, are often referred to as “shadows” (because they are shadows of what they were in life). The overall atmosphere is contaminated with undertones of pain, suffering, filth and despair (apart from Circle I, where no physical torment takes place) and reality is exacerbated. The circles are guarded and overseen by mythical monsters and minor deities (Minos, Pluto, Minotaur, Giants, Harpies, Furies, Cerberus, Giants, Medusa, Centaurs etc.), which have frequently featured in literature and mythology.
Hell is divided into three parts. The “Vestibule or Ante-Inferno”, “Upper Hell” (Circles I to V) and “Lower Hell” (Circles VI to IX). The bank of the River Acheron is the entrance gate to Hell (Circle I), whereas across the River Styx lay the great walls of the City of Dis, which is the border to “Lower Hell” (Circle VI). Fallen angels guard the city walls and refuse any entrance, until intervention by a divine messenger allows Dante and Virgil to enter the city. The River Lethe is the last border that separates underworld from the upper world.
- Circle I: Limbo – virtuous pagans and un-baptized children; their only punishment is not being able to see God.
- Circles II to V: Sins of Incontinence (inadequate control of natural appetites or desires, no regard to rational thought or moral consequences)
- Circle II: Lust
- Circle III: Gluttony
- Circle IV: Greed
- Circle V: Anger
- Circle VI: Heresy – heretics and atheists.
- Circle VII: Violence – Sins of Violence, the circle is divided into three rings
- Upper Ring – Violence against acquaintances and strangers,
- Middle Ring – Violence against self (Suicides)
- Lower Ring – Violence against God, nature and art
- Circle VIII: Fraud – The circle is divided into 10 chasms (ditches) connected with bridges, reserved for intellectual sins involving conscious acts of fraud.
- Circle IX: Treachery – as opposed to the previous circles, the 9th circle is frozen and is divided into four areas corresponding to those who suffered from their sin of treason.
- Caina – Traitors to kin
- Antenora – Traitors to country/homeland
- Ptolomea – Traitors to guests
- Judecca – Traitors to benefactors
After an epic journey that lasted two days and three nights, eventually the poets reach the River Lethe (the river of oblivion) and travel from there back to the upper world. They emerge on Earth shortly before the Easter Sunday dawn.
Release Information, Audio preview and Links
The official release date for the second chapter is on March, 4th, however it is already available to pre-order. For the full press release, as well as audio clips and purchase links click here.
A short promotional video is now online on Samurai Music’s official YouTube channel.
The first chapter of “The Descent” (Circles I to IV) was released on vinyl only format (no digital release) and has sold out. Audio clips are available on the Samurai Music Group page and on soundcloud.
Chapter I (Lucy remixes)
Garnering admiration and praise across the electronic music spectrum, including notable electronic musicians and tastemakers like Samuel Kerridge, Kiran Sande and Berlin-based producer Lucy, who has remixed all four Circles into two extended hypnotic grooves. The remixes are still available to purchase from the official Samurai Music store in vinyl and digital format. For the full press release, as well as audio clips and purchase links click here.
Samurai Music on social media and additional links