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album review: Symbiotic ‘Forgotten Pasts’

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Forgotten Pasts

Symbiotic is the name of one man army Dave Clarke. The South Northamptonshire resident provides vocals and plays all the instrumentation on his latest release Forgotten Pasts. It’s an album that finds him in a deliciously dark frame of mind as he delivers a fully-fledged concept album. 

Mysterious and enigmatic, not much is known about Dave Clarke. Only that, in producing Forgotten Pasts, he seems to have placed a futuristic vision of goth-rock in a time capsule and sent it to some distant bygone era. Like Killing Joke or Future Sound Of London Dave Clarke employs synths to unsettle the listener, and that’s certainly the case with opener ‘Intro And War’. Glacial and frostbitten it swirls icy winds around the listener while the spoken words create an air of tension, before it suddenly bursts into life and the sonic shift is quite striking. It reveals a sound that’s hard to categorise: there’s punk evident in the pounding D-beat, the dark atmospherics of goth, and the whole thing is delivered with the punch of blackened thrash. 

Forgotten Pasts is an album that ululates with no two songs inhabiting the same sonic space, and the only common thread is Dave’s spoken word interludes which push the story forward. Spoken in his soft and even brogue, the dialogue punctuates the music and speaks of kings and queens and wars in ancient kingdoms. The tale it tells isn’t spelt out, but it is indistinct enough for the listener to infer their own meaning, which is how all good art should work. The space for your inference drags you in, and makes you part of the proceedings. 

The antiquated and modern meet on ‘The Approach’, as tribal drums tussle with some discordant guitar as a ghostlike growl floats atop. With its dark ambience and song titles such as ‘Spirit Of Death’ and ‘Bring Out Your Dead’ I suggest you keep the lights on when listening because it’s an album that will weave a dark spell upon you with its hypnotic black magic. ‘The Temple Of Pylas’ has a touch of latter day Gary Numan [with a healthy dose of Nine Inch Nails], and it delivers a succession of electric shocks. 

‘The Battle’ buries its vocals deep in the mix, which always adds an air of intrigue and mystery. Yet, contrary to its title, it’s an ambient track that segues into ‘The Salakin’s Freedom’, which transports us thousands of miles with its Eastern flourishes. We’re immediately catapulted back West with the Euro dance-beat of ‘Epilogue’. But Forgotten Pasts has a sting in its tale. An ancient music box swirls us towards a haunting ending and the silence that follows is almost deafening. 

The conceptual nature of Forgotten Pasts means it’s best devoured whole -and preferably through headphones – to become fully immersed in Symbiotic’s dark world. Forbidding and disconcerting, Forgotten Pasts is a strangely pleasurable listen. 

Sargent ‘D’

Forgotten Pasts by Symbiotic is out now on vinyl and CD and on digital platforms

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