Abdul-Rauf creates seductive, dark fantasy world, indulges in senses on immersive ‘Phantasiai’

Photo by Dawn Howard

From the time we started this site, we wanted to work in enough flexibility so that we could do what we want, meaning not being tied down to heavy metal every day of the week. I listen to a lot more music than just metal, and I’m sure many of you do as well, and that carries over to the artists who makes some of the most sinister sounds on the planet.

Leila Abdul-Rauf has made a name for herself playing for some of the gnarliest, most vicious bands in metal including Vastum and Cardinal Wyrm, as well as groups such as Hammers of Misfortune, Saros, and Amber Asylum that explored other areas both heavy and not. But on her own, she’s managed to push things even further over four solo records, her latest coming in the form of “Phantasiai,” one of her darkest works yet. This eight-track record is split into two sections comprised of four movements each, reveling in shadowy ambiance and mostly instrumental murk. In Hellenistic lore, “Phantasiai” refers to impressions made through our senses before we form actual thoughts, and the tracks here visit thematically with seduction, addition to powerful fantasies, and renewal, though Abdul-Rauf makes clear that she wants listeners to form their own stories and not necessarily rely on her own.    

“Distortions in Phantasy I: Lure” starts in an eerie aura, a ghost moving through the dark as it takes on an elegant horror score feel. Fantastical dreams and angelic calls mix as the sounds get richer and fuller before bowing out. “Distortions in Phantasy II: Consumption” has guitars hanging in the air, slightly stinging as the keys haunt, and strange feelings work their way into your blood. Horns spread their message as regal melodies emerge, and the track chills you to the bone. “Distortions in Phantasy III: Suspension” spills in from the windowpanes as voices call out, and the mind is allowed to wander into fantasy. Soft singing helps amplify the atmosphere, rushing to the sky before dissolving into silence. “Distortions in Phantasy IV: Disembodiment” chimes in and creates a strange vibe as the hums float, and the music takes on a chamber-style vibe. It feels like working through a dream as birds chirp, horns bellow, and this section bows its head.

“The I Emerges I: Rebirth” simmers in the darkness as it rears its head, and then a dark fog thickens and rolls over the land, stretching that haze. Horns thicken the drama as the freeze continues, mixing with cosmic synergy and fading into the clouds. “The I Emerges II: In and Out of Being” starts with keys chiming and chants emerging, making itself both mysterious and calm. The atmospheric pressure slowly builds and cool the flesh as colors rush into the darkness, draining the music into the unknown. “The I Emerges III: Imago and Mirror” flourishes and opens portals into fantasy realms, making your mind tingle, but in a sense of calm. Sounds woosh through the stars and sooth wounds, and then the air pushes through your hair and settles into the ground. “The I Emerges IV: Cell” closes the record and this series of songs, delivering dripping piano and soft singing as the emotions rise. The track is numbing and almost nurturing, traveling through your mind and pulling back your spiking anxiety. The track radiates through your cells, giving off energy beams and rushing into the stars.

Abdul-Rauf has been responsible for some of the heaviest, most deranged sounds in the heavy music world, but her solo work has let her absorb the pain and reimagine it in these soundscapes that feel like they’re here to be a sort of companion for your own darkness. “Phantasiai” is one of Abdul-Rauf’s richest solo offerings yet, a collection that aligns with your senses and perhaps helps you get what’s flowing through you. This is a collection that’s ideal for quiet reflection as you examine your scars and damage and try to find a way to soothe yourself in a meaningful way.   

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/leilaabdulrauf

To buy the album (CD), go here: https://www.cycliclaw.com/music/leila-abdul-rauf-phantasiai-cdlp-170th-cycle

Or here (vinyl, due in September): https://cloisterrecordingsus.bigcartel.com/product/pre-order-leila-a-b-d-u-l-rauf-phantasiai-lp-crus-85-cycliclaw

For more on the label, go here: https://www.cycliclaw.com/

And here: https://www.facebook.com/cloisterrecordings.us

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