Master Toad; not exactly a name one might think to be typically synonymous with dark ambient music. But then again, an album capable of serving as a soundtrack to the closing of dusk and a 3-D view of the AM clouds isn’t typical either. Either way, Survival Horror is just as effective.
Master Toad is the project of dark ambient/drone composer Justin Thomas Squires. Survival Horror is the fourth full-length album and “serves as an homage to classic survival horror games such as Resident Evil, Silent Hill and Amnesia among others.” In addition to four full-length releases, Master Toad has also released three EPs and two split albums.
Right away, I thought of the Cryo-Chamber label. By now, everyone knows how much I love that label so I could end the review now. But…… I won’t.
Master Toad creates an environment with rapidly flowing crystal clear shards of sound in one moment and then in another, slowly ebbing and flowing low-end drones to cavernous backdrops. A good example of both of these cases is the appropriately titled “Subterranean.” “The Chamber” exhibits more of a dungeon-synth beginning but then evolves into a dense, perpetually-dark sounding soundscape. “Lurker” is more of a rapidly-shimmering environment capable of guiding a lone character in a horror survival game… quickly twisting, turning and suggestive of an evil around the corner.
Survival Horror successfully evokes the images of the horror survival games we have come to be familiar with. Rather than a boring hour+ long drone, this album reads like chapters in a game. Those unfamiliar with the aforementioned games are likely to be filled with images of floating though damp caverns or a never-ending dream-state fall. Otherwise, Survival Horror is just as good as a day-closer or morning-starter.
Cryo-Chamber take note; Master Toad is capable of leaping out of the fog-covered pond and creating a cinematic dark ambient style.
Survival Horror is available as a free download via bandcamp. But please consider tossing Master Toad a couple dollars. Artists don’t pull soundscapes like this out of nowhere.