March 9, 2022

From the shadows of Slovenia, Shadow Universe is an instrumental music project, creating quite breathtaking cinematic soundscapes from post-rock, neoclassical/ambient and post-metal elements. Their third album, ‘Subtle Realms, Subtle Worlds‘ is released worldwide on 11 March, 2022 on Monotreme Records. And I have to say that it’s a record that successfully harnesses both the quiet and the loud – fans of Steven Wilson will love it!

Peter Dimnik and Žan Šebrek, courtesy of Jan Pirnat

Formed in 2017 by Peter Dimnik and Žan Šebrek, Shadow Universe merge contrasting textures of shimmering ambient soundscapes and heavy anxious darkness to portray the diversity of nature and life on earth and beyond. Influenced by Stephen Wilson’s Porcupine Tree and also a bit like the UK’s Dawnwalker, they create prog-metal epics which twist and turn through different moods, the heavy stuff interspersed with gentler sections of ambient-rock.

Masterfully harnessing both the quiet and the loud, the gorgeously cinematic 3rd single ‘Don’t Look at It and You’ll See It’ sees the band collaborating with Ana Novak who they describe as, 

an amazing violin player and songwriter, whose playing took the song to the next level. The songs itself was inspired by the principle of Wu-Wei which encourages not forcing something, but rather letting the Universe do its magic.”

Another credit to Jan Pirnat!

About Subtle Realms, Subtle Worlds – One might say that every person experiences the world differently, putting us into our own unique bubbles and subtle worlds. Subtle Realms, Subtle Worlds finds the band exploring this theme, and turning their songs into living, breathing creations, carefully dissecting every moment of peace and chaos alike. The album sees the building particles of the universe as separate worlds, with their own story, perception, rules and individual inner realm.

There are six tracks, opening with Organism, which straight away puts down the marker for how these guys compose and arrange music. Very Porcupine Tree albeit without SW vocals, but the trademark mix of movements is already there. Don’t Look At It and You’ll See It is a perfect example, a mesmerising flow of repeated sound, building and sweeping majestically around Ana’s violin playing. Hymn For The Giants – this is sort of a cross between what Pink Floyd would be producing these days (that sense of space ebbing and flowing); and UK post-rockers Dawnwalker (for the same ebb and flow but based around some seriously heavy-duty chord work). It’s great!

Losing Home is fascinatingly different, I’m not sure it ultimately works but full marks for trying! The underlying gentler material here is produced through brass (I’m guessing trombone?), and the interplay with the post-metal side is…..different!

Antares Goes Supernova sounds exactly like what it says on the tin – a spacey, echoey track, building rapidly in pace, led by synths and sustained guitar – although sounds oddly like a whale in the early phases! Wikipedia tells me that Antares is on average the fifteenth-brightest star in the night sky, and the brightest object in the constellation of Scorpius. Distinctly reddish when viewed with the naked eye, Antares is a slow, irregular, variable star, often referred to as “the heart of the scorpion”. So there you have it, you learn something new every day!

Season of Eternal Maze – all 8 and a half minutes of it. The album’s closer begins with delicate piano work, understated synths, you know this is going to be a slow-burn builder. Tuneful prog-metal, it just grows and grows, some simple but lovely guitar work underscored by a continued sense of “spacy-ness”. It finally fades away, very nice! This is a tasty album, all instrumental but some very talented compositions have sufficient range and variety to them that you never get bored – Despite the fact that this is another review where you could really do with seeing any “background blurb” that you might get on the hard-copy CD, and I suspect I’ve not got the full story of the song-set, I like it a lot!

Produced, recorded, mixed and mastered by Peter Dimnik
The album is available for pre-order on CD and digital formats and as a limited edition vinyl LP (480 copies on black, cream/black Galaxy effect and cream with blue splatter vinyl), from the Monotreme Records web shop: