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Depressive Black Metal or Depressive Suicidal Black Metal (DSBM) in full, is one of the sub-genres of black metal music. It tends to be more monotone, repetitive and droning with an aim to be hypnotic. Ambient influences may be included and while there is some crossover with atmospheric black metal especially, the mood intended to be put across by this style is very different. Vocals in depressive black metal bands tend to drift from the traditional raspy growls and into something more akin to a despairing wail. Lyrical themes will also usually deal with subjects of depression and suicide. It is not music designed for a happy listener.

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XASTHUR To Violate the Oblivious Album Cover To Violate the Oblivious
4.71 | 5 ratings
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SHINING V: Halmstad Album Cover V: Halmstad
4.23 | 15 ratings
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TODESSTOß Ebne Graun Album Cover Ebne Graun
4.25 | 4 ratings
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SHINING IV: The Eerie Cold Album Cover IV: The Eerie Cold
4.05 | 12 ratings
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BETHLEHEM Dictius Te Necare Album Cover Dictius Te Necare
4.10 | 5 ratings
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PENSÉES NOCTURNES Vacuum Album Cover Vacuum
4.12 | 4 ratings
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GRIS À l'âme enflammée, l'äme constellée... Album Cover À l'âme enflammée, l'äme constellée...
4.04 | 5 ratings
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GRIS Il Était une Forêt... Album Cover Il Était une Forêt...
3.91 | 8 ratings
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XASTHUR Subliminal Genocide Album Cover Subliminal Genocide
3.93 | 6 ratings
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SILENCER Death - Pierce Me Album Cover Death - Pierce Me
3.80 | 5 ratings
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PENSÉES NOCTURNES Grotesque Album Cover Grotesque
3.86 | 3 ratings
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LEVIATHAN (CA) The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide Album Cover The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide
3.73 | 15 ratings
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Album · 2010 · Depressive Black Metal
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After Vaerohn caught the attention of the avant-post-black metal world under the guise of the project PENSÉES NOCTURNES with the debut album “Vacuum,” he returned for a second round of artistically designed depressive black metal that hybridized with classical, jazz, blues and even novelty circus music. GROTESQUE released the following year in 2010 continued the momentum laid out on the debut but took even greater liberties in creating an even more twisted, highly surreal and torturous sonic journey than presented on “Vacuum.”

Once again Vearohn plays all the instruments ranging from the typical buzzsaw guitar feed, bottom dwelling bass and percussive drive but also dishes out romantic classical piano runs, symphonic touches and even the occasional accordion thus expanding the world of black metal into the more traditional musical realms of Vaerohn’s native France, but as gimmicky as this may seem Vaerohn executes these juxtapositions of disparate sounds quite gracefully as the wrong ingredients strewn together with a bad recipe can result in disaster. Overall there is less black metal on this one and more avant-guide epic classical sounds but they often overlap into a very surreal strangeness not present on “Vacuum.”

While it’s hard to believe that heavy metal which branched off of blues rock in the 70s could become the 21st century’s answer to classical music, the truth of the matter is that the genre has steadily evolved in both compositional complexity as well as avant-garde experimentation and nowhere have these two aspects come into fruition more than in the French metal scene. PENSÉES NOCTURNES on paper may sound much like what other metal bands like Carach Angren or Limbonic Art have achieved with highly symphonic and classically charged black metal darkened by ugly guitar and occult themes but Vaerohn takes these sounds to a whole other level and displays an uncanny sense of expertise absent in many other acts. My guess is that he was classically trained in the most experimental aspects of the classical music world.

GROTESQUE lives up to its title. While it continues the Shining influenced depressive black metal style with slow plodding rhythms, psychotic outbursts and the insane asylum escapee vocal angst, it changes the tone to an even more depressive and detached setting that finds the classical piano runs less Chopin-esque and more abstract as well as a more meandering sense of compositional development which ultimately makes this a scarier and deeper penetrating experience for those who can stomach its unorthodox approach. The overall feel is utterly creepy with spidery arpeggiated guitars, tremolo picking and vocals buried in the mix to simulate a dungeony effect augmented with all kinds of sonic surprises.

With circus march entering the scene on tracks like “Vulgum Pecus” and “Eros” it often seems like a Hector Berlioz “Symphonie Pathetique” dance of demons that have congregated in the modern world and have shapeshifted into the metal paradigm but Vaerohn also manages to incorporate psychotic bluesy bits as on the opening of “Monosis” that sound like what Captain Beefheart would’ve conjured up had he delved into the darkest recesses of modern metal. One of the major reasons PENSÉES NOCTURNES is so successful in its relentless pursuit of the experimental world surely stems from the fact that the production and mixing processes are impeccable as somehow the black metal is allowed to organically evolve from seemingly unrelated musical territory.

Adding to the surreality factor is the fact that the compositions are more jittery. The time signatures are fairly erratic like a quantum dance tortuously trying to find equilibrium but never finding resolution. The darkwave ambience is also more abstract as it flutters in unrelated counterpoints around the metal outbursts and classical symphonic elements and then when least expected unknown variables rear their ugly heads such as the accordion segment on “Monosis” which at 9 1/2 minutes is the album’s longest track. Alongside this unexpected instrumental insert is also an unusual guitar accompaniment and then the whole thing alternates with the depressive black metal bombast. Very, very weird stuff indeed.

In the end, GROTESQUE sort of comes off as a very bad nightmare set to music. It flitters along logically and then like the disjoining aspects of dreams sort of engages in illogical leaps into alternative dimensions and sometimes returns and at other times just sort of moves on and becomes something else altogether. This is truly avant-garde metal at its finest that seems like it was a truly some sort of musical vision that arose from the subconscious and tricked out into some sort of sonic reality in the 2010 timeline of the metal music world. This will ultimately be too loosely structured for many but there are more than enough melodic hooks that float around albeit in unpredictable manners like a colony of bats exiting their darkened cave to hunt of their prey in the night. Personally i love this kind of stuff. Despite the extra symphonic, classical and novelty elements, GROTESQUE delivers the darkened black metal goods but takes the surreality level up several notches.


Album · 2009 · Depressive Black Metal
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France has been killing it in the 21st century when it comes to innovative, creative and out-of-the-box extreme metal that includes not only the big names of Deathspell Omega, Gojira, Peste Noire and Blut Aus Nord but many less known bands that have found a cult following including the tech death of Gorod, the avant-goth surrealism of Öxxö Xööx and the atmospheric out-there-ness of bands like Alcest and Akphaezya. Add to that list yet another band that simultaneously delves into several disparate arenas. The Paris based PENSÉES NOCTURNES isn’t really a band at all but rather the solo project of one Valhôll (aka Vearohn) who after releasing a single Pagan black metal “solo” album under the Valhôll moniker in the form of “A la Mémoire de Nos Ancêtres” decided to switch gears and start releasing albums as PENSÉES NOCTURNES.

While PENSÉES NOCTURNES has become more synonymous with black circus metal music with a wild avant-garde approach of crafting soundtracks to your favorite goat sacrificing rituals by clowns and possessed barkers, on the debut VACUUM, the circus musical aspects while present are supplanted by the darkened dreary doom and gloom of depressive black metal most closely related to the melancholic wrist slashing music of Sweden’s Shining complete with the same plaintive and agonizingly tortured vocal style, however PENSÉES NOCTURNES crafts a more ambitious mix of musical influences that includes Chopin inspired piano music as the basis of classical melodic developments that provide the canvas to paint the blackened guitar distorted tremolo picking, buzzsaw riffs and blastbeats upon.

Add to that a highly sensitized touch of symphonic neoclassical darkwave to create the proper lunar atmospheres and you have the recipe for a highly sophisticated slice of suavely crafted yet brazen black metal that strikes the perfect balance between the utter damnation of pitch black with the threads of light shimmering between the cracks of reality. In addition to the classical underpinnings, PENSÉES NOCTURNES delivers a diverse sense of style beyond the dominant depressive black metal overcast. The opening “Lune Malade” showcases the circus themed music that would become more prevalent on more recent releases and “Coups de Bleus” skillfully transmogrifies a piano-based blues into a screaming frenetic madman’s unintelligible litany.

“Epitaphe” begins with simple, soft and subtle acoustic guitar arpeggios, clean vocals in French with female backing vocals. It almost sounds like a cyclical post-rock sort of intro when the violins kick in but also has a folky vibe to it before bursting into black metal. After a healthy dose of some of the most frenetic guitar work on the album, towards the end the violin based post-rock cops a waltz type of swagger with a touch of circus elements and finally fades out as a whispering wind howl. “Repas de Corbeau” sort of just continues the flow as it breaks into an atmospheric black metal with more deranged vocal utterances. Overall the tracks lengths are quite long with every one of the six tracks extending past the eight minute mark with the intro surpassing the eleven.

VACUUM is quite the accomplishment from a compositional point of view. While it delivers the black metal goods quite effectively, the true genius is in how all the melodic elements intricately entwine as well as the careful attention paid to the tempos, dynamics, timbres, tones and other subliminal features. It never occurred to me before but the vocal style initiated by Sweden’s Shining and adopted by PENSÉES NOCTURNES at this stage actually does sound like a tortured circus clown who has lost his marbles and on the road to becoming a deranged psychopath. Overall this is an excellent debut that incorporates beautifully melodic constructs into the otherwise completely bleak sonic din without ever sounding cheesy. The line between brilliant and cringe-worthy is a thin one in black metal and in the case of VACCUM, i find all is well.

TODESSTOß Ebne Graun

Album · 2017 · Depressive Black Metal
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Todesstoß's Ebne Graun offers perhaps the most bizarre album cover I've seen for a while - it's your standard depressive black metal imagery of Death standing over a shrouded corpse in a coffin in a wasteland, except Death is wearing a galaxy-spangled glam rock jumpsuit and RAWKIN' OUT on a day-glo guitar, and a mystery glow is kindled within the shrouded form. The music you get here is similarly bizarre - a mashup of the glum atmosphere of depressive black metal, the epic track lengths and slow movements of funeral doom, and a slice of weird synthesiser tinklings for spice. Like the cover, it's a weird mixture of elements, but it kind of works.

THERESIA An Invitation To Darkness

Album · 2018 · Depressive Black Metal
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After making their debut on the Wisteria Records Various Artists Compilation METAL MADNESS: VOLUME ONE, the Japanese turned Canadian depressive black metal band THERESIA make their true debut with their first EP release AN INVITATION TO DARKNESS. While the band formed in Japan in 2016 they moved to both the UK and Canada and somehow ended up in the unlikely setting of Regina, Saskatchewan.

All along the band was more into noise rock than metal but their influences also include Gothic rock like Christian Death as well as the Japanese band Sodom And Silencer. Somehow the trio found themselves more in black metal mode with hints of the noise, punk and Goth in the mix, however with pummeling distorted guitar riffs, angry shouted vocals and a muted bass that fuses with the murky guitar parts, there is no mistaking this for anything other than black metal with lyrics screamed out in both English and Japanese.

The band is led by vocalist Ikiryō with Misaki on both drums and guitar and Okiku on bass. This EP is way too short while although it has four tracks, the first and last are simply an ambient intro and a short crust punk outro. The short opener “Dear Kayo… An Invitation For Darkness” begins like the first Black Sabbath album with thunder and church bells chiming with some Japanese poetry being read.

The only two real songs are “Funeral Games” which nicely continues the bell chimes and breaks in true depressive black metal riffing along with pummeling percussion that isn’t exactly blastbeat style but certainly has energetic bursts of pummelation that equal the intensity. The vocals offer glimpses of bleak hopelessness and unhappiness perhaps obtained through all that moving from country to country and ending up in one of the coldest nations on Earth!

“The Graves Of Passion” has an even more disturbed sound with insanely crazy distorted guitars, a frenetic percussive pattern and even more unhinged vocals angrily vociferating through the din. The flow is very much of second wave black metal with a straight forward delivery and not overly unlike many other bands of the 90s and early 2000s. The final closer “Deathmask” sounds more crust punk but with a blackened veneer followed by a short snippet of spoken words at the end.

THERESIA shows promise with a strong drive and excellent delivery of black metal however the EP is way too short. I believe a debut should at least be 20 minutes long and offer a variety of tracks even if set in the same genre mode. While performed quite well THERESIA needs to work on some sort of way of differentiating themselves from the legions of other black metal bands out there. Definitely one to look out for but just getting their feet wet in the morbid metal games of the 21st century. Definitely worth checking out but it seems like it’s just getting started and then ends!


Album · 2012 · Depressive Black Metal
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The self-titled debut album of Slovakian act Einsamtod, released in 2012, clearly doesn't set out to be an easy album to get into. Nor should it, since it belongs to the depressive black metal genre, but even so, this one certainly knows how to throw its listener right in at the deep end, greeting the ears with what initially appears to just be a wall of fuzzy noise and screams. This abrasive assault is surely enough to put off all but the most determined of listeners. But those who get past this, will find an unexpected gem of an album.

This is the opening track, Freezing End, which at 8:46 in length is actually the shortest that the five track album has on offer. Once you get over how incredibly raw Einsamtod have made their sound, you'll be able to start appreciating the atmosphere that the duo, instrumentalist Smrtislav and vocalist Nefastvm, have managed to create. Intricate melodies have been inserted into the lo-fi fuzz, resulting in a dark atmospheric journey that is an quickly compelling to the enthusiast as the initial barrage of fuzz is anathema to others.

Each does does have a tendency to begin in much the same way, but once you get used to what Einsamtod is about the album proves excellent across it's duration. There's just one problem with it, during track four, the dark ambient piece Journey Through a Land Forlorn and it's nothing to do with the composition or performance. It's a technical problem with the release. There's a noticeable glitch where the music jumps that is incredibly jarring. At first I think this was a problem with my personal copy and upon my first listen I was all but ready to get onto the supplier I bought it from to complain when something made me decide to look up the song online. And lo and behold, the exact same glitch occurs, so it's not a problem with my particular press.

This may explain why on the vinyl version, which was released the following year in 2013, has had this track pulled. One has to wonder why such a glitch made it to press on the CD version though. It seems incredibly unprofessional and somewhat spoils what is otherwise clearly an essential release of the depressive black metal genre and even though the track is an ambient one I can't help but think it's removal would be a detraction to the vinyl version, since it adds variety to the release.

That issue aside, I do absolutely consider Einsamtod to be an essential album. One day I hope these guys find it in themselves to do it the justice it deserves and properly fix that botched recording of Journey Through a Land Forlorn rather than just retconning it out of the album. I may even buy it again if they did. That's how good it is.

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