Depressive Black Metal

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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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SHINING V: Halmstad Album Cover V: Halmstad
SHINING
4.25 | 16 ratings
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SHINING IV: The Eerie Cold Album Cover IV: The Eerie Cold
SHINING
4.08 | 13 ratings
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TODESSTOß Ebne Graun Album Cover Ebne Graun
TODESSTOß
4.25 | 4 ratings
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BETHLEHEM Dictius Te Necare Album Cover Dictius Te Necare
BETHLEHEM
4.10 | 5 ratings
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PENSÉES NOCTURNES Vacuum Album Cover Vacuum
PENSÉES NOCTURNES
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...
GRIS
4.04 | 5 ratings
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GRIS Il Était une Forêt... Album Cover Il Était une Forêt...
GRIS
3.91 | 8 ratings
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WORTHLESS LIFE Conscious in Coma Album Cover Conscious in Coma
WORTHLESS LIFE
4.00 | 3 ratings
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LEVIATHAN (CA) The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide Album Cover The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide
LEVIATHAN (CA)
3.73 | 15 ratings
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SILENCER Death - Pierce Me Album Cover Death - Pierce Me
SILENCER
3.80 | 5 ratings
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PENSÉES NOCTURNES Grotesque Album Cover Grotesque
PENSÉES NOCTURNES
3.86 | 3 ratings
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SHINING I: Within Deep Dark Chambers Album Cover I: Within Deep Dark Chambers
SHINING
3.75 | 5 ratings
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depressive black metal Music Reviews

GHOST BATH Funeral

Album · 2014 · Depressive Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
GHOST BATH is probably best known in the world of black metal as claiming that they originated from Chongqing, China which was totally believable since the band went under the name 鬼浴 as well as its English name when it released this debut album FUNERAL on the Chinese record label Pest Productions. It wasn’t until this album caught the attention of various music media outlets like Pitchfork and Stereogum that the band came clean and admitted they were not Chinese at all but was actually from the US plains city of Minot, North Dakota. The band even used Chinese characters for their names which featured the lineup of 丹尼斯 [Dennis Mikula] (vocals, guitar, piano), 多诺万 [Donovan] (vocals, guitar), 杰米 [Jaime] (bass) and 泰勒 [Taylor] (drums).

Gimmicks aside, GHOST BATH was formed in 2012 and is the project of band leader Dennis Mikula who has crafted a brand of post-rock inspired depressive black metal that incorporates the blackgaze sounds of bands like Deafheaven and Alcest with heavy doses of caustic tremolo picking in typical black metal fashion including blastbeats and a bleak atmospheric cloud cover of synthesized doom and gloom. FUNERAL is a rather melodic beast with piano rolls offering melodic constructs for the black metal to rampage around. The tracks themselves rely on a cyclical sprawl derived from post-rock and blackgaze which means many of the album’s 12 tracks are lengthy incessant processions of black metal bombast mixed with atmospheric downer music. Some are surprisingly quite short though.

So far the band has released three albums and one EP with FUNERAL being the first full-length from 2014. Blackgaze is not my favorite style of black metal. Ideas are sparse, playing times are long and overbloated while the monotony sets in big time about half way through and in that regard GHOST BATH fits quite well into those parameters. While the music is decent and not horrible, the production value of the keyboard parts integrated with the black metal sounds a bit cheesy here but what really makes this a tedious listen is the incessant insane asylum screams that i don’t believe are actual lyrics. They are simply the same repetitive tortured clown screams over and over and over again.

Considering this album clocks in at about 64 minutes, it doesn’t take long for it to wear out its welcome. Even better bands like Deafheaven sound boring after long repetitive journeys through blackgaze pastures and atmospheric skies so there is absolutely nothing that GHOST BATH adds to the mix to give it any sort of identity. If it weren’t bad enough the band misrepresented its origins, so too does it simply apply sounds already crafted by other artists without leaving some sort of personalized stamp on it. Considering the horrible reviews of all the GHOST BATH albums i thought i’d check them out as i often find low rated albums to be some of the most interesting especially when they embark on an extremely experimental journey however in the case of GHOST BATH all the negative criticism seems to be true. This is just a rather run of the mill blackgaze / depressive black metal band with horrible lyrics and a knack for showing us how you can do very little in the span of an hour. Meh.

SHINING Submit To Selfdestruction

EP · 1998 · Depressive Black Metal
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UMUR
"Submit to Selfdestruction" is a 7" EP release by Swedish black metal act Shining. The EP was originally released through Selbstmord Services and limited to 300 hand-numbered vinyl copies but the material from the EP have since been released as part of the "Through Years of Oppression (2004)" compilation album which is easier to find. Needless to say that the original version is a rare collector´s item. The two tracks on the EP were recorded in 1996 by the trio of Wraith aka Niklas Kvarforth (guitars, bass), Robert Ayddan (vocals), and Impaler aka Ted Wedebrand (drums). The former (who was born in 1983), was only 13 years old at the time of recording the material...

...which is not audible when listening to the music, as both tracks are very well developed and cleverly composed. It´s a heavy and predominantly mid-paced (although occasionally a little faster-paced, but there are no blast beats or anything like that here) atmospheric type of black metal. The mood is bleak and depressing as are the lyrics. The vocals are screaming and desperate. The sound production is raw and primitive yet still effectful and powerful. While it´s not the most clear sounding production job, you still get a good idea of the band´s vision, and it´s not one of those lo-fi "recorded in the bedroom" type black metal productions, where the artist have made every effort to make it sound as noisy, murky, and raw as possible. On the other hand it´s not a production I´d call professional either, but it suits the music well, and that´s the important part.

Shining weren´t the most technically skilled musicians at this point, and considering their age, that´s not really a surprise, but the music is generally well performed and upon conclusion "Submit To Selfdestruction" is a promising first release by Shining. Featuring a playing time of 13:32 minutes the EP also allows the listener to get aquainted with the sound of Shining and in that respect it´s certainly a successful release. A 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is warranted.

THE ILLUSION OF DAWN Recall the Nightmare

Demo · 2008 · Depressive Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
While it may be off the radar for the rest of the world, Chinese black metal has been a thing for the last 20 years with kvlt acts popping up all around the world’s most populous nation adopting all those attributes that make them sound like they’ve been exiled to Lappland for countless cold winters. Some of the better black metal bands from China like 殞煞 (Vengeful Spectre) and 葬尸湖 (Zuriaake) incorporate Chinese folk music into the metal import sounds but for the vast majority, they have simply been playing catch up with more accomplished Western bands by simply copying the second wave bands of the 90s.

The year 2020 has been an interesting one and depressing for many due to the outbreak of Covid-19 across the world creating an unprecedented pandemic in a time when the world is totally connected. Coming from the epicenter of the viral breakout is THE ILLUSION OF DAWN which formed in Wuhan, China all the way back in 2004 which is about the time when China was starting to adopt some of the more extreme metal sounds and more and more bands formed although such extreme metal sounds are still very much a minority in a nation of 1.4 billion inhabitants.

This band has had many lineup changes over the years but in the beginning it was the quartet of Nightmare (guitars), Liang Jun (bass), Chen Bin (drums) and Darkness (vocals.) While many black metal bands use Chinese characters for their band names, THE ILLUSION OF DAWN has gone Western from the start with all titles in English and as far as i can tell the indecipherable lyrics as well. The band so far only has two releases which started with this demo RECALL THE NIGHTMARE in 2008 followed by a self-titled full-length that came out in 2012.

I chose to review this demo because i’ve been searching for an album that represents the perfect soundtrack for what the world has been going through in 2020 and by having found Wuhan’s equivalent of Darkthrone, i think i found a winner. Considering the Coronavirus thing broke out in Wuhan this album represents the torment and anguish of what that city went through as one of the hardest hit and how a raw black metal sound from Wuhan was a cross-pollination with Western ideas therefore the perfect representation of a nasty virus making its way across the globe.

Musically this is fairly generic by the books raw primeval black metal that sounds like a garage band worshipping some of the early second wave Norwegian bands but slower more like the depressive black metal of Sweden’s Shining. While the music covers the basics like buzzsaw guitar distortion, tremolo picking, murky bass / guitar unison and raspy vocals emerging from the din, these guys weren’t exactly accomplished musicians however the whole thing really does fit in with the mood i imagine Wuhan youth experiencing during this outbreak, namely complete frustration and utter depression. This is a raw form of depressive black metal that feels like the end of the world is nigh.

One of the weakest links here is the drumming which is fairly boring. Chen Bin keeps a simple beat and the drum tones sound completely out of place here. There are a scant few blastbeat moments but generally it’s just a lackadaisical procession of a simple thumping sound. There are a few guitar solos which are atonal and unspectacular but this is garage metal after all and the whole thing reminds me of how a city was attacked by a microbial invader and forced to adapt much like black metal swooped into the consciousness of the youth and they were trying to find their way into the world. Maybe i just have too fertile of an imagination but i vote RECALL THE NIGHTMARE as soundtrack of the year 2020. It’s dark, bleak, depressing, has a title that sums up the worldwide pandemic and it originated in Wuhan and like the virus is only average in quality.

NÖDUTGÅNG:SJÄLVMORD All Colours of Rainbow

Album · 2014 · Depressive Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
NÖDUTGÅNG:SJÄLVMORD may look unpronounceable unless your Swedish of course. While this band comes from Poltava, Ukraine, it chose the Swedish name which means “Emergency Exit: Suicide.” This band formed in 2009 and has so far released one album and one EP. This is a trio that includes Nagifar (vocals, bass), Alex Veil (guitar) and Deadman (drums).

This debut ALL COLOURS OF RAINBOW was released before the following EP “Mourning Poems.” NÖDUTGÅNG:SJÄLVMORD is one of the many depressive black metal bands that combines the traditional Shining type depressive metal with the more modern blackgaze as heard in bands like Deafhaven. ALL COLOURS RAINBOW features seven tracks and the album almost hits 35 minutes.

There are certainly some creepy sounds coming from the Ukraine these days but this ain’t one of them. On the contrary, NÖDUTGÅNG:SJÄLVMORD is one of the goofiest black metal bands i’ve ever fucking heard! While based on the textbook depressive black metal guitar riffs that adds some lazy drumming and repetitive cyclical riffing, the bass is much more energetic than the average band of this sort and once the guitar riffs drop out it becomes more obvious that the more melodic than average procession for depressive melody is actually culled from The Cure.

The gothic aspects are even more apparent when the Dracula vocals emerge however what makes this album really ridiculous are the tortured clown vocals of Naglfar whose over-the-top tantrums sound like a spoiled little tot who didn’t get a candy bar at the grocery store and who happens to sound like a pissed off clown with a plugged up nose! While this is supposed to simulate a depressive black metal album, the melodic features aren’t very depressive at all.

In fact the entire album is as silly as the amateurish album cover. The closing “Last Sentimental Words” is the perfect example of this hilarious blackened clown metal at its worst. The highly melodic bass run simulates an 80s Cure song while a tortured castrato Krusty the clown screams with clean vocals harmonizing up and down the operatic scales. LOL.

Along for the ride are catchy guitar solos and uplifting atmospheres. The whole thing is unbelievable really. What saves this from a one star rating is the music is pretty catchy and there is a humor value but this has to be the worst depressive black metal album i’ve ever heard really but at least i can say it is not a copycat generic clone! Clown maybe but no clone. I guess in one way this does make you want to commit suicide but i think it would be more effective as a torture device for unsuspecting kvlt black metal purists. Hehe

WHITE WARD Illusions

EP · 2012 · Depressive Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Amongst the wealth of black metal bands coming from around the world, perhaps no other nation has captured the bleakest sounds better than the Ukraine. For some reason this region of the world is just teeming with lo-fi angst-ridden doomsday-seeking musicians dwelling on as much misanthropy, horror and depression as humanly possible. WHITE WARD is one of countless black metal bands from Ukraine which formed in Odessa in 2012.

WHITE WARD wasted no time cranking out a couple demos and this debut EP titled ILLUSIONS which fits the textbook definition of depressive black metal on its way to post-black and blackgaze terrain. While the band would eventually meander into atmospheric black metal, on ILLUSIONS they fall squarely in the depressive aisle of the metal supermarket on the shelf next to Sweden’s Shining and the San Francisco based Leviathan but not really quite as accomplished in the creativity department.

At this stage the lineup was Alexey Sidorenko (vocals), Vladimir Bauer (bass), Yuiry Konoov (drums), Yuriy Kazaryan (guitars) and Alexander Smirnov (guitars). This EP only has three lengthy tracks but the playing time still just misses the 25 minute mark. While the band has been getting more attention in recent years for adding jazz elements to its blackgaze haziness, at this stage WHITE WARD was pretty much a standard nondescript sounding depressive black metal band.

The repetitive monotonous chugging guitar riffs, apathetic drums and melodic wailing guitar parts in the background are like the musical equivalent to a suicide note as the vocals growl away beneath the depressive banter of the guitar distortion and mid-tempo rhythmic drive. Overall ILLUSIONS is a decent slice of depressive black metal but also falls squarely into generic mediocrity as there is absolutely nothing on this one that makes WHITE WARD stand out from its more famous Western European contemporaries. Still though if you can’t get enough of this style of black metal, it’s certainly not a waste of time either.

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