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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4.08 | 13 ratings
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TODESSTOß
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BETHLEHEM
4.10 | 5 ratings
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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...
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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
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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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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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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.

TAARMA Beyond the Cemetery Gates

Album · 2008 · Depressive Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
While many of us still associate black metal with a bunch of misanthropic miscreants from Scandinavia, the truth of the matter is that black metal has long left its cradle and become a global phenomenon and not just in North America and Japan. The genre has even taken off in the most unlikely places whether it be the Chinese band Be Persecuted, Kekal from Indonesia, Shub Niggurath from Mexico or even Inquisition from Colombia just to name a few. But even stranger yet is when this style of metal with screamed vocals, tremolo guitar distortion and blastbeats most often dished out in lo-fi hellish production appeals to some region of the world where nobody has even heard of much less visited, then things enter the Twilight Zone.


TAARMA is yet another one-man band that produces a gloomy mix of depressing atmospheric black metal enveloped in a distorted wall of sound in the vein of Xasthur and other depressive metal bands. The sole member is the aptly named Black Emperor Jogezi and he lives in the extremely remote city of Zhob in Baluchistan which is an area of Pakistan that sits on the border with Afghanistan and has been the hot potato region of the world for eons as the two nations have fought over its territories. The devastation that has ensued through all the conflicts has left permanent psychological scars on its peaceful populace with little or not escape from the aftermath. TAARMA which means “darkness” in the ancient Brahvi language reflects this emotional trauma perfectly.

Jogezai is an ex-member of the band Black Arts but moved on to form TAARMA in 1999 and has released a series of lo-fi torturous demos in the far flung region of Pakistan that was virtually unknown to any outsiders until 1884. So far TAARMA has only released three very hard to find full-length albums with this one BEYOND THE CEMETARY GATES being the second. It was released in 2008 independently as a cassette only edition. Only 200 copies of this album were made and it’s not even very easy to find a place to listen to this on the internet as the audio streaming seems to disappear without warning. TAARMA’s themes revolve around the usual suspects such as death, depression and bleakness but rather than suffering from frigid winters and snooty Christians, TAARMA draws its influence from Afghan folklore due to the fact that Zhob is considered to be an Afghani city under the occupation of Pakistan.

The music on BEYOND THE CEMETARY GATES is about as claustrophobic and lo-fi as you could hope for. This is the stuff black metal purists get all hot and bothered over and for good reason. TAARMA is heavily influenced by the American band Xasthur and with a monotonous repetitive death march that is accompanied by buzzsaw fueled droning guitars, drums that alternate between apathetic and agitated blastbeats, minimalistic keyboards and a tortured raspy vocal rage that aggressively strives to emerge from the suffocating din. The music is unique in the fact that it sort of swarms like a plague of locusts rather than just make a clearcut procession. The guitar drones and the keyboard ambience merge together for the most part and rather than making distinct transitions to different chord progressions, they seem to just slide in out of tune.

This is truly horrific music that reflects the harshness of existing in a very remote region of the planet devastated by eons of conflict and the incessant suffering that follows. Jogezai certainly isn’t alone in the world when it comes to making this style of tortured soul music but in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan where such music is literally unheard of and in some cases can result in severe condemnation if not imprisonment is quite unique indeed. In the end this is nothing new under the sun except for the fact it comes from some remote outpost in the Pakistani desert but neither is it without its merits. This truly feels like some sort of dark mirage is descending upon the land where all traces of hope are extinguished as if some spiritual war has been lost and the victors’ intent is fixed on eternal enslavement of the soul. This is really spooky stuff! There’s a depth to TAARMA that often seems insincere in many depressive black metal bands.

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