I’m not going to name names, but I can’t help but feel as though many splits emerge out of a sense of obligation. Whether it’s a matter of overlapping fan bases, labels, or sub-sub-genres, organic collabs seem to fall victim to what might as well be rather than what truly ought to. But something special happens when five emotionally effective artists embrace their individual greatness, play their hand at the greatness of each other, and work together towards a common goal. In the case of Violet Cold (AZ), Sadness (US), A Light in the Dark (RUS), Unreqvited (CA), and Show me a Dinosaur (RUS), this means exploring the beauty that can be found in the cracks of the imperfect.
Violet Cold’s starting approach varies quite differently from that of his most recent full-length Anomie (2017), which has quickly proved to be a recurring favorite within the atmospheric clickhole. Taking a page from Sadness, one-manner Emin Guliye offers us a lesson in the less-is-more school of delicateness, but from his own point of view – one that’s a culmination of all the great things going on in black metal right now. Yes, like Sunbather, but much more cultivated, sincere, and light enough to float on.
Similar to the case of Kalmankantaja’s Demonwoods (2017) discussed last week, classic black metal elements are polished, re-invisioned, and put to work. The sounds of stomping through the elements a la Bergtatt is progged up through the sound of gulls and ocean waves, corresponding beautifully with album art, which takes a neutral stance on dawn or dusk, wind-chill or humidity, allowing the imagination to run amuck. As the story unfolds, melody takes form in banger fucking synth while heavier plodding rhythm guitars and drums are held as a muffled bassline. As you begin to question whether or not you may have accidentally clicked on some kind of new breed of ASMR, the baton is passed to Sadness.
Turning the tables once more, Sadness maintains just a brief gentle start before introducing a faster and heavier face to the album more reminiscent of Anomie. There’s a lot to unpack — walls of blast beats woven in between brighter riffs and the atmospheric glue that holds it all together. But, being that Sadness tends to overwhelm in more subtly gripping ways, the speed is eventually reduced and various elements are broken down to be more easily digested. Eventually, we are brought to a quiet interlude before the process is repeated for a second emotional rollercoaster. Vocals emerge as another piece of the puzzle rather than the forefront before the curtain is dropped and light guitar—easily mistaken for distorted chimes—is revealed.
A Light in the Darkness truly lives up to his name and teaches us another important lesson — a light in the darkness doesn’t always shine with the color you may expect. Instead of sanitizing melancholy, it’s embraced and translated into something dazzling, and knowing that there others out there who are struck by similar emotional chords makes us feel understood, and thus, a little better. We can apply the same concept to the album’s thorough exploration of of what it means to be “depressive.”
About halfway through ALITD’s chapter he drops some sick beats, and oh man, does it make me nut everywhere. If you know me personally, you know that I moved into the asshole of the Astari emo-rap YouTube channel a couple of months ago and haven’t really left. The prospect of similar genre-bending being applied to DSBM is so fucking exciting, and when you’re working with the level of talent on Imperfect, you’re bound to get something a little more unironically compelling than the unholy rap-rock Frankensteins of yesteryear. But, getting back on the rails here, ALITD treats us to subtle clean singing, light melodies, and a few piano keystrokes before sliding into the DM’s of the myth, the man, the 鬼.
Unreqvited, who I’m proud to say is no stranger to Thirsty Thursday, continually blows me away with the quality of his production despite his in-home setup, as well as by his skill level despite his young age (also note: Elisa of Sadness is allegedly only 19). Here, 鬼 appropriately takes a darker, more ghostly turn. Slow riffs give way to heavy tremolos and tortured wails that rise quickly, but do not sink as the period gives way to a softer, folksier, interlude that exudes some super magical Caladan Brood vibes. Once again, Unreqvited demonstrates his ability to convey black metal’s relationship with nature and depressive’s relationship with sorrow with approachable intelligence and self-awareness. Every tried-and-true technique just gets fresher with his touch. That’s obviously no easy feat, but it’s one that 鬼 pulls off seamlessly, placing him in a pivotal role of selling the album’s ultra-modern brand.
Speaking of brand, the final piece of the puzzle, Show me a Dinosaur, keeps you guessing when it comes to theirs. The only band on Imperfect with whom I lacked prior familiarity, I was low key hoping that they were some kind of scene kid-turned-DSBM shitshow, because, yano, rawr. Judging from the YouTube comments, I wasn’t alone. But, despite being the only multi-member group on the record, their sound is much more consistent than any of us expected. To be honest, I kind of enjoy when bands’ names or merch doesn’t seemingly correspond with their sound. I appreciate the mental challenge of contradiction. Shit makes me feel alive and like less of stereotype of myself. Admittedly, I was worried at first that I was starting to see some deviation from the thesis as SMAD’s track starts much more abrasively than the rest, but as it develops, the happy-sad post-metal POV is adapted according to their rockier sound, which tapers off gracefully.
And so, after several close and casual listens, all I can do is comment ^this. This coheres, this inspires, and this fucking works.