It seems as though Netflix has become inundated with anthology-style horror — a trend I’m far from bitter about. Beyond appealing to my goldfish attention span, I really cherish watching different artists’ interpretations of a common topic. I think it must be getting in my head because I’m starting to interpret different black metal artists in the same fashion, suggesting that there are, truly, different shades of black. Sadness is hardly a singular experience, and I’m excited (or excited as one can be) about sharing my reading of the June DSBM clickhole through this paradigm, starting first and foremost with the aptly-named Path Sad.
Path Sad (IT) – Through the Poison of Anguish (2017)
From the first note, Poison elicits some of the strongest visual imagery from an album in my recent memory. There’s a gentleness that reads like a film, achieving what I can best describe as what The Babadook is trying to do. Echoing the YMS review, there is an interesting idea met with wavering quality of execution, which, in my personal interpretation, personifies trauma. With both Poison and The Babz, this story triumphs by introducing the topic subtlety, and the sadness doesn’t grow until reality begins to sink in. Where Path Sad demonstrates more finesse is that the idea is patiently expanded on through its drones in lieu of blowing the “my dad died taking my ma on the way to the hospital to have me” load too soon. Poison is a true haunt reverberating in its heavy distortion, taking anguish out of the horror of the middle class and into the abandoned home at the end of the cul-de-sac. Matters teeter into some Happy Black ™ towards the middle of the story as the prophecy of “I should be feeling better by now” attempts to play itself out, but any semblance of positivity feels, appropriately, disingenuous. Interestingly, facets seem to be mixed in equal parts. I’m not sure how intentional this move was on Sad’s part, but it certainly makes a tough ride a bit easier to digest. Overall, this is a surprising achievement arising from relatively benign depressive cover art — one that proves I will not soon fall bored of navigating its ilk.
Acedia Mundi (FR) – Speculum Humanae Salvationis (2017)
On the other side of the coin, Acedia tells a very different story of sorrow — the one that takes form in anger, the chip on your shoulder that wastes no time in revealing itself. A labelmate of Antilife, Acedia demonstrates that France’s potential for extreme music, as asserted by the former’s drummer, Haine, is a force to be reckoned with. Perhaps what I appreciate most in Speculum is that it has all of the butt ugly black metal attributes, but polished up real nice and pretty. It turns out that if you put lipstick on a goat you get the perfect fusion of black and death — a true compliment coming from me since lord knows I typically take even the uncut form of the latter with hefty skepticism. It’s unrelenting and unforgiving, but still willing to break down its sum to show that they’re aware of the moving parts that go into building a sound wall that’s both aesthetically pleasing and architecturally sound. After all, behind anger is a person whose heart strings have become tangled. Like going to war with a bunch of snaggled necklaces, eventually you’ll just rage quit. Resisting the formulaic trap, Acedia puts the sample at the end, leaving you savoring some sort of French operatic skratchy record. Coping out with another film comparison, the move gives off some tip-toe-through-the-Meadow Insidious vibes. There’s a creepiness in placing something so pure and cheesey in the context of festering resentment, and it only grows once it’s ceased as it’s replayed in your head.
Intig (SE) – Dystymi (2016)
By far, Intig’s Dystymi is rapidly changing status from monthly favorite to year-end material. It’s the melancholy found between the lines. Whether it be walking to the train on a forgettable day or waking up from a post-panic nap to the sound of the rain, Intig sheds light on some of our bleakest hours that we are keen on passing like an X on calendar while simultaneously marking the spot. For y’all not quite as edumacated in poor health juju as my good pal Robin, Dystymia can be defined as mild but long term depression, further accentuating the ugly lines of our daily tracks. In this respect, Dystmi, thematically, has remarkably high potential for accessibility, and the subtlety in its musical form makes for a good gateway for alternative fans who resonate with heightened emotion in a less abrasive form. Vocals are used sparingly, teaching us an important lesson in declining substanceless tracery. Truly, this is a Swedish black metal experience like no other, so much so that I had assumed the outfit was Russian. Perhaps this schema was awoken by the Soviet-style cover art — a rose tempting the fate of concrete. Let it not be forgotten that the True Horror is all around us, leaving the I up to the task of finding meaning since chances are, conventional confines don’t leave room for self-actualized handouts.
Sørgelig (GR) – Forever Lost (2017)
Finally, our fourth and final chapter makes sure we never make it past the back cover, much less the heavy bookend. Forever Lost is the story of when you’ve gone from staggering along the edge to, at last, irreversibly stumbling down the black hole. For me, this travesty plays out as a residual haunt, usually coming about mid-to-late afternoon when I know I need to start drinking. We only continue to stumble as the tumble becomes the crutch, even as the cast grows as oppressive as the affliction itself. And so, in my journey down the rabbit hole, I can’t help but spend my time exploring what it entails to be lost, forever. Perhaps a derailed course doesn’t always have to mean meandering foreign streets or losing track of the breadcrumbs in the forest. It’s not vastness, but rather, a tight prison from which we are incapable of learning escape. It’s how you’re going to become this new person, one who you’ll never have the pleasure of meeting. It’s wasting time indulging grand delusions about digging yourself out through the sewers instead of investing in more meaningful and realistic coping mechanisms. It’s the wails, full of anguish and empty in promise, bouncing and darting off cinder block to form a home out of an echochamber.