This past week, a project for Invisible Oranges sent me into flashback mode to one of my DIAG milestones—my first ever depressive black metal list. For almost two years now, I’ve been contributing my quarterly reports of what’s popping in one of the most emotionally-charged metal undergrounds. Finding my niche within DSBM and post-black helped me retrain my own sense of identity within metal as I found myself growing a bit bored with the trendiness of American doom. A longtime Xasthur fan, I knew that this ilk was one I wished to further explore, and, thematically-speaking, my love seemed to grow logically alongside my infatuation with emo rap. So, through a couple of deep dives into a different kind of dark web, I grew overwhelmed with the number of artists around the world who spoke candidly and cultivated carefully, yielding a special honesty about the grittiness of the human condition and blackened composition alike.
Cut to present day and Prosternatur is releasing a split with Ancient Moon. The premiere opportunity serendipitously fell into my inbox and it was a hard yes having remembered Prosternatur’s spot in my inaugural “DSBM for the Rite of Fall.” It was September of 2015, a mighty fine time to unveil the spookiness I had been accruing in the scribbles of my journals and likes in my Bandcamp list. While I have, admittedly, shelved some past favorites, others still reign supreme as standouts in my personal collection. As a sort-of Thursday Addams’ “hall of fame,” I thought I’d discuss what exactly has maintained these records’ memorability, as well as investigate what the artists are up to now. Perhaps most miraculously, I also coincidentally realized that these records are the depressive entities’ first full-length releases (that I can find evidence of, anyway). Even scarier, some of these dudes were even younger than me when they wrote them. Sounds like I need to start aiming my goals a little higher than putting on pants and making it to Starbucks.
While depressive black metal generally entails being thrown into the big black pit of despair, these artists demonstrate that it takes a good deal of courage and creativity to do what they do. So, join me in giving credit accordingly.
Prosternatur (Origins Unknown) – Abyssus Abyssum Invocat (2016)
Originally from DSBM for the Rite of Fall
While it’s easy to rest on visuals, it takes a special skill set to actually translate them audibly (or vice versa.). While little Victorian kids and the era’s trend of veiling mothers to keep them calm during portraits are fucking unsettling, Abyssus Abyssum Invocat doesn’t stop and end there like less-nuanced contemporary albums. A wall of atmosphere comprised of chilling riffs and a presumably pupil-less choir makes for the kind of experience you wish you had at the haunted hayride. While Prosternatur have laid low since their first release, split Secretum Secretorum, out now on Iron Bonehead Productions, delivers an equally gripping journey that’s fused seamlessly with their partners in inner chaos.
Unreqvited (CA) – Disquiet (2016)
Originally from I Saw Six Ghosts
From lessons in despair to lessons in hope, Disquiet is a very approachable look at what depressive post-black can be. With fairly tight production despite it being recorded in one-manner 鬼’s own bedroom, Disquiet takes the devastating operatics and mid-tempo meditations of DSBM and projects them upwards. The use of major keys in black metal is, of course, contested, but refraining from performing unadulterated depressive-style vocals and incorporation of appeals to a mountainous abyss make the record accessible to old heads and alt rock fans alike. Alongside releasing follow-up Stars Wept At Sea (2018), 鬼 has also embarked on alternative project Write Home, spreading his eclectic music talents into another long-admired realm.
Isleptonthemoon (US) – Help Me Off The Ground (2016)
Originally from (Other) Champions of Post-Black
Once again, that visual sure is a motherfucker, but it’s also a very creepy omen of the unrelenting amounts of “I don’t give a fuck” that instantly ensue. Shrieking from the back bedroom as bright, crunchy riffs rip through, Help Me Off The Ground reflects the visceral rawness of old school DSBM through post-black’s eyes. But wait, there’s more! This album also showcases depressive’s potential to incorporate more folksy elements, as demonstrated through the steady and muted acoustic beating-on that runs through “Moongazer.” While follow-up Breathless (2017) takes on less of a floaty style, it proves that Isleptonthemoon would not be the band that it is without unwavering openness towards experimentation.
Psalms of Suicide (US) – House Of The Dying Self-Terminating Sun (2017)
Originally from Here’s Some Butt Fucking Ugly Black Metal
Lo-fi and personal lows take on new profoundness in the world’s introduction to Count Suicide. Hailing from more-likely-than-you-think New Jersey, Psalms of Suicide shows that despair is found lurking in areas of bleakness that have been otherwise neglected by more traditional field-and-stream black metal. Completely unmixed and, again, recorded at home, haunting sound
effects are used to break up delightfully butt ugly rhythm guitar and bass-heavy undertones. Being that I don’t typically care for anything thrashy or d-beat, the fact that House was my favorite DSBM album of 2017 is a miraculous feat. In the interim, POS has been keeping nose to the grindstone with several new albums and splits. And, I’ve even heard whispers that there’s going to be Count Suicide, Jr. gracing us with his presence soon. Congrats to our Graveyard friend!
Entering (CZ) – Shade of Mind (2017)
Last, but certainly not least, there is Entering. While little is known about the individual behind the madness, it is clear that they have seen the underbelly of the human spirit. A devastating ode to self-destruction, this adventure in blackgaze reflects a beautifully horrific image as a mirror is held to the face of black metal modernity. It would be easy to just glide through on disturbing samples of 911 calls and accounts of self-mutilation, but there is nothing easy about the tortured Shade Of Mind. Unbending instrumental progression tugs at a heart kept in a pitch-black chamber. Vocals retain the shrieked tones of black metal forefathers while depositing them through purge-like DSBM delivery. It’s a story that’s bound to meet an untimely demise— demise being an event that I hope Entering has not yet reached. At this time, Shade of Mind stands as Entering’s only full-length. In the heat of depression, futures are so simultaneously known and unknown, but I am thankful there is an artist so willing to share the gritty realities despite any underlying fear.
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