Friday, October 21, 2011

Depressive black metal that isn't trash

I'm actually really into depressive black metal- or, maybe, the idea of it. It's a lot like funeral doom in that it's a style that's hard to do overtly badly at; instead of swarms of ludicrously incompetent, totally lame bands like you might see in thrash, the bulk of the scene is made up of mediocre, listenable garbage that slips out of your ear as quickly as it slithers in. Still, again like funeral doom, there are artists who rise far above the pack and transcend the perceived boundaries of the "depressive" style to make music all their own. Here's a few of them.


The biggest band by far in this handful, Nyktalgia is one of the bigger, more successful bands in the depressive scene, and also one that's often appreciated by typical detractors of the style. The big difference: they play fast instead of slow. The music is violent and aggressive without sacrificing any of the mournful and melodic qualities that define depressive black metal; in fact, if you break down all the elements, this is pretty in line with typical DSBM (apart from an unusually textured and nuanced interaction between bass and 6-string). It's amazing, though, what the change in tempo does to this music; songs that would have been sort of self-pitying and agonized are transformed into insane, nihilistic rampages that are as angry as they are depressed. One of my favorite bands, period, and probably also my favorite in the DSBM scene. The first album is superior to the second.

Thy Light

Brazilian, a single demo tape that goes for pretty severe prices on Ebay, and simplistic, sluggish depressive black metal- sounds like the sort of thing that would clutter Aquarius shelves. Amazingly, though, there's a method to the madness here; sole member Paolo Bruno was a classically trained pianist before he got into extreme metal, and despite the simplicity of Thy Light's music, this tends to come across in the more nuanced, unfolding melodic sense, where melodic and rhythmic textures stretch across each other in an elegant, vividly listenable way. It's not as emotionally gripping as some of my other DSBM favorites, but the sort of simple brilliance of songwriting this project displays puts it in a class of its own.


Familiar to those who are following my download blog, Always Unprotected, Knokkelklang is like Thy Light in that it's a one-man factory of cassette-bound self-destruction, but the method of delivery is entirely different. Still sluggish and simplistic, Knokkelklang's music falls into the category of "depressive black metal" but is unique in that it's some of the most distinctly impersonal music I've ever heard in the genre. Knokkelklang's music doesn't portray self-pity so much as a sort of bittersweet weltschmerz, like the soundtrack to the last humans earth will ever see watching the sun slowly expand to engulf the solar system. It's miserable but sort of sardonic and wistful at the same time; the atmosphere is singular and utterly unique. It's also wonderful music to cook to, I've found. Don't ask me why.


  1. I'd welcome a similar post of a few of your favorite funeral doom also. I get your comments on it as a "garbage genre" on the Fungoid Stream post from a few months ago... there is a technical aspect to it though, in that it's deceptively hard to play that slow consistently without accidentally letting it speed up. Still harder to do is compose something that slow that isn't boring as fuck, so it takes some real imagination to do well. Surprised none of you guys has posted a review of To Mourn Is A Virtue yet. Anyway, off-topic...

  2. All depressive/suicidal black metal and funeral doom is trash and Bethlehem is not depressive black metal, it's not even black metal. Now, fuck my ass.

  3. Percival TipplebottomOctober 25, 2011 at 8:11 PM

    Good post. I hadn't heard Thy Light or Knokkelklang, but I'm digging both.

    I was initially surprised to see this post came from you Noktorn, what with your well-established taste for thuggery, but after the killer link to Mirkvid I probably shouldn't have made assumptions. Great to see the blog branching out in more areas of metal though, keep it up.

  4. the depressive black metal interest falls a bit more in line if you replace "thuggery" with "primitivity." it's very rare that i can find a prog band i love, but two incompetent assholes making noise in their basement for a tape recorder is something i can typically make the logical jumps necessary to believe in. thus slam and dsbm sort of go hand in hand.

  5. Hey everyone, I'm trying to spread the word about my atmospheric metal project that focuses on my home, the Appalachian Mountains. There are stories that need to be told about this region and depressive black metal is a unique medium. Both my albums can downloaded for free from I appreciate any support. No regrets, No remorse -Ravenwood