With the shutting down of clubs and bars across the country because of fears of COVID-19, fans of metal are left wondering how to connect with their community. Clubs and bars are our most commonly shared community spaces, and without them, we are left in isolation.
The only appropriate question we can ask each (through internet-mediated conversation or with six-feet between us) in the current uncertain times is “What are you listening to?”
As I have retreated into my own desolate hermitage, I have found myself listening to hopeless and depressive metal. My first days back home after being evacuated from the country in which I was teaching were dark, rainy, and cold, and I was experiencing an odd mix of shock, despondency, and bewilderment. That makes the perfect cocktail for some despairing and somber metal.
It sounds counterintuitive that I would be reaching for recent lugubrious favorites. You would think that I would want to listen to happy music if I’m in a dark place and watching the world fall apart around me. But, as I’ve mentioned in other posts, listening to music that’s hopeless and depressed while I’m feeling hopeless and depressed allows me to wade in those feelings and explore them rather than pushing them further inside me as they lie in wait to manifest in other, possibly unhealthy, ways. There’s a psychological reason for this (detailed here and here), so I know I’m not just a shit digger, as a friend once called me during a particularly brooding and depressive period in high school.
As we continue to lose our jobs, watch the world economy collapse, and find ourselves increasingly relegated to isolation as a pandemic ravages human life around the globe, I know I’ll be taking as much solace as I can from mournful music.
Here are a few hopeless and depressive albums I have listened to in order to cope with the current situation:
1. The Haunting Presence, by Krohm
Unlike some other Malicious Intent DJs, Depressive Suicidal Black Metal (DSBM) is a subgenre I’ve never really explored in great detail before. However, DJ Mark of the Beast turned me on to this uncompromisingly bleak album. The Haunting Presence often features mid-paced hypnotic and dissonant music featuring spindly guitar interplay reminiscent of bands like Yellow Eyes or Filosofem-era Burzum. The Haunting Presence is an excellent album to accompany us in our many days of isolated loneliness to come.
2. Sacramental Death Qualia, by Haunter
Sacramental Death Qualia was a late-comer to my favorite albums of 2019. In my opinion, the album picks up where Opeth left off with My Arms, Your Hearse in the way that the dark and foreboding music found therein showcases the instrumental talent and progressive influences of the individual members. While The Haunting Presence lulls you into deathly hypnosis, Sacramental Death Qualia crushes you beneath the foot of the awareness of your own mortality.
3. Devouring Ruin, by Wake
I’ve been looking forward to this album for months after hearing an early release of the track “This Abyssal Plain”. On Devouring Ruin, Wake transcends their blackened grindcore beginnings to write music that integrates longer, slower, and more complex song structures with the relentless nihilistic grinding they were already known for. It’s the perfect, desolate amalgam of grindcore, black metal, and death metal in order to uselessly rage against the void that will one day envelop us in its cold arms.
4. Horizonless, by Loss
The devastating 2017 album from one of doom metal’s most resigned and despondent bands (their 2011 album was indeed entitled Despond). In my opinion, a lot of doom metal is tonally uninteresting as a result of insistent overreliance on power chords and simply trying to “out heavy” the next band. Loss doesn’t rely on either of those crutches and instead crafts well-written songs that display a keen sense of dynamics and movement. From start to finish, Horizonless plods along in hopeless ecstasy.
5. Conscious Darkness, by Blaze of Perdition
After a devastating car wreck in 2013 left band member 23 dead and the rest of the band injured, reconciliations with mortality seem to be a mainstay of the band’s lyrical output since then. There is resigned desperation that pervades the music of Conscious Darkness and reflects a keen sense of the inevitability of death. As darker times continue to creep on us like the shadow cast by approaching night, songs like “Detachment Brings Serenity” serve as not-so-subtle reminders that suffering is an inevitability of the human condition…and it’s here to stay.