As the days turn colder and darker and we slide inevitably toward All Hallow’s Eve, I thought I’d round up some of my favourite dark synth albums so far this year.
I enjoyed their brooding darkness, their shadowed power and their ability to take me on a journey through soundscapes of fear and danger. Sometimes we have to gaze into the shadows and shiver and these albums helped me to do so.
Jetfire Prime’s They Live To Feed attracted me because it’s a soundtrack to a horror movie that never was. Jetfire Prime composed it just like a horror move soundtrack complete with cues and character themes. I was compelled by the way in which the shadowy, tension-filled atmosphere was shot through with delicate musical moments as the “movie” unfolded.
The atmosphere that was created on the album was another aspect of it that drew me in. The entire album was drenched in deep shadow, generating an ominous sense of danger, while also ramping up the tension throughout the tracks.
The triumphs and tragedies of the main characters were strongly conveyed in the music with aching melodies that spoke of pain and glowing passages symbolizing the innocence of the protagonists.
I also enjoyed the way that Jetfire Prime deployed synths on They Live To Feed. The way that the synths interacted to paint mental images reminded me of classic ‘80s horror movie composers like John Carpenter. The synth sounds spanned a range from delicate shimmer to harsh growl, each helping to intensify the imagery that he sought to express in the music.
The high quality of Jetfire Prime’s melodic writing on the album also pulled me into the musical world it outlined. The way in which he combined contrasting emotions gave life to the melodies. Danger and longing mingled in some while others cried out in victory when the characters succeed. I also enjoyed how the melodies fleshed out the storytelling aspect of the album.
I found myself absorbed by L A Z E R L V S T’s Seize the Night as it took me on a journey through a broken, decaying city whose squalid streets are stalked by pure evil. The music is full of seething darkness, jagged edges and a pervasive sense of lurking danger. All of these sensations were generated by the interactions between a rich diversity of synth sounds, ferocious drums and Stygian bass as they all floated in a cavernous sonic space.
There was a guttural rage to some of the tracks on the album that imbued it with a sense of terrified urgency. The relentless assault of the drums and the dense weight of the bass added a doom-laden feeling to the music, while the other musical elements generated an intense feeling of rapidly approaching danger in me.
In contrast to the ferocity of some of the tracks, there is also a profound sense of tragedy present on the album. Fragile synths carry melodies full of loss and pain, seeming to express the despair of the populace in the crumbling, corrupt city that L A Z E R L V S T explored in his music.
The atmosphere of the album was another element that I found compelling. The sweeping growl of synth sounds that permeated each track, the intensity of the bass depth that added heavy shadow and the tension-filled, elevated sounds flitting through the vast, cavernous darkness all combined to produce a gripping end result.
Dav Dralleon’s FALL OV MEN was a demonically heaving soundscape torn by raging drums and wriggling synths. Every musical fiber of the album was pregnant with deadly threat, trembled in terror and was filled with a pervasive dread. The music was a jagged wound slashed into the listener’s psyche, deeply lacerating it.
One of the most powerful aspects of FALL OV MEN was the intense anger and aggression that poured from the music. There was a muscular surge of shadow that dug razor sharp talons into my ears and savaged them. Each element from the slicing synths to the raging drums and the overall grinding, grating soundscape delivered a relentless musical assault.
The seething, slashing darkness of the album was another contributory factor to making it work. There was an atmosphere of extreme threat that pervaded the tracks, a sense of incredible danger from something evil wanting nothing more than to tear your face off and drink your blood. It was always there and listening to it, one had the feeling that it could attack at any minute.
Occams Laser’s Odyssey of Noise Volume II was an album that took me on a journey through shattered soundscapes drowning in a pall of shadow through which the occasional glimmer of sunlight shone. The music thrummed with tension, ached with melancholy and occasionally caressed tenderly despite the howling, battering underpinnings of the album.
The unrelenting bass assault on the album created a sawtoothed cloak of Stygian darkness full of the voices of the damned. It had a hard-edged harshness and weight that filled each track with a looming danger, even in more delicate moments.
The surging power of the drums on Odyssey of Noise Vol. II was another aspect of the album that drew me in. Their tide of battering energy added form and strength to the other musical elements. They created a cohesion in the album that made it feel all of a piece.
Occams Laser created melodies that helped to emphasize the seething darkness of the album by contrasting with it. There were moments that were surprisingly hopeful feeling in them along with melodies that were deeply tragic and painful. The way they moved against the shadowed void only increased the terror of its surging darkness.
Void Stare’s Dream/Decay explored an environment that was swallowed up in tides of bleak harshness and a sensation of wandering lost through endless darkness. The alien power of Void Stare’s growling, guttural throat singing gave the album the feeling of eldritch, otherworldly forces at work. Void Stare imbued the album with a sensation of vast gulfs of black terror surging to swallow the world.
The overall atmosphere of the album was potently terrifying. The sense of fear is woven out of a mixture of abyssal bass, sawtoothed synths that fill the tracks with a growing feeling of threat and horrific tension pouring from elevated synth that writhes through the soundscape.
Throat singing has an alien quality to it and Void Stare used his ability to perform it to intense effect on Dream/Decay. It produced a bizarre auditory component with disembodied howling and demonic growling that seemed to speak of primordial evil.
Another strong aspect to the album that I enjoyed was the rare moments of light and delicacy that pierced the darkness. Their very rarity and gentleness created a moving contrast as they glowed out valiantly against the rising tides of shadows that nearly engulfed them.
Leifendeth’s Dawn of Delusion was a full-on auditory assault that took me by the throat and forced me to gaze on the pitiless aspects of life that I might otherwise shy away from.
I likened the album to a gaping sonic wound, a torn and bloody laceration from which I couldn’t tear my gaze. I was drawn into it because of the stark challenge that it posed for me. It ripped me right out of my comfort zone which is something that I appreciated about the album.
I was enamored of Leifendeth’s sonic palette on Dawn of Delusion. It was comprised of razor sharp, slicing synths that growled and screamed along with massive blocks of crushing bass and aggressive, smashing drums. This music relentlessly explored a soundscape drowning in danger and agony.
The interaction between Leifendeth's direct, harsh lyrics and his rough, aggressive vocal delivery created a raging, snarling auditory attack that was broken by whispered moments which were chilling in their contrast. The words he wrote were unsparing and hopeless in their messages.
Draven’s EP 1 had heavy, dense horror film vibes and an audio environment thick with tension and fear that drowned the music in a shadowy miasma. The way in which he combined a plethora of synth timbres and textures, gloomy voids of bass and huge ‘80s drums resulted in an album that fairly seethed with dark power.
I thought that the interactions between different sonic elements were well handled on EP 1. The mixture of aggressive, tearing synth sounds with elevated, nervous and tense segments produced a panicked, worried sensation that filled the listener with dread.
The musical contrasts on the album were further built upon by passage of fragile piano notes and shimmering arpeggios that added to the soundscape that Draven created.
The combination of gigantic, thunderous drum sounds and bass depths on EP 1 strongly contributes to the atmosphere of shadows and ominous approaching doom that permeate the tracks. I enjoy the sense of dread that Draven manages to produce out of these sounds on the album.
The cinematic nature of EP 1 also pulled me into the sonic world it created. Draven stimulated my imagination with images of fear-haunted corridors, ancient tombs and lurking terrors that could spring out and eviscerate a wanderer trapped in an endless labyrinth.