DSBM is a considerably broad church now, to the extent that, as a descriptive on its own, it’s almost meaningless. Encompassing everything from the most melodic moments of introspection, to drawn-out odes of nihilism, the genre has grown considerably, especially in the last ten years. Solo act Abandoned By Light‘s fifth album, Melancholia, situates itself firmly in the darkest end of the sub-genre, with guitars that move between jarring dissonance and frostbitten melodies competing with hate-filled vocals and merciless drums. Much like the artwork, the only shades to be found here are different hues of black, and that is both the strength and weakness of Melancholia.
Comparisons to the likes of Drowning The Light, Leviathan, and Abyssic Hate are obvious and warranted; the raw DSBM of Melancholia is never a comfortable listen, directing its hate in every direction without any regard for the listener’s well-being, with its slight hints of melody making the more unsettling aspects all the more effective. Songs shift between full-throttle assaults and doom-laden crawls with minimal warning, and sole member Karhmul’s vocals are raw and all but unintelligible; though the intent and emotions behind them are clear, even if the actual words aren’t.
Without exception, the songs are long – only two of the nine are shorter than eight minutes long, and even then they clock in at over six minutes. This is both to the benefit and detriment of Melancholia. It ensures that the songs have plenty of time to draw the listener in to their dark, hateful atmosphere (which is key to DSBM of this ilk); but there’s just so much of it. Without any obvious stand-out tracks or moments, Melancholia is an album that relies on its consistent atmosphere for successes. Whilst it achieves its aims on the whole, it’s not hard to find attention drifting towards the end of the album; most of these songs could comfortably lose a few minutes and be better for it. Things do pick up with a cover of Abyssic Hate’s ‘Depression – Part I’, but the closing cover of ‘The Music Of The Night’ from Phantom Of The Opera ends the album on a low note – the melodies and harsh vocals all contrast with one another in the wrong way, and the song never quite comes together as intended. It’s a brave move, but one that does nothing for me.
All this said, the atmosphere and feeling of Melancholia when it successfully draws you in is great; oppressive and claustrophobic, this is not the kind of DSBM that seeks catharsis but instead revels in its misery and hate. It’s very much an album for dark nights and darker moods, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that it would be more effective if there was a bit less of it.
Melancholia is available to download via Bandcamp.