Considering the popularity of the sub-genre, it seems almost strange that there are still those who consider Depressive Suicidal Black Metal controversial. The idea that black metal must be about themes of strength, blasphemy, and darkness, with absolutely no space for self-doubt or perceived weakness, is one that (to me) very quickly falls apart when you consider that one of the key figures in the genre killed himself. To protest against people using black metal as a means to combat their demons – be they depression, addiction, or any other form or soul-sapping negativity you care to mention – is as futile as to cry out against the rising of the sun.
With this in mind, we come to the first demo by one-man band Necrolytic Goat Converter. For sure, the band name is readily admitted to be a joke, but the music is anything but. Combining melody with a raw, DIY production to great effect, Demo MMXVI is a superb example of both music as therapy, and of how to write engaging, powerful DSBM that throws in a few solos and powerful riffs to great results.
Oh, and there’s also a song about curdled milk.
Of the six tracks (plus intro and outro, which cleverly loop in to one another) that this demo offers, there’s not a weak link among them. It’s that rare kind of record where each song feels stronger and better than the previous one, until you start the record over and then the cycle repeats again. Melody is at the heart of what makes the demo so strong, with the raw production ensuring it never becomes too melodic and loses its harsh edges. There’s also a few excellent guitar solos thrown in to the mix, injecting bursts of energy and extra character in to tracks such as “Second Skin”.
Importantly for a DSBM record, Demo MMXVI never gets bogged down in its own misery. It may be intended as a way for sole member Chris Voss to express himself and work through his personal demons, but the music never sounds torturous or grueling. Many DSBM records possess the all-important cathartic element (and this demo is no exception), but few are as enjoyable – or addictive – to listen to. It’s quite common to find myself leaving the demo on repeat for multiple spins at a time, absorbing myself in it for hours at a time, something that very rarely happens to me with DSBM; one listen is usually more than enough, but not here.
That said, there’s no disguising the nature of the record, which is especially apparent when the lyrics are considered. “Second Skin” rails against depression, refusing to give in to it (“Cannot let this crippling sorrow win”), though there are other tracks – such as “Absolution” – which paint a much darker picture (“In sunless skies I watch the universe collapse / Beneath the branches of my grave”), especially when combined with clever use of clean, morose vocals.
There are a few elements which may rankle with traditionalists (as much as one can be a DSBM traditionalist, anyway). The instructions to “repeat chorus, dress in black, read poetry and sulk” at the end of the lyrics to “Withdrawn” is the kind of self-satire that is sure to upset those who want their metal to be constantly serious and straight-faced; and that’s without considering “Smell Of Death (Curdled Milk)”, a song about the smell of – yes – curdled milk. This isn’t some kind of “comedy black metal”, though, and it’s here where the context of the record is key. It’s here where Chris is battling against depression not just through playing black metal, but also trying to have some fun whilst doing so, poking at the ridiculous tendencies of the genre. If you’re offended or upset by that, then that’s just too bad. After all, this music isn’t for you: it’s for Chris. The rest of us just get to admire what he has made, and if it’s not to your tastes or what you want from your DSBM, then that’s OK – there’s plenty of other records out there that will cater to that. But personally, I’m a huge fan of this demo, and whilst I normally like my metal to be entirely straight-faced and serious, the gentle self-mockery here is something I can appreciate, too. There’s no pretension, no arrogance, just one guy putting out some incredibly honest, incredibly skillful black metal.
Demo MMXVI is available to stream and download via Bandcamp.