Artist: Alene Misantropie
Album: Absence of Light
Label: Damnatio ad Bestias
Genre: Depressive Black Metal
It is now half way through 2016, and I am only now stumbling upon some depressive black metal that I really enjoy. Alene Misantropie is a new duo from Spain, and Absence of Light is their debut album. This album is in competition with Acjétêc by Sadness for best depressive black metal album of the year, although I am still holding patiently for the long-awaited Coldworld release, Autumn. Regardless, if you enjoy depressive black metal, you cannot skip Absence of Light.
The album is five lengthy slabs of music, totaling to an hour of depressing music. The music ranges from slow and crushing guitar passages to heart-wrenching piano interludes. The two musicians in the band have managed to share their roles almost entirely, as they both provide guitars and piano, although there is only one vocalist. The vocals are not the most extreme I have heard from depressive black metal, but they are very good. A high pitched black metal scream that holds the notes is perfect for this kind of music. If you are looking for sobbing and pure anguish, you won’t find it here. Wait for the next Imber Luminis album instead.
What surprised me most about this album is the quality of the guitars. A lot of depressive black metal bands seem to get away with allowing the guitars to be very plain, and for the most part that fits the music and it is fine, but Alene Misantropie knows how to write good black metal riffs. But they are very conscious of how much guitar they put into their songs, and if a particularly heavy section has gone on too long, they will allow the guitars to fade and bring in a synth or piano-driven section. It’s a balancing act between being heavy and being poignant and powerful. Speaking of powerful, the most gut-wrenching section for me is the vocal clip on “Confessions of a Man in Fear (Part II)”, which features a distraught woman ready to give up on life and a man feebly attempting to comfort her. I know a lot of people do not appreciate sound bites in music, but depressive black metal has always seemed like the perfect place for it to me. It adds an extra layer to the mood and can really drive home the desolate tone of an album.
The album closes with “Solitude, Pessimist And Self-Destructive” a 23-minute behemoth. The song begins with cellos droning until light guitar notes replace them, plucking away slowly, which takes up the entire first six minutes and lulls the listener into a calm state. It reminds me strongly of Fauna’s Rain. When the heavy guitars and vocals replace the ambient intro, it is clear that Alene Misantropi wants this song to be an epic opus. This is a noticeable shift in tone, and the song is closer to an atmospheric black metal piece. There are sections of layered tremolo and even a guitar solo, something that bands like Spectral Lore use to great effect. It’s an interesting way to close out such a depressing album, since the song is actually quite triumphant.
I really like Alene Misantropi’s Absence of Light. It hits all of the right depressive black metal notes, and some of the piano sections are truly beautiful. The closing song being such a different kind of song is a great way to end the album, as it prevents the fatigue that comes with listening to music like this. Fans of depressive black metal must give this a listen, and hey, if you aren’t a fan yet, this is a great album to break into the genre with.
Get it on Bandcamp: https://alenemisantropi.bandcamp.com/releases