Sadness (the emotion, not the band, more on them later,) comes in different forms. There’s the little Sad that sneaks up out of your brain, unheralded and unwished for, and digs its tiny claws into the back of your eyes to make you cry noiselessly in your car during a Modest Mouse song. Then there’s the dull swamp of chronic Depression, where monotony and a dull fog of agony stretch on forever with no end in sight. Finally, there is the monolithic torment that is Grief, a towering wave crashing incessantly over and over onto the broken spirit of the bereft.
Sadness (the band, see, i told you I’d get to it eventually,) traffic in the sort of vastness evoked by the last kind of sadness. Their music is huge and drenched in reverb and other effects; the album sounds like it was recorded on a lost sea in an immense underground cavern. The band is called Sadness, the genre is DSBM, you’d think you would know what you’re in for, but I feel like this record is more than just Sad Black Metal. This record doesn’t feel sad to me at all, or the sadness therein is a cathartic and necessary kind. This record like helps me. I put it on when I’m sad and it makes me feel better. Maybe it’s a kinship thing, a recognition of a shared feeling. Idk. I just really love it.
I couldn’t find much about Sadness on the internet. Part of that is that I’m fucking lazy, if I can’t find what I’m looking for in the first couple of links or so, I’m out. I’m not Bob Woodward trying to take down Nixon or any shit like that, I’m writing about music that I enjoy for free. If you want to know more, feel free to dig deeper. The band has been around since like 2014 and they’re based in Oak Park, Illinois. On their band camp page, there’s a link to a Patreon, and the sole person listed there is Damian Ojeda (There’s a little diacritical mark over the second a in his name, but I’ll be damned if I know how to manifest that. Sorry.) Their genre is DSBM, which sounds like a fetish, but it actually stands for Depressive/Suicidal Black Metal.
I’m going to digress a little bit here and offer some thoughts on Black Metal. If you’d rather skip to the review, then just disregard the next couple of paragraphs. The past year or so has been a crucible of sorts, which is just a fancy way of saying your boy has been through some shit. Black Metal was there for me. Maybe that’s weird, but at the worst of it, Black Metal was what spoke to me. I guess it’s not that odd, seeing as an essential component of the grieving process is anger and Black Metal can be wrathful as Hell. I think that’s why so many sadbois like it, the best of it lacks the steroidal grunting and toxic posture of your typical buttrock. Black Metal isn’t afraid to feel, man.
Disclaimer: I’m not in any way excusing the more unsavory elements of the Black metal scene. Fuck Nazis. Fuck murderers. I’m as atheistic/agnostic as the next fellow, but fuck church burners too. Also, fuck Chick Fil A. That’s got nothing to do with Black Metal, but seriously, fuck them. Okay, onto the review.
The album starts with opener, “In The Distant Travels,” and there is a sense of distance palpable in the song. The song begins softly and atmospherically and then the instruments come in, a wash of crushing color. The color comes in waves, repeating, receding, repeating, receding. Then the screaming starts, and the hairs stand up on the back of your neck,
What’s he saying? I suppose I could look it up. I won’t. It doesn’t matter with a feeling this pure. You don’t listen to Black metal for the lyrics. If someone says they do, then they’re lying. I mean, sure, there are great Black metal lyricists out there, Sunbather is an impressionistic masterpiece, but let’s be real. When homeboy starts just fucking raging, there’s nothing but the music’s visceral thrill, the screams only one component thereof. What are you, like, a poetry major? Enjoy your job at Starbucks, Robert Frost.
The next song is “I Want To Be With You.”It’s got a great like choir part, it’s stirring. It sounds like devotional music run through a wood chipper and reassembled; it sounds like a tornado ripped the roof off of a church and the choir remained to sing. If you can’t tell, I’m kind of in awe of this song.
Track 3, “Moments,” gives the listener a bit of a breather with a smeared piece of decaying ambience. This is pink noise, the sound of the sight of neon through a rain smeared windshield.
“I Want To Be There,” is the title track and it’s structured like a hurricane. Move through the swirling intensity of the song’s beginning to find yourself in the eye, safe from the storm and accompanied by a delicately wrought melody. Pass through the eye into another maelstrom of noise. I can’t even really tell what instruments are being used in the song, I mean, I know that there’s a guitar and some drums, but it’s like there’s a whole world of sounds under there trying to breach the surface, trying to break through and assuage the agony of the howls. It’s a crushing track.
The penultimate track is “You Dance Like The June Sky,” and, like, first of all I love that fucking title and I’m just jealous of its simple poetry. Second of all, I think Ojeda recorded a toy piano in like a haunted grotto somewhere and used it on this track. Okay, I’m aware that that probably didn’t happen, but I can dream, can’t I? Anyway, the toy piano morphs into more ambience like in track three, then the guitar comes in. Ojeda’s voice is closer to the front than it’s been the whole album, and there’s an angular guitar riff propelling the whole thing. Dancing like the sky indeed.
Closer “Somewhere” starts with a clean guitar line reminiscent of early Bibio, but then it turns into what I think Enya singing a Black Metal song would sound like. If that doesn’t sound cool to you, then I’m sorry, we can’t be friends. It gets pretty rough after that, but like in a cleansing way, the song is a purge. The driving riff is cacophonous and triumphant, and Ojeda and the guitars duel to the death. An ambient fade closes the album.
I found this shit this summer, I’m so grateful that I did, and I can say without hyperbole that this is my favorite Black Metal album with the color pink on the cover.
Here’s the Bandcamp link for Sadness https://sadnessmusic.bandcamp.com/