Something about the winter months seems especially conducive to gloomy, melancholic music. After the holidays, January and February seem to fly by in a monotonous grind. Wake up, drink coffee, read the news (and feel especially, continuously, and progressively fucking miserable), go to work, come home, drink beer, and repeat. With my time outdoors kept to a strict minimum, I become increasingly bound to a variety of LCDs and often find my eyes burning and wrists aching. That said, it’s also an excellent time to dive into the depths of Bandcamp and other streaming services to find undiscovered gems of sonic despair. Toileteers, I present you with Hypnotic Dirge Records.
For those unaware, although that might be a mere few as we boast a fair amount of intelligent and morbid readers, a dirge is a somber song typically played at a funeral or other venue of mourning. It is an incredibly apt word to use regarding the sounds of the bands found on Hypnotic Dirge Records. Their Bandcamp description elaborates on their goal to release “expressive and eclectic art through aural manifestations,” and I must say they’ve been great discovery that has provided a soundtrack for a winter that seems, for a variety of reasons, darker and more miserable than most. I want to use this post to highlight three bands with recent releases that members of our community might enjoy, whether they feel especially miserable or not. Good jams be good jams, regardless.
Subterranean Disposition – Contagiuum and the Landscapes of Failure (2016)
So far, this is my favorite release from Hypnotic Dirge, although I have made it through only a portion of their offerings. Made up of six tracks, all over 10 minutes in length (save for the introduction), the album is a superb combination of doom, death, and psychedelic influences that ultimately adds up to more than the sum of its parts. After an atmospheric intro, the first proper track, “Wooden Kimono Fixative,” makes use of clean bass tones and guitar chords that combine with a melodic line from a saxophone. It then erupts into mid-paced death-doom trudge, reminiscent of some of the riffs from November’s Doom and similar bands, mixed with deep growled vocals. The experimentation with the saxophone and even different string instruments never fully goes away, which gives the album an excellent pace and variety. There’s also numerous other vocal styles, including more black metal-esque shrieks, voiceovers, chants, and even some operatic vocals from a guest singer. It is a heavy experience and I recommend listening to it in full if you can.
Immensity – The Isolation Splendour (2016)
Although the release from Subterranean Disposition contained some melodic moments, the slow trudge of despair was its primary focus. On the contrary, Immensity is more concerned with sorrow and powerful emotional hooks. They boast more gothic influences, and their description cites Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride appropriately. The relentlessly chugging death-doom riffs and growled vocals combine well with the slower and cleaner chords of the hooks, which also contain clean and melodic vocals. True to the description, they sound more like My Dying Bride than Type-O Negative, so if you feel that is a detriment than this album might not be to your liking. Still, I recommend giving it a shot if you’re in the mood for powerful guitar chords and grandiose choruses. Don’t worry, there’s still some good growls and chugs, so you can still feel dark, miserable, and angry. You just get some emotional release as well.
Obitus – Slaves of the Vast Machine (Upcoming, 2017)
We’ve covered dark and foreboding misery, as well as powerful cathartic release. Now, it’s time for relentlessly oppressive hate and despair. Although the second full-length from Obitus is not out yet, the two short samples offer us a glimpse at the final product. Slave of the Vast Machine is intended to be one, 45-minute track, and the two snippet give the listener a wall of post-blackened hatred. The production brings the tremolo picking guitar riffs and painful screams to the forefront while the blast beats lurk beneath the surface. The slower sections are marked by over-powering dissonant chords that give the samples a further twisted and haunting atmosphere that is terrifically terrifying.
The description of the album contains a quote from the increasingly relevant classic, Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell, 1949), which states that,”if you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stomping on a human face – forever.” Regardless of whether you consider the myriad of real-world comparisons to the novel hyperbolic (I, for one, do not), it is a fitting quote for the music of Obitus and their dystopic soundtrack. If we’re headed for totalitarianism and misery, hopefully Our Dear Leader let’s me keep this album.
If you’re in need of some oppressive tunes to keep you company for the winter months and possibly beyond, I think that Hypnotic Dirge Records will have something for you. Although its roster is thematically similar, I think the bands are diverse enough that you will find at least one that you enjoy. Head on over to their Bandcamp and get started. You can download individual albums for free (and many bands were available on a variety of streaming services), or toss the Saskatoon-based label $10 Canadian (which only amounts to $7.62 for us Yanks) and get access to a whopping 61 digital releases. Yep.