DEN SORTE DØD: Undergangen (2019)
“As far as I'm concerned, I don't remember to have heard an album as dark and gloomy...”
1 Undergangen 8:04
2 Moseangst 3:51
3Tågens Gåder 2:56
4 Dyster Kold Mörker 3:20
5 Syndernas Förfall 4:06
6 Dödsdans I Skogsbrand 5:06
7 Gråkall Morgen 8:46
(Vinyl/CD/DDL 36:11) (V.F.)
(Dark Ambient, dungeon synth)
Do you know the Dungeon Synth style? It's a mix of Black Metal and Dark Ambient that polarizes the world of video games and Gore movie soundtracks. This is the style that Den Sorte Død, which means The Black Death, has been offering since their very first album Bundløse Søer released in 2018. Sweden's Daniel Silwerfeldt, of the ANGST project, and Norway's Anders Nydam, known as Offermose, are the two artists behind the project that now nests on the French label Cyclic Law. The album was originally released in 2019 as a vinyl edition only. Since this summer, it's also available on factory-pressed CD and in download. It's a post on Facebook, there are a lot of pages about electronic music (EM) in Mark Zuckerberg's universe, that drew my attention to this duo that pulled on my sensitive strings related to the dark Berlin School style. Because yes, Den Sorte Død merges wonderfully the style of Tangerine Dream, in its beautiful years when the mellotron was so inspiring, with a very theatrical Dark Ambient à la ['ramp]. And I discovered a superb album in UNDERGANGEN.
The synth wave that opens the title-track is already musical. Its organ tone and vocal effect skew its atmospheric state which goes between a heavenly vision and its opposite, hellish. It establishes a repetitive pattern that leads to a subtle ascending procession while increasing its hold on our subconscious through the presence of various tonal elements and a vague procession under strange hooting. The sequencer ends up sculpting a more cadenced procession whose resonance in the chords serves as a palladium to introduce one of those Luciferian melodies that come straight out of Mark Shreeve's universe in his Legion album. The percussions pop out at the same time. Pounding a heavy and slow rhythm, they root this perception of a gothic and cinematic EM soundscape. Undergangen is an excellent prelude that leads us to this fascinating Den Sorte Død album. Moseangst is an atmospheric track rich in its funereal nature. Its first wave spits out a resonance that grumbles under a carpet of sonic radiation. The chords fall as in a slow mortuary procession from which originates a sumptuous dark air of the mellotron. The two musicians multiply layers of satanic ambiences with effects of haze and dungeon smog. The sharp mellotron vocals send shivers down your spine, which are further heightened when the sequencer activates a minimalist pulsating rhythm that scrolls in a fine circular strobe motion. Tågens Gåder is a more atmospheric track with a splendid mellotron that sings like in ['ramp]. Its beauty lies in the variation of its intonations, of this muffled voice in the background and of the harmonic modulations that screw us to our headphones. Without knowing it, we are in the den of a horror movie where the fear does not belong to us anymore, but well and truly to the music of this Swedish-Norwegian duo.
Dyster Kold Mörker begins with a mocking synth song. The unfolding sonic envelope is as intense and gothic as the whole of this UNDERGANGEN. The mellotron and organ form a duo that delights in creating textures of discomfort and terror that stick to a horror movie to the max. A music to wander in the cemeteries! In fact, Den Sorte Død exploits the same melodic themes with some variations. Here, it is at the rhythmic level with a circular and wavering structure that the sequencer drives under the dull bludgeons of the percussions. These blows resound like in a movie where a big gnome hits with a sledgehammer on the giant doors of a barricade. We are close to the title-track here. Syndernas Förfall also exploits a dark opening of chthonian melody that muffled percussions bring to the edge of a latent fear of darkness, of the void. The synth also throws a luciferian song which would not have the same scale without the repeated blows of the percussions. The sequencer also weaves a circular rhythmic link that drags like a long cadenced stroboscopic filament that increases its speed in a vision of John Carpenter's diabolical melodies. Dödsdans I Skogsbrand is by far the darkest, dreariest and angriest track on this satanic duo's second album. Like every title in UNDERGANGEN, its opening quietly develops into a rhythm built on two elements: a circular and melodic movement of the sequencer and the resonance of the percussions. The track ends in a splendid sibylline ritornello. Gråkall Morgen ends this journey in the borders of the paranormal with a succession of deafening blows. It sounds like giant cudgels pounding a basement with the placidity of a metronome. The organ unveils a superb spectral wave after 2 minutes. Chasing the percussions, she makes drifting her silent voice into the abyss of terror with melodious satanic modulations and a slight tremolo effect in her astral shell. Distressing, her vocals find an accomplice with a synth wave that hugs the shapes as the sequencer activates another circular and zigzagging rhythmic structure after the 4th minute. Now a secret, this rhythm leaves a pale reflection in these rich and oppressive ambiences that sift rays of hope immediately swallowed up by this cadaverous darkness that pitches like a cat playing with its mouse just before putting it to death.
Devilish melodies, obituary atmospheres, secret rhythms! As far as I'm concerned, I don't remember to have heard an album as dark and gloomy but at the same time as poetic as this UNDERGANGEN of Den Sorte Død. Even if our ears have this impression to hear the same chthonian refrains and the same gothic cadences, the satanic duo adds enough elements, as melodious as bewitching, that give us shivers, as much of anxiety as of musical ecstasy, as if we were in the middle of a horror movie in which we are the main actor. Great throughout its 36 short minutes, UNDERGANGEN is a must if you like the dark and gloomy music of ['ramp] as well as the fabulous universe of Mark Shreeve devilish melodies.
Sylvain Lupari (September 6th, 2022) *****
Available at Cyclic Law Bandcamp