Dråpsnatt – Skelepht
Release: LP, 2012 (Frostcald Records)
Genre: Atmospheric/Symphonic Black Metal
Sonic Brethren: Skogen, Borknagar, early Enslaved
Last October I spent a few hours digging around Spotify in an attempt to make a terror-inducing playlist in time for Halloween. It opened my ears to bands I never previously paid much attention to and I realized there’s no shortage of horrifying acts out there. From the chaotic insanity of Anaal Nathrakh to the chilling soundscapes of Gnaw Their Tongues and Nortt, metal of the nightmarish variety is definitely out there, but understandably not incredibly popular. The playlist ended up being great background music for a creepy party, but I found it difficult to sit down with.
But after a while the horror almost became comedic, as I realized the bands are trying their damndest to earn that “scary” label and most likely take themselves much too seriously. I turned away from this undefined genre I invented for myself and never felt the need to listen to most of those artists again. But when Dråpsnatt released their newest album, I realized that the feeling of terror is most overwhelming when it’s subtle. And unexpected.
It took me a while to listen to this album the whole way through. I just couldn’t do it. The vocals creeped me out so much that I needed to be be in a very specific mood to be able to listen all the way too. Now, as a schmuck who listens to his fair share of demon-worshipping music, I rarely get the tinglies from something as now every day to me as a black metal record. But something about Vinterfader’s shriek just grasps you in unnatural ways. It’s the tormented howl of a mental patient, cursing the world with his final breath as he drowns in agony. Although not vastly different than his voice on previous records, its forward production and fantastic use of effects is what makes it really stand out this time around.The voice is a sharp, gut-wrenching pain in your torso; it’s grabbed your spine through your stomach and just refuses to let go.
The fact that it’s combined with such beautiful, almost orchestral music is what gives it that extra steeping of fear. It’s a dark figure in a bright room, sucking out all the light. Once I overcame my apprehension and unexplainable sense of dread Skelepht gave to me, I discovered one of the most varied and satisfying records of the year. After you get used to the feel of the album, each song becomes more gripping and interesting than the last. The second half ascends into a slightly more melodic territory, as the band takes a more 2nd wave approach and uses more traditional black metal riffing in cohesion with Dråpsnatt’s focused wanderings. “Forruttnelsens Hypostaser” is a near-masterpiece of a song that has elements of Emperor, Arcturus and Lantlôs sprinkled throughout. By the time the album is over, the clouds part and the fear subsides. And I realize what I was most afraid of was Skelepht horrible beauty.
Final Thoughts: Suicidal and unnerving, Skelepht combines tormented vocals with unnerving elegance to create a deeply satisfying escape from reality.