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Depressive black metal is a genre that is first and foremost concerned with creating a depressing mood through a somber, melancholic and often bleak sound although it is fair to say that some bands are better able to convey this. Where as a lot of bands fall foul to tired and old cliche there are still a few bands who are able to fully capture the essence of depression and imprint it firmly in the sonic framework of the music. Of course the way in which these purveyors of melancholy achieve this drastically differs between bands. Hypothermia and Life is Pain create their depressing atmosphere through an overall monotonous and harrowing sound that carries with it a deathly cold aura. Shroud of Distress incorporate certain elements of shoegazing into the sound in order to make it more melodious than the standard affair but still as, if not more depressing than other bands. Many different ways can be used to create the depressive feeling whether that's through an overall monotonous sound or an injection of a profound sense of melody. There is no one single way to achieve the desired effect and many bands often miss the mark and they end up looking desperate and pathetic. Grisâtre have done what very few others have achieved and that is to create the purest representation of the genres primary aesthetic.
No other band has captured perfectly the feelings of unforgiving loneliness and isolation that Grisâtre have presented here on Esthaetique. Esthaetique is an unbearably bleak and desolate album and has struck to the core of what the genre should be. Not a romanticism of depression and certainly not a glorification of self harm and/or suicide. But pure unforgiving loneliness, it is that simple. It seems like a lot of bands try to present depression as something to be over dramatized and romanticized, showing it as something to be praised. Grisatre show depression for what it is, an absence of positive emotions and the feelings of being drained and worn out. It carries with it the sole intent of making the listener feel worthless and alone, if more bands were able to perfectly convey the atmosphere as well as Grisatre then there is no doubt in my band the reputation of this sub genre would no doubt be improved.
The depressing sound is created through a droning wall of brutally distorted riffs and powerful tortured vocals that strike out from the depths of darkness inflicting as much pain on the listener. The riffs despite being repeated a lot never get boring because unlike some bands Grisâtre have the song writing skills to counter act it. There are times when Grisâtre's shoegazing side rears its head adding a lot to the atmosphere and ensuring it is kept interesting throughout. The clean guitar breaks are unimaginably depressing and the need arises. The keyboards also are a welcome touch, they're not cheesy and cliche desolate, thankfully they are kept sparse throughout, adding a lot to the atmosphere when with an irritating sound like a lot of other bands. Rather they sound very Burzum inspired, they sound very mournful and cold. Vocally Esthaetique is leagues in front of a lot of other bands, they are fairly subdued within the mix but are nonetheless very vicious and agonizing.
Everything on this album feels subterranean, as if it was recorded in some long lost forgotten underwater cave. The overall sound feels distant but at the same time invasive. I would liken the atmosphere on Esthaetique to being in the ocean, not a colorful ocean but a dark and deep ocean of murky waters. Within the ocean there's an unseen entity hidden in there, you can't see it but you can feel it. You can feel it reaching out to you pulling you slowly into the abyss and there's no way to escape from it. Once this album has you enthralled by its brutal atmosphere you will remain trapped within Grisatre's twisted view of the world.
Any fan of depressive black metal certainly needs to look into Esthaetique as it is the perfect embodiment of a genre that often falls foul to parody and cliche. The low production values may no doubt be a hindrance to most listeners but for those who are able to withstand it then Grisâtre is a name well worth checking into. Esthaetique is the bleak reminder that we are born alone into this world and we leave it the same, one of the few albums able to make me feel dead.
It's been a while since I discovered something that really made me feel... alone. Alone in the world, regardless of the friends and family and the people I see walking in the streets every day - the customers I make small talk with at work while I wear my fake smile and elevate my voice to trick them into thinking I actually have some sort of connection with them.
Esthaetique is the inescapably bleak reminder that you're born into this world fighting to survive, later eking out a living for the rest of your life until you eventually meet your inevitable end in complete and utter isolation, with nobody there to help lead you beyond your journey's culmination (if you can call it that). Rokkr, the face behind the Grisâtre name, has captured perfectly the essence of depressive black metal.
Hopes and dreams are buried deep within an extremely rough, lo-fi wall of hazy monotonous mid-paced riffs, challenging the mind to dare once more, just to live a little. Ultimately, the burdensome atmosphere drags all optimism into the depths of despair, and the mind is left blank - a black unconsciousness. It all sounds as if it were created in an underwater cave, seemingly distant yet very much in your personal space. Passively invasive, if such a thing exists in music. The daunting melodies help with the digestion of hopelessness you're being fed, but in the end all they do is further force the idea of an end game into your thoughts.
Rokkr's harrowing shrieks cap it all off with their own emotional terrorism, permeating your sense of safety, stripping all signs of positivity, dousing the fires in your eyes and replacing the firewood with solid ice. The simplistic droning repetition digs deeper yet, almost too deep at times to the point of surrealism, but Rokkr is careful never to let his curiosity get the best of him. The black metal focus is prominent, even though his shoegaze adventures creep up from time to time, if only for ambiance's sake.
Understandably, Esthaetique won't be received by everyone in the same way. Its Crown of Winter-esque synthetics and raw production rivaling the likes of Make A Change... Kill Yourself and Hypothermia may very well result in more than a few blind eyes. But for those who welcome the torturous aesthetics and bleak atmospheres of depressive black metal, Grisâtre may be a name worth looking into.