The frosty world of black metal has evolved a fair bit over the years. From its primordial roots of icy blast beats and tremolo riffs a la Immortal, Darkthrone, and the likes, we’ve seen the genre take many turns – some quite unexpected, such as black-thrash – as it rose in popularity. One of the unsung sub-genres of black metal, however, is DSBM – Depressive Suicidal Black Metal – and you can only imagine what kind of mood this music explores. It became popular with the French Nocturnal Depression and the Swedish Shining, with other bands such as Lifelover and Vanhelga expanding upon its sound and blending black metal with depressive rock. There has been somewhat of an ebb of DSBM hitting the press streams as of late, so the landing of the Austrian (check) outfit Lebenssucht into my emails was quite a nice surprise. They released their debut record, -273,15°C, on April 7th via Thanatoskult.
Right off the bat, you couldn’t tell this was going to be a DSBM record. “Trauerweide” opens and vocalist S Caedes gurgled, painful screams immediately pierce. Barrages of blast beats and ominous guitar drones create a catastrophic cacophony of rather traditional black metal, lulling the listener into a false sense of security for what is on its way towards the latter half of the track. The traditional black metal sound fades and the collective vocals of Caedes, drummer Ahephaïm, and lead guitarist Irleskan become more painful and reflective of DSBM. The guitars too change pace, switching to a more melancholic sombre; a shift which is conducted both subtly and well.
Too long has DSBM been a simplified genre which can – most of the time – be very one-dimensional and somewhat obvious. There are exceptions to this, such as ColdWorld, Lifelover, and bands who touch the surface of DSBM such as Violet Cold. But, with -273,15°C, Lebenssucht is showing a new kind of diversity within DSBM by simply expanding and breaking some of the boundaries the genre has experienced over the years. The essence of DSBM is present in the tormented wails and heart-wrenching guitar passages, but within resides a flexibility to their sound which allows them to dip into an array of styles and atmospheres; “A Hole in My Heart” is a great example of this as pain-filled shrieks resonate over devastating riffs and melodic guitar passages alike. A sullen piano outro to the 10-minute track allows the listener a breath of calm before moving onto the next barrage of turmoil.
After the calm outro of “A Hole in My Heart,” we return to the frantic riffs and almost maniacal screams of Caedes in the aptly named “Moment of Violence” – which indeed takes a more violent sonic turn. Here, the band’s aggression and frustrations are at the forefront of their entire sound – vocals feel more pushed, drumbeats more aggravated – and an overall Xasthur influence seeping into their repertoire. An interesting combination is also used here – the high-pitched, fractured vocals of Caedes paired with some guttural-esque vocals create a jarring auditory dichotomy that works quite well. -273,15°C’s title song is the outro: a maniacal tribal track pulsates in intensity with Caedes’ now-signature vocals ebbing and flowing throughout the tune. This song, in particular, is very exciting as it shows the potential future direction and influence of Lebenssucht – possibly into territories DSBM has not before trodden.
One gripe which remains throughout the record is the length of the tracks. “A Hole in my Heart” is a solid song, but over 10 minutes is a bit steep when the overall pattern remains relatively static. The same is experienced in the 11-minute “Mirrors” – a brilliantly cold and striking track with what sounds like Psychonaut 4 influence infused with traditional black metal – however, it demonstrates more versatility and exploration of those 11 minutes that the former cut, with a malevolent change of sound and damning gutturals making for a very exciting surprise halfway through. Had these two tracks been a little more condensed, they would have had a stronger impact on the listener. Additionally, bass is hardly heard throughout -273,15°C; its presence is definitely experienced in the stripped-down sections of “Nullpunkt” as they resonate deeply to assist with the building of tension; however, it seems to fall behind the rest of the band in other places.
Overall, -273,15°C is a strong and impressive debut effort from Lebenssucht. It’s clear they’ve done their homework on DSBM and its niches, and by doing so have made a record which injects something fresh to the genre – especially the exciting and intriguing title track. Many are adverse to clear, crisp production when creating DSBM in order to keep present the raw and exposed feeling of the music, however, it’s simply not needed in -273,15°C. For future releases, a tighter structure to some songs and more balanced mixing might raise the bar a little more, but a damning and impressionable release nonetheless! -273,15°C would be highly recommended for any fan of the depressive and melancholic offerings of black metal.
-273,15°C Track Listing:
2. A Hole In My Heart
3. Moment Of Violence
Run Time: 49:37
Release Date: April 7, 2020
Record Label: Thanatoskult Records