As my recent reviews of Carpenter Brut or Final Light amply illustrate, I’m a bit of a nut for the current surge in left-field, sacrilegious synthwave projects that tickle both my ’80s childhood and ’90s industrial nostalgia buttons while still meshing neatly with my metalhead prime directive. Greek composer-slash-John Carpenter-worshipper Draven seems, on paper, to be the perfect match on all these counts with his first foray into the genre, Abyssal Arcana. He dubs his musical style ‘Horrorsynth,’ and it’s as good a label as any, describing to a bloodstained and rusted ‘T’ what he sets out to achieve across thirteen (probably not a coincidence) gory-but-groovy club bangers.
While the whole record is undeniably a lot of fun, it lacks the finesse the previously mentioned artists demonstrate, as well as the sense of dynamics. On an individual, track-by-track level, it’s a powerful achievement, make no mistake – but holistically, it falls a little short merely due to its “sameness.” Similar instrumentation (especially creepy, spooky sideshow organs) and tempos mar what is otherwise a really solid EBM record – “Le Vampire du grand Guignol,” for example, could easily fit in alongside anything Suicide Commando or Alien Vampires have recently released in terms of melody, groove and latex-clad club night dancefloor appeal. In itself, this is a pitfall faced by many first-time electronic composers/producers, so I can’t really hold it against Draven, who stills scores points for sheer maniacal enthusiasm.
The self-released album stream is a celebration of B-grade horror and dark industrial club nights.
That said, there are still standout moments that have regularly had me rewinding and turning up the volume: the nod to the aforementioned John Carpenter that forms the theme of “Cauchemar” is one, while the low-end sleaze dripping off the bass on “Impalement – the Brazen Bull” is a stirring (and welcome) reminder of the likes of Northborne or Komor Kommando. The B-movie samples that kick off the record on “Forgive me Father¤ may be a genre cliché but could be played up even more on the record to really drive home the schtick.
However, it’s the album closer, “Exsanguinated With a Drill,” that really wins for me and deserves a whole feature in Fangoria. Even though I’ve mostly outgrown slasher horror in my old age, the imagery that inevitably accompanies the track title and the all-guns-blazing percussion does still put a slightly sociopathic smile on my face.
Factor in a couple of collaborations – Connör on “The Conjuring” and Dav Dralleon on “Bloodgod” and Abyssal Arcana comes full circle, perhaps not as a perfect record, but a really strong introduction to horrorsynth and one that leaves me hoping for a sequel that is as drenched in evil ’80s nostalgia: forget the softcore style of Stranger Things, Abyssal Arcana is Reanimator, Evil Dead and Dead Alive all scrambling over a fleshy mountain to claim your soul. Strap on your chainsaws, pack your Ouija boards and dive right in.
Abyssal Arcana Track Listing:
1. Forgive me Father
2. The Horrifying Autopsy of Deamien Raven
3. Cauchemar Noir
4. Silver Coffin
5. Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things
6. Bloodgod (feat. Dav Dralleon)
7. Demonic Incantation Blues
8. Impalement – The Brazen Bull
9. A Horrorsynth Symphony
10. The Conjuring (feat. Connör)
11. The Intimate Portrait of the Devil
12. Le Vampire du Grand Guignol
14. Exsanguinated With a Drill
Run Time: 50:02
Release Date: April 29, 2022
Record Label: Independent Release