Striborg has come a long way since his early exposure in the now-legendary Vice/Noisey One Man Metal documentary. The Tasmanian solo artist, who began his raw black metal phase in 1994, transitioned to a darker, more melancholic depressive suicidal black metal (DSBM) sound in 2000, but recently abandoned the traditional trappings of the genre for a revolutionary sound he dubbed “blackwave” – even naming his May 2018 release as such. He has since become somewhat notorious for solo live performances, where he sings both clean baritones and growls over harsh electronic backtracks, pairing minimalist corpsepaint, black clothes and active LED-lit sneakers for a unique expression of inner darkness.
He has also enjoyed some small notoriety via the unlikely vehicle of Jack Black, who in a recent interview, named the artist as one of his son’s favourite bands at the moment despite making some of the “darkest, murkiest rock from the depth of their souls.”
“Reflections,” off the 2020 album Unknown Entities, introduces Striborg’s current musical forays effectively.
And inner darkness is apt, especially given recent events in his life. Following a recent diagnosis, Striborg’s social media has – to the annoyance of the close-minded – become a sounding board for autism awareness, which goes a long way toward explaining the musical journey of this talented and prolific artist. And the same can be said of his last collected release, Through the Melancholy Tunnel of Despair. A four-part journey through torture and introspection, less a rollercoaster than an uncaring drag through shattered glass, this is not – I repeat not – a musical experience for the faint of heart.
First of all, there is the music itself: the cold, harsh atmospheres match perfectly with the unforgiving and relentless electronic rhythms but in a way most black metal aficionados may find off-putting. Never mind the tendency of the ‘kvlt’ to pursue lo-fi production and grinding, treble-heavy tone (tropes Striborg himself employed on his early releases, like 2008’s Misanthropic Isolation), this is easily some of the most disturbing sound quality I have encountered – generating a sensorium somewhere between found footage horror visuals and the ozone tang of licking battery terminals. Every fibre of my being is screaming a physiological fight-or-flight response, yet the innate darkness and unbridled misanthropy of the music prevent me from doing so, pulling me back for more. Not quite the unthinking hedonic experience of, say, scrolling through TikTok, but still a prime example of affective and empathic connection being outweighed by the persuasive cognitive decision to stick around for just a little longer.
I am completely blown away by this! pic.twitter.com/KrO4HzaZ7F
— 𝔖𝔱𝔯𝔦𝔟𝔬𝔯𝔤 (@Striborg666) December 20, 2022
The other stumbling block – and this goes for almost anyone, not just the black leather edgelords that look down on experimentation within the blackened end of the spectrum – is that individual tracks are not really a reliable way of measuring your progress through the inner workings of Striborg’s psyche. Despite being divided into four ‘chapters,’ Through the Melancholy Tunnel of Despair is still two and a half hours of dedicated gloom. Even the most light-hearted of records becomes burdensome after this long. Diving in halfway or slipping out between sections is possible, yes, but the net effect of the sheer monumentality of despair contained in these compositions is easily lost. The cumulative weight of the music is best experienced all at once, so I suggest adequate preparation: easy access to drinks, willingness to forgo bathroom breaks and possibly, keeping medication on hand are all solid strategies.
There are defined shifts in tone – such as the quasi-techno beat “An Unfamiliar Journey” opens with – but these are short, scattered intervals that hardly allow you to catch your breath before the crushing nihilism and futility enfold you once again. This degree of absolute immersion is not entirely new to me, however: some years ago, the musical work of the French digital artist Yann Souetre caught my attention. Under the moniker Remain Silent he painstakingly crafted some of the most convincing dystopian cyber-soundscapes I have heard – specifically his 2007 Men Machines Souls trilogy – and Striborg has, on Through the Melancholy Tunnel of Despair achieved the same level of authenticity in audio narrative. And even though his is a far deeper and painful interpretation of personal loss, the atmosphere is as compelling, if not more so. “The Maladaptive Daydreamer” or “The Anguish of Unrequited Love” are just two examples of machine sound expressing more human emotion than I ever thought possible.
The full album stream. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
And that’s really the triumph here. Not the 150-minute runtime. Not the revolutionary new approach to black metal-esque expression. Not even the successful channelling of personal darkness into musical composition. No, what needs celebrating is how Striborg takes the same machine sounds any number of electronic and industrial producers have employed and arranges them in such a way that they feel organic, cerebral and – dare I say it – human in their expression.
Through the Melancholy Tunnel of Despair Track Listing:
CHAPTER I – The Innate Eeriness
1. The End of the Tunnel
2. The Ghostly Night Sky
3. Upon a Crooked Chair Draped in Tears
CHAPTER II – The Mystery Unfolds
4. An Unfamiliar Journey
5. A Portal into Oblivion
6. The Maladaptive Daydreamer
7. The Frozen Window
CHAPTER III – The Deep Seated Depression
8. In a Dark and Lonely Place
9. The Anguish of Unrequited Love
10. Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria
11. Through the Melancholy Tunnel of Despair
CHAPTER IV – The Blackness of the Soul at Night
12. Eternal Forest Nightmare
13. As My Soul Withers Away
14. Being Dragged Deeper in the Dark Abyss
15. In the Darkness of Night Dwells My Broken Mind
Run Time: 2:29:53
Release Date: September 17, 2022
Record Label: Independent Release