Darksynth Album Review: "Cadaverous" by Ectoplague
Ectoplague’s latest album, Cadaverous, is full of ominous sounds and dark portent, as well as a healthy helping of ‘80s horror movie aesthetics. It creates a pleasing sense of doom and danger that is quite fun to hear. Ectoplague has a good grasp on the qualities that make music entertainingly creepy and threatening. It’s a soundtrack for a horror movie that’s never been made, and as such, I felt it was hugely fun to listen to.
The first thing that stands out about Cadaverous is the serious darkness of the bass that rumbles underneath the music. It has the kind of weight that feels like dark breaths from ancient crypts and it adds to the feeling of delicious terror that is imparted by the other elements in the music.
Another interesting musical arrow in Ectoplague’s quiver on this album is the way in which he uses high, tightly wound synth sounds, including chimes and bells, to intensely increase the sense of tension, suspense and nervous energy. As these sounds play out their minor key, often twisting melodies and arps, they jack up that sensation of something dangerous waiting in ambush for us as we turn the next corner or looming out of the shadows to attack from behind.
As I may have mentioned before, I am often dubious about voiceover parts in music, but I didn’t mind Ectoplague’s use of them on Cadaverous because I felt they fit in nicely with his ‘80s horror movie vibe. The choice of the tone and timbre of the voices in which they were done was entertaining and fit in with the thematic nature of the album.
The drums on the album also deserve a mention because they really had a driving, powerful feeling that sent the energy levels of the whole project climbing. I like the contrast between their propulsion and the sometimes melancholy sadness held in some of the melodies.
Sadness exists along with tension and fear on Cadaverous. Some of the melodies would be quite delicate and tragic if slowed down and played solo on piano. The speed and choice of synths means that there’s a sense of urgency and stress about them, despite that melancholy.
I’m going to break down the tracks that I most enjoyed off of the album now and talk about the reasons why I found them particularly interesting and compelling.
“Shock! Horror!” has a lot of heavy bass and crunchy synth sounds moving through it along with thunderous drums. The beat pounds through the track and at first we get synths that roar over top of it playing a heavy riff. A high, worried and threatened sounding synth comes in and winds through all the growl and grind underneath it. There’s a real sense of danger in this track, but it’s quite melodic danger. I also like the hard rock influence I think that I detect on this track.
The hard-charging guitar that snarls through “Labyrinth of Circles” adds a lot of spirit and energy to this track. It growls and rocks over the minor key, descending synth notes. The lead synth starts charging along with the guitar but ultimately it is that rocking riff that propels the music onwards. The aggression and power in this track is what drew me toward it along with the growling feel of that guitar.
“Pentagonal” opens with one of those fun horror movie voice overs that is joined by a rapid beat and fragmented sounding synths. The main feeling in this track is in the contrast between shining, rapid arps along with hard-edged, deep bass climbing and descending through and over it. I also enjoyed the pipe organ-like synth that moves in the track. It has a very dramatic, brooding feeling shot through with small flashes of light.
There is a singing, flying and dramatic lead synth melody that runs through “Total Protonic Reversal” and plays its minor twists and turns out over the heavy weight of the bass underneath. The chimes in the track add a feeling of high tension and suspense to the music and the bass truly is sepulchral. There’s a relentless quality about the drums as well that drives the track forward hard and gives it a sense of energy.
“Cadaverous” starts with wandering simple piano and deep washes of bass that rumble out underneath. There’s a high, enervated feeling synth melody in the track that is full of a kind of twitchy tension that is infectious. This track has a sense of threat that splls over into outright horror as it charges onward.
The melody of “Stalkers and Slayers” is like some fugue from the depths of Hell and the bass feels heavy enough to sink down into the abyss and take the listener with it. The bass has a gritty edge to it and it provides a strong underpinning for the climbing, twisting melody. There are moments of void-like emptiness in the track too and the whole thing has a sense of doom about it.
Well-crafted melodies, a sense of threat and terror that winds through the album and the fun that Ectoplague had creating this dark world of sound all combine to make Cadaverous an album that really unfolded a tale of terror in an enjoyable way for me.