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When it comes to dark, twisted, and heavy synth sounds, Dark Smoke Signal has outdone himself on The Antipope Resurrection. This is an album that has a gut punch to it, and the shadows it casts are darker than the dark itself. There is an abundance of surging bass, pulsing drums, and rough-edged, cutting synth throughout the album.
Surprisingly, there are also moments of warmth, as gentler, more flowing synths contrast the weight and aggression of the other elements on the album. However, make no mistake, this is dark synth at its most in your face and aggressive.
The Antipope Resurrection Album Review
The first element that makes The Antipope Resurrection work is the sound design that creates an open space in which all of the different parts of the music can sit. There is a strong feeling of cavernous voids that open around the weight of the drums and bass, the bite of the synths, and sometimes the snarl of electric guitars and allow them to have an undeniable impact.
The hard-hitting drum sounds on this album are another strong element that gives all the other parts of the music more support. The heavy-duty thump—and throb that they create—adds both propulsion and darkness to the other musical building blocks of the album. They have a heartbeat and aggression that works well with the feeling that The Antipope Resurrection creates. It is a feeling of violence and threat that permeates nearly every part of the musical landscape of the album.
Of course, the sensation of darkness on The Antipope Resurrection also gets a good boost from the crypt-like depth of the bass that moves like a dark creature under the surface of the music. There is something horrifying about the growling, grunting depths of the bass sounds that carry a sense of imminent threat, seething just underneath the rest of the music.
Another thing that I enjoyed about this album was the different and varied ways in which Dark Smoke Signal deployed the synths that he used. There is everything from hard-edged and grinding sounds to smooth airy flow and high chiming notes. Sometimes, in one track, we move from flowing warmth to harsh growling and back again. That breadth of different sounds helped The Antipope Resurrection to paint imagery that is both powerful and clear.
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Now I’ll break down the tracks on The Antipope Resurrection that I found most compelling and discuss the elements within the music that made them work for me.
“Ad Infernum Crowley Diabolus” opens with a disturbing, bizarre chanting voice that’s full of distortion and a churning, twisting background of synth sounds. This is an extremely dark and twisted-sounding track that has a hard driving beat that slams into it. There are moments of warmth in the lead synth melody as it climbs over the harsh, aggressive field of sound underneath it. I also enjoyed the way the arps moved in cascading leaps over that thundering beat. This is a track with real power to it.
There’s an ominous feeling on “Fallen Idol” given by a slow but strong beat and hard pulses of bass. I enjoyed the contrast between those dark underpinnings and the higher synth sounds playing minor-key melodies. There is also a rather interesting, more “technological” synth sound that adds a unique element. The vocoder vocals here are warm as they float through before the drums thunder and darkness returns.
“Chaotic Pendulum” has a rapidly driving propulsive beat that accelerates the track forward. The lead synth melody has a feeling of suspense to it and underneath electric guitar growls and surges as the track rushes onward. A rising synth melody soars over all the growl and throbs under it. Everything in this track has power and the movement of the track does feel like a pendulum. I also enjoyed the howling, flying guitar solo that slices into the track and boosts the power further.
A vocal sample from J. Robert Oppenheimer opens “I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds” with one of his most famous quotes related to the atom bomb. This only adds to the feeling of doom and portent created by repetitive synth patterns that roil in the background of this track. The relentless patterns move and move, spinning out through the track. However, they are tempered by a lighter, brighter lead synth that adds contrasting warmth to the darkness and danger expressed by the grinding background of the track. This track is another example of the weight and power of this album.
“End Credits (A New Hope)” kicks off with a pretty classic synthwave feeling through those driving drums. This track is infused with a more hopeful feeling than most of the album as befits the title. There is something rising and warm here especially when those beautiful, soothing arps spin out into the track. The main melody played on a high synth really sings over the bass and drums, calling out through the fading darkness into the dawn. There was such a flowing, smooth feeling to this track.This does really feel like the end credit track to a movie as everything reaches a positive crescendo.
The Antipope Resurrection is a hard-hitting slab of synth music. However, it’s more complex than just that. There are moments of light in the darkness and the overall effect of the album is quite rich and layered.
The balance of all the different musical ingredients allowed Dark Smoke Signal to move through a jagged, twisted landscape that sank to great depths but also soared above those depths. Not everyone might appreciate it, but The Antipope Resurrection certainly has power and strong imagery to impart to the listen