French dark electronic artist Perturbator, spearheaded by lone visionary James Kent, may not make metal music, but there's quite a lot of common ground between his gloomy swaths of synths on his latest record, Lustful Sacraments, and metal's typical dark leanings. And that's why we invited him to highlight five dark electronic albums any metalhead should listen to.
Perturbator began in 2012 amid a booming development of synthwave / retrowave / darkwave artists, populated by acts such Umberto, Miami Nights 1984, Gatekeeper, Night Satan, Mitch Murder, Dance With the Dead, Carpenter Brut and so many more. Of all the acts, Perturbator's sound was always more tinged with darkness, which is especially true of the cold and forlorn Lustful Sacraments.
Below, Kent explains why his five selections are particularly worthy of your attention as you expand your listening horizons and bring them straight to the edge of the abyss.
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Perturbator, "Dethroned Under a Funeral Haze"
Ruth White, 'Flowers Of Evil' (1968)
Ruth White is an unsung heroine who pioneered electronic music as we know it today. Before the Kraftwerks and the Aphex Twins, there was Ruth White — a woman seemingly fascinated by dark synthesizer sounds.
A lot of her work has vanished today, much to my dismay, but listening to 1968's 7 Trumps From the Tarot Cards and Pinions and her interpretation of Baudelaire's Flowers of Evil is an experience I will absolutely never forget.
The sense of dread, strangeness, beautiful unshackled human expression and most importantly, the boldness of it all... Considering these are all very somber and avant-gardist compositions made by a woman during a time where electronic music wasn't nearly as widely accepted as it is today, Ruth White is a musician I truly admire and whose works will always resonate with me on many levels.
Cedamus, 'Cedamus' (1999)
[Editor's note: No material from the 'Cedamus' album is available online, so we've provided the 1998 album, 'Song of the Forest' below]
I might be reaching out a bit on this one, but if the dark synth guideline I have been given for this list is as open-minded as I've been told, then I believe this album deserves its place there, too.
Cedamus is a solo project from Poland, and it's a sort of blend between dungeon synth and black metal but with a strong emphasis on the synths. And trust me, those synths sound absolutely out of this world. The track "Fantazja" is my favorite, but the whole record reeks of this sort of dream-like synthy darkness, helped by its very lo-fi and hazy production.
It all gives me feelings of a surrealistic nightmare I might've had once, not unlike what I feel when watching a David Lynch film, for example.
It is an extremely difficult album to find though, I do own a copy of it myself and I always wanted to share it with the world. Maybe I will someday, but only if its creator is okay with it.
Sinoia Caves, 'Beyond The Black Rainbow' Soundtrack (2014)
This is perhaps one of the greatest movie soundtracks ever created. Sinoia Caves has managed to tastefully mix old 1970s style percussions with a blend of 1980s psychedelic synth works not unlike what Goblin or Tangerine Dream have been known to do for ages now.
The only difference is that, here, the focus is mainly on the mood. The tracks are very simple if you really get down to it, but it's the layering, the repetition and the overall building of atmosphere that makes it all so hypnotizing and beautiful.
The movie (which I highly recommend as well) does elevate the sounds, of course, but I'd go as far as to say that you don't even need to watch it in order to feel the music that's being presented here. It's that good. The entire album puts me in a crazy out-of-body, melancholy-induced trance every time I put it on, and I'll never get tired of it.
Again, I might be stretching the definition of 'Dark Synth' with this one, but we're talking about a subgenre that has never had a clear and concise definition of what it's supposed to sound like anyway so...
To me, this is a very dark album, and it's undeniably a very synthy one as well. Cold is a gut wrenching release to me. The whole record sounds so wide and esoteric. You have tracks such as "Baltica" that revels in it's own alluring darkness, and then you get some very small hints of sadness and hopefulness, like on the track "Snowdrop," which is one of my favorites.
This is one of my most loved records of all time and one I often put on when I go to bed.
Noir Deco, 'Future To Fantasy' (2011)
If there ever was an album that truly shaped the way I write music for Perturbator, I believe it is this one.
Back in 2010, I joined what was, back then, a very small circle of artists who were making 1980s inspired music. Artists such as Mitch Murder, Power Glove, Miami Nights 1984 were mostly all focused on the nostalgia factor — the whole Breakfast Club and Top Gun kind of stuff.
It was great and, believe me, very unique back then. I still love these guys to death.
But what I truly wanted to do with Perturbator was to talk about the 'Satanic Panic' and the cocaine craze of this era, the over abundance of serial killings during that time, the shady porn industry where many have been left for dead, all the nudity and gratuitous violence of the exploitation movies of that era — all the stuff that I now simply call 'the trash culture of the '80s'.
Noir Deco and his album Future to Fantasy was around during that time, and I'd be lying if I said that this record didn't give me a lot of inspiration and incentive to just do my own stuff.
It's a dark and narrative album that made me want to tackle darker stuff and not worry about the rest. It's strange to talk about it now, because nowadays everyone's synth music is about dark stuff and they're all open about their Satanic affiliations or whatever — they talk death, sex, religion and sci-fi like it's a good marketing strategy. But 10 years ago, it was a different climate, one where you would've been seen as a fucking freak and no one would've wanted to have anything to do with you.