By now, many of you should now that while I appreciate every genre of black metal, from depressive to ambient to unblack, I have my favorites and my not so favorites. Depressive black metal isn’t my favorite of genres. By and large the themes are two dimensional and dull, the music is flat and so scratchy there isn’t a point to listening because you can’t hear anything resembling music through the screech and scratch. However, there is at least one band that knows how to do the whole thing right: Some Happy Thoughts. This will by the third time I’ve had the privilege to listen to their work and analyze it. Épiphanie is the first full length album from this Quebecois duo, combining new material with the older stuff we’ve come to enjoy from them. What makes them so different? What formula has Some Happy Thoughts tapped into that makes their music consistently entertaining? Let’s find out!
Some Happy Thoughts, as their name might suggest, use a very simple formula: there is good and there is bad. There is positive and there is negative. It’s a nihilistic, if not overly depressing, fact of life. Their entire image and sound is based around this idea. There is good in life and there is bad. Everything is in a sort of balance. Of course it all depends on perspective but if you have the same kind of stoic as the members of Some Happy Thoughts, you will see that life boils down to ones and zeros, good and bad, happy and sad. To that end, Some Happy Thoughts use a very simplistic method to writing music, using only two or three riffs per song to highlight the duality of life. It’s a simple formula that has worked on their EPs and demos, but can it work on a larger, full length album? The answer to that, I think, is a resounding (no pun intended) yes. Why? Well it’s quite simple really, they have the same attitude and feel as other depressive black metal outfits but instead of producing the album the shittiest possible way, Épiphanie is given the royal (by raw black metal standards) treatment. There is fuzz here and there but for the most part the album is crisp and refreshing. It’s a breath of fresh air in a genre that had long ago run out of steam. Single handedly, Some Happy Thoughts has revived my interest in the genre. Other projects take note. If you want my attention and analysis, follow a similar path.
Épiphanie is actually a step up from their previous material in terms of quality. The sound is gorgeous. It’s full and vibrant yet still harsh and virulent, exactly what depressive black metal needs to sound like. You want to hear the music, feel the rhythm but also not feel as though it was made in a lab with a sterile sound. Some Happy Thoughts hit that sweet spot on the album. The sound quality was usually the only qualm I had about their previous work and it was never a major one. Now that they cleaned up the sound, I have nothing bad to say about them. I love the themes that they use. It still fits within depressive black metal’s mandate to be depressive and borderline suicidal but it spins things differently. They aren’t urging you to kill yourself, they aren’t laughing at your depression. They take a new look at everything and wash it all in a wonderful nihilistic one or the other kind of view.
The album is all about balance, both thematically and sonically. We are given just enough acoustic and ambient interlude sounds to balance the harsh, negative energy of the black metal. The album is designed for the listener to find their own epiphany about their life and their situation. What that epiphany eventually manifests as is completely up to the listener and their mental state, but if you listen to the album with the intent to find something, you will. Happy and sad. You will. Épiphanie explores all the possibilities of happiness and sadness. It explores the calming effect that satisfaction has and the disturbing effect that unease and depression exhibit. It does not attempt to hide or sugar coat anything. We are surrounded by positive and negative, but it’s up to us what to do. It always has been. No one else is responsible for us.
As I said, the album is a mixture of new material like Perdue and Indifférence that explore the effect that apathy has on a person and how it creates a mire of self-pity and hopelessness. But it also brings back my favorite song that they’ve done with Le Manqué but much cleaner and with a fuller guitar sound. They altered the song just enough so that it sounds like it belongs with the rest of the album, not tacked on because they couldn’t think of anything else to put on there.
Bottom line, this album is a gem for anyone who likes depressive black metal. Some Happy Thoughts is one of the very best that subgenre has to offer. If you don’t believe me, just listen and compare them. Truly, they stand head and shoulders above their peers. Épiphanie is going to be a depressive classic!
Highlights: Épiphanie I, Le Manqué, Mal á vie
If you enjoyed this try: Mort aux Gueux, Croc Noir, XeroPulse
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- Une Roue
- Noyé (et insatiable)
- Du Gris (toujours du gris)
- Le Manqué
- Épiphanie I
- Épiphanie II
- Divine Conspiration