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Dark, brooding, rebellious. This is darksynth Article by: Ben Connolly

In the age of the trending song, computerized music and recommendations based on number of views, many crave a different sort of sound than pop music. In the spirit of Halloween, I present a gritty, industrial sound to counter mainstream music. A sound that is recognized by few, and seen as its own genre by even fewer. A sound that is unique, contemporary and critical. This is darksynth; the music genre for today’s counterculture.

So what is darksynth? It has a distinct auditory style that is synthesizer based, with many tracks in the genre also utilizing electric guitar, deep bass and sometimes saxophone. Lyrics are scarce and usually cryptic, but are sung in a very melodic way, as opposed to the autotuned vocal fragments of EDM or the screams of death metal. Darksynth sound is influenced by 1980s sci-fi and horror movies, (this is shown best in the roots of darksynth, as it was once a subgenre of synthwave, a music genre defined by its 1980s influences) and heavy metal (many metal fans have transitioned to darksynth), but darksynth is distinct from its influences. It creates a musical atmosphere with its emphasize on melodies, rather than just the drop or chorus of the song. Darksynth tracks generally portray emotions of terror, rage and similar adrenal moods widely forgotten by pop music, yet are integral to the human experience.

Despite its loud and nostalgic front, darksynth’s strength lies in its contemporary thematic significance. Particularly, it’s critique on pop music, and more broadly, modern mainstream culture. Darksynth’s visual aesthetic utilizes a lot of satanic and post-apocalyptic imagery. Darksynth sound often incorporates a dark industrial atmosphere and anti-indoctrinatory lyrics. These symbols are not used in advertisement for a specific ideology, but instead a criticism of specific aspects of modern mainstream culture. Satanic symbols counter corrupt Christian ideals. Post-apocalyptic settings suggest an unconscious yearning to abolish the current menial status quo and a return to more natural, primal state. The electronic industrial atmosphere present in many darksynth tracks helps portrays a dystopian audioverse of a very mechanized and soulless future society. The dark tone gives a negative and horrific connotation to this possible future. Anti-indoctrinatory lyrics are anti-fascist in nature and are meant to express concern for the gradual concentration of resources in fewer and fewer people. Additionally, the emphasis of adrenal emotions over the more Disney-esque hollow joyful emotions portrayed in pop music, suggests a humility and acceptance of the fact that people are -- despite how advanced our society may seem -- still animals.

Today’s underground music

Many darksynth tracks have peaked their views to the millions, concerts sell out, darksynth artists headline events, but nonetheless, it still seems to lack mainstream acceptance. Even the artists producing darksynth music rarely call themselves “darksynth” artists rather using confusing and divisive terms like “slasherwave,” “cyberpunk” or “synthesized retro futurism” to categorize their art. This lack of continuity is crippling the genre by preventing the community from unifying and identifying itself, which is a necessary element for widespread acceptance of the genre.

If you're looking for some recommendations for exploring darksynth, there are a wealth of great tracks and albums to listen to. Carpenter Brut’s EP 1 (the first part of the Trilogy album) was among the first darksynth tracks on the scene. Although, Trilogy has not aged perfectly, it is certainly still worth a listen. Personally a favorite track of mine is “Roller Mobster,” the most intense track I’ve ever listened to. It has scarred my ability to listen to other electronic music. Fixions is an extremely underappreciated artist. The album Genocity is a fine example of the genre. Fixions’ track “Black Racers” is an artist marvel. The track has the blare of a nuclear siren blasting throughout the whole track and yet is so well composed the track seems like Fixions is merely flexing. I would not be able to continue with this profile without mentioning the quintessential darksynth album; Perturbator’s The Uncanny Valley. The album offers some of the best darksynth has to offer. Everyone has different musical preferences, but darksynth (and particularly the tracks mentioned) is worth a listen.

"This is not your mainstream sound."

There is no completely agreed upon definition of a musical genre, but there are some core elements. Elements like, a distinct sound, a unique culture, an ability to articulate many different experiences and emotions, a large base of songs, artists and albums. Darksynth satisfies all of these requirements. But what I believe is the most important aspect in darksynth’s establishment as a genre, is its thematic significance. It is the unique fulfillment of these elements in conjunction with its strong themes that allow darksynth to be its own musical genre.

Ben Connolly can be reached at bjconnolly@umass.edu.

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