Album: Pain Session
Written by: Aaron Michael Kobes
Hailing from the Levantine region and residing more specifically within the country of Cyprus is the enigmatic entity known simply as Dictator. In the mid to latter part of the sights this figure cut two EP’s (Fog of Death and The Pain Sessions) and one full-length (Dysangelist), all of which still have an impact to some degree on the extreme underground scene near two decades on. While all are deserving, in their own right, of an in-depth consideration- The Pain Sessions stands out far and away. In a blending of Funeral Doom and Black Metal-bookended by Dungeon Synth, that is as bleak as it is disheartened, Dictator enshrouds the listener in a veil of luxuriousness before shoving them into a cold, dark and damp sepulchral-like abyss.
Beginning this macabre experience is the track Н Хоршбіа Tww Дац оши, a Dungeon Synth style piece with heavily dramatized Dark Ambience. Recalling works of the colossus of dark and depressive Ambience Paysage d’Hiver, particularly Einsamkeit, Dictator creates a vacuous space sonically that develops into an expansive build that both draws the listener in and push them down in the howling maelstrom of noise. Purposefully overmixed to the point of retroactively making it lofi, there is a yawning chasm of noise that is just this side of the uncanny valley in hearing a human-like intonation distorted as it is being stretched and reverberated through your headphones. It is almost meditative in it’s icy detachment, as if consecrating your voyage into what comes next as the track fades out to an almost peaceful rest.
The Procession of the Black Fog follows creating its own atmosphere that is all at once totally divorced from yet a strange continuation of Н Хоршбіа Tww Дац оши. Using the backing track of a clamorous storm that is then built upon by introduction of a synth and a creaking- despondently ethereal voice, Black Fog feels more like haunting than an actual song. It is not long before we are overwhelmed by a surge of noise that is treated in Black Metal. Before it becomes too much and unbearable, Dictator eases off in a high-pitched whine of a guitar and rasped growls atop sludge-paced drumming that is the benchmark of Funeral Doom. A sort of see-saw motion is had between the two intensities, giving us just enough edge to keep it more Black Metal than out-and-out Funeral Doom. All the while Dictators’ vocals alternate between darkened growings and almost comforting whispers. Soon enough even that small comfort is torn asunder and we are left with the deep end, anguish-ladened Doom-style rumblings that more resemble a conjuration from some dank long forgotten necropolis buried deep in cavernous blight of a Lovecraftian tome than any human utterance. After long moments of this progression of doom and dread, there begin to emerge certain other elements that tinge the track with just enough variation so as to keep it from stagnation. There are moments of Dungeon Synth-esque Ambience that escape and even a small guitar solo that, strangely enough, gives off small elements of the blues. Then begins the downward trajectory of The Procession, with a reintroduction of the storming backing track and a languid piano piece that mournfully closes it out.
Emptiness opens with a sparse yet purposeful ambiance that gives the feeling of the beginning of a processional at a funeral. There is a faithful recreation of the earlier Dungeon Synth aesthetic in that it bleeds back into a Black Metal-ladened section, acting more as an interlude or bridge. Greeting this change over is the introduction to a blasphemous choral intonations, made all the more so by Dictator’s ungodly low and long growl that serves as some accursed cohesive force binding all theses seemingly disparate elements into a brilliantly unholy and sacrilegious experience. The choral then acts as a sort of grounding mechanism by which the rest of the track draws forth its intensity. There is a sort of juxtapositional allegory to be inferred from the, originally worship orientated musical stylings that could either mean that there is an Emptiness felt or created from such a devotional- original or derived, or that there is a striving to empty the original intent out of the worship. Intended or otherwise, the oppositional forces in the song work remarkably well when they are intertwined and make for an intrinsically beautiful composition.
Από τις Εικόνες των Αρχαίων Νεκρών finishes out the EP with a Dungeon Synth aesthetic that is borderline Neo-Classical, however distorted and diluted with angst. It is simplified and straightforward, a sort of reprieve from the onslaught of drudged foreboding of the prior two tracks. Continuing this is a singular piano chord is repeated throughout, hitting home a sort of tiredness felt through a form of exerted exhaustion expelled in the wake of the grotesquery of The Procession of the Black Fog and Emptiness. It is a plodding, driving track that keeps time with a metered low-octave chugging of piano keys while an intermittent higher octave is played. In all it sounds woefully out of tune and fits perfectly with the cultivated atmosphere of the release, and leaves the listener feeling a sort of unease throughout, and especially so at the momentary lapse of drudgery that closes out The Pain Sessions in a small fluttering of Classically inspired key workings that injected a small ray of light before echoing out to nothingness. It is an extraordinary ending to a remarkable piece of genre bending musicality that leaves little to be desired. Unfortunately and despite The Pain Sessions unique beauty, it is unlikely that we will see more of Dictator anytime soon, if ever- there being an eleven year gap between releases of the latest effort, Dysangelist, and even that was just a reissue from the prior release. However, despite the limited run on both merch and musical offerings, Dictator has left us with an incredible gift in the music created that is sure to chillingly echo and reverberate through the underground in the decades to come.
Be righteous by listening to and supporting Dictator on Bandcamp: https://thetruedictator.bandcamp.com/album/the-pain-sessions