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Soulless purges dark emotions with ‘depressive’ music

Marcel Thee

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Thu, January 31, 2019  /  12:46 pm
Soulless purges dark emotions with ‘depressive’ music

'Lost In Mind' by Soulless. (-/Soulless)

Performing a genre of music affectionately known as depressive black metal, Rivanka, also known as Rivan, is the sole member of Soulless and his melodramatic compositions can be either endearing or exhausting to experience.

As Soulless, however, these feelings in Rivan’s music build into something that is undeniably affecting and discomforting.

“Before I got into this genre of music, I was still a depressed boy who never got the love that people deserve in their lives,” the 19-year-old said without a hint of irony, and it is hard not to feel for him.

At the very least, the unabashed purging of emotion in his music feels real, a rare feat these days.

Depressive black metal is a subgenre of the already-niche black metal genre, which is a form of extreme heavy metal music characterized by screeching vocals, tremolo-picked heavily distorted guitars playing “sad” melodic lines, purposefully thin, low-fidelity production, and a whole lot of gloomy atmosphere.

That morbid ambience comes from the fact that many of these bands – certainly the early breed from the early 90s – paid tribute to Satan, either as an actual entity or as a symbol of philosophical rebellion, and generally presented a misanthropic world view. These early black metal bands were so committed that murder and arson became an actual part of the lore.

So, imagine that kind of music sounding even more purposefully “depressive” and you will start to get the picture.

Leaning closer toward ambient music, depressive black metal is focused on creating an overbearing nuance of darkness and surrender with a total absence of light. Hope and a happy ending is not part of the equation but endless crescendos that drone through walls of distortion and tortured shrieks are.

Nevertheless, Soulless’ music is surprisingly immediate even through its ghoulish aesthetic – it is depressive black metal that cannot help but feel a little hopeful. Fans of black metal will recognize all the expected musical elements but may note the melodic sensibilities that shine through the tracks even as it tries to engulf itself in sorrowful atmospheres. 

“I try to bring melancholic, dreamy, sad and abstract emotions and feelings in the form of sound through my music,” Rivan said, pointing to the German one-man depressive black metal band Sadness as having a big influence on Soulless’ sound.

“I found perfection in his music.”

Hailing from West Sumatra, Soulless just released its debut album Lost In Mind with the hope of showcasing the prowess of Indonesian depressive black metal to the world.

“Soulless began in the middle of 2017 as a solo project of mine, but even prior to that I was already writing and creating the concept,” Rivan said.

He named the band Soulless because he believed it “fit my view on life, my feelings, my emotions so well”.

“I chose depressive, atmospheric, post-black metal as my musical style because I think these kinds of sub-genres fit so well with my emotional and spiritual condition. Those kinds of feelings give me the desire to convey everything that I feel. I feel like this music was the best way for me to convey my own 'sad' story,” Rivan explained.

It was not an easy to process to convey that sad story, as Rivan did not even have basic recording equipment or a computer of his own. Instead, he had to work on Saturday nights on a computer at the tour and travel services office he works at as an admin, with borrowed recording equipment he said only cost him US$10.

It was all worth it. He was finally able to translate the sounds in his head and feelings in his heart into a digital recording.

Being a one-person band means that Soulless is limited in its live performances, and has only given two live shows so far, featuring a guest vocalist while Rivan plays and triggers everything else. This is unlikely to change.

“The reason I choose to write and record alone is because I want to convey my own emotional state in the music, as everything comes from one mind. My music, my mind.”

Rivan pointed to two songs off his album – “Fading Memories” and “Final Border” – as being perfect representations of what he was trying to achieve.

“I can’t believe I created such beautiful melodies and lyrics,” he said.

Rivan wrote and recorded the songs in one night.

“I was so depressed and sad back then, those feelings gave me another form of energy to create the melodies and lyrics. […] I’m tired of being depressed, and I want to find a 'home' and reshape my emotions and feelings. But I couldn’t. Death is the only home,” he said.

Still, that morbidness cannot stifle the sense of hope Rivan obviously has.

“I’d live forever writing this music because it requires my energy that comes from the depths of my heart and conscious mind. Everyone who loves this will feel my energy flow through their lives, and that’s where my immortality begins.”

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