By Lachie Hunt
When someone says darksynth in 2016, the most common thing to associate it with is hard distortion and hard hitting drumlines. A fringe element of this however is chiptune fusion, with artists like Volkor X having done tracks in that style before. The merging of the two genres is a logical one, as they both draw from 1980s darkness in different ways that compliment each other. Glitch Black uses these styles, and his mastery of unnerving synth lines mixed with some fine grooves makes for incredible listening. Danny Bourque, who goes under the alias Glitch Black, has released three previous albums under the Glitch Black moniker with Dominus Infernus being the latest.
The art for the album is classic creepy horror, with a skeleton and a neon throne, framed in front of a desolate city. This vibe continues into the album as a whole.
The first impression of Dominus Infernus is the opening track Event Horizon. A frantic sounding arp plays while drums play a complex beat in the background. Chiptune music influences begin here, and they take most of the attention until a dark distorted guitar kicks in with some harsh synths. It sets the mood perfectly, placing it between chiptune and darkwave, leaning more towards darkwave.
The title track 'Dominus Infernus' uses panning and a mixture of dark and lighter synths create a deeply moody creepy atmosphere. The breakdown later into the song is able to up the horror even more, making me feel like I'm on the run from Satan himself, catching my breath in the backstreets before trying to escape once more.
Secret Assassin Superstar certainly lives up to its name. The groove is insanely strong here, the track conjures up emotions of stealth, murder and fame. Small guitar parts in the background fill out the song, with harder sections of synth contrasting the bell melodies and quieter sections.
Midnight Scavengers goes further into game soundtrack territory than anything else on this album up to this point. A weak snare and small arp are joined by bigger counterparts and sliding leads. A tom solo also makes an appearance, keeping the tension high before a pulsing outro.
Skull Tower takes the album in a less bass heavy direction, with frantic synth work that flows into itself. Cinematic dark strings kick in in the background, giving it that extra movie feel. This is probably the most soundtracky of the bunch, feeling like a mid-80s horror movie in one of its more suspenseful moments.
A Dream of Stars features samples, and consequently tells more of a story. The vocals tell of the Voyager spacecraft's journey through space, and the music mirrors that. The horror here is different, the endless space is its own horror, unnerving the audience with ease. Synth solos and percussion keep the groove going through the whole thing. I got an almost Lost Years vibe from this one.
The more quiet vibe continues into Deception. The title once again perfectly describes it. The song is stressful, but still fairly slow. Vocoder vocals add to the mystery and chiptune influences shine through towards the end of the song.
The Zone brings it back slowly with a malevolent bass and use of bitcrushers, and a slow fade in of darker styles and synths, until the style is brought back to outrun levels. The title and feel gives me thoughts of cruising through deep space, and entering a restricted zone but continuing anyway.
Escape is somehow able to cool down for a minute in the middle with darker faster sections around it and keep its tone perfect. The stress levels just keep rising as we get closer to the unknown climax of this dark tale, but that doesn't stop the rolling bassline from creeping me out.
Descent begins in true darksynth style with a cool rhythm and wide snares and true to its name, descends into 8 bit and distortion. Rapid saw synths help to bring the speed up on what would be an otherwise slowish track.
Unknown Mechanical Anomaly sounds to me like this is the the moment when the robot turns on our heroes, as synth beats rise into a guitar lead and high synths. The more chiptune aspects are blended expertly here with some of the punchiest drums in the business.
Dark Sanctum takes the album down a notch in intensity once again, with percussion and strings. It sounds like an amazing film soundtrack, until it changes into yet another awesome soundtrack piece, one with rolling kicks and low guitar parts.
Shades of the Departed is yet another soundtrack styled offering, where instead of progressing in intensity in a linear fashion, the song moves up and down the scale and is able to pull off the changes perfectly. Bells help to convey the sense of finality here, along with an almost solo-esque use of toms.
A Brighter Tomorrow goes conventional OutRun, with deep sounds in the background and high strings that conjure up classic slasher movies in tone. It's a spectacular finish, an amazing way to end this album.
Glitch Black's Dominus Infernus is some of the best melodic darksynth I've heard in recent times. His combination of hard synths and distorted guitars alongside softer bells and other synths make him one of the lesser known artists that really deserve more attention. The melodies here are fantastic, and I couldn't recommend it enough. Dominus Infernus is offered on Glitch Black's Bandcamp here, and select tracks are available on his soundcloud, with more presumably to be uploaded in future. It comes very, very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM.