I had been hearing so much about Deathconsciousness since I joined AOTY 3 months ago, and how this album is pretty much a near masterpiece while simultaneously being one of the darkest albums ever composed.
I personally felt terrified for a while to cover an album like this due to my anxiety as well as having the occasional mood swings here and there wbich can last for a while when they happen.
Part of me did wonder to myself if I was gonna feel ok after hearing it...
Now that I've finally got round to hearing Deathconsciousness in it's entirety TWICE, let me say this:
This was a genuinely haunting 85min trip that left me spellbound by how dark, devastating, tender, surreal, emotional, frightening, artistic & beautiful it manages to be all at once.
As I listened to this, I felt a form of trnascendence. Like my soul was leaving my body and I felt like a vessel as I experienced something that didn't feel like it belongs on the same terms as music; it was more like a cinematic trip into a darker side of life with little hope of escaping into light.
The low, abrasive sound and atmosphere gets under your skin and touches deeply into your darkest emotions and preys on them.
This is not an easy album to get through especially in terms of the lyrical content; it's dark and complex to decipher as there are several meaning to what can be said in each track.
Just before I get into my full thoughts about Deathconsciousness and the masterpiece that is, I'd like to explore its background behind the scenes, which are quite interesting and also a reason why I have to applaud this record highly:
Deathconsciousness was the debut album from American rock duo Have a Nice Life and released in January 2008. It was described as being a mixture of dark ambient and gothic rock along with an apocalyptic tone.
It was recorded by the band independently on a budget of just $1,000 and was in the making from 2002 til 2007. The audio quality has a lo-fi aesthetic to it due to it all being recorded on through the pinhole mic on Dan Barret (one half of the duo)'s laptop.
All of the original master recordings of the album were lost whenever their hard drive crashed, leaving the duo with only 192kbps MP3 files.
The album itself did not receive much attention when it first released in January 2008 in terms of critical reception.
Have a Nice Life were expecting the album to linger in obscurity, but over time the album gained attention through word of mouth through several Internet message boards like Reddit (mainly in the subreddit r/indieheads) & 4chan.
Deathconsciousness is broken into 2 different parts since it was released as a double album:
- The Plow That Broke the Plains
- The Future
Let's dive into Part 1 of the album:
1. A Quick One Before the Eternal Worm Devours Connecticut is a near 8min long acoustic piece that carries a cross between Ambient & Shoegaze-esque vibes. It's beautiful, haunting and tragic that's left with many interpolations with its outro.
2. Bloodhail is a dark, brooding and outright sinister gothic rock-styled track that details the "human capacity for indifference". The song focuses on a Hunter, who has no compassion for anything around him.
"I feel the top of the roof come off, kill everybody there" is the Hinter expressing desires to kill all that's around him, especially the first line implying he's on the verge of snapping.
"But I didn’t, no-one ever does and I would, no-one ever will" implies he wants to care about the destruction but can't due to having perceived view of humanity.
"But I just don’t accept this, I just don’t accept this at all, but I just don’t" is the Hunter trying to rebel against their innate self and attempting to find meaning underneath all death & destruction that's occuring around him.
This track is amazing honestly, both in storytelling and instrumentally. The lyrics are filled with double meanings as well the straight up ominous bass pounds through your head as soon as it starts to play.
3. The Big Gloom is focused on a depressed person in an ice bath contemplating suicide (similar to what you see on the artwork). The song contains several references to Jacob’s Ladder (a confusing but equally chilling horror film from 1991 that I recommend).
The narrator is concerned about how their death will affect those they know and being afraid of the response from them.
"My arms, my legs are wood, unconscious trees with roots deep in the ground" taps into a lyrical equivalent of not being able to move your body from depression as it overtakes your body, leaving you feeling hopeless.
"Can you hear my faintest breath, is it amplified?" implies the person is slowly dying and while they'd be breathing faintly, their finals would be amplified to the listener to emphasise
"I’m stuck here on this bathroom floor and I don’t have much more hope or pride, no air, no food" means the person in the bathtub is at their lowest in terms of hope, feeling like they are trapped inside the body they intend on killing.
I legit got goosebumps as I listened to this track twice; musically, it's haunting with it's echoed vocals & lyrically frightening in terms of how it approaches suicide in the most open form I've heard that left me empty afterwards.
4. Hunter continues the story from where Bloodhail left off as the Hunter ascends a staircase made of all of humanity and strikes down God with a fury of arrows.
"Arrows in my back and sides" implies that God felt betrayed by what he created with true love and compassion.
"You can wear my skin as armor, You can eat my flesh and bones, Leave nothing that is needed" is God still offering his compassion to humanity despite the betrayal he's just suffered.
"You watch as the animals lay themselves down at your feet" implies the Hunter has now become the ruler of humanity and has killed all animals in existence for food. As a result of this, the Hunter's sadistic resortment of violence sets a precedent for humanity who had never been violent prior to these events taking place.
"The Hunter does us all a great service" os everyone's worship of the Hunter as God is killed.
What makes this song so unsettling the amplified focus on guitar riffs, sombre strings & bass that pound through your body, leaving you quivering with fear. The drum work comes in towards the 7min mark and elevates the impact to a heavier emotional scale.
5. Telefony focuses on the narrator wanting to build a telephone time machine or regular time machine to contact a deceased loved one.
"The machine that snaps all of time in half, I can break its back" is the narrator taking a violent approach to time travelling due to being riddled with hatred for time itself, feeling like it's an evil force.
"But surely I, but surely I" is where the narrator is in such desparation to see their loved one.
"The look on your face when I first connect the line for the very first time" is the narrator picturing the feeling of how they imagine seeing their loved one again for the first.
I felt the most despair and empty hole as I listened to this track due to the relentless atmosphere it provides. The level of devastation & grief displayed here is a heavy level that graudually takes its toll on you. I nearly felt like I was gonna break down and cry with this one as something haunted me with this one.
6. Who Would Leave Their Son Out in the Sun? is a contrast in themes to the previous 5 tracks, being focused more on biblical references to denials of Christ.
It's very hard to summarise this track in particular due to the complex connontations inside the lyrics. What I can try and say is that its opening line is a depiction wanting to look back and reflect on past mistakes the nareator regrets making.
"Everyone spends some time on the cross I just want to make sure it's not a total loss" is a strong emphasis on how Jesus earned his followers and legacy through his suffering on the cross, with the narrator having some form of hope for a worthwhile form of legacy through suffering.
I've got the chills from the severely ominous nature of this track; the echoed vocals mixed a gothic-influenced melody & simple guitar plucks that gradually get louder... it's gets into your skin and stays there as it just invites you to a chilling sense of musical sorrow. I felt cold and drenched in guilt.
7. There Is No Food concludes part 1 of Deathconsciousness by being near-entirely instrumental, while apparently being focused (concept-wise) on starving to death on some kind of atom-blasted moonscape.
Since there's not much lyrics other than a supposed poem faintly read by Tim Becuga (one half of Have a Nice Life) and the distorted sounds of people shouting in the background, the way I can describe this closer of Part 1 is that it heavily relies on bleak keyboard synths over sharp guitar riffs and a melody that sparks tragedy.
As I listened to this album, I felt deprived of emotion and was left feeling like my soul had left my body, deprived of what I felt at the start of this experience.
You know that feeling where everything around you just feels like as you're walking towards it but it keeps moving further and further away? That's how I felt as this track progressed; as if everything I wanted is leave me.
That concludes The Plow That Broke The Plains.
Now... let's dive into Part 2:
This is where the tone of the album gradually gets even darker as we descend even further:
8. Waiting for Black Metal Records to Come in the Mail is a complex track open to different means; it could rely on our overall knowledge of the universe.
The track has a play on words in regards to corporations having high levels of authoritarian power over the human population with the truth being hidden "You drop that pitch-black pall over us, one and all, again"
"And I guess I thought I’d feel something but I didn’t, but I didn’t, yes, that’s a myth" is a wordplag similar to Bloodhail, but focused on corporate / government exploits on humans instead of a Hunter. The use of "yes, that's a myth" implies the narrator's lack of compassion for humanity writing it off as a myth, repeatedly sahing towards the end "No, it's never gonna be good enough".
What I love about this track is how it contrasts sonically and lyrically. It starts with an ominous 1min drone sound before slowly transitioning into a rock n roll banger, whilst remaining quite a sinister piece of songwriting that's pure genius.
9. Holy Fucking Shit: 40,000 brings a lot of different subjects into just 6mins, such as the violent nature of animals, determinism & likely ahedonia (a scary feeling humans can experience where they lose joy in all the things that once brought them joy, such as hobbies, friends and even family).
The instrumentation on this one is initslly simple as it relies on guitar strings and blippy electronic synths for the first half before the electric guitar riffs and abrasive drumwork erupt out om nowhere and rattle your bones for 2mins straight before fading back to the tender sound sit began with. Seriously, I love how unpredictable this record can get.
10. The Future is a simple & very brooding 3min instrumental filled with pounding drums that fill you with dread along with its eerie guitar feedback sound.
It gives that feeling of looking at a desolated city where everything has been wiped out; all the lights are shattered, the streets are cracked... nothing feels emotionally spared and you get that dark incessant feeling that the walls are closing in on you leaving you incapable of breathing.
11. Deep Deep has a very bleak outlook on human existence, dealing with a doomed nature of the human race.
Again, this one is very complex to dive into but as simple as I can gather from it:
Diving into sexual congress, re-emphasising the lack of reciprocated love leading to depression and mankind's capacity for destruction and asking how are we supposed to deal with the fact we're all going to die.
It carries the same sinister but energetic riffs & drumwork of WfBMRtCitM; it sounds lively but it's dark and hard not to find disturbing when looking into these lyrics and finding true despair in them.
*I had to take a break for a number of hours before returning to this as it was late at night and I was getting more and more uncomfortable diving further into the final pieces of this journey*
12. I Don't Love is by far the darkest track on this album lyrically as it directly speaks about the want for death.
"I don’t want to live like this, Lord, I don’t want to live at all, I don’t want to make this face anymore, but if I don’t, that’s all" is the opening line and is spoken with a faint, disoriented voice as the narrator cries out to be free from all the pain, feeling like the agony is too much to continue with living.
"I don’t feel anything where this love should be" is the narrator stating he doesn't feel any love whatsoever due to the depression reaching a low point that's impossible to escape. He knows he should feel love, but he cannot.
"I don’t want to feel this anymore but if I don’t, that’s fake" is the narrator recognising that depression & loneliness are part of his life to the point that nothing else would feel genuine.
I got SO uncomfortable from this track as it's repeated lyrics really made my skin crawl mixed with the abrasive drums & riffs.
The way it opens with the vocals in a disoriented, hallucinogenic fashion that makes you feel like the world has slowed down all around you got my heart rate going instantly.
The droning background vocals haunt you as well as they feel like a spirit wailing from behind the walls of your room, almost like they're telling you to join them in purgatory.
It's almost too much to handle.
13. Earthmover is the final piece of the album and lasts 11mins long. It focuses on a group of Earth-destroying golems knocking down mountains and destroying all in sight.
The golems grow tired of their existence as time passes, feeling no purpose as to why they were created in the first place. They're simply machines who are capable of destroying, yet cannot be destroyed. They want to die, but they can't since they're incapable of speaking, but if they had one thing to say, it would be "we wish we were dead".
"They wander ridges high between the earth and sky like spikes upon a crown we wear upon our brow" is the golems comparing themselves to the crown of thorns Jesus wore during his crucifixion, referencing the suffering he went through is likely what the golems are wanting due to their lack in feeling of any purpose on Earth.
The instrumentation, especially the solo in the final 5mins of this track have a tight grip of you due to how brutal & haunting the overall sound of it is.
It's ruthlessly dark and feels like the chance to try and unleash all the pain you have building inside, until the end finally sets you free.
Oh my... this took a lot out of me both in terms of listening to it as well as to put this together! I've never seen an album that features so many complex details being buried inside the way this does.
The way Have a Nice Life have composed, written & crafted a dark concept album like this deserves all the attention & praise it's gotten.
By the end, I felt empty, cold & wrecked. But at the same time, I felt like I was free, as this album felt like some of your worst feelings fully realised.
I just felt like everything dark is channeled into this music (I should be calling this art, honestly) as it captures the feeling of hopelessness and leaves a long lasting impact on you when it ends.
At the same time, I'm entirely engrossed by the sound of it that I wanna keep returning. It's devasting to listen to all this, but it's sound and raw, brutal emotion is perfect for me to unleash negativity out in the open. I can see why this album hits hard for others, so it's best to be prepared before fully chancing it if you think of doing so.
This'll be my last long review for quite a while, but I'm proud of how this turned out.
In short summary, fantastic piece of art that features some of the bleakest but most powerful atmospheres & lyrical depth I've ever encountered in my 23 years.
Thanks for reading all this! Peace out! ;)