Black metal and electronic music are longtime (if occasionally uneasy) bedfellows, and extreme metal in general has been flirting with the industrial, the inorganic, and the programmed for decades. Thanks to the great equalizer that is Bandcamp, the rise of retro electronica—known better as synthwave—comes as no surprise, nor does the appeal it holds for metal fans. There's a darkness to be found lurking behind all the blazing neon and pop-snap beats... and also, sometimes you just want to dance, whether or not you own the entire Morgoth catalog on vinyl.
That's just one reason why Altars of Synthness is so dope—it's a new, all-star synthwave compilation that sees a cadre of electronic producers reimagine iconic songs from Beherit, Bathory, Slayer, Carcass, Darkthrone, and more. Believe it or not, it fucking rules. I bet you didn't even realize you needed a distorted dark ambient club remix of Carcass's "Genital Grinder," but trust me, you do—to say nothing of a low-slung cyberpunk version of Slayer's "Raining Blood," a lush opium dream about Opeth's "Dirge for November," or a spooky horror soundtrack take on Bathory's immortal "Call From the Grave."
This isn't the first time we've seen metal and synthwave overlap; genre heavyweights like Perturbator, GOST, and Dan Terminus have all found a home on specialty extreme metal label Blood Music, and the implausible sub-subgenre of dungeon synth (which is heavily influenced by video game music, and basically sounds like album-length Summoning intros or a more upbeat Hlidskjalf) has exploded all over a sizable Castlevania-obsessed corner of Bandcamp. Matmos producer Drew Daniel's Soft Pink Truth project did something similar last year, reinterpreting classic black metal songs as spasmodic queer disco hellscapes while underground purists clutched their pearls in horror.
Overall, though, it seems as though the metal community has welcomed this latest bastardization with open arms. I mean, Perturbator played the final Nidrosian Black Mass, and that was arguably one of the most elite underground festivals going. It all goes to show that even the purest of genres can use a little perversion now and then, and Altars of Synthness is only the tip of the iceberg. Bandcamp holds the key to all kinds of retro futurist synth magic, and Perturbator is hard at work on a new album, too, which judging by the teaser clip below, goes even further into goth territory. Let's dance, motherfuckers.
Kim Kelly is desk dancing to this on Twitter.