Totalselfhatred – Solitude (2018) REVIEW

Formed by ex-members/members of Horna and Korgonthurus Finnish depressive black metallers Totalselfhatred have been polished and highly melodic contemporaries of groups like Austere/Woods of Desolation and Forgotten Tomb for well over a decade. Their self-titled debut from 2008 remains one of the better remembered records of that era where an influx of weak Xasthur imitation diluted the perceived sincerity of the sub-genre. It was a stunning debut that starts off characteristically soft and gains in aggression as it plays out, expressing a shift from depression to angst and eventually defeat. Increasingly melodic with each release ‘Apocalypse in Your Heart’ was more on the level of early Forgotten Tomb on their second full-length with no remarkable growth of their own. It was an album that I didn’t stick with me as much as their first. For their third album a long hiatus finds Totalselfhatred revamping some elements of their signature sound to fit into the greatly evolved scene of depressive black metal and more recent blackgaze movement.

When the question of what exactly depressive black metal aka depressive suicidal black metal is arises, it is tough to land upon one particular defining quality that sets the ‘classics’ of the genre into the same black metal biome. Although Strid, Bethlehem and Burzum are referenced quite often both musically and in print it seems, to me at least, that the sub-genre’s evolution of influence is arguably defined by three bands Silencer, Leviathan, and Austere with some clear refinements coming from Shining. As a huge fan of the earliest works of Katatonia and October Tide I tend to only marvel at the DSBM groups that use that same defeated, semi-‘goth’ atmosphere and structure to similar effect. As such I oddly lean towards melodious records from bands like Forgotten TombWoods of Desolation and some of the more melodeath-strangled stuff like Harakiri for the Sky. Totalselfhatred‘s sound is always somewhere in the midst of these styles but with most of their more aggressive tendencies worked out on the first album.

‘Solitude’ is clearly engineered to invoke the original personality of the band that carried across their first two releases but it’s inherent style is far more varied and influenced by modern black metal style. Though I point to modernity for general reference the music itself only gleans useful techniques from new contemporaries to broaden their palette of melancholic metal. Confident and perhaps more inspired than ever I hear a songwriter(s) discovering an more honest musical philosophy and using that inspiration for compositions that avoid rote, saccharine cliche. Too often gaze-core and DBSM art reeks of self-conscious catharsis and ‘Solitude’ instead begets reflection and analysis rather than youthful self-hatred, melodrama, and pity.

Is the entirety of the album something new, mind-blowing, or exemplary of the sub-genre? In some ways yes, in other ways no. ‘Solitude’ absolutely oozes a very typical sounding depressive black metal style that was more or less done to death in the 00’s. It is absolutely exemplary of the quality and history of Totalselfhatred‘s output, though, and should be an excellent release for fans of the band and their ilk. Any form of ethereal, non-abrasive black metal tends to register as very ‘easy listening’ music for me as I’m not at all attuned to slowcore, gothic rock or shoegaze. So, I suppose the fact that I really found no fault with the track list, outside of the achingly slow build of “Nyktophilia”, and had a pleasant experience with ‘Solitude’ is a testament to it’s accessibility and perhaps my ignorance of flaws that more dedicated depressive black metal fans might pick up on. Ultimately it is better arranged and even more sincere than Totalselfhatred‘s past work. I would encourage listening when you’re in the mood for something that explores depression, rather than wallows in it.


Artist Totalselfhatred
Type Album
Released April 27, 2018
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No more dreams to fulfill. 3.25/5.0

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