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DMP Vault – Part II, "The Haunting Presence"

DMP Vault – Part II, "The Haunting Presence"

First making a mark in the early-mid 1990s, Depressive Black Metal (later named 'DSBM') was the foremost projection of self-hatred, defeatism and personal adversity in music and has since become a significant component in the Black Metal realm. Formed in 1995, KROHM – the solo project of US-based Italian musician Numinas – are one of the sub-genre's pioneers.

For the second part of the DMP Vault archival series (read the introduction and the first part here) we are revisiting KROHM's 2007 album "The Haunting Presence" (DMP0023), the first collaboration with the band that we had the perverse pleasure to be part of.

KROHM's second full-length is marked by a distinct and caliginous atmosphere. The 56-minute runtime is divided into seven extended tracks, two of which feature lyrics in the Italian language. 

Opening track 'Bleak Shore' sets the stage conceptually and musically - laying out a mysterious yet beautiful motif as the foundation of its gripping storytelling. The sound of each instrument is skillfully entwined to invoke an emotional response, the heart-wrenching melodies and dense atmospherics take the listener to an unmatched place of obscurity where they remain for the subsequent tracks.

Numinas's superb vocal performance is a crucial factor in creating a connection with the audience. Despite the presence of emotive slower-tempo segments, the listener is hardly allowed a chance to fester in ideations. The powerful stimulus of sound feeds the imagination, making the album feel personalised – indeed, Numinas has always left the door open for individual interpretation by refusing to elaborate on meanings behind the lyrical content. 

"The Haunting Presence" is a chilling ride through a vast world of dark ambience, brimming with feeling. As the final track 'Syndrome' concludes the listener remains tangled in a web of ideas generated by the intricate lyrics and adept atmospheric manipulations. Although emotionally taxing, the almost-metamorphic sonic structures mean repeat visits are needed to appreciate the complexity of this work. An underappreciated album by an underrated band.

We contacted Numinas for a short reflection upon the creation of "The Haunting Presence" and to look at a possible future for KROHM:

Q: The album was released in 2007, so nearly 16 years ago. When you listen now to the seven tracks and think back to when the album was conceived, what feelings arise in you?

This was the first album where I composed the music while recording it simultaneously. Previously, I used to map out songs, practice them, and then record full takes of each instrument using a linear, tape/analog approach. For "The Haunting Presence", I set up a recording studio in my home office using a computer with software, a microphone, a guitar amp, and real drum samples I had recorded myself. The writing process felt full possibilities at the time, layering a combination of real and soft synth sounds and various samples within the songs. In terms of where my head was at the time, I remember I was in an unhealthy relationship, and the many hours spent recording and mixing this album also felt like a refuge for me during what was a relatively frustrating time in my life. I also still vividly recall the severe throat pain I felt the day after recording the vocals, as if someone had stabbed me in the neck with a knife.

Q: The term "Depressive Black Metal" comes up frequently when describing your Art. Would you consider this category or 'genre' adequate when it comes to your music?

It's not inaccurate to refer to KROHM as Depressive Black Metal but to me, depression was just one of the many other aspects that I allowed into the songs and the performance. In the lowest periods of my life, music was most often the last thing on my mind. To me, there was also a lot of life, yearning, melancholy, and desperation that guided KROHM.

Q: To ask this question from a different perspective: what were your main sources of inspiration when creating "The Haunting Presence" – musically, but also emotionally and conceptually?

At the time, I was greatly inspired by long walks and traveling to new places, letting my mind go quiet, contemplative states and deep thoughts, exploring existential terror, watching nature at its most majestic or terrifying. I have had a recurring dream of being in my house and discovering stairs that lead to an unexpected basement. In it, I rummage through someone else's belongings, but they feel familiar. As I keep exploring, I discover corridors that continue to unwind endlessly, further and alarmingly deeper into the earth. When I was creating "The Haunting Presence" it always sort of felt like I was trying to chase and decipher that dream.

Q: You have been involved in the Black Metal scene for many years. How would you evaluate the development of the Art and the scene over recent years?

I have completely stopped tracking the development of the Black Metal scene in the last decade so my answer may disappoint. My musical interests have turned elsewhere (mainly old/rare Post Punk, Electronica) and when I choose to listen to metal, it tends to be old Death or old Thrash. I personally have to admit that I can't think of much modern/recent Black Metal that tops KATHARSIS (GER), and their last album was in 2009. I can still give "666" or "VVorld VVithout End" a spin and I'll have my 'Black Metal fix' for the next few months, haha! If I do search a bit more, the type of Black Metal that does catch my attention these days, and it's far and few between, is from bands that either brilliantly recreate the riffs, tones and atmospheres or the early/mid-90s, like COSMIC CHURCH (FIN) and HULDER (US) or bands that take a very experimental or unique different approach like BLUT AUS NORD, ORGAN (NOR), NEGATIVE PLANE (US). 

Q: We have not heard anything from KROHM since 2010; is there anything you want to share about the future of your project?

I'm not sure what's going to become of KROHM. I hate to tease but over ten years ago I shelved seven new tracks that I only recorded the guitars for and they have been sitting in my hard drive since. No one has heard them. I listen to them occasionally and I get a vague sense of what they could become if I added drums, bass, and vocals but I have not felt the need to take the steps to bring these songs to life yet. I've been fulfilled in other ways, and I know deep down that I can't force it, and will just have to wait if or until there's something in me that tells me there is one more chapter to write.

Posted on 02-08-2023 | Category: