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Sunshine and Suicide: Sadness’s “Circle of Veins” Tackles a Different Kind of Seasonal Depression


It’s a tale as old as time: your depression sees a brief reprieve during the rite of spring, and after a week, the novelty of extra daylight wanes, and you’re right back to feeling like living is the most fucked up thing you’ve ever had to do. The issue of seasonal sorrow expanding into spring and summer is one that is not talked about frequently enough. However, Oak Park, Illinois-based Sadness wants to lead a shift in dialogue. The solo artist’s most recent release Circle of Veins, released March 24th, is a blossoming piece of post-depressive grandeur that meditates on gradual change and constant loss. This new material from project mastermind Elisa (also of Left Alone…) came just a short time after last fall’s album Rain — a work that masters the art of mimicking raindrops with keystrokes — capturing the strangely-oppressive late summer weather equal parts humid and cool as crispness works to regain ground.

And while Rain conjures more understated imagery of dew-drenched tree branches and the slow movement of listless fog, Circle of Veins channels blooming filigree.

Nevertheless, the clean lines of post-metal are retained. Per its prefix, opening track “Eye of Prima” wastes no time taking us into the center of the season. As encapsulated in the album’s artwork, layers of mid-tempo guitar grow at various octaves until all is lush and full. Notably, a choir joins in, but it is one that varies significantly from the grandiose displays to which we have become accustomed in blackened metal. Bordering on a sea-like chant, the extra vocal contributions blend flawlessly into periods of muffled shrieks. In-step with songwriting that aims to tug at the heartstrings, “Eye of Prima” sees a couple of well-placed drops, which serve as a reminder that the return of external color does not necessarily erase the underlying internal malaise of grey.

Still, Sadness adds an element of surprise near the end — a riff that provides a significant dose of the jaunty, seafaring vibe, ultimately closing the loop on the more folk-like introduction of the choir.

“Cerrien” is another prime example of expertly-mixed vocals, as they are made to feel like one piece of the puzzle rather than the entire picture. While other extreme metal artists like to place demonic tones front and center in order to come off as unnerving as possible, Sadness displays that there is another way to execute the spilling of audible innards without turning matters into a spectacle of rebelling against your stepdad. Further pushing boundaries, “The Spring Sun on Summer Rain” features a drumming pattern much more consistent with 2000s alt-rock than traditional DSBM. Genres continue to be defied as bright synth gives off a restrained interpretation of modern pop before suddenly breaking into a brief passage of blast beats and all-out warfare.

In the final installment of the dichotomous world of suicide and sunshine, 25-minute-long “I Follow Rivers” gets the wheels turning about the possibility of a one-track record from Sadness. With a composition style prone to emotional flooding, it seems like the perfect opportunity to cry one long, winding river. But for now, the finale leaves Circle of Veins’ vision covered in static, a black and white fuzz that cannot just be twisted away.

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