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Cracking the Code: Wytch Code’s Experimental Take on Depressive Black Metal

wytch code
Photo credit: Kassandra Michelina

Unlike other one-man black metal artists, cracking the code of Edmonton’s Wytch Code becomes more difficult the more you learn. Stumbling upon the project’s entity Peter Derksen in an otherwise uninspiring DSBM deep-dive will ignite immediate intrigue. An audaciously delicate approach to depressive black metal takes grip and refuses to let go until severe trauma is no more than a snowflake caught in the web of a window screen. Light piano strokes and soft siren songs become an ode to the fragility of life in the face of unrelenting suffering. But, what if I were to tell you that the gravely serious Wytch Code we are enjoying today started from a place that’s just as dark, but also markedly more lighthearted?

Yes, in the depths of Wytch Code’s Soundcoud page lies his past contributions to the world of pornogrind. You’ve got to hand it to him – in a subgenre that tends to have a two-dimensional formula of shock and sound, it’s apparent that the Wytch was already starting to cast life into the spirit of his most modern manifestation. Tunes like “Dance in the Pit Like Kawaii Motherfuckers” have warmer acoustic bones, providing a reflective yet primitive backdrop for what’s effectively a raging wild boar. Yet, from the start, Derksen wasn’t one to hold himself to one vocal style. Instead, he opted to bend the rules by demonstrating texture. In “Pig Sty,” Derksen shies away from beastly oinks and grunts in favor of wailing outbursts set to a hypnotic punk rock slapper.

Unlike artists like, say, Suicide Silence, who suddenly woke up on the dissociative side of the bed, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment at which Wytch Code chose a different path. Derksen’s contributions to pornogrind were posted in the same window of time as his foray into semi-acoustic DSBM. Playing different styles simultaneously is perhaps the best way to feel out your true endgame rather than honoring any senses of obligation.

Wytch Code
Credit: Wytch Code

The hallmark of Wytch Code in 2018 can be best personified through his use of clean singing — an anomaly in a world where vocal extremity is pushed to its absolute limits. While a bit lower and smoother, the spirit of Derksen’s voice can be best compared to Patrick Walker of Warning. Soothing tones are coupled with more anguished screams, sometimes within their own realms, but others layered simultaneously. Contemplative synth and drum and bass moments prevent the overshadowing of sudden trauma and quiet solitude told through the duplicity of his vocals.

Indeed, adventures in the psychosexual subconscious don’t just end in the era of pornogrind. “Taste in Women” begins by discussing the idea that men tend to go after women who remind them of their mothers. Homing in on the strain between mother and son provides a general sense of thematic identity. Trauma is spoken about in the coded language of “mourning the solitary extrovert,” which implies that introversion is not inherent; rather, a series of events led to a switch from temporary protective solitude to absolute isolation.

While “Taste in Women” is more overt, newest track “The Cure for Depression” talks about everyday disillusionment with the subtext that it was spurred by past abuse. “Your head in your hands, wondering why you can’t, measure up to the cruel demands, of a life, that is crawling past,” suggests self-doubt from an undisclosed source. Regardless of any Oedipus complexes, there is universality in the existential dread that hits us as our “best life” has some serious discrepancies with our immediate reality.

From illustrations of hangings from swing set gallows to a detailed tattoo of a noose hugging Derksen’s upper body, art seems to be what keeps any final action from running more than skin deep. He continues to move forward as a new record is set for early next year, leaving 2017’s full-length Fantasies of My Suicide to continue to speak for itself. In the meantime, let’s keep one eye on Wytch Code and the other on our own well-being (and each other’s).

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