According to my calendar, Winter doesn’t start until December 21st. I call bullshit. It’s dark when I get up to go to work in the morning, it’s dark when I get home from work and it’s freezing out. It’s fucking Winter. When this time of year rolls around, all I want to do is eat, sleep and listen to depressing music. I’m not allowed to hibernate, so I cope with the darkness of the season by listening to music that’s equally dark. Not wanting to keep the displeasure all to myself, I’ve selected ten of the most depressing albums in my Winter rotation to harsh your mellow and keep you appropriately bummed out until Spring rolls around… if you make it that long.
1. Loss – Despond (Profound Lore, 2011)
With songs like “Cut Up, Depressed and Alone” and “Silent and Completely Overcome,” Despond is the soundtrack to suicide; a monolithic hour of pure self-loathing coated in suffocating blackness. It’s the kind of album that can make the room darker and drop the temperature ten degrees. There is a realness and conviction here that’s all too rare for this kind of music; I find it incredible that a band can write and record something this legitimately harrowing and live through the process.
2. Type O Negative – World Coming Down (Roadrunner, 1999)
World Coming Down is one of those rare albums that actually lives up to its title. It legitimately sounds like the the lives of the late, great Peter Steele and his band of not-so-merry men are coming apart at the seams. Rubble and ash are all that remains, resulting in an album that’s incredibly difficult to listen to in one sitting. Whereas the rest of Type O’s discography is rife with gallows humor, this is the album where it feels like they mean it, man.
3. Brown Jenkins – Angel Eyes (Moribund, 2008)
The sound of a single human mind coming completely unraveled. If I hadn’t been corresponding with Brown Jenkins mastermind UA for some time prior to hearing Angel Eyes, I probably would’ve assumed he was some gibbering madman, living alone in a cave where no light can penetrate, digging away at his wrists with a dull, rusty razorblade, such are the spirit-crushing sounds within. Worth the price of admission (your sanity) for the brain-raping guitar-work.
4. Eyehategod – Take as Needed for Pain (Century Media, 1993)
Even if you’ve never been strung out, Eyehategod’s swampy, twisted blues will make you feel more dopesick than William S. Burroughs going cold turkey. Mike IX Williams’ anguished howling couples with the feedback-mangled Southern riffage of guitarists Jimmy Bower and Brian Patton to create music that’s as mesmerizing as it is emotionally suffocating. If songs like “Blank” “Kill Your Boss” and the title track don’t make you want to curl up into a ball and fucking die, you’re probably not even human.
5. Cathedral – Forest of Equilibrium (Earache, 1991)
Before they started incorporating a heaping helping of stoner rock swagger into their sound, Cathedral were the heaviest, most miserable-sounding doom band on the planet, as evidenced by their 1991 debut album, in which they took the UK ultra-dirge of Black Sabbath to its illogical conclusion. Forest of Equilibrium is morose, down ‘n’ dirty doom of the highest order, and Cathedral would never top its soul-draining might.
6. Paradise Lost – Lost Paradise (Peaceville, 1990)
If you only know the “James Hetfield fronting The Sisters of Mercy” version of Paradise Lost, you don’t know the whole story. On Lost Paradise, the band were still looking for their sound, but the gothic gloom of their later works was already beginning to creep into their songwriting, making for an album that wants to both crush you and bum you the fuck out. The futuristic robot on the cover is misleading; Lost Paradise is a primitive and pummeling exercise in anguish.
7. My Dying Bride – As the Flower Withers (Peaceville, 1992)
Just about any My Dying Bride recording would work for this list; the British quintet are the UK’s current undisputed masters of ultra-depressive music. But there’s something about their formative first album that works perfectly as both an old school death metal skull-smasher and a diseased slab of doom to drown your doldrums in. Much like Paradise Lost, MDB were still honing their craft on their debut, resulting in an album that uniquely straddles the two genres.
8. Xasthur – Defective Epitaph (Hydra Head, 2007)
If ghosts were capable of making music, it would surely sound like Defective Epitaph. The change from programmed to live drums imbued Xasthur’s sound with a whole new level of haunting otherworldly agony, and as a result Defective Epitaph is one his best albums. Smothered and smeared in layer after layer of distorted guitars and topped with vocals that seem to be emanating from beyond the grave, this is music for contemplating death, the afterlife and the weird spaces in-between.
9. Lurker of Chalice – s/t (Total Holocaust, 2005)
Wrest might be better known for his work as Leviathan, but his sole album under the Lurker of Chalice moniker is easily the darkest in his entire discography. By combining his already lethal take on black metal with elements of gothic rock and dark ambient, he created an album that’s not just another entry in his voluminous catalog, it’s a downright revelatory listening experience of sheer joylessness that can never be replicated.
10. Agalloch – The Mantle (The End, 2002)
The music contained within The Mantle is every bit as grey as the album art; an unendingly dreary nexus of melancholic neo-folk strumming and mournful black metal stylings that ranks among the most emotionally charged recordings I’ve ever encountered. This is the soundtrack to the end of the world as we know it, going out not with a bang, but slowly withering away into total desolation.
Now it’s your turn dear readers, tell me what albums keep you cold and miserable during these dark Winter months.