Victor Roy is an electronic music producer from Barcelona, Spain. He made his debut in 2019 with his debut album “Failure to Discern.” His follow-up “Fantastic Tales of a Future Lost” was released in February by RetroSynth Records.

The concept behind “Fantastic Tales of a Future Lost” encapsulates precisely why Synthwave and its related genres have taken off in popularity. The 1980s/early 90s were strange in that, science fiction films, gave us a hyperbolic glimpse into (an aesthetically pleasing) future. For example, Blade Runner takes place in 2019. When we look back at Blade Runner from a 2020 perspective it really makes you wonder…how did anyone ever think that by 2019 we would’ve been to the Tanhauser Gate, had another world war, and be surrounded by sexy replicants? Synthwave basically takes our own history and throws it out in favor of false realities and experiences that have never existed. It’s pretty weird that the human mind can trick us into becoming nostalgic for a 1980s version of what 2019 should’ve/could’ve been. Victor Roy’s “Fantastic Tales of a Future Lost” leans into the concept heavily, at least contextually, as the tent-pole unto which his latest album is supported by.

After listening to “Fantastic Tales of a Future Lost,” I think that it really does a great job exploring the concept in which it was based. At the same time, it sounds like an album written in 2019 that reveres the 1980s version of 2019. If that sounds confusing don’t feel bad. This album is extremely meta and self-referential. Generally speaking, I think that if this album was released as in the 1980s, it would’ve been a big deal. It probably also would’ve been used for a movie soundtrack. As a music critic, I feel that this is an important milestone to hit, especially for a Synthwave adjacent artist.

“Fantastic Tales of a Future Lost” has a very polished shiny postmodern vibe. A lot of careful thought went into this album production wise which makes it an enjoyable listen. Despite the fact that this album has a very soundtrack leaden vibe, I don’t think that it has much else in common with Synthwave, Darksynth, or other Retro genres. I actually feel that this album transcends all of these genres, but not necessarily for the better—at least from the perspective of a hardcore Synthwave fan. That said, this album is not for those folks. This is music for people looking to be challenged by music that pushes beyond the limits of Synthwave. Sure, there are plenty of Vangelis sounding moments on “Fantastic Tales of a Future Lost” but it captures those moments without breakneck sidechained vaccum basses, sixteenth note clapping, or a pumping drum beat. “Fantastic Tales of a Future Lost” is music that puts an emphasis on exploring Cyberpunky music through melodies rather than beats.

“Rewind” serves as the album’s most retro sounding song thanks to it’s opening riff, but it also (thankfully) diverges from that sound as the song goes on. “Path to Glory” stands out as the most soundtrack worthy song by giving those Interstellar Hans Zimmer feels. Peak Victor Roy is reached in the latter half of the album with two songs: “Stage Two” and “Dungeon of the Mind.” “Stage Two” reminds me of Yuzo Koshiro’s work on the PC Engine CD port of Ys I & II. The song begins quietly, but masterfully works its way upward into a diminished key change that really pops. “Stage Two’s” melody is completely antithetical to the vibe that the song opened with—it’s seriously wonderful. “Dungeon of the Mind” is equally as awe-inspiring for the same reason. It evokes some very Michiru Yamane (Castlevania) energy that really made me want an entire album of similar music. Here’s hoping that on the Roy decides to fully explore similar on his next album, because video game sounding tunes seem to be his strong suit.

Overall, I quite enjoyed this album. As mentioned before, if you’re looking for Synthwave that’ll give you nostalgic vibes you probably should look elsewhere. If you’re looking for a well-produced challenge that represents a direction that Synthwave might be going in the near future, have a listen. This one might surprise you.

RECCOMENDED FOR: People who like melody driven science fiction/cyberpunk music.

Stand-Out Tracks: “Stage Two,” (so fucking good), “Dungeon of the Mind” (so fucking good part 2 the revenge), “Path to Glory,” “Rewind,” “Synthesized Hole.”

Album Color Profile: #633974

You can find all things Victor Roy at https://victorroy.bandcamp.com/

Occams Laser is the darksynth project of UK producer Tom Stuart. Mr. Stuart may be a full-time dad, but don’t let that fool you, he still has time to be prolific as hell when it comes to creating music. Since 2014 he has produced twenty-five releases celebrating all things dark and retro.

“New Blood II” is Occams Laser’s latest album featuring ten tracks of cinematic, epic, and heavy darksynth. This is something of a concept album continuing the story started in Occams Laser’s “New Blood” album from 2018. “New Blood II” is centered around our final love affair with technology through the medical over use of synthetic “new blood.” Long story short, the “new blood” begins to overtake humanity through some sentient kind of infection. As a result an already dystopian society begins to spiral out of control. Talk about going from bad to worse. The very red cover art (also by Stuart) is both suitable to the subject matter and also quite gorgeous to look at. It features a buff street samurai, a sexy android, standing in front of slightly photo realistic city. It really fucking pops.

Musically, “New Blood II” is somewhat, but not entirely similar to mainline darksynth acts such as Carpenter Brut and Perturbator. This is cinematic and dark instrumental music that demands your attention from the moment you press play. There is a liberal use of the soft-clipped “French” bass that’s often found in this type of darksynth. I don’t think that Occams Laser uses it too much though. He makes excellent use of it where it counts, in songs intended to be total bangers. Which in this case is put on full display in both “Breakneck” and “Arterial Motive.” One thing that I feel separates Occams Laser from the wide majority of other darksynth producers is how clean his sound is. “New Blood II” is very well produced. It sounds shiny, and I can hear most everything that it has to offer. This is very often aided by longer instrumental sections of music that are completely devoid of drums. To it’s advantage, “New Blood II” is able to fully explore the bigger picture of his music through this method by giving his music time to breathe. Both “Scarlett,” and the intro track “Bloodshot” stand as examples of how this works for the album.

Almost all of the songs from “New Blood II” feature titles that center around redness and blood. In my mind’s eye, I definitely picture the color red whilst listening to this. As a synesthete this makes “New Blood II” a little different than what I’m used to listening to. It’s somewhat rare that the theme of an album connects with a singular color, shares that color on the cover art, and the music also sounds like that color.

Overall, “New Blood II” is a very pleasant listen. A lot of care went into this album with that in mind. This will widely appeal to listeners familiar and unfamiliar with Occams Laser. In an over-flooded ocean of darksynth and synthwave artists who struggle to find their exact niche, “New Blood II” stands as a fine example of what happens when an artist successfully accomplishes exactly what they set out to do.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of well-produced darksynth. If you like Carpenter Brut or Perturbator you’ll dig this.

Stand-Out Tracks: “Arterial Motive” (best track), “Breakneck,” “Exsanguination.”

Album color profile: #B71C1C

You can find all things Occams Laser at https://occamslaser.bandcamp.com/

Arcturus V is a mysterious project by a dude from Minnesota who goes by the psuedonym Vakhul. I can’t really find much more information about the project than that. He seems pretty active on Instagram where I was able to find a some videos of him performing. In so many words, I can say that this guy really likes horror flicks, black metal aesthetics, and all manner of dark stuff. Arcturus V first showed up on the scene on October 31st, 2019 with the release of “First Verse.” Since then he has had eight digital releases, including five full-lengths, two singles, and an EP. While I don’t entirely understand this sort of rapid fire release strategy, I will say that I have a soft spot for music like this.

“Verse 3” is the fourth full-length album by Arcturus V. It features nine tracks that are a near perfect fusion between suicidal black metal, and ambient darksynth. The cover art is pretty intense using only variations of black, white, and red for the color scheme. The image depicts a very angry looking gentleman surrounded by a red aura and an almost mandala-like sigil blob above his head.

The first time I listened to “Verse 3” I ended up playing it on repeat all day long. I grew up listening to some pretty gnarly black metal, so this was not only real treat, it was something quite different than what I usually listen to nowadays. Sound-wise the production quality is absolutely stellar for this type of music. Typically, I think that it’s satisfactory for music of this nature to be a little muddy and/or noisy. Arcturus V goes above and beyond that expectation with a clean, but not too clean production value that reminds me of early Shining. There isn’t a lot of singing on this album, but when there is, it’s pretty fucking awesome. The album closer, “Spirits Ov the Sun,” which reminds me of suicidal black metaller Leviathan (“Tenth sub Level of Suicide,” and “Scar Sighted”). It is a really great cut that showcases the full potential of Arcturus V as a traditional song writer. Generally though, the album is mostly instrumental. “Verse 3” has a lot of droning clean guitars, reverb galore, and a fair amount of dark synthy goodness. “Visonary” features a pretty disturbing atmosphere combining the sound of a choir and a sample of a man talking about his “odd tastes and eccentricities.” “Throne of the Stars” stands out to me as the most Synthwave like track of the album. I really thought it was something special even though I was singing Theatre of Tragedy’s “Black as the Devil Painteth” to it every time it came on (they share the same chord progression). Comparatively speaking, I think that “Verse 3” shares the same pedigree as stuff like Vrolok’s “Soul Amputation” from 2005, and Xasthur’s “Noctural Poisoning” from 2002. I can even hear a little bit of influence from Snorre Ruch’s Thorns, in “Aten” even if it’s coincidental.

Overall, I think that Arcturus V has produced a very passionate look into the darkness that dwells deep inside of us all. It definitely has that creepy suicidal feel to it that really brings back a lot of memories for my fondness of this type of music. If you’re at all curious to find out what darksynth would sound like if it was mixed with suicidal black metal, look no further than “Verse 3.”

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED FOR: People who like darksynth but want something a little darker.

Stand-out tracks: “Spirits Ov the Sun,” “Throne of Stars,” and “Visonary.”

Album Color Profile: #000000

You can find all things Arcturus V at https://arcturusv.bandcamp.com

Terrordyne is a cinematic darksynth project a producer from California. Terrordyne has been releasing music since early 2019 starting with their debut album entitled “Wasteland.” “High Tech Low Living” is their latest album and it was released May 13th, 2020.

The cover artwork for “High Tech Low Living” is by Nigel Silva from NGHT Studios. It features a large high tech looking pyramid structure situated in some kind of dark canyon. There appears to be a lone woman walking on light towards the structure.

“High Tech Low Living” is a futuristic concept album that centers around the year 2084. During this time, the “World Law Act” was passed as a method to further the globalist agenda of those in power. The law apparently makes it mandatory for all humans to be implanted with something called a “neurolink” at birth. Based on what I can tell, people who refuse to follow this new law are ousted from the niceties of society and forced to live a life without in a dystopian world that demands social compliance. What’s kind of interesting about the title of the album is it sort of pokes fun at those people who elect to comply with social tyranny in exchange for “the good life.” Those types of people may be living a nice high tech life, but it’s a low level existence because they had to forsake their morals and personal autonomy in exchange for it.

Sound wise, “High Tech Low Living” is wholly instrumental, though it often features long cinematic voice samples to help flesh out the ideas presented. The album is extremely slow-paced (110 BPM or less, with the exception of Wraithwalker’s “Protectorant Remix”) in an ambient Interstellar meets Mass Effect sort of way. That said, there are definitely some bangers on this album, “Brain Dance” and the title track especially come to mind as the type of songs I enjoy dancing to. What Terrordyne really excels at is presenting his ideas in a way that lends itself more to music fit for a film or video game soundtrack rather than something you might hear on Miami Vice. “High Tech Low Living” feels like it’s more influenced by early 2000s aggrotech rather than 1980s inspired synthwave, however, I think that it also retains qualities from both genres that help it to do something new.

I have to note that this album is best experienced in headphones. I made the mistake of listening to it while doing dishes without headphones and I missed a lot of the atmospheric nuance to this album that make it really fucking good. The low end on this album is especially dark, which isn’t easily heard if you’re listening to it from crappy phone speakers. So do yourself a solid and listen to this on a proper stereo or with headphones.

I think that the deluxe edition of “High Tech Low Living” runs a tad long for an instrumental album. As a matter of preference I would’ve released “Mass Hysteria,” and all of the remixes on a separate EP release. That said, the deluxe edition of “High Tech Low Living” is a great value for what you get. There’s a lot of kicking tunes here.

Generally, this is the type of music I really get into when I’m relaxing—like drawing or playing EVE Online. It’s not the type of music that you’re going to get distracted by. It doesn’t scream “HEY PAY ATTENTION TO ME.” Instead, “High Tech Low Living” wants to sweep you up into it’s dark and calm vibe. I think that it’s definitely worth checking out.

RECOMMENDED FOR: People who like their darksynth slow and dank. This is soundtrack worthy music.

Stand-Out Tracks: “High Tech Low Living,” (I fucking love this track), “Titan (Interlude), “Brain Dance,” (dance to this song) “Back Alley Chop Shop” (for Command and Conquer vibes).

Album Color Profile: #FAFAFA

You can find all things Terrordyne at https://terrordyne.bandcamp.com

Cat Temper is a Synthwave project by producer Mike Langlie from Boston, Massachusetts (GO BRUINS!!!). He’s been involved with various music scenes over the years ranging from the gothic and heavy, to the strange and unusual. His most well-known project, Twink the Toy Piano Band features music that uses toy instruments to create soundtracks for a cartoon from another more—pink dimension. Anyway, Langlie’s muse has changed over the last few years. His focus has shifted from a project who’s main aesthetic featured a cute bunny rabbit to darker project featuring the often domesticated apex predator—cats.

Cat Temper’s latest album “Feralyzed” returns with a solid tracklist of catchy, aptly titled cat tunes such as “Ace of Spays,” “Big Kitty Nights,” and “Careless Whisker.” Featuring the visual stylings by the wonderful Quinnzel Kills, the cover features a cat-woman with a perm amidst a neon-infused color scheme that comes straight out of the 1980s.

“Feralyzed” is entirely instrumental, and while it has a slight synthwave flavor to it, I feel that it can also exist on it’s own two legs without pinning it down to one genre of electronic music. “Feralyzed” is like listening to music that would be in an 80s action movie, rather than something you would hear at the end of “The Breakfast Club.” This idea really shines through in “Ace of Spays” balancing a breathy high end with banging drums and a distinctive heavy bass tone that just yells Amir Shervan and Alan DerMarderosian. At times the album is upbeat and whimsical in an Oingo Boingo sort of way (”Baskitt Case” serves as a good example) but for the most part “Feralyzed” is oddly harsh, dark, and heavy. There are spacey driven textures in songs like “Careless Whisker,” “The Unfurgiven,” and “Bad Cattitude.” There are also quite a few ties to traditional EDM rhythms that stand out in tracks like “When Puss Comes to Shove.” It’s pretty clear to me that Langlie is on the precipice of evolving Cat Temper’s sound. Into what exactly, I’m not entirely sure. But if it sounds anything like the tone he was going for with “The Unfurgiven” it’ll be interesting to see where he takes it. Overall, “Feralyzed” is a logical continuation to Cat Temper’s “Something Whiskered this Way Comes” (2019). I’ve spun it a dozen times since its release. My cats really seem to like it too.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Synth-warriors of all makes and models and their fuzzy feline companions.

Stand-out tracks: “The Unfurgiven,” “Baskitt Case” (aka the best track on the album), “Ace of Spays,” “Bad Cattitude,” and “Careless Whisker”

Album Color Profile: #6C3483

You can find all things Cat Temper at https://cattemper.bandcamp.com/

“Process S” is the latest release by Asian synthwave producer Replicant 69. Clocking in at just a little over half an hour, “Process S” is a fun little album that does a lot in a short time.

On the cover we are treated to artwork by Heriberto Martinez (https://www.artstation.com/xensoldier) that depicts a girl cowering next to a wall. Behind her is a what looks like a group of homeless people gathered together around a fire. Behind them lies a huge neon-soaked city with bars, a ramen shop, skyscrapers, and a sign that reads “No Music, No Life.” It’s a really nice piece that depicts extreme wealth disparity between the haves and have-nots. I think it fits in well with the overall aesthetic of “Process S.”

Musically, “Process S” isn’t so much synthwave as it is an actual cyberpunk album. The album sounds sleek and clean, but there is also an organic element to what Replicant 69 is accomplishing here. This especially shines through with “Hearts of Darkness.” It’s satisfying to hear the forward mechanical momentum of a song written completely in a DAW being pulled apart at the seams by a stand-offish, humanized guitar lead. Replicant 69 creates balance through this type of conflict in their music a lot.

For Westerners, there was a time not too long ago where it felt like the end of the world was happening everywhere else. The truth of the matter is that it’s pretty apparent the end of the world is happening everywhere—all the time. There is a sad tension in the air nowadays that just begs to be articulated through art. Replicant 69 recognizes this, and it really comes through in their sound.

Replicant 69 makes heavy use of reverb, arpeggios, and pads to create great space in their music. This isn’t really music to dance to, but rather something to put on in the background while you chill out after a hard day at the office. Overall, I think that with a few tweaks this album could be soundtrack worthy. At times, I felt that the drums should’ve been a little more dry, and the guitar leads a little lower in volume, but these two things didn’t get in the way of me enjoying “Process S.” Listening to this album was a joy—sort of like taking a leisurely walk through a neon-lit dystopia where the sun has died.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Folks who like futuristic sounding music. People who want something to chill out to.

Stand-Out Tracks: “We Sell Hope,” “Day Dreams,” “Social Timing,” and “Hearts of Darkness” (favorite track)

Album Color Profile: #AD1457

You can find all things Replicant 69 at https://replicant69.bandcamp.com

Dark Smoke Signal is the synthwave project of UK producer Alex Pope. “The Antipope Resurrection” is his latest LP and was released March 20th 2020.

The cover art by Paul Harding is one part Blade Runner, one part Dimmu Borgir. It features an image of what I’m assuming is the “Antipope” standing amidst a dystopian city, a burning church, and piles of skulls. Despite the cover art’s dark tone, it’s very tongue in cheek, coming off as a playful hyperbole that intersects the supernatural with the forces of death, destruction, and technology.

Dark Smoke Signal boasts a sound that’s somewhat familiar to early Perturbator, Carpenter Brut, and We are Magonia. The biggest difference, at least to me, was how far Dark Smoke Signal leans into an anti-christian aesthetic over one that is more horror-oriented. If Carpenter Brut is like the movie “Halloween,” then Dark Smoke Signal is like the anime “Hellsing.” Regardless, I grew up listening on a loop Cradle of Filth—so I eat this shit up.

Musically, “The Antipope Resurrection” is headbangingly good. The songs are well crafted with an audible low end that serves as the foundation for the album. This is accentuated with sawtooth leads, orchestral sounding interludes, and a healthy amount of audio sampling. All of these things come together driving forward the album’s menacing atmosphere. There’s a lot of cinematic melodrama here that will appeal to anyone into dark sounding music.

“Priest Runner” was a title that made my corpse-painted inner child smile with glee. It plays on the Blade Runner idea, only instead of replicants we’re hunting priests. The song itself has a wonderful intro featuring a very Vangelis like atmosphere. The glitch sound in the song’s intro reminds me of something you might see in a movie trailer (see Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and Blade Runner for an example). “Priest Runner” fucking slams and is my second favorite track from the album.

My favorite track from “The Antipope Resurrection” is “Tearing the Wings off an Angel.” It is an absolute anthem straight out of the 1980s that needs to be on your Spotify playlist TODAY. I love it so much that it might just be one of my favorite songs ever. The vocals are so catchy that they give me goosebumps.

I think that the album would’ve benefited more by opening with “Priest Runner,” “Burn the Vatican” or “Chaotic Pendulum” as opposed to “Ad Infernum Crowley Diabolus.” “Ad Infernum Crowley Diabolus,” leans very heavily on a distorted bass rhythm that is almost exactly identical to Carpenter Brut’s “Roller Mobster,” (both songs are also in G major). I mean, I get it—opening the album with a banger is a good artistic choice. But for how creative Dark Smoke Signal was on the rest of the album, I think that putting this as the first song on the album is distracting. Maybe it would’ve been better as a bonus track.

Overall, Dark Smoke Signal has made one hell of a darksynth album. It’s certainly one of the best that I’ve heard this year. It isn’t easy to make a full-length that sounds, feels, and bangs as good as this one. I can foresee “The Antipope Resurrection” being in my regular rotation of music for years to come. I look forward to hearing what Dark Smoke Signal does next.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Anyone into Perturbator, Carpenter Brut, We Are Magonia, and Gost.

Stand-out tracks: “Tearing the Wings Off an Angel” (MUST LISTEN, this is truly a remarkable track), “Priest Runner,” “Burn the Vatican,” “Chaotic Pendulum.”

Album Color Profile: #512E5F

You can find all things Dark Smoke Signal at https://darksmokesignal.bandcamp.com/

Void Stare is a cyberpunk influenced dark synth project from Australia. It features the vocalist from Brisbane’s black ambient metallers Spire. “Zero One” tells the tale of an “omniprescent dark force” that either traverses through or exists simultaneously in multiple locations. These locations in “Zero One” are all cyberpunk or science fiction related. Each one is given a track, which is a really cool idea for a concept album. It reminds me a bit of the Loc-Nar from the movie Heavy Metal (1981).

The first time I spun “Zero One” I didn’t get it. And I suspect that the majority of people who give this album a go will be in the same boat. THAT SAID–“Zero One” isn’t your garden variety type of darksynth that exploits the listener by using major scales or their relative minor scales to inject the music with “feels.” This album is purposely engineered with the intention of satisfying listeners looking to be confronted with something a little different.

For the most part, “Zero One” is instrumental with the exception of two really cool moments with “Soldier (A Martian Death)” and “Seethe (Trapped in Obsidian Eyes).” Other songs like “Crusader (Perfect Heresy Machine) feature what sounds like Mongolian throat singing. Structurally, all of the songs are fully fleshed out explorations that avoid using the traditional verse, prechourus, chorus structure. There’s a noise element to this album that adds to the album’s atmosphere. At times, “Zero One” reminded me a lot of the live action Ghost in the Shell (2017) soundtrack, but I think it tends to be a bit more bleak. Other times I felt small traces of Tangerine Dream (think “Phaedra” and “Rubycon”) sneak into Void Stare’s work. Keep in mind though that this has a more postmodern sound to it production wise.

“Zero One” is sophisticated darksynth in the same way that Emperor’s “IX Equilibrium” is sophisticated black metal. You are going to hear something new every time you give this album a spin. With that in mind—ask yourself: how many darksynth artists are capable of creating a similar experience?

Overall, Void Stare isn’t in the business of creating music that is easy to listen to. Don’t expect bass drops with “Zero One.” This is NOT a melodic, lead driven dark synth album. The first couple of times I listened to “Zero One” I missed so many small details that make this release really fucking good. It is an album that will attack any preconceptions of what you’d like to think darksynth should sound like. “Zero One” has a challenging repertoire of songs that are dangerously catchy once you are prepared to understand exactly what it is that it is doing.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Listeners who want to be challenged, folks who like something a little darker, people who like music that takes risks.

Stand-out tracks: “Rachel (Suffer by Design)” (aka the fucking best track, I love this one), “Decomissioned (Abandon the Protodome),” “Tannhauser Gate (N6maa10816),” “Crusader (Perfect Heresy Machine)”

Album Color Profile: #C62828

Synthia is a multi-genre electronic project from Cheltenham in the UK. I first came across Synthia earlier this year while cruising the Twitter-verse for something new to listen to. Synthia has released a three singles and two full-lengths this year. Talk about busy! I’ll be reviewing their second full-length entitled “First of Us.”

The cover of “First of Us” features some pixel art of an android that is very reminiscent of early 1990s SNES visuals. The android appears to be making some kind of vogue pose amidst a backdrop of a 1980s motif of pastel colored lasers. If Isaac Asimov and Olivia Newton John decided to collaborate on artwork together it would probably look something like this. I quite enjoy it.

Musically, I find “First of Us” to be fascinating. It is very…unique. I’m not sure whether this is a function of the production method that was used to create these songs or what. “First of Us” has an airy grit to it that make little ghosts come out of the speakers on my stereo. This is probably because many of the sounds on this album sit within the 1kHz to 5kHz range (or higher).

There are elements of Synthwave that show up in Synthia’s work but I also think that it has a more postmodern feel to it. I think this is a function of how it is musically arranged. “First of Us” wasn’t produced to sound like it came from 1980s despite having some similar sounds which intersect with that era. A lot of the drums sound like an Oberheim DX which are undoubtedly 80s sounding, but the low end sounds more modern on most of the tracks. The only exception I found to this was in the song “Lucid” which has a more traditional Synthwave tone to it. Even then, I feel like “Lucid” has more in common with music that would’ve been written on the YM2612 for the Megadrive rather than a song that might show up on “Miami Vice.” The pads that Synthia use to create space feel confined in a way that reminds me of pop from the early 1990s. The mids in this recording are akin to late 90s. There’s also an early 2000s EDM feel to aspects of “First of Us” giving it a crunchy bitcrushed sound.

Overall, “First of Us” is like a mash up between 90s video game/chiptune music, Synthwave, and something else. I can’t put my finger on it. After listening to it several times over the last week it really grew on me. I think if you’re feeling adventurous and want to listen to something completely different than the norm, Synthia is worth checking out. I really enjoyed the hell out of this one once I got to know it.

RECOMMENDED FOR: People looking for something a little different, fans of Chiptune, Synthwave, and EDM might find something to love here.

Stand-out tracks: “Darkwave,” “Transistor,” “Lucid,” and “Slasher” (ARE YOU NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD UNDER THERE–LIKE ALL BLOODY VEINS AND PUS?).

Album Color Profile: #6666FF

Elay Arson is the synth metal project of Daniel David Larson and Devin Harrison. I first became aware of them back in 2017 with the release of their album “Rites of the Damned.” “Dusk Incarnate” is their latest album, featuring twelve tracks of synth metal goodness. It was released in early February. “Dusk Incarnate” has not only helped to solidify Elay Arson’s presence in the Synthwave community but it has also helped to propel them to new heights outside of it. The stunning cover art work is by the illustrious Mizucat who’s done more than her fair share of work for the community over the last few years.

“Dusk Incarnate” is a concept album that leans hard into showing how heavy metal and synthwave can work together. If I had to explain this in an analogy, where Cradle of Filth combines the music of Hammer Horror with Black Metal, Elay Arson combines Carpenter Brut with Industrial Metal. While most of the songs on “Dusk Incarnate” comfortably combine both styles together, some are were written to highlight one aspect of Elay Arson’s personality. “Highway Machine Gun Fight,” for instance, sounds much more industrial influenced, whereas “Switchblades” is more of a traditional dark synth track. From the get-go “Dusk Incarnate” opens up with an 80s style dialogue scrawl that talks about an EMP weapon in the body of a sexbot. If she explodes it’s all over for Megacity.

In general, “Dusk Incarnate” is a very fresh sounding album. There’s a good deal of variation here. I can tell that a lot of attention was given to the overall arrangement of the tracks. The implementation of live drums on this album was a big surprise. I feel that it adds humanity to the music. It’s really hard for me to pick a favorite moment on the album, there are so many high points. As somebody who has a lot of nostalgia for the sound Cradle of Filth had on “Total Fucking Darkness,” I think “EMP Blast” stands out a lot to me. It has a similar dingy atmosphere that sounds romantic to my ears. I love it. “Killer Intent” is by far my favorite track to feature vocalist Megan McDuffee. This is a really polished song with outstanding lyrics. I think that this song can stand on its own two legs against big boys like Perturbator and Carpenter Brut. The first time I heard it, I was absolutely blown away. If you haven’t listened to “Dusk Incarnate” yet, start there.

My favorite track off of “Dusk Incarnate” is “Laser Castle.” It has a solemn postpunk tone to it that feels just right within the context of the rest of the album. It’s an absolute delight to hear Nova and the Ghost return on this track. Additionally, there was something about the way the lyrics were arranged to fit the music that really connected with me:

“As you turn your gaze
Your facade begins to fade
You can’t let your people
See you crying that way.”

Daniel Larson is an absolute songsmith. His greatest strength lies in his willingness to show his vulnerability. Delivering this message through Nova’s voice only reconfirms this willingness. I love when artists do this type of thing, which one of the reasons “Laser Castle” stands out so much.

Overall, “Dusk Incarnate” is a fantastic album that does everything correctly while breaking all of the rules. This isn’t metal. This isn’t synthwave. It’s something else entirely. Call it synthmetal or metalwave—all I know is that I like it. I can’t wait to hear what Elay Arson does next.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of Synthwave, Fans of Metal, Fans of Music.

Stand-out tracks: “Laser Castle,” “Killer Intent,” “Switchblades,” “EMP Blast,” and “Cocaine Nightmare.”

Album Color Profile: #FFCCFF

You can find everything Elay Arson at https://elayarson.bandcamp.com/