Draven is the horrorsynth project of producer Deamien Raven. Draven hails from Greece, though I’m not sure that he’s telling the truth. I know the actual Truth. With a capital ‘T.’ The Truth is that Draven hails from the blackest, bloodiest, most fiery pit in the Seventh circle of Hell. Believe me. Have a listen to Draven’s work and you’ll quickly understand. Draven doesn’t release just music. Draven releases danger. And goddamn if I love when music feels dangerous.

Making his debut in the horrorsynth scene in mid-2020 with the single “Vigilante,” Draven first came onto the scene proper with his debut EP, aptly named “EP I” in February of 2021. This was quickly followed up with “EP II” in April of 2021. Draven’s first official full-length, entitled “Abyssal Arcana” will be released on April 29th, 2022.

The artwork for “Abyssal Arcana” was created by Serhiy Krykun who hails from Ukraine. Krykun’s artwork is the perfect companion to Draven’s work. It is violent, visceral, and somewhat campy. It very much reminds me of the character Eddie of Iron Maiden fame.

“Abyssal Arcana” is a concept album of sorts complete with a back story. Abyssal Arcana” takes place in a city called “Necropolis” overrun with “VampZ” which I’m assuming is some kind of vampire zombie hybrid. The antihero, Deamien Raven, is apparently incredibly chapped by the way the clergy of Necropolis treated him while he was in custody. Now he wants a few thousand pounds of flesh as well as some answers which can only be found in a heretical text known only as the “Abyssal Arcana.” If you’re confused, don’t feel bad. The story is used as a framing device to set the atmosphere of the album, and to be honest, it’s fitting. It’s a bit too gory for my tastes, but I definitely think it’s a neat concept that gave me something to hold onto whilst listening to “Abyssal Arcana.” I feel like the entire premise would make a cool video game in the style of Bloodborne or Soul Reaver.

So what does “Abyssal Arcana” sound like? Well, “Abyssal Arcana” sounds like violence.

As a whole, “Abyssal Arcana” is a horror soundtrack that doesn’t let up. This is the kind of music that sounds like an axe murderer chasing someone down a bloodstained hall of pure noxious Evil. Cardio amirite?

The album opens up with “Forgive Me Father…” This short–story driven piece serves as the intro to the entire album. And goddamn if it isn’t creepy as all Hell. Next up is “The Horrifying Autopsy of Daemian Raven.” It opens with some real “Cruelty and the Beast” (Cradle of Filth) string acrobatics, and quickly degenerates into a darksynth vibe broken up by some unpredictable breaks. When the piano kicks in, I picture Daemian getting dissected. There is some cool use of sidechaining towards the end of the song that breaks up the visuals evoked leading into the next track entitled, “Cauchemar Noir” (“Black Nightmare). Immediately, theremin samples and a very John Carpenter piano vibe a la “Halloween” enters the fray. The thing I really like about what Draven does here is his ability to break up typical darksynth monotony with cinematic flourishes. It causes an unsettling feeling when the beat kicks back in. Again, I can’t help but think about earlier works of Cradle of Filth and Hecate Enthroned with the choices made in how the string sections are presented here.

“Silver Coffin” begins the next phase of “Abyssal Arcana” with a slow intro, and begins pumping shortly thereafter. Out of all the songs presented thus far, “Silver Coffin” feels like the most traditional horrorsynth track of the bunch. It’s very straight-forward, and when turned up to maximum volume, the kick drum feels like someone is actively trying to break into your brain cavity. I think that “Silver Coffin” is an easy shoe-in for horrorsynth curators and aficionados. This one is for the playlists.

Draven may be violent but he also like to give advice–he recommends that “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things” on the next track. This one opens with a piano intro, and some real disturbing horns to accentuate that someone is fucking coming for you. The track then speeds up a bit, kick-starting the horror all over again. I particularly enjoy the choice of plunky bass here. It fits well into the mix amidst the Darksynth grind. The high end of this song is occupied by strings etc. There’s a pretty cool break at around 1:55 that eventually goes into some choir and church bell exploration. The break is bookended by a groove and the theremin, looping back to darksynthy goodness rounding out the track.

“Abyssal Arcana” isn’t without guest appearances. Dav Dralleon contributed to the next track entitled “BloodGod.” The intro to this one reminds me of Fleshgod Apocalypse. Bells, choirs, strings, and epic orchestral percussion are again the weapon of choice for Draven. This feels like the most cinematic track on the album as a result. When the bass drops on this one I felt like I was going to have a heart attack. It actually scared the shit out of my yorkie Bella. I felt like the mix on this song was perfect. My earholes thoroughly enjoyed the masterful use of stereo magic here. This is another tremendous track that would fit well on playlists.

“Demonic Incantation Blues” breaks up the aggression with another slow intro, and a swell that breaks off into some ride cymbal fun and also something (a noise) that sounded like a cow being slaughtered. The slow break here instead of a bass drop was a welcome rest from the murder festival that came before it. “Demonic Incantation Blues” is the kind of song that would fit well in a horror movie trailer. Where “Silver Coffin” felt more like traditional horrorsynth, this one breaks the mold.

“Impalement and the Brazen Bull” is another trailer worthy track. The sidechain aggression doesn’t kick in until about 1:27. This one had so many elements to it that it was hard to keep up with. I like some of the tape stop effects here used to to transition from one thought to another. The groove that starts up at 2:39 reminds me of drum and bass.

Up next, “A Horrorsynth Symphony.” A detuned bellish pluck, the theremin, and strings greeted me like a cenobite slowing crawling down a dank-ass hallway. This song lives up to it’s title by exploring more orchestral sounding strings in the breaks. “A Horrorsynth Symphony” illustrates how playing with different tempos and musical dynamics can make a seemingly short track feel long.

“The Conjuring” features one of my favorite people in the synthfam, CONNÖR. The quite bass break at 1:28 was the coolest part of this track. Actually, I take that back, the combination of that riff with the piano break at 2:27 was the coolest part because of where “The Conjuring” takes us starting at 3:00. The subtle quiet spoken vocals here were a nice little surprise.

“The Intimate Portrait of the Devil” makes liberal use of ride cymbals at the beginning following another intro. This track is formulaic of the stuff that came before it, but it’s still a rocker. The subtle note bends on the lower end here in conjunction with the string section and theremin are quite fresh. One of my favorite parts of the entire album begins at 3:00 with a romantic orchestral exploration that makes me feel like I’m a kid again trying to hide my black metal albums from my dad. What would horrorsynth be without a little nostalgia?

“Le Vampire du Grand Guignol” is fiery from the start, and also has a slight romantic feel to it. I would be willing to wager that the romance isn’t for another person. Daemien Raven only romances other people if it’s with a drill. BY THE WAY, I AM IN LOVE WITH THE PIANO BREAK HERE. Goddamn is it dreamy. The darksynth break in the second half is extremely black and white and bare bones. I feel like the way this one was mixed in the beginning was slightly different to how it sounded at the end.

SPEAKING OF DRILLS…the final track of “Abyssal Arcana” has a real Cannibal Corpse kind of title–“Exsanguinated with a Drill.” This is a forward moving track that really lives up to it’s name. There are a combination of sounds shortly after the intro that evokes the feeling of multiple drills spinning. Like “The Horrifying Autopsy of Daemian Raven” this song rounds out this horrifying album quickly and to the point.

One of my only critiques of “Abyssal Arcana” lie in the drum fills. Many feel similar, especially during the more driving parts of the album. The only other thing I had hoped for out of “Abyssal Arcana” was a track with some sung vocals. Even if it was just one. Maybe some Suicide Commando aggrotech vocals or something. That said, I don’t think vocals would’ve fit very easy into any of the tracks presented here. There’s definitely a lot going on, and vocals definitely need space.

Critiques aside, I fucking love this album. Like love, love. I appreciate all of the hard work that was put into this beast. I know that it wasn’t easy, and it deserves to be appreciated. “Abyssal Arcana” isn’t for everyone, and it definitely isn’t an album most would find relaxing, but some of us psychos do. I highly recommend checking this one out if you like having long strolls in morgues, talking to the dead, or playing Doom and just need something to vibe to.

Stand-out tracks: “BloodGod (feat. Dav Dralleon),” “Cauchemar Noir,” and “Le Vampire du Grand Guignol”

Recommended for: horrorsynth fans, axe murderers, and Michael Myers.

Album Color Profile: BLOOD SHOWER RED

Dimi Kaye needs no introduction to those of us familiar with the indie Synthwave scene. Hailing from Greece, Dimi Kaye has been producing all things retro since 2015. Dimi Kaye is a frequent flyer when it comes to sick guitar collabs, my favorite being the fabulous Team Sweatwave which arrived just in time for the lost Summer of 2020. His latest solo effort is a four track EP entitled “Mechanical Psyche.” It was released on October 15th, 2020.

The cover image for “Mechanical Psyche” was illustrated by artist Alex Delgado. It features what appears to be some kind of skinless pleasure model leaning up against an automobile surrounded on all sides by brush and overgrowth. A city lies in the background which seems to insinuate that upon leaving it, the android lost it’s ability to continue surviving. In Dimi Kaye’s cyberpunk world it would seem that free-range androids are uncommon outside of city limits. I quite like the color scheme, I think that the blue fits in well with the vibe going on with this EP. I also like the android’s soul leaving it’s body in the form of ghostly butterflies.

The first two things I should note about “Mechanical Psyche” is:

  1. It is entirely instrumental.
  2. It is also completely devoid of guitar. Which is weird because Dimi Kaye, at least for me is a name I associate with guitar.

Looking back at Dimi Kaye’s backlog, he’s no stranger to instrumental music. Surprisingly, he is also no stranger to creating music without guitar. In fact, his first album, “Dream Sequencer” is very similar to “Mechanical Psyche” in both respects, and honestly, it wouldn’t be until the release of his “Shadow Run” single that we would get a preview of the guitar centered sound we got with his more recent work. So before anyone says, “HEY DIMI, WHERE THE GUITAR AT?” know that Dimi Kaye doesn’t limit himself when it comes to writing the music he wants to hear.

In talking a little bit to Dimi about “Mechanical Psyche” it is an EP that is conceptually based on a poem he penned way back in 2007. The poem reads like this:

“Leveling cold machines to independent status
Giving birth to artificial intelligence
That distant future is closing fast

Like a mirror reflects vanity of man
A new species is being born by metal
Factories carry children with iron flesh

In the years to come
Mankind’s hope should come down to this
That though nature of man is violent and merciless
Mechanical Psyche will be more compassionate.”

When I read this for the first time, my initial thought was “wow, how can machines be more compassionate than humans?” And then the ugly truth hit me. I think it’s safe to assume that machines have an exacting, cold, logical, analytical, black and white, perception of the world around them. And to suggest that speculative A.I.s still have more compassion than humans despite all of that is a wild idea. In so many words, this poem basically frames how incredibly fucked up humans can be to one another. Going into “Mechanical Psyche” without considering the finer details of why it was written the way it was. Dimi told me that he intentionally “wanted an artificial/electronic sound to go with it, just like an android would be.” That makes sense to me.

So after all this pretense, how does “Mechanical Psyche” sound? Well, it reminds me of a moody 80s synth based soundtrack. I tend to think it’s a little more Tangerine Dream than John Carpenter, and a little more John Carpenter than it is Jan Hammer. This isn’t an EP about sunsets and beaches after all. It’s very apparent from the getgo that “Mechanical Psyche” is an arpeggio leaden cyberpunk/sci-fi sort of mini-album. “Viral Vector” shows off a little bit of everything here, featuring some Juno 60 vibes in nearly every aspect of its sound design. “Soul Transduction” follows similarly, although where “Viral Vector” sounds much more threatening and dangerous, “Soul Transduction” has a shroud of mystery around it’s sound. It’s simple and straight forward with a calm beat that never fully builds up (by design). This is only further enhanced due to the absence of a snare drum until a little after three minutes into the track. “Takwin” is the most VGM sounding track of the bunch, giving me some old Command and Conquer vibes. It’s a track that fills my mind with anxiety. There’s also a neat exploration element to “Takwin” that feels like endless leaving. The final track “Mechanical Psyche” is the most cinematic song of the bunch. Like, visually it feels like listening to a sun that will never rise. There’s also some atmospheric movement going on with the first bit of the track that reminds of driving through a dimly lit highway on a lukewarm autumn evening.

My final impressions are this: I don’t think there’s anything here that we haven’t heard before. That said, when considering Dimi Kaye as an artist, where he’s taken us in the past, and comparing this all of that, I think that “Mechanical Psyche” is well worth a listen. I think that this not only shows Dimi Kaye’s artistic range expanding, it also shows how he’s grown as an artist on a technical level. The production quality isn’t super high-tech but it doesn’t have to be. Everything is clear, concise, and right where it needs to be. I gave this one quite a few spins in the last week, and I think you might too if you give it a listen. “Mechanical Psyche” is calm, atmospheric, and full of forward motion that makes me excited to see where Dimi Kaye plans on taking us next.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of Synthwave, Outrun, and Cyberpunk centered music.

Stand-out tracks, “Viral Vector,” and “Mechanical Psyche.”

Album Color Profile: #00796B

You can find all things Dimi Kaye at https://dimikaye.bandcamp.com/