Draven – Abyssal Arcana
This review was commissioned through Ko-fi. However, it bears no weight on the score or decision. All reviews are written from an unbiased standpoint.
Draven is the alias of Greek producer and horror enthusiast Deamien Raven. His bio is simple enough as it declares his love of horror books, movies, music, as well as metal music. Based out of Athens, Greece, his line of work includes his impressive discography as well as composing music for video games and horror movie soundtracks. While the humble producer releases his music, it’s a shame that his music doesn’t have further reach as what I’ve experienced on “Abyssal Arcana” is a horrifying thrill ride under the guise of horrorsynth.
‘Forgive Me Father…’ is a cinematic introductory piece that would have the average listener thinking that Draven’s latest work is a dark ambient album. Draven confesses his sins to a priest and, well, things don’t go exactly as planned. The one-minute and forty-second piece sets up the story a bit but was otherwise unnecessary.
Following this we get into the meat of the album with “The Horrifying Autopsy of Deamien Raven”. Immediately, I was thrust into a horror filled darksynth album. Whereas some producers like to throw around the term “horrorsynth” lightly, Draven takes that term to heart and generally creates a dancefloor album that’s suited for a blood-soaked Halloween evening. The beats are crisp and clean and production is top notch – something that remains throughout the entirety of the album. This is also due in part to Draven enlisting Frank Sinistra and Louis De Funeste of We Are Magonia for mixing and mastering. This first song on the album has so many staples of horror films from reversed sounds, creepy piano notes, warped film, and the like. It was an absolute pleasure on the first run and hasn’t worn down me a bit.
Intense choral effects and organ brings me into ‘Cauchemar Noir’. John Carpenter-esque piano strokes decorate the single before I am hit into a slower paced macabre dance into the night. Listening to this song transports me back to my childhood as I sat in front of my parents’ CRTV with a bucket full of popcorn on a cool Fall evening, watching whatever trash horror film came up next. It’s brilliant in the fact that Draven’s able to ramp up the tension and bring it back down repeatedly, showcasing an expertise in suspense – something that a lot of horrorsynth producers fail to capture. ‘Silver Coffin’ comes in next and serves as pretty straightforward dancefloor number. Nonetheless, the howling winds and piano chords that occasionally breakup the madness brings to light moonlit nights where all sorts of creepy crawlers are out in full force.
Dark and dreary piano, like those found within haunted houses, play out in the intro of ‘Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things’. This slow trickle leaves my hair sticking up on the back of my neck from both aural pleasure and the terrifying nature of it. Organ like-synths dominate the track as danceable synth pads lead the charge for the song – like a black horse galloping through the night. As a church bell rings, only one thing can be certain. That certainty is that Draven has partnered with another equally powerful force to bring us further into his ominous playground. That force is fellow darksynth producer Dav Dralleon. Bringing in incredibly crunchy synths, Draven and Dav Dralleon absolute crush ‘BloodGod’ to new extremes with exceptional production.
‘Demonic Incantation Blues’ might have you think that Draven would be slowing things down – maybe for a rain-soaked song with a dark ambient atmosphere. Nonetheless, this isn’t the case. Instead, we’re fed a cinematic track that takes huge inspiration from industrial. Deep bass rumbles as the John Carpenter-esque piano brings an element of fright to the single. It’s a surprise to see this technique used on the album and shows off Draven’s ability to bounce between varying electronic genres. After some glitchy electronics and the loading of a cassette tape, ‘Impalement & The Brazen Bull’ bring us back into dancefloor territory that would have Dracula and his minions flying through the night sky. Around the one-minute and fifty-second mark, Draven goes off the wall and creates a glitchy, experimental piece that’s still just as satisfying as the beginning of the track.
‘A Horrorsynth Symphony’ utilized higher pitched violin notes at a rapid pace to create tension before rounding back into a darksynth cacophony of noise. Again, various breaks throughout the song – including a piano solo – are present to make sure nothing ever gets too stale. As if the night was not dark enough, Draven calls upon another unholy friend in the form of fellow darksynth producer CONNÖR. Thus, they explore ‘The Conjuring’ and create an equally blasphemous song. Gripping chainsaw like synths and what sounds almost like a whistle from a human play in the song and continue to create a sound for the perfect Samhain.
As if the corruption of this album wasn’t great enough already, Draven paints “The Intimate Portrait of the Devil’ as his third to last track. What I’m given is another deeply satisfying, almost Victorian gothic electro dance track that’s as every bit as satisfying as it is epic. The second-to-last single gives ode to one of horror’s most notorious villains of all time – the legendary vampire. ‘Le Vampire du Grand Guignol’ sounds off as if a group of adventurers wandered into an abandoned church only to find a forlorn being performing an ancient ritual amongst a cult following. The final song on the album ‘Exsanguinated With A Drill’ brings forth unpleasant thoughts of murder and debauchery. Nonetheless, Draven’s infectious horrorsynth beats hit hard and twirl into my head until they’re stuck forever. A perfect title for such an addictive song – and a perfect and fitting end to an otherwise glorious album.
‘Tis true that I was not a fan of the intro song on “Abyssal Arcana”, but my apathetic nature towards that brief one-minute and forty-six second piece is all but miniscule in comparison to my absolute love and adoration for the rest of Draven’s masterpiece. Seldom do I get a horrorsynth album that can both sound off as an excellent dancefloor crusher while maintaining the essence of horror, the macabre, and the fright so many of us look for. It’s even rarer when a producer is able to do it without sounding like the heaps and heaps of other bedroom producers that are currently scattered in the darksynth arena. Nonetheless, Draven proves that with ingenuity and a decent crew, grand and impossible things can happen. Nine out of ten.