Jesus, the devil is so hot right now. Whether it’s in TV, movies, books, and now music, Satan has been all over the media lately, especially relating to the classic epic poem Paradise Lost. The tale of Beelzebub’s fall from Heaven and eventual rise from the lake of fire has recaptured our imagination lately, for good reason. It’s still ripe for interpretation. Synthwave has also been on fire lately. What was an underground favorite has come to light thanks to the wonderfulStranger Things soundtrack. The style takes the suspenseful foreboding of 80s horror soundtracks and merges that with Daft Punk, new wave, and house-style electro bangers. Also, and what has led to its popularity among the underground, synthwave often employs a metal aesthetic, with darkness and electro-fied riffing adding to make for a delightfully heavy and loud listen.
So that leaves us with an unholy beautiful marriage between Lucifer and synthwave, and what better vessel to tackle this project than GosT. I loved his (I think it’s a he, as GosT’s identity is cloaked in mystery) debut, which showcased how he carved (pun intended) his own niche in synthwave called slasherwave. GosT’s style adds influence from the band Justice, as well as dubstep and rave to create a sound that’s the most bombastic and pure fun in the genre. GosT is best at fun moments more than songs, much like metal really, so creating a concept album is definitely a particular challenge for the one man band. How does Non Paradisi fare, then?
Non Paradisi fares quite well, thankfully, and it’s mostly because GosT clearly worked to expand his sound away from huge, swelling songs to a sound that makes sense in terms of a complete narrative. Initially, it feels like GosT has diluted down what he does best, since this isn’t quite as heavy of a record; however, GosT’s main feature is his appreciation of abrasive tones and off-kilter melodies. This album has that in spades, but they aren’t as obvious as before. Songs like “Commencement”, “I Am Abbadon”, and “Maleficarum” are prime examples of how GosT can be just as bombastic as before while exhibiting a little more sonic restraint.
Non Paradisi is an eerily melodic listen, and that appears to be on purpose. The record features three excellent guests that all sing in odd harmony with the underlying music. The result is something utterly off-putting and hypnotic in a good way. It all comes across as mesmeric and evil, and given the story, that makes sense. Despite the darkness in the music, Non Paradisi is just as fun a listen as Behemoth was. Songs like “Supreme” and “4th” are almost Perturbator-like at times in their retro-futurist feel. Of course, GosT injects just enough evil into everything that he really has become the master of darkness in synthwave.
Ultimately, Non Paradisi is a better record that Behemoth; however, there’s little doubt that long-time fans will be initially disappointed in how subdued the record feels. Small portions of a couple songs feel a bit too much like Perturbator, but since he’s the real master of synthwave, it’s not like those sections are weak or disappointing. The only major weakness is “Unum Infermum”, which serves a necessary storytelling piece, but it’s a tad too drawn out. Otherwise, that’s it. In crafting an album around a narrative, GosT was able to further find his voice, and it’s here to spread the word of Satan on the blood-drenched dance floor. He’s created his best work yet and a real achievement in the synthwave world. Sure, it’s sometimes campy and caustic, but that’s expected and a sign that GosT didn’t lose his personality or charm just by expanding his scope.