Eternal Death is a serious band name; foreboding. The press photos include one of a hooded, faceless cloaked figure: death incarnate. The promotional video they released in advance of their debut album is four minutes of blackness and silence: death, again. The album is self-titled, emphasizing the phrase “eternal death”. The song titles are single words, helping deliver a sense of grave importance: “Violence”, “Desire”, “Breath”, “Fade”, “Love”, “Body”, “Head”.
Would you expect them to be a Swedish synth-pop duo? Probably not. Musically they fit fairly comfortably into what we think of when we think of Labrador Records. These are bright, dance-pop anthems; radio hits for the radios of someone who lives in a different place or universe than I. Songs I think of as essentially “hits” in other words, even if they won’t literally be hits in a public way.
The duo consists of singer Elin Berlin and Johan Angergard, a Labrador fixture from bands like Acid House Kings, Club 8 and the Legends. It started in conception as a solo project for Angergard, until it mutated into its current incarnation.
The tone of the music at first seems upbeat. But the first song also begins, after some handclaps, with a downcast tone and the lyric, “The death of imagination / Causes some frustration / Only for love.” Berlin’s singing is lovelorn.
So this is dancey synth-pop, but with dark matters in mind, and an overall feeling of desparation. The lyrics focus on obsession, exasperation, worry, loneliness, anger, fire. There’s a recurring feeling that we all feel out of sorts, unsettled, confused. “The place you call reality”, is a phrase in the third song, “Violence”, and you get the sense we will never all agree on what reality is or what life is all about. “Body” centers on the feeling that our mortal vessels will always let us down, and we all always feel uncomfortable in our own skins. “I never asked to be / This thing I came to be,” she sings.
The more you listen the more the imperfections of the music starts to resonate with the uncertainty and existential doom of the lyrics. On several songs the music has a factor’s worth of industrial clatter and clangs within it. Berlin’s singing is often warped or slightly off-track, not perfect even though in others way she sings like a pop idol. “Cry” is the perfect example of a super-pop anthem sung behind a robotic cloud. “Breath” instantly resembles a dance-club anthem, with an instantly gigantic sound, but there’s also cacophony within. “Body” has a similar noisy quality and also resembles a weird duet between Berlin and a cartoon mouse.
Ultimately this is pop music that’s also anti-pop music. It’s consistently accessible and intentionally confusing. Its worldview isn’t nihilistic necessarily—more like cognizant that we will all return to dust soon. The notions of complete blackness, of nothingness, of pointlessness and absolute desperation are all right on the surface, and are wreaking subtle havoc within songs that otherwise are sparkling, happy-faced, beautiful.
// Notes from the Road
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