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Review: Remains - The Haunted House
The Haunted House

Label: Black Aria
Year released: 2002
Duration: 38:47
Tracks: 9
Genre: Black Metal

Rating: 4.5/5

Review online: August 15, 2022
Reviewed by: Mjölnir
Readers Rating
The Haunted House

Rated 4/5 (80%) (5 Votes)

Author’s Note: The band name, album title, and song names are originally written in Korean. Adding these characters to the reviews is difficult due to how they are processed on our webmaster’s end, and suffering his unstoppable wrath is not in my job description, so I have decided to go with the translations I could find via Google Translate. Apologies to anyone who has to reverse engineer all that to find anything from this band, and to anyone who speaks Korean reading this that notice my inevitable translation fuck ups (for example, the actual band name has several translations, but I went with Remains because it appears to fit the general themes of the album the most).

It’s not really uncommon for great Metal bands to have started when the members were in or barely out of their teenage years, but it always ends up surprising me how much they accomplished when all I did in my teens was watch porn and fail to process trauma. Remains are another one of these acts, started by sole member Pyha when he was roughly 13 and releasing their debut, A Haunted House, back in 2002 when he was only 15. While not held to the same luminary status as bands like Xasthur and Bethlehem, Remains have a strong following that tends to claim them as an unjustly overlooked act in DSBM, and after listening to this a dozen times in a week, I’m inclined to agree.

This project has all the expected trappings of your standard DSBM act, from the minimalistic songwriting to the droning, encompassing guitar work to the heavily distorted howls of torment that tie it all together. The only real difference between this and most other bands in the style is that rather than going for a merely misanthropic or despairing atmosphere, Pyha injects dark ambient sensibilities into his work to make an atmosphere that can only be called suffocating. The blaring, overwhelming guitar crashes of the brief intro leading into the dragging nightmare of the three-part "The Tale of the Haunted House" sets the stage better than anything, with songwriting that treats its instruments and vocals not as individual pieces, but instead components of a compressed wall of sound that evokes the same feelings of isolation and terror that Asian horror stories excel at creating. There are more atmospheric tracks like the haunting "Song of Oldman" with its ghostly moans and somber pace and the ending bonus tracks which are much closer to ambient than anything else, and even some interludes meant to resolve tension before strangling the listener with it again, most notably between "Prelude to Tremendous Sadness" and the claustrophobic album highlight "The End of Ruins," so this release generally avoids the plodding trap of many DSBM acts through a better understanding of mood than most can muster and just enough variety to sustain it.

With all that praise, I will say that the music can sometimes drag and lose some of its venomous bite, but these moments are closer to a false sense of relief before confronting terror once more than true flaws, so I can’t hold it against the music too much. I’m not familiar with Pyha’s later works, so I have no idea if he was able to keep the momentum going in his career, but A Haunted House stands as a singular achievement in a genre often clogged with whining wannabes that lack the honesty needed to truly evoke the dread and despair that the genre demands. Highly recommended.

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