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Album Review: If I Could Kill Myself – Ballad of the Broken

Formed as a side project by Dennis MIkula of the infamously controversial Ghost Bath, If I Could Kill Myself is a rather fascinating entry in the world of depressive suicidal black metal. The melancholic ambiance and lo-fi aesthetics are rather typical but there is also a degree of stylistic experimentation not commonly found in the genre. Unfortunately, the execution on If I Could Kill Myself’s debut is just as shoddy as the cringeworthy band title and ridiculous song titles would suggest.

The production and musicianship on Ballad of the Broken is absolutely terrible, even by bedroom black metal standards. The guitar tone aims for a brightness similar to Ghost Bath (And Deafheaven by extension) but the complete lack of bottom end in combination with a poor mix results in a grating attempt at fuzz that is often indistinct from a Fisher Price keyboard. In addition, the drums are as sloppily played and mechanical as they are buried in the mix and the vocals are a series of amateurish wails without the odd charm of a group like Silencer. It’s especially odd when you consider that Ghost Bath had much better production quality even in its own one-man days.

But when an album like this sets out to be such a sad listen, what really ends up being sad is that there are some potentially interesting ideas here. The guitar and piano solo pieces like the title track and keyboard prominence on tracks like “Escapism or Death” are intriguing, even if the production makes said keys sound overbearingly cutesy. There’s even some interesting genre flirtation as “Coward” would actually make an interesting electronic track with better production, an actual structure, and somebody like Attila Csihar behind it.

But whenever there is a promising sound set up, the songwriting method tends to nip it in the bud pretty quickly. Haphazard structures will often ruin a song if the incompetent performances haven’t already done so, as the transitions between different segments are either poorly written or horribly executed. It’s especially evident on “I’m Just Not Worth It” and “I Hate Myself” where the drums stop in a way that suggests a dramatic pause but sounds more like they stopped out of confusion.

If I Could Kill Myself isn’t clichéd enough to serve as a perfect strawman for stereotypically bad black metal, but Ballad of the Broken is another example of the genre at its worst. Any potential found in these songs is squandered by poor structuring and poorer performances and the level of badness isn’t even that humorous as much as just perplexing. I can hope that If I Could Kill Myself improves in the future (A name change would be a nice start) but even if you’re just looking for weird lo-fi outsider art, there’s much more entertaining stuff out there.

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