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Synth EP review: "Chimera" by d.notive and guests

Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.


d.notive’s Chimera is a musically intense journey through a dystopian landscape in which the human race has been decimated by ancient, mythical creatures and is fighting back with a potent mixture of magic and science.

“Forgotten Futures” starts as a shadowy, swirling synth flows into an echoing void and is broken into round, wandering, medium high synth notes that go floating out into open space. The lead synth trumpets and cries out into the open air around it, climbing high to glisten in a before fading into quiet with a tense twist. The track sets the stage for the cyberpunk journey to come.

A hollow, revolving arpeggio spins slowly as shining, trickling synth notes tumble downward through “Chimera” in a fluttering flow. Rough-edged bass drops underneath the track’s open spaces while a trembling drum pattern stutters into the music. Darkness cloaked synth moves and a distant, mournful line of raised notes can be heard as the hollow bass shifts with the driving jump of the drums. Elevated synth surges and trembles while a warmer, higher melodic pattern adds shine as it arcs through.

The drums and bass leap and charge, cut by elevated synth with a brassy flash and undeniable energy as nasal, round synth weaves through. Melissa Medina sings out, voice full of resonant emotion over the throbbing drum pulse. Sweeping, gritty synths float while shining notes trickle through and the hollow drums thud. A guitar solo howls and flies, cascading in a powerfully intertwining melody. Wandering, flying synth adds its own soaring feeling and below it all the weight heaves and charges on. There are layers of sound here, all interlocking and interacting actively.

The narrator talks about how it’s too late for “us” being the human race and how it’s too dangerous because we “don’t know who to trust.” He goes on to say that the world is burning and humans “don’t know your place.” Our narrator points out that the human race is on borrowed time. He urges people to “cast aside your skin” and to be reborn “in the flames.

“Opposite Equals” opens with a smooth, gentle synth that glides to grow in power and volume along with distant drums and shimmering light. Haribol Attitude’s robotic vocals come in over the hopping, stuttering drums and hard-hitting bass pulse. The vocal melody has a funky motion to it as a steady, fluttering glow supports the shivering synth carrying a jazzy, tense melodic line.

Haribol Attitude’s voice is smooth and expressive over the tripping, rippling percussion while medium-low synth forms a steady pattern. The robotized vocals writhe as they unfold, carrying the gliding melody over the richly intermingled sonic background. The deep bass pulse and drums inject the music with dynamism as the song break into an airy flow and tight, digital-sounding notes drift into silence.

This song’s narrator is drawn into a relationship with “the mother of demons.” His story begins as he talks about how he can’t “help but want some” self-destruction. The desire is like a paper cut as he sees “the blood drip from my tongue.” He wants it until it burns “holes into my lungs.” Our narrator admits he has a type and “I go for the crazy” but his lover likes that his “conscience is lazy.”

Excitement fills the narrator as he talks about how she is his “hellfire lover on the daily.” Now he’s been thrown “outta Eden” so he feels like he's lost his soul. He adds that he loses self-control with “the way she dances with me.” He wonders if it’s the way that “fork-tongued, I lie through my teeth” that drew her in.

The chorus compares the attraction to taking a drag of something addictive, saying they can “kick it back” and take it slowly. They both realize that it’s toxic but he knows “when we suffer, only time we feelin' at home.” The narrator points out that love isn’t enough and she “gotta hate me” as he asks if she wants it rough and adds “sink your fangs and sedate me.” He talks about how they’re “hand-cuffed” together as they pull one another down “to Hades.”

In the second verse, he inverts the previous verse as he talks about his lover losing her soul, being thrown out of Eden. He repeats that he “finally found a lover; she’s the mother of demons” and adds that she’s a monster to him and for him.
The second chorus has the narrator reassuring his love that she can take her time because “that's when love finds you, up and away.” He points out that she doesn’t have to “carry it through” and says that they are in harmony as “opposite equals.”

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Our narrator talks about how the angels can “fly and sing sweet lullabies” but together he and his lover will drag them down and “clip all their wings.” As a pair, they are one another’s “bed full of nails…holes in my sails…stone in (your) path…crack in (my) glass.” In the end, he reiterates that she’s a monster to him and for him. He interweaves the comments that their “love is a blade” as they waltz through flames to a “palace in hell” as they both fell down.

The sound of rain and traffic fills the background and twisting, aching synth with a string-like quality winds slowly through to open “After.” d.notive’s voice is dramatically expressive and all the sonic elements echo into open space. The vocal melody itself expresses danger with its minor key shadow. A steady, distant shine rises from the synth and the hint of a drumbeat touches the song.

The massive drums slam into the music with a heavy, slow pulse while a steadily oscillating bass line shifts as d.notive’s vocals soar as darkness pours from them. Elevated synth sparkles with harsh light above the deep heft below it as the drums and bass throb slowly. Medium-high synth carries a desolate and melancholy melody that floats above the heaving weight underneath it. The vocals are tremulous but powerful as smooth, sparkling arpeggios flicker around them.

This song comes from two viewpoints - one of the human who has to be reborn to survive and one from the creature who now reigns over humanity. The first verse is the human saying that “living in this empty world full of dreams and broken promises” he feels an internal stirring. He doesn’t want to “play pretend” while he waits to let the “animal” that lurks in him. The narrator adds that he feels her (the creature) “chanting in my ear” and assuaging his fears “as her skin rips apart my mind.” Our narrator talks about how they’ll make a “sacrificial dance and as one go tearing through the night.”

The second perspective, that of the ancient creature is that humankind will “never realize the greatness they have left behind.” It talks about how humans have built monuments to lay claim to the “same earth” that they’re “preordained” to languish on as the ancient creatures rule. The creature says this has all become clear as “my claws tear through the ground and I move without a sound.”

We return to the human who talks about the future the ancient creatures are creating in which “those like me are killed” and how he’s going to “shed my skin and take the night.” He asks if the creatures will “cower at the sight” of him and even as he rends “flesh limb from limb” and fills “the night with my new hymn” he still feels “sorrow for you all.”

“Retribution” commences as slowly revolving, sharp-edged arpeggios undulate while rough-edged bass growls in expanding bursts and shimmering synth plays a broken pattern. The bass takes on a steady pulsation as a rising high synth line ramps up and smooth, charging drums propel the music onward.

Jangling, spinning notes glitter and a trumpeting synth carries a whirling melody that dervish dances through the music, skipping over the relentlessly pounding beat. Piano-like synth carries a writhing note pattern that unfolds in a energetic line.

There’s a break to slower, gritty synth that calls out with aching power over the heavy surge below it. The melody is propulsive but full of conflicted, hurting emotion as it trips over the slamming groove of the beat and bass. Digital-sounding synth carries the bouncing, lost-sounding melodic line into silence.

A distant, worshipful synth glow rises and chittering sounds float to commence “The Ultimatum.” Carl Skildum’s guitar cries out in arcing notes over the quick twirl of bright arpeggios in the distance, howling upwards while pipe organ notes also yearn and rise. Now The guitar growls and rushes, a fierce charge over the hard-hitting drums and heavy bass.

Elevated synth cries out in a vaulting line high over the ramming, smashing percussion and bass drive as the guitar collides with the music in a harsh wall. The drums batter as the guitar grows warmer, reaching out and tumbling down through the music.

Vocal samples add to the ominous feeling of the track while distant piano plays pattern that cuts in over the waves of rapidly revolving guitar. The bass and drums have a heavy power that smashes while Carl Skildum’s guitar shreds and jumps, unfurling in a charging melodic line that climbs and falls, soaring out over the seething drive far underneath it.

© 2022 Karl Magi

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