Deposed King – One Man’s Grief

Deposed King – One Man’s Grief

One Man’s Grief is the hauntingly atmospheric debut album from Hungarian duo Deposed King, released in January 2023. Its nine tracks carry us on an intense and emotional voyage portraying one man’s passage from birth to death, his fears and struggles, and his ultimate acceptance of his own mortality. This is symbolised as a physical journey from a mystical forest to the vast and mysterious beauty of the open sea. As the track titles suggest, the journey is characterised by contrasts between light and shadow, time and eternity, sound and silence. This is perfectly reflected both in the beautiful cover art and the constantly changing moods and colours of the music, which fuses elements from progressive and post-rock with ambient electronica. Add a touch of metal, a pinch of world music and a splash of laid-back piano jazz and the result is a sonic language that is highly original, varied and immersive.

The standard of musicianship on this album is excellent; most of the instruments are played by Daniel Kriffel (who also created the stunning cover art) and the evocative lyrics are provided by Dominique Király. I would like to give my thanks to Daniel for taking the time to answer my many questions about the album, offering a unique insight into its creation and underlying concepts.

The journey begins with the cinematic First Light, a scene-setter which uses two oscillating chords to create a sense of expectancy, intensified by a mysterious and suspenseful theme, suggesting the sound of a Hungarian cimbalom.

In Caves we are transported to the darker reaches of the human mind. After an opening featuring dissonant pulsing figures on distorted guitar and clashing percussion, an acoustic guitar introduces a melancholy theme featuring bluesy flattened fifths. Harsh whispered vocals and low, echoing piano tones suggest the unseen presence of nightmarish entities lurking in the depths. The remainder of the track is dominated by obsessively repeated melodic and rhythmic patterns creating a sense of claustrophobia, while heavily reverberated electronic blips and spatial effects bounce off the cavern’s darkly glistening surfaces. This is a track to appreciate with closed eyes, a vision of a twilight world on the borderline between imagination and reality, brought to a close by ethereal synthesised strings which hang in the air like mist before fading to silence.

Mellow piano tones and brushed drums transport us seamlessly to the chilled ambience of a jazz bar as Endless Hours unfolds. We are treated to our first taste of Kriffel’s lyrical vocals, very smooth and silky here and somewhat reminiscent of Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt. An instrumental section ensues, with ambient shimmers evoking distant bells or wind chimes. A faster tempo and driving rhythm creates a sense of urgency. A short pentatonic melodic figure, rising in pitch, is introduced and hypnotically repeated, with constantly changing rhythmic emphasis. This intensifies to reach a climax then fades back to slow, soft-edged piano chords, gentle synthesised strings and a steady electronic beat that is left hanging in the air like the relentless ticking of a clock, as the vocalist quietly breathes the words “Still counting the endless hours…”

Despite its title, Path of Forlorn is one of the more upbeat tracks, with the vocalist inviting us to “Dance with me, dance to eternity”. The mainly acoustic first section is infused with dance rhythms and has a strong ethnic or folk Influence. While writing the song, Kriffel was listening frequently to Lunatic Soul’s Through Shaded Woods, and was “so enchanted by the ancient power that resides in it that I wanted to write a song of my own in that vein”. The following section is led by a series of memorable bass guitar riffs, with percussion maintaining the rhythmic drive, embellished later by pointillistic splashes of electronic sounds. The dance becomes increasingly wild and impassioned until we magically find ourselves back in the cool of the jazz lounge, where restless spirits are soothed by the smoky tones of muted trumpets and cool vibraphone sparkles until a lonely plucked bass draws the track to a peaceful close.

Half-Light marks the mid-point of the album and has a static, timeless quality. The calm spoken vocals, urging us to “Come and see the infinite sky”, are heavily reverberated, suggesting the vast distances of space. A glittering tapestry of bell-like sounds, evoking twinkling stars, gives way to a yearning guitar duet, followed by a sweetly nostalgic keyboard solo, reminiscent of the piano music of the Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds. Over a wash of ambient sound, whispered vocals bid us to “Have no fear”, and the track gently fades to a close.

As Falling Shadows opens, the sunless realm of Hades is evoked by restrained and sombre piano chords, leading into a muted bass melody and a repeating guitar pattern, suggesting the mournful clanging of a bell. The restrained but mellifluous vocals occupy centre stage, the lyrics referencing King Minos in his role as the legendary Judge of the Dead. The harmonies and subdued melancholy remind me of Opeth in their more recent, less heavily metallic incarnation. After a brief reappearance of the clanging bells, dark clouds gather in the shape of more forceful outbursts from distorted guitars, until an impassioned solo guitar makes a plea that grows in emotional urgency, while the vocals distantly intone the funereal litany “Dim light, bronze like, dim light, last light”.

Sirens of the Sun offers a brief reprise from the shadows. It ends with a magical and timeless grandeur as a majestic church organ and ethereal siren voices offer us a distant glimpse of sunlit realms before leading directly into the longest track of the album, Ceasing to Exist. This feels to me like the album’s centre of gravity, recalling all its main themes and moods as it veers between light and darkness, hope and despair. The sun disappears behind an oppressive post-rock wall of sound as the singer faces the choice “to name my final rest”. Tension mounts as synths and guitar erupt in harsh bursts of dissonance and we experience the album’s only example of growling vocals, here used to excellent effect to express frustration, anguish and despair. This outburst is answered by a nightmarish murmur of distorted whispers like demonic inner voices of self-doubt. With yet another mood swing, a yearningly heartfelt guitar duet subsides into to a mood of weary resignation with more mournful tolling guitars morphing into a poignantly beautiful solo on muted piano. A distant flute shimmers briefly, only to be submerged as the dissonant guitar sounds from the beginning of the track return, clanging remorselessly like an alarm as our wanderer reflects grimly “I’ve ran out of time”. But finally, in one of the most magical and spine-tingling moments of this emotional rollercoaster of an album, consolation comes in the form of warm washes of synths and phrases of quiet wonderment on guitar suggesting a soul gazing in awe as it stands on the brink of eternity.

Last Light functions as an epilogue, its dreamy, spacey opening followed by warm, pulsing synth harmonies, perhaps evoking the music of the spheres overlaid with a serene bell-like melody which features the ethereal sound of an African kalimba. Strings sigh and the siren voices briefly return to create a timeless, unearthly atmosphere. The bells chime again in the far distance and the sound of crashing waves, seagulls and beckoning voices suggest both a final departure and the beginning of a new adventure.

Listening to this album is a profound and immersive experience which deeply engages the emotions and imagination, particularly when experienced as Daniel recommends, “in the dark and at high volume”. This music is not afraid to explore darkness, but I feel that its ultimate message is one of hope, leaving the listener both moved and uplifted. This is a stunning debut album, which I hope will be the first of many from this talented duo.

01. First Light (2:06)
02. Caves (6:10)
03. Endless Hours (6:14)
04. Path of Forlorn (7:46)
05. Half-Light (8:59)
06. Fading Shadows (7:10)
07. Sirens of the Sun (2:49)
08. Ceasing to Exist (9:24)
09. Last Light (5:11)

Total Time – 55:49

Daniel Kriffel – Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Bass Guitar, Synthesisers, Keyboards, Drum Programmimg
Dominique Király – Vocals, Electric Guitar (track 2)
~ With:
Frigyes Sámuel Rácz – Guitar Solo (track 6)
Alexandra Saróka – Kalimba (track 9)

Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Hungary
Date of Release: 12th January 2023

Deposed King – Facebook | Bandcamp