Confrontational: Who Sits on the Throne of the ‘Kingdom of Night’

The Italian island of Sardinia is ancient. On it, you’ll find remnants of Asiatic-Afro-European history going back to the Phoenicians and so much earlier.

It was a fascinating trip going down the rabbit hole of Sardinia research. All I really only knew about Sardinia was that it is one of those idyllic Mediterranean isles — with gorgeous shorelines and great food — that collected languages with each custody challenge.

Google Earth screenshot of Sardinia
Google Earth screenshot of Sardinia and her neighbors.

How could a place like that birth a producer like Confrontational (AKA Massimo Usai), whose Carpenteresque synthscapes are filled with machinations of doom and horror?  Well, based on the dozens of articles I ended up reading about Sardinia’s history, like everywhere else the island turns out to be the seat of a rich, vibrant, and often horrific history. (You can read about it later, when you’re done reading this.)

With all of that in mind, I dove into Kingdom of Night, the new LP from Usai (who often stylizes his retrosynth project as CONFRONTATIONAL). As on last year’s A Dance of Shadows, Usai and his collaborators have crafted a massive, exciting, and dark landscape that would make The Horror Master proud.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be too surprising. Considering this: On Kingdom, as on last year’s album, Cody Carpenter guests on a track. The younger Carpenter has been touring with his pa across the world, performing his dad’s best score pieces, all the while recording his own work. He’s “in it” and Usai benefits. (Writer’s Note: I saw the Carpenters live here in NYC and it was a stunner.)

But that’s too easy, isn’t it? Plenty of guest turns fail to live up to their promise. Luckily, this isn’t the case with Carpenter or the other guests on the record — Tony Kim (Dance with the Dead), Ugo Laurenti, and Hélène De Thoury. This is because Usai gives these talented people well-crafted, well-performed, and well-produced material with which to work and for us all to enjoy. Usai has a preternatural ability to tap into the supernatural and grind out nuanced fare that is as intense and rockin’ as it is subtle and suspenseful. He’s got some fine pipes, too.

I eagerly await the day the Carpenters call upon Usai to join them in their traveling exhibition of brilliant cues from the likes of The Thing, Escape from New York, and Halloween. At minimum, horror and thriller directors need to wise up and retain Usai’s services to score their films. Usai and his Confrontational project are the real deal. It’s about time people got on board. That he seemingly taps into the dark history of Sardinia is an added value.

Highlights

“In the Line of Fire”

“Tanit”

“Keep Faith” (featuring Hélène De Thoury on vox)

“Crimson Curtains” (featuring Cody Carpenter on lead synth and vocal harmonies)

Stream and buy the whole thing on Confrontational’s Bandcamp page. While you’re doing that, check out his back-catalogue. You can catch him and others at Synthzilla in Lyon in a couple weeks.

Poster by Branca Studio.
Poster by Branca Studio.

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