Album Review: …Stay… – “tears of happiness” (DSBM)

Written by Kep

…Stay… – tears of happiness
> Mexico
> Releasing June 16 (released digitally April 21)
> Fiadh Productions

You know how sometimes you start to listen to something and it’s just the wrong time for it? That’s what happened to me the first time I tried listening to tears of happiness. The intro track was nothing short of beautiful, but then when the first real song started I knew I wasn’t in the right headspace for it. Maybe I was too stressed, not ready for something so heartfelt and cathartic; I don’t know, really. But I wrote it off—not in the complete sense but in the “I doubt I’ll have the bandwidth to review this” sense. 

Then I gave it another try it one calm afternoon in a quiet house, and everything changed. 

…Stay… is the new depressive black metal project from Fernando Mejía, the person behind A Rose Dying in the Rain, the delightfully melancholy post-black outfit that I’ve actually covered before. tears of happinessconstitutes the project’s first released material of any sort, as best as I can tell, and Mejía actually released it in full back in April on Bandcamp with little fanfare. Little fanfare seems appropriate for …Stay…—not in terms of the music itself, which is exceptional and deserves much praise, but in the sense that the subject matter is so intimate and focused inward that it seems almost to shy away from the spotlight in and of itself. If all art is in some way a window into the soul of the artist, I doubt that we could be given a deeper or more honest glimpse of this artist’s heart than tears provides. 

This is DSBM of the kind I most appreciate: not focused on anguished self-hatred and violent loathing, but pure sorrow, grief, and personal reflection instead. Rather than wincing at agonized raw nerve expressions of pain, you’re comfortably led deeper and deeper into a pool of beautiful sorrow and introspective heartache. There‘s not one moment on the album that isn’t gorgeous, and the whole experience just sort of envelops you in a warm shower of tears. Rare is the sort of depressive music that truly makes you feel like you could weep along with the artist, but this is an album that strikes that particular emotional chord. 

The core sound of …Stay… is built atop a bed of mid-tempo drums and steadily strummed guitars, as you might expect for depressive black metal. There are calm moments of liquid-toned rumination and passages with blast beats sometimes highlight the tracks’ emotional high points (the ending stretch of “i’ll never see the rain anymore…”, for example), but the majority of the album’s runtime is spent in that middle ground, trudging ahead, tired and hurt but not yet ready to give up. Over that foundation Mejía lays some of the saddest and most plaintive melodies you’ll ever hear, relatively simple things, slow-moving long lines that absolutely weep and never seem to find a resting place. “am i worth it”, the record’s longest track at nearly 10 minutes, showcases this to devastating effect, using an almost dreamy lament with small heartbroken cascades of descending intervals that begins around 3:15 and doesn’t find its end until nearly five minutes later. There’s a humanity in these tremoloed long lines, delivered with enough of an edge in the tone to be searing but enough depth and warmth to feel openhearted, and every now and then an imperfection in the playing imparts a real genuineness. 

Above it all rise Mejía’s brokenhearted screams, high and griefstricken, at times shrieking but not shrill, bordering the feel of a classic DSBM wail without ever becoming that most difficult to acquire of tastes. Their first entrance on the album is in the title track, after instrumental opener “i wish I wasn’t there (intro)”, and two more minutes of ambient rain sounds, doleful guitar, and one full cycle of the song’s main riff and melody. When that initial scream rings out it’s clear as day that the album is going to reach deep into the most vulnerable and longing parts of the grieving soul. Sometimes black metal shrieks can get old over a full album’s runtime, but not here in the six tracks and 35 minutes that make up tears of happiness. The music spends lengthy moments focused on instrumentals, and the vocals are so wrenchingly affecting that you’ll find yourself hanging on every moment when they’re present. On the whole, much of what makes great black metal great is its distinctly crafted textural layers forming a compelling wall of sound that nonetheless feels distinct in its parts, and …Stay… is an excellent example of that. I’m always impressed by one-person DIY projects that understand this, and Mejía continues to illustrate that he very much gets it. 


It will come as little surprise to anyone who’s heard A Rose Dying in the Rain, but Fernando Mejía ’s …Stay… is a tender, gorgeous project and this first outing is remarkably moving. I dare you to listen to this record and not feel something. tears of happiness is available now digitally on the …Stay… Bandcamp, and physical media drops June 16 via Fiadh Productions.