Last week, I had the extreme privilege of receiving Hoth’s new record, Astral Necromancy. It is a wondrous album that takes up a unique niche in metal: blackened melodic death metal. It’s a unique blend of death metal stylings and black metal themes all set within an established space opera universe. For me, it scratched several itches at once. Their melodic riffs are very engaging, the compositions are complex while also accessible, and the vocals are harsh but clear. And everything blended together so that no one thing outshines the others. Truly, this album is a thing of beauty.
As I was listening to it, I was wondering the whole time: what do these guys listen to? Hoth makes such a unique sound that it’s difficult to understand where they might have come up with it. However, Eric Peters and David Dees were kind enough to fill us in on that front. Wanna know how these guys made the perfect music to explore their universe? Take a look!
I have many favorite albums, and I have heard a lot of amazing songs, but below I have picked out what I think were the albums most influential on my musical development.
Iron Maiden – Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (1988)
Prior to Iron Maiden, nearly my entire exposure to metal had been catching the odd Metallica song on the radio. I certainly had a thirst for me, and no way to find it. Soon, a friend’s older brother introduced me to Iron Maiden and I was enthralled. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was the first Iron Maiden album I got and so it holds a very special place in my heart. It is also my favorite Maiden album to this day. I loved the use of subtle synths to build atmosphere. I loved the dueling guitar solos. I loved Bruce’s incredible vocals. I loved the occult lyrical themes. It all came together to be a very meaningful album to me. The opening and closing tracks sort of bookended the whole thing as this concept album and I would pour over the lyrics while listening trying to piece together the story.
Seventh Son definitely fueled my desire for more Iron Maiden and I soon after collected all their studio albums (and a few live ones too). It also fueled my interest in songwriting and music as a storytelling mechanism.
Choice tracks for me are “Moonchild” and “The Clairvoyant” (love that bassline). Though I still enjoy the whole thing, end to end.
Moonspell – Wolfheart (1995)
This album was huge for me in 8th and 9th grade – the dark, gothic themes and foreboding baritone vocals really called to who I was at the time. I listened to this CD constantly. I just had it on repeat all the time. I think this album really opened up how willing I was to approach the more “extreme” melodic death and black metal genres that I would later get into. Listening to it as I write this, this album is still very fun, especially the opening track “Wolfshade” and “Vampiria.”
Other albums in this era of my life that really pushed me more towards the “extreme” stuff were Dimmu Borgir’s Death Cult Armageddon, Follow the Reaper by Children of Bodom, and With Oden on Our Side by Amon Amarth. Still, I don’t think I would have listened to those if it weren’t for Wolfheart.
Arthemesia – Devs – Iratvs (2001)
I don’t think anyone is born liking black metal. It is an acquired taste within a genre that is already an acquired taste. Despite getting into Dimmu when I was younger, I wasn’t really all that into black metal for several years. I think it was the more melodic elements of Arthemesia that got me hooked (I admit I only looked up the band because I saw Jari Mäenpää from Wintersun had played in it). I was home from school over the winter holiday break, and there was snow on the ground and it just seemed to fit to be listening to “Ancestor of Magick” and “Lifemocker” while staring outside. Once I found an appreciation for this album, I found a lot more of black metal accessible and I was able to go back and experience second wave classics from Burzum, Emperor, Taake, Windir and so on, which only further fueled my interest in the genre.
- Enslaved – Vikingligr Veldi (1994)
- Emperor – In the Nightside Eclipse (1994)
- Immortal – At the Heart of Winter (1999)
- Moonsorrow – Viides Luku: Hävitetty (2007)
- Windir – Arntor (1999)
I could probably list over 30 albums that were influential, but I picked 3 that were major milestones for me.
Dimmu Borgir – Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia (2001)
This album was interesting and significant because it introduced me to the idea of “extreme metal”. A friend showed me some snippets of them in middle school, when we listened to them we would laugh because they were so ridiculous. I had never heard blast beats or double bass that was that fast before. I liked the idea of mixing symphonies with metal, and I liked the dramatic pauses they had and their use of tremolo picking. Granted they were higher production value than most black metal at the time – but for me, that was a positive thing. Their accessibility allowed me to get into them and was later a gateway to tons of other black and extreme metal.
Opeth – Blackwater Park (2001)
I discovered Opeth when I was in high school. I was starting to get tired of all the melodeath and thrash CDs that were getting scratched up on the floor of my mini-van. My favorite thing about Opeth was that you could close your eyes or just daydream during an album and almost imagine an entire bleak, dark fantasy world – complete with a narrative. The difference between Opeth and other metal bands I was listening to at the time, was that every other band had songs that were more-or-less interchangeable. Opeth’s songs had depth, a wealth of riffs, incredible dynamics, harsh vocals, clean vocals and occasionally something odd like a vibraphone. I love the idea of having acoustic passages and melodic metal – progressive riffs that are all interconnected and related, themes that come and go and reintroduce themselves later in a new and interesting way. This album was masterfully performed and had a thick, heavy atmospheric fog. It still remains a strong influence, and I should hope to achieve half as much in my own work.
Windir – 1184 (2001)
I first heard the track “Journey to the End” in 2010. I was impressed by the great melodies and intense and empty sorrow that is conveyed in the music. The first track, “Todeswalzer,” is one of my favorite metal songs of all time. Windir’s ability to have several competing, intermingling melodies supporting the shrieking and awesome screams were what made them one of my quick favorites. I liked that some songs were reminiscent of the music from Castlevania: almost like a fugue but folky at the same time. To me, that structure of melody was something that I found way more interesting than chugging power chords or even some straightforward melodic metal with a chord progression behind it. Windir’s pairing of parts in their songs is flawless as well, they made me rethink and question every part I composed moving forward – instead of my writing being stream of consciousness, now I constantly ask: “is that the right part? Is there something better that can happen here?”. There is a track called “The Void Between the Stars” on our new album that has several hat-tips to Windir’s style and composition.
- Dissection – Storm of the Light’s Bane (1995)
- Wintersun – Wintersun (2004)
- Amon Amarth – Twilight of the Thunder God (2008)
- Behemoth – The Satanist (2014)
- King Diamond – “Them” (1988)