The last few years have proven to be excellent years for other forms of black metal. In earlier editions of “Hey! Listen To This!”, I mentioned a great black metal group, Barshasketh, whose 2015 album Ophidian Henosis was one of my favorite albums of the year. While Barshasketh plays a sort of standard—albeit ear-catching—black metal, there are other bands that are doing different things with the genre that still stay within the bounds of standard black metal. France’s Hegemon is one of these bands, with a specific nod to their latest release, 2015’s The Hierarch.
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To put this band in any subsection of black metal is inaccurate, though; Hegemon’s sound is incredibly influenced by symphonic black metal, standard second-wave black metal, and even some death and folk influences thrown in. It’s sort of a really well-done blend of Blaze in the Northern Sky-era Darkthrone and Saor, with a little bit of Emperor thrown in for good measure.
If you’re someone who finds a lot of black metal to be too repetitive and/or boring, this is a great band and a great album to start with. The Hierarch begins with a folk-influenced acoustic piece, but almost immediately breaks into some of the most ear-shredding black metal you’ll ever hear. Before that becomes redundant, though, they switch things up and seem to delve into some light death metal, complete with low-register growls. A lot of the tracks on the second half use acoustic guitar as a primary instrument, adding a really cool flair to things. “Atmos: Seed of the Quantic Gods,” even utilizes some clean vocals in a beautiful moment of blackened tranquility (if there could possibly be such a thing). In a a way, Hegemon is black metal’s Janus; their music both looks back to the past and to the future at the same time, revering the black metal greats while also carving their own niche into the genre.