It seems as if 2016 is a fantastic year for science fiction themed metal. From the gnarly, twisted tales of Vektor to the bombastic space opera of Khonsu, metal about science fiction is seemingly everywhere. Well, the time to draw up the data-tablet and add one more name before the year is done has arrived; Hollow Earth are set to release their Dead Planet on the 2nd of December and boy is it science fiction. It’s also a damn good album, offering a strange mix between metalcore and sludge, of all things. This seemingly paradoxical mix yields a uniquely aggressive album, channeling the different and often opposite timbers of the two genres into an impossible, astral beast.
This complex balance can be attributed to two things, each one then splitting off into its own pair (science fiction likes its symmetries, after all). The first element is the timbres being used on the album. This element splits into two, with the vocal style and the guitars clashing to create a heady mix of aggression coupled with contemplation. The vocals draw their influence from hardcore, leading us to use the metalcore moniker. They are raw screams, delivering without relent or much dynamism, crashing again and again upon our ear-drums. Guest spots from Trevor Strnad (The Black Dahlia Murder) and John Pettibone (Heiress) further enhance this vocal style and add much to its almost abrasive delivery.
The latter guest spot is featured on “Of Steel and Stone”, a track which exemplifies the second part of our first element. Clashing with the vocal style are the guitars, which belong on a Baroness, Mastodon or Anciients album. In short, they belong on a stoner/sludge creation rather than backing such hardcore tinged vocals. However, their brave inclusion and the space which is created between the two styles is one of the major strengths of the album; it’s downright unexpected and prevents you from pigeonholing the album. The tension forces you to listen carefully to what’s going on, drawing you deeper into the ominous, monolithic presence the album has.
The second element is the production utilizing on the album. Misery Signals‘ Greg Thomas had the pleasure of performing those duties for the album and his approach is immaculate. On one hand (remember our symmetry) the album goes for the overproduced shine that many metalcore albums have; the drums strike true and sharp, the vocals (raw as they are) are clearly defined, contained and very much overbearing. On the other however (and thus our diagram is complete), the guitar and bass enjoy the exact amount of “dirt” demanded of their role and composition. This creates further “pressure” in the album as the different sounds overlay and compete for dominance without ever resolving their struggle.
To be honest, there are countless moments one could call out on the album, from the creepy organs on “Convergence in Recollection” to the chromatic shine of “Revolutions in Refracted Light” (which features the legendary Tad Doyle). This review has avoided that however because Dead Planet is so much more than a collection of great moments. It is a very complete and all encompassing album which relies on holistic delivery and intricate tensions to deliver its impact. Thus, it gathers momentum the more you listen to it, like a ship un-tethered from restriction as it surfs solar winds. It is an unstoppable force with a very clear destination but a far ranging, varied and complex way of getting there.
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Dead Planet sees release on December 2nd via Good Fight Music. You can pre-order it right here, via the label’s Bandcamp.