There are positive and negative ways to frame a sudden explosion in popularity like the one that’s hit death-doom in the last couple of years. The happier way of looking at it is that the genre is experiencing something of a renaissance, and relative newcomers to the genre like Spectral Voice and Temple of Void are creating legitimately great albums that can go toe-to-toe with the genre’s best, whether it’s the death-heavy Americanized sound of Incantation and their ilk or the far doomier stuff that tends to come from various parts of Europe. The unhappy way of putting it: everyone and their fuckin’ mom is playing in a death-doom band right now. Either way, the genre is certainly not hurting for new releases.
With the knowledge that bands need to do more and more to set themselves apart from the growing flock comes the search for a personality. That isn’t to disparage newer bands that are sticking to a more rote, meat-and-potatoes sound, or say their music lacks a personal touch, but it’s certainly harder to make a name for oneself if there’s a million other bands that sound just like yours. The other side of this, of course, is that moving too far away from the establishment opens one up to the risk of alienating your audience, and so there’s a balancing act necessary to make music that stands out but still engages with listeners. It’s a tough job, and it takes a great songwriter to do it well.
I’m sure that what this is all leading towards is fairly obvious, so I’ll just sum up everything I have to say here: the new Hooded Menace album, Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed, is a very well-executed death-doom album that has exactly the right ratio of personal take on the genre to meat-and-potatoes heaviness to be a solid new entry to the genre’s canon and a great way to kick off 2018.
A pair of adjectives immediately come to mind as soon as opener “Sempiternal Grotesqueries” kicks in with its double guitar attack and plodding pace: “regal” and “dripping.” These are, I realize, opposing words in a sense, in terms of the sound they describe, but allow me to explain. What hits as soon as the track opens isn’t the crunchy rhythm riff or subterranean bass, but the funereal melody of the lead guitar. There’s a large helping of classic European death-doom sound that informs the songwriting of Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed; although at times the ornate, gilded guitar harmonies and classical-tinged solos can bring to the forefront an air more similar to Obsequiae, Dissection, or melodeath stalwarts Horrified. The other adjective, “dripping,” requires far less explanation. This is low, slow, grim death-doom, and it makes no qualms about getting in your face with the genre’s typical fare of obscenely heavy guitars and crawling, lethargic percussion. Hooded Menace does not pull punches.
These traits on their own are fine, but it’s the juxtaposition of the classic doom influence with their commitment to the heaviness of death metal that really allows Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed to come into its own as an album. A lot of care and thought has clearly gone into the writing of this album, and as such, Hooded Menace pulls off exactly what they’re going for here. It’ll be hard for 2018 to stack up to the past couple of years in terms of quality death metal, but if this is any indication of the year to come, this year has a pretty solid chance at continuing the genre’s rise back to prominence.
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Hooded Menace puts out Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed through Season of Mist on January 26th. You can preorder it through their webstore. I personally recommend the cassette edition, because cassettes are absolutely the proper way to listen to death metal.