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There are times, when reading about a band, that the more you read, the weirder it sounds, and then hearing the music only confirms this suspicion of insanity. This, by way of introduction, describes Hail Spirit Noir’s début Pneuma, a Greek ‘psychedelic prog black metal’ project featuring members of avant-garde act Transcending Bizarre?, blending 70s-style occult rock with a little black metal, and other surprises along the way.
Opener “Mountain Of Horror” gives an indication of what’s to come: starting off with violins over an occult bluesy rock basis not unlike The Devil’s Blood, and Theoharis’ blackened rasp on top, before a sudden transition into what can only be described as bass-high 8-bit black metal with glockenspiel and a synth line straight from Hawkwind, provided by Haris. The drumming (guest Ioannis Giahoudis) is also incredible to witness, even if the toms are reduced to a pitter-patter in the mix, and the bass (guest Dim Douvras, also mixing) certainly has moments of genius.
The band range from incredibly catchy tunes such as “Let Your Devil Come Inside Me”, to a Hawkwind-meets-indie rock-meets-Negură Bunget in “Against The Curse, We Dream”, which is oddly the heaviest song of the 6, and teaches us that the Greek language can sound kvlt. “When All Is Black” is the closest HSN come to a folky ballad, featuring pleasant cleans akin to Serj Tankian if he sang in Ghost, at least until the halfway point where the pseudo-black metal re-emerges, although it’s not unwelcome.
However, the band save most of their creative insanity for the 12-minute “Into The Gates Of Time”, a hypothetical meeting of new Opeth and Meads Of Asphodel, with a complete headtrip of a synth-driven psychedelic black metal section in the middle which cannot be described, only experienced. The chorus itself is very strong in both cleans and snarls, and the subtle synths certainly help it. The only personal complaint is the 3 1/2 minutes of cicada noises at the end, which I felt could have been shortened.
Suffering slightly from the sequencing, mid-paced black metal closer “Haire Pneuma Skoteino” (Greek for Hail Spirit Noir) is slightly less impressive than if it were switched with the previous track, and even the Jethro Tull-style flutes and traditional metal guitar solos aren’t quite as grabbing, although it’s certainly a catchy track in its own right. It ties the influences together, whilst also seeping in a slightly gothic sound in the synth, and serves as a summary of the madness that came before.
Hail Spirit Noir are proof for me that diversity in metal can bring about some of the most interesting blends of music, and they embrace this diversity with open arms. Despite the eclectic mix of sounds contained with Pneuma, there is one unchanging goal that is clearly in mind: boundaries in music are no barrier to creativity. Bluesy black metal has never sounded this good.
Originally written for www.deathmetalbaboon.com