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Here's proof that you can (somewhat) modernize the sound of true black metal without losing all credibility and authenticity. While not deviating from the norms of black metal to an extreme extent, "Cold Void Journey" has a very fresh sound and feel that puts a whole different spin on the material presented.
The standout feature of this release is the precision and thick, full sound of the drums. Some fills are played with slight slips, but nothing so prominent as to drag down the song at all. Beats are played with the maximum amount of flair that they possibly could be to create very interesting patterns without stealing the show. Blast beats and standard double bass beats can be found here, but not in excess and usually include interesting crash symbol patterns to keep the flair of the song running strong. Bass drums are played with perfect accuracy and precision, never missing a beat. In the faster songs, double bass is played at breakneck speed, along the lines of some of the drum work done by Hellhammer, primarily in later Mayhem albums, and Frost's work in 1349.
Songs range from ultra fast and absolutely crushing to slow, gloomy, eerie dirges, but the majority are faster and more aggressive. One of the great features of "Cold Void Journey" is that the quality of songwriting does not seems to vary with tempo - slow songs do not wear out their welcome and are just as interesting as the faster songs.
Guitars sound almost as rich as drums, maintaining range and clarity, but somehow preserve a touch of the raw abrasiveness found on such old classics as
Gorgoroth's "Antichrist" and Satyricon's "Nemesis Devina" that other bands with a cleaner sound do not have, like Carpathian Forest. Bass guitar follows the rhythm guitar closely, but is more pronounced than usual. Like many aspects of this album, it is not overdone and does not ever take over the music.
Vocals are lower in the mix than drums, registering closer to the level of the guitars, but are produced with an abnormally raw sound. The typical black metal rasp is used, but is much rawer and sounds something like blasts of static at times, creating a very cool feel and supplementing the music very well.
Having no major shortcomings, the only thing that "Cold Void Journey" suffers from is an all around, although not tremendous, lack of songwriting ability. Songs are often slightly incoherent and transitions from riff to riff are sometimes noticeably awkward, leaving more to be desired. Although Hiems does not come off as unauthentic, the music is not entirely convincing all the time.
In conclusion, "Cold Void Journey" is worth buying (especially if you think rich production quality is a plus) and promises a lot for a future release. If the CD is not available in stores (like in my city) I recommend ordering the CD through the Moribund Records online store for a good price and reliable service.
From the rather vague information I'd previously received about Hiems, I was expecting a more atmospheric, depressing style of black metal, but no matter it still has its upside....just.
I was rather disappointed to find that originality is in rather short supply here, you're subjected to a maelstrom of speed and screams (at times reminiscent of Hate Forest) yet without that extra something that would set it apart and make it great.
The vocals firstly are average, to put it bluntly. They've a way of blending in with the music and barely altering the tone, instead just tending to drone and sound monotonous. At times they even sound whispered, with no power behind them at all – just rasping on and on in the background. They've nothing to set them apart from a lot of other modern black metal bands, there's no strength to them and that's a shame because I feel the music has potential.
On to the drums now, and I'm glad to say there's a good bit of variety here. Most of the time we've got a double bass peddle blasting out thunderous beats that could rival Pure Holocaust-era Immoral in terms of speed, and surprisingly enough, altering the style suitably to keep the interest up in this particular regard. There's no doubt that Gionata Potenti has skill on the drums, as well he should – having played in Frostmoon Eclipse, Macabre Omen and Nocternity, to name but a few.
The guitars are, for the most part, highly distorted. But this doesn't necessarily count against them. There are a few interesting riffs slotted into this album, and a few which even sound as if they've got death metal influence – and which you're more likely to hear on a Cannibal Corpse album. Additionally, there's a good deal of high, abrasive sounding tremolo picking going on which manages to peak interest. Bass is sufficient, but unsurprisingly isn't too prominent. If you listen carefully, you can hear it, but the playing style doesn't tend to raise it above average. It suffices though, and gives an acceptable undertone to the songs.
Although 90% of this album is blindingly fast, “I chose the path of inhumanity” is the exception, being the only slow/mid-paced song. Funnily enough, it works quite well and with a good amount of melody which is a welcome change. I'm not saying the more raw sound doesn't work for Hiems, it just isn't done well enough that it merits a lot of praise. This song also opens with some clean, talking vocals, though slightly muffled so you can't really tell what they're saying. A select other couple of songs have short, acoustic style parts with clean guitars. “Painted Black” is an example, and manages to strike up a nice sounding melody, before plunging back in with the speed and fury.
I made a brief comparison to Hate Forest earlier, and if you want to get an idea as to the guitar and drum style, I suggest you listen to them. Hiems though, does have more variety than Hate Forest – thats one thing to their favour. Vocals are significantly different, but not necessarily better.
I think Hiems have potential, but they need to define their playing style a bit more, and perhaps try and vary the songs, as they've started to do with the brief melodious and acoustic parts.
Stand out tracks - “I chose the path of humanity”, “Painted Black” and “For truth is deaths blossom”.