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To be honest, I can't quite recall how I heard about Hooded Menace in the first place. But I'm glad I did, I actually put Fulfill The Curse at number three on my top ten favorite doom metal albums of all time. I'm probably going to be all over the place on this review, bear with me.
I can't list anything I don't like about this album. The drums completely crush and keeps the band moving forward. I thought the drumming was perfect here especially, not over done but not at all lacking. The huge and heavy guitar tones lead us through some sort of evil feeling of trudging, as the deep and resonating vocals tell us of the Knight's Templar and the blood that was ingested... HORRIFIC! AMAZING! And let's not forget the Theme From Manhattan Bay rendition! Beautifully done, to say the least, and an interesting choice as well.
I think one of my favorite things about this entire album is the writing. Hooded Menace seems to be able to transfer from these slow, heart stopping doom riffs to more mid-paced death metal ones with some pretty amazing solos over it.
I love the Candlemass influence that can be heard in a lot of their more melodic parts, too. When I was listening to the album, it wasn't something I was expecting hearing from these guys. But when those depressing melodies came in, that's when I knew I'd fall in love with this album.
I'm definitely looking forward to scraping a ton of cash together so I can see these guys play at the upcoming Maryland Deathfest!
I admit I was initially attracted to this release because of the great cover art, the cool name of the band, and the smashingly awesome song titles.
You had me at "Grasp of the Beastwoman". "The Eyeless Horde". "The Love Song of Gotho, Hunchback of the Morgue". Fantastic. The same horror noir appeal that bands like Deceased or Crypticus have preserved over the years.
My attraction quickly evolved upon hearing the record. This is crushing death/doom hybrid of the sort you haven't really heard since the very early days of Amorphis, Tiamat, Tristitia, or other bands who took the purest of classic death metal, slowed it down to a crawl and layered in the subtle melodic lines, elevating it into immortality.
The debut full-length of this Finnish band may very well achieve such a cult status, the songs are seamlessly catchy and really fucking doom. "Labory of Nightmares" grooves with abandon. The utter crawl of "Beauty and the Feast" and "Rotting Rampage" will appeal to your funeral doom fans as well as your classic death sect. "Arcane Epitaph" is perhaps my favorite, almost as if Candlemass got really fucking rugged.
A flawless debut, I dare say a near masterpiece. Classic death and doom metal cut of a rare cloth, it can both crush the fuck out of you and thrill you with its nostalgic horror-soaked lyrics. Acquire at any cost.
Take comfort in the fact that you always know what you're getting from Razorback - if not whether it's old-school grind, or old-school death metal, or (more pertinently to the matter at hand) old-school doom/death, then you can at least be certain that it will be old-school, pretty straightforward, pretty catchy, and... pretty cover art. If you think that comic book drawings of women being dismembered are 'pretty', anyway. When the cops finally break down my door, having material like this around the house won't help my case any.
Wait now - is there really such a thing as 'old school death/doom', or are we retroactively inventing something to be nostalgic about here? We're not talking about My Dying Bride here, as that would be much too sentimental for the Razorback Hive, and we're not talking about funeral doom, because that's too serious and pretentious, not to mention being 'not real doom', and you can count on Razorback bands being unpretenious as well as being the 'real' and most metal version of whatever style they're supposed to be in. There's Disembowelment and Winter, but they're both serious outliers, and then we have Asphyx, who were mostly just a slothful death metal band (good though!)...
Cathedral are the real precedent - heavy influence from Sabbath, heavy influence from bands heavily influenced by Sabbath, heavy cookie monster vocals, and heavy guitar tuning. But Hooded Menace are possibly on fewer drugs, or at least, less mellow ones.
Just so you know where I'm coming from - and for no other reason, no need to foam at the keyboard and yell at the monitor - I really don't have much use for true doom or traditional doom, or whatever you like to call it... Black Sabbath are great, of course; Cirith Ungol are great, if they count; but when a band is mainly out to pay homage to Black Sabbath and make no secret of it, that doesn't hold any appeal for me.
Thus, I can be grateful that Hooded Menace here have slanted themselves more toward my biases. The death metal vocals - somewhat gurgly but very coherent - are worth a few points right off the bat. But another Thing You Can Count On from Razorback is that every band has some kind of horror angle, and just in case you haven't read any promotional material regarding Hooded Menace, their kind of horror angle would be the Spanish Blind Dead movies, which are about cursed Knights Templar rising from the crypt and generally going about making nuisances of themselves. Very effective costume designs for those fellows (they are 'hooded menaces') - they were much creepier than Romero's zombies, it must be said. Certainly this choice of subject matter is preferably to stringing together a long series of Sabbath in-jokes and weed references, right?
And with that change in subject matter we can rightly expect some changes in the tone of the music, and it's certainly neither hippie stuff nor epic and depressing-sounding, for the most part. Obviously, Hooded Menace are all about the riffs and are not about to go off on some soundscapey 'atmospheric' tangent, but they manage to pack in a quite adequate level of evilness by virtue of their melodies and dissonance, in spite of the tempo moving along at a deliberate clip, and the songs being fairly catchy. I think two guitars are almost always better than one, so I'm always happy to hear some creepy leads wind across the thumping riffs. Every once and a while a somewhat less-than-sinister riff sneaks in - not a bad one, but one that sounds a bit too 'regular doom' and brings to mind images of Tony Iommi getting high instead of victims getting beheaded, and doesn't make me want to stab anyone to death. There's one riff that's uncomfortably close to 'Children of the Grave' - and it works well in context, setting a driving pace and then evolving into a darker riff - but still, I could do without the homages.
But even in the worst (least-evil) case, the songwriting is quite solid, and the riffs consistently memorable. Not much in the way of dynamics, but this isn't the time or place. As an added bonus, the final track is a cover of the theme from the movie Manhattan Baby, a Fulci movie which I've never seen, but I can at least assert that it must have pretty good music.
When it came to my attention that Phlegethon main man Lasse had yet again put together a new band, I expected something noteworthy. Going by the alias Leper of Berzano (or Leper Messiah earlier) here, he has a reputation of only being involved in quality projects. As it turns out, Hooded Menace is nothing short of phenomenal.
The genre description of death/doom metal is fair, but slightly misleading with this album. This is nitpicky, I know, but it would be more accurate to say that what we have here is a death metal band playing music that closely resembles traditional doom - in other words, if you expect another My Dying Bride clone, please look elsewhere. It must be said that my knowledge of traditional doom is somewhat limited, but I always get a very distinctive "70's" feel from it, and that is exactly what this album does for me. The general atmosphere here is very close to cult horror movies - I have read somewhere that they are a major influence - complete with fitting lyrics and some sound effects; this might explain the "retro" impression.
You should have guessed by now that the music on 'Fulfill the Curse' is devastatingly heavy. The riffs (almost) literally crush the listener to small pieces and, not surprisingly, are the key element in songwriting. Being lengthy and relatively complex, they have unusually much to offer to one's ears. But that's not all - there are lots of leads here as well, appropriately executed and a joy to listen to (even if the atmosphere only grows more "evil" as the lead guitar steps in). Many of the actual guitar solos (as opposed to lead melodies) also have that bluesy, traditional vibe to them, and fit surprisingly well.
Lasse/Leper's vocals are another major factor on the album. While not terribly original for the genre, they are powerful enough and perfectly mixed with just the right amount of echo. I'm certainly not new to harsh vocals, but this performance nearly made me feel afraid; this should be seen as a positive statement. The overall sound politics should also cause no objections - from the ripping guitars to the crisp and audible bass to the "thick" drums, this soundscape could not be better for the purpose it serves.
With nine tracks and a little over fifty minutes, this album is not exceptionally long - there certainly isn't any chance of getting bored. But what IS exceptional is that the songs actually feel a lot longer than they are - and I mean this in a good way. Each and every track is a journey that you wouldn't want to end at all. As a song ends, you cannot believe how short it was when looking at the time.
While I really can't name any stand-out tracks here, there is one worth mentioning for a different reason. I'm talking about the instrumental cover tune 'Theme from Manhattan Baby'. Now, I certainly don't mean to say that it is any worse than their originals; musically, it fits the album very well and is a fantastic choice in every possible way. But the track is placed as the final one, and does feel just a little unnecessary there. I would rather have seen it used as an interlude of sorts in the middle of the album.
The afore-mentioned minor detail aside, there is absolutely nothing bad about 'Fulfill the Curse'. The riffy slow parts are simply breathtaking, and while the more "death metal"-sounding moments (with double kick-drums and everything) are slightly less original, they work very nicely too. If this is not a future classic, I don't know what is. Go get it now.
This is the first record from Hooded Menace, a Finnish band playing doom/death metal.
The production on this record is overwhemingly heavy, with tons of crushing guitar and buzzing bass. The vocals are an equally low belch, but they've also got a surprising amount of range, and provide much of the variation here. The drums sound a little bit distant, but are otherwise fine, and I love the crisp cymbal sound.
The songs here are relentlessly mid-paced. Each is built upon repetitive, heavy doom riffs, augmented by tons of clever vocal work and catchy lead guitar parts. This band is excellent at keeping the listener's interest through the use of tempo changes and heavy-metal-influenced solos, yet the swaggering pure doom parts are equally great, and will appeal to those looking for slow and powerful metal. Considering the tempo, there's a lot of variety to be found here: songs like "Fulfill the Curse" and "The Eyeless Horde" exploit repetition and doomy atmosphere to great effect, while others, like "Beauty and the Feast" and "The Love Song of Gotho, Hunchback of the Morgue" are packed with memorable vocal and guitar parts. I also really like the horror-movie theme, and Hooded Menace does a great job of bringing it together through the lyrics, atmosphere, visual presentation, and even the sparing use of samples.
Just about anyone who likes mid-paced metal will enjoy "Fulfill the Curse", but I especially recommend it for fans of traditional doom who also like slow death metal -- if you like both crushing repetitive sections and stuff that sounds like old Candlemass, this ought to be right up your alley. Recommended.
Standout tracks: "Fulfill the Curse", "Beauty and the Feast", "The Love Song of Gotho, Hunchback of the Morgue"
Review by vorfeed: http://www.vorfeed.net
Remember Phlegethon? Probably not, am I right? Phlegethon is a pretty obscure death metal outfit from Finland. Back in the day they had a couple of demos and a somewhat odd EP that is now out of print and hard to find. It's a typical story by the standards of the extreme metal scene. And by all rights, Phlegethon and everyone in it should have been lost to the sands of time, perhaps only briefly and slightly rediscovered when some enterprising, tiny label reissued "Fresco Lungs" with the demos as bonus tracks, and a few hundred metalheads out there picked it up for the first time and said, "Damn - this band really should have done a full-length."
Fast forward to years later...
Lasse from Phlegethon gets the band back together. They crank out a couple new demos and whaddayaknow, it's more straight-forward but surprisingly fierce and brutal music from the guys. But apparently he has an itch that a few demo tracks can't quite scratch. That itch turns into side project mania, a syndrome familiar from the likes of Dan Swano (Edge of Sanity, Pan.Thy.Monium, Bloodbath, etc.) and Rogga Johansson (Ribspreader, Paganizer, Demiurg, etc.). And if you've kept up with the works of those two, you probably know that side project mania can produce some interesting works at times, but also some disappointing ones; generally the best thing to be said about 95% of side projects is that they are decent but decidedly lesser works. So when I noticed that Lasse had within a couple of years gotten involved in two side projects - Claws, a throwback to obscure Swedish and Finnish bands like Crematory and Abhorrence; and then this one, Hooded Menace - I figured I should check them out, but not get my hopes up. Claws only has a couple of demo songs so far, and they are really promising.
But Hooded Menace... holy shit.
Hooded Menace describe themselves as death metal on their MySpace page, but from what I can tell they are at least three-quarters doom metal. And not just lowercase boring ol' doom metal, but huge, loud, earth-splitting DOOM FUCKING METAL. On top of the foundation of doom they have indeed built some structures familiar from death metal - deep, growling vocals that sound exactly like some thing from a crypt (which fits them well, as I'll explain momentarily), and some occasional deathly riffing and drumming.
For the most part though, Menace are delivering a drug that hits the doom, rather than death, centers of the metal brain. And they do it very, very well. The riffs are winding, off-kilter, very long affairs that take ages to get back to their own starting points; but they are also unfailingly well-made and catchy. There's almost no stock chugga-chugga here. Lead parts meander in and out and bring a surprising melodicism and sense of craftsmanship to the forefront at times. The song structures are epic - the band isn't afraid to switch it up on a regular basis, change the beat, introduce a cycling melody for a while that then recedes into another thunderous doom riff. Songs tend to be 5 to 7 minutes long, but they feel like adventures - calling to mind the best work of obvious influences like Candlemass, as well as great old school death epics like Entombed's "Left Hand Path." Drifting down the tangled corridors of a song like "The Eyeless Horde" gives me a feeling I don't often get from modern extreme metal - the feeling of getting lost in a composition, that it may take five or more listens to fully understand it, but when I do I will undoubtedly never want to leave. "Fulfill the Curse" is a rare purchase that I can't tear away from - since I got it in the mail a few days ago I've listened to little else. It keeps drawing me back.
The band's chief non-musical inspiration is horror movies - fitting for a Razorback-signed band. Specifically, they were inspired by the "Blind Dead" movies from Spain. If you've never seen these cult classics of Eurohorror, they involve zombiefied Knights Templar, walking (and horseback-riding) around in literal slow motion, making creepy groans, and grasping for prey that they cannot see but can only hear. This material is so well-suited to a death/doom band like Hooded Menace that I had to watch "Tombs of the Blind Dead" just a few days ago to set the mood.
This lyrical bent set the band up perfectly for a deal with Razorback, which in turn helped cement the label's new direction - a little less grind, a little more old school death metal. For a guy with my particular metal proclivities, this is a welcome change. I liked the last Crypticus album quite a bit, for instance. But Hooded Menace is the best thing going for Razorback right now, and every time I listen to this I can't help but start imagining what the next release might be like. I urge all fans of doom and death metal to pick this thing up as quick as you can, and I urge the band to make as many more of these as possible. And - fingers crossed - maybe we'll get lucky, and the new Phlegethon and Claws releases will be even half as incredible as this one. I very, very rarely hand out perfect scores to any new album, but Hooded Menace have earned one here.