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Darkness Without Scruples - 70%

autothrall, July 7th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Ahdistuksen Aihio Productions

As opposed to the Bestial Storms of the Abyssal Pit demo, the Lawgiver EP represents the first official new material released from Finland's Hail in over a decade, and as such will be held to a higher standard by those enthusiasts who follow this particular scene. Two substantial tracks with a brighter, clearer production than on either of the other recordings I've heard from them, and here the one-man act pursues a more organic mesh of black and death metal qualities which are superior at holding the listener's attention than the demo I recently reviewed. Though the cover artwork might not look nearly as strange as that other release, the music really does live up to it, with the less-than-cheerful disposition of the grim axeman. That said, I felt like stylistically this was a smooth evolution from Inheritance of Evilness, with the same sense for loosely focused riffing patterns that snaked around simple ideas and used production and maniacal vocal presence to thunder them home. Don't go expecting anything truly innovative or out of the ordinary, but Hail are far from a clone of other, better known acts from Dirtmaster's homeland.

The guitars have an excellent, grainy level of saturation to them which helps flesh out the tremolo picked guitar patterns in "Lawgiver & The Ghost Sword", but a lot of the time he's playing more open chords that lend the music a more melancholic, heavy/doom atmosphere. Note choices are quite simplistic, but even though they're not constantly ear-catching, they really work within the raw, raucous parameters Dirtmaster has set up. The drums still maintain that demo feel, tinny to the point that even the kick feels a little thin, but they're little more than timekeepers for the rhythm guitars that vainly attempt to penetrate that black, clouded cover to the entire din. The vocals here are nowhere near as crazy sounding as the old demo, and instead focused on a dirtier, gruffer syncopated growl, which functions appropriately within the nihilistic approach to composition. There are a few points where the transitions seem slightly sloppy, which resonates a mildly improvisational aftertaste, but at the very least they always seem to develop into some subtle but epic heavy metal riffing patterns...

Like what he does with the harmonics and chords at the end of "Lawgiver...", where the riffs really adapt an early Varathron-ish Hellenic black/heavy metal aesthetic worthy of a Robert E. Howard short story, before escalating into a pretty evil sounding death metal riff which is frankly the most creepy sequence of notes I've ever heard from Hail. This brand of fell majesty continues well into the second track, "De Revolutionibus Orbium Colestium 666", which occasionally sounds samey to the first, but is broken up by some little dissonant wisps of notes and a more doom-like sparsity by the middle of the track (around the 5 minute mark). The vocals get really vile and mocking at that point, and I just love what he's doing with the atmospheric guitars, using the vocals as grisly percussion. When given ample time to work their horrors on the listener, Dirtmaster seems to just excel at these passages, and while there is some room for improvement and to make the tunes catchier in general, Lawgiver is a genuine, dark glimpse into a musical future that hopefully won't take 12 years to manifest.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com