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Sunshine and rainbows - 83%

Cheeses_Priced, May 21st, 2009

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.