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For Whom My Wallet Tolls - 98%

autothrall, January 14th, 2022
Written based on this version: 2021, CD, Season of Mist (Digipak)

From its horror-kitsch Razorback origins through the more morbid and somber death/doom that most would recognize, Finnish act Hooded Menace has always stood out as one of the most memorable in its style. But even knowing that, even frothing at the bit for past works like Fulfill the Curse, Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed, Effigies of Evil or the mighty Never Cross the Dead from 2010, I could not be prepared for how damn epic and unforgettable an album Lasse and company were about to unleash with The Tritonus Bell. Consistently crushing and catchy, having arguably the best production in the band's considerable catalogue, this was a record that unhinged my jaw upon initial release, and never let up through the rest of 2021, becoming my undisputed champion to help stave off a year of global and personal uncertainty.

This is just one of those 'total packages', locking in its atmosphere, musicianship, packaging and songwriting to the degree that many classic albums of my youth once did. I've heard others refer to this as a King Diamond of death metal, perhaps for the obvious reason that Andy LaRocque was on production here, but also the horror themes, the purple cover art might draw you back to an album like The Eye, and most importantly, the quality. Sure, it's a stretch, but replace the falsetto shrieking with growls, and the flashier heavy metal with superbly constructed death/doom grooves, and you might arrive at a place not too far from The Tritonus Bell. At the same time, I also hear a lot of Candlemass, Mercyful Fate grooves and even peak mid-90s Amorphis. The melodies and harmonies abound, leads are well-plotted to create an emotional impact over the drudging chords, and most importantly, like many of my fave albums in any sub-strain of 'doom metal', it understands that its compositions do not require an insufferable amount of slowness and repetition to wring despair from its audience. Hooded Menace has never really shied away from incorporating influence from traditional heavy metal or melodic death, but here the hybrid finds it strongest balance, and you get a masterful tune like "Blood Ornaments" or "Corpus Asunder" as a result.

Don't get me wrong, the album is still largely representative of its predecessors, but there's a dash of colorization here I haven't really felt since the sophomore album, with songs that are even better. Harri's gutturals are impressive despite any lack of range, and the drums are fantastic, but its the guitars that endlessly deliver throughout the 44 minutes, from the inaugural mild shredding of "Chthonic Exordium" to the super earworm finale "Instruments of Somber Finality" which I honestly wish was a lot longer because it totally hooks me. The production is top notch as it inevitably would be with this man in the booth, and while it might not focus too much on the cult and camp horror concepts like their earlier albums, this offers a more sobering, powerful escape into a shadowy, sinister necromantic universe. Mandatory stuff. Fuck, buy a copy for everyone you know, and turn their sunny skies upside down with morbid amusement.