Hell

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Available now via Bandcamp and Pesanta Urfolk

Where have this band been all my drone loving life? Hell, an innocuously named (by metal standards), drone doom act from Salem, Oregon, are the sort of band that give drone doom a good name, even fifteen years after Sunn O))) first detonated their riffs on record. III, the third release by the band (which is actually a solo project by the elusive M. S. W.), contains but two tracks, but over forty minutes manages to prove itself one of the finest releases of its type for many a year.

‘Mourn’ makes up side one, and begins with a clean picked guitar that brings to mind latter day Earth. It’s a sombre, delightfully weighted piece, which takes a good five minutes to kick into metallic territory. When it does the results are brought forth in the shape of coruscating guitars that bring to mind latter day atmospheric black metal as well as the most painful shades of doom. The lo-fi nature of the recording makes everything sound twice as effective, with the rumbling low-end perfectly balanced by treble melody, which is desperately trying to escape from the claustrophobic aura that dominates the record. There are also some fantastically savage harsh vocals, the kind which most black metal vocalists try so hard to do before ultimately failing miserably.

Most impressively ‘Mourn’ fades back into its opening gloom at the perfect moment. The musical heaviness dropping away back, via drones of feedback, to the simple, but plaintively affecting, guitar riff that opened the track makes for arguably the finest moment of the entire record...or so one is inclined to think until ‘Decedere’ gets into full swing.

 

 

This second track really is a fascinating composition. The fade in of strings and guitar eventually segues into classic drone doom riffing but there’s a real twist in the inclusion of some beautiful female operatic vocals. It’s truly spine-tingling. Then the heaviness returns, with those fantastic harsh vocals again. The end of the track, where the modern Earth-like guitar playing is utilised again alongside a muffled but nonetheless potently depressive sample, arrives after a brief period of silence, a nearly forgotten coda.

By the end of the record III has, despite just being two tracks long, been quite the journey. The emotional power of this album is fairly devastating if you’re in a bleak frame of mind and the willingness of M. S. W. to draw in influences from inside and outside the drone and metal spheres to enhance his atmospheric vision is perhaps what makes this a rare essential listen.

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