Hell is Other People – Embrace Review

Band: Hell is Other People
Album: Embrace
Label: CDN Records
Genre: Black Metal / Drone
Country: Canada
Release Date: 15 September, 2017

So pretty much I think this album is going to make people fall into two camps: those that think it’s boring and those that get into the vibe and almost meditative quality of its serene brutality. The band must know this, too, because they’re obviously playing what they want how they want it, the listeners be damned. I admire that stubbornness and really, I think it’s the kind of quality that all great music should have. Write the songs you want, not what others want. That’s art.

All of the songs on offer here are long, the shortest being opener “Visions,” which clocks in at a little over five minutes and pretty much gets right to the point. You get a little atmosphere and then the Black Metal sheen washes over you and it just goes. This is a wall of sound, the vocals, guitars, drums and bass all pushed to the front equally but also, somehow, strangely pushed to the background, as well. This is where the “Drone” part comes in, although it really doesn’t drone in a typical sense. Every song on here creates a feeling, a sense of being caught up in a wash that carries you along. Here is where the fans of this band will be separated from those that don’t like them. You either get into it or you don’t. It seems pretty simple and straightforward to me. I feel the same way about bands like Neurosis and Electric Wizard (both of whom don’t sound ANYTHING like this band, so don’t get confused) that operate on the same kind of level. You get the vibe and you let it hum and resonate within you, or you don’t.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t dynamics in here. Oh, no. To say something like that would be a total lie. But it takes time to parse it out. Many listens. This is what is fondly known as a “grower” album. Your best bet is to let it play in the background while you do other things for the first couple listens, then put on some headphones and give it more attention, do the background thing again, and then blast it in your car. If you’re like me, you’ll get into it and you’ll come to see the nuance and subtly when it reveals itself. Take, for instance, track number two, “Embrace.” About four minutes in, the song slows and sort of starts to swing and if you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss it. This moment doesn’t stand out at first because wall of sound, but repeated listens drags it forward. It makes me wonder how this will sound in the context of a live setting, with all the different dynamics a venue has to offer. Will it change the songs substantially? It would be interesting to find out.

The two final songs, “Blossom” and “The Colour Returns” do much of the same. You get a really sweet melodic passage about 3:30 into “Blossom,” with some of what I consider killer drumming. This allows you to drift a bit, get lost in the haze. Again, the whole works together to create this dreamy state, and even when the heaviness returns, and the blasting begins again, you don’t lose the feel. Instead, you get swept right along. And with “Colour,” you get an epic closer, 13 minutes long, that does everything the band has done before, but puts it all on steroids. More melody, more heavy, more blasting, and yet it does not ever push away or contradict what has come before, instead enhancing the experience as a whole.

Mostly what you get with this release is a lot of Black Metal, a lot of Black Metal screeching, and blastbeats, all tempered with melodic, melancholy passages that work together to create a meditative experience, if you let it all wash over you. If you embrace it. If you don’t, you’re going to get bored, and bored quick. If you’re into this sort of thing, this record is a sold 8 on the ratings scale. If you’re not, this is a 6, because even if you don’t like it, there’s nothing remotely incompetent or lacking about this album. So I gave it a 7 rating, to strike a balance between the two camps.

Rating: 7/10

1. Visions
2. Embrace
3. Blossom
4. The Colour Returns

Total Playing Time: 37:36

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