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Review

Hooded Menace – Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed Review

Band: Hooded Menace
Album: Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed
Label: Season of Mist
Genre: Death/doom
Country: Finland
Release: 26th January

It’s not all that easy to decide which side of the death-doom spectrum the Finnish band Hooded Menace leans more heavily towards. While earlier releases ‘Fulfil the Curse’ and ‘Never Cross the Dead’ relied on songwriting conventions fairly typical of death-doom, Hooded Menace’s later work has been a far more innovative and melodic take on the genre. Their latest release, Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed’ is no exception; it takes some aspects of the death-doom style and magnifies them, while turning others on their head entirely.

Hooded Menace arguably owe a great deal of their visual aesthetic and lyrical content to the ‘Blind Dead’ trilogy of horror films from the mid-70s. While, to a modern audience, these movies can come across as cheesy and unconvincing, there is something genuinely dark and unsettling about the stories they tell. The same is true of Hooded Menace- though the violence and darkness of the lyrics in particular can be almost cartoonish, they are also disturbing and incisive. The imagery in ‘Cascade of Ash’ borders on hallucinogenic, while repeating guitar motifs build skyward. As on the rest of the album, vocalist Harri Kuokkanen delivers the lyrics in a wretched, deep guttural growl, which is only contrasted by the spoken word interlude on ‘In Eerie Deliverance’ by guest vocalist Jemma McNulty of COLTSBLOOD.

Though the vocals can be, at times, slightly one-dimensional, the strength of the instrumentals is more than enough to carry the songs. A common thread throughout the album is duelling lead guitars over a chugging rhythm section, which gives the guitars plenty of breathing space. Lasse Pyykkö’s lead work is a consistent highlight of the album- his lines are often memorable without being predictable, as the guitars oscillate between melodic leads and undulating, churning rhythmic figures. Pekka Koskelo’s drumming is also noteworthy, as his frequent changes in feel and groove allow the music to be constantly evolving, despite there being very little variation in tempo throughout the album. His propulsive work is especially important for moments like the first half of ‘In Eerie Deliverance’, where his kick drum work ties the rest of the instrumental parts together and allows them to feel cohesive, rather than detached.

The band’s performance as a whole is heavy and punishing, while still leaving room for nuance and atmosphere. The melancholy guitars of ‘Cathedrals of Labyrinthine Darkness’ give way to a galloping instrumental, while album closer
‘Black Moss’ is a short and jaunty guitar piece. The sombre guitar lead in ‘Charnel Reflections’ is accompanied by a tapestry of rhythm guitar work and alludes to Nightfall-era Candlemass. The dexterity of the band allows them to flirt with elements typical of both death and doom metal without becoming too heavily reliant on either, as well as crafting an atmosphere that is dark and nightmarish, as well esoteric.

Ultimately, on ‘Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed’, Hooded Menace have created something that is powerful and accessible, as well as being distinctly their own. A great release to start off the year.

Rating: 8/10

Tracklist:
1. Sempiternal Grotesqueries
2. In Eerie Deliverance
3. Cathedral of Labyrinthine Darkness
4. Cascade of Ashes
5. Charnel Reflections
6. Black Moss

Total Playing Time: 41:58

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