Tag Archives: Horror

Demon Head – Hellfire Ocean Void (Review)

Demon Head – Hellfire Ocean Void (Released 22nd Feb 2019)

Remember when bands used to “get it together in the country”? Demon Head do. In the winter of 2017-18 they headed out to a remote recording studio in the Danish countryside to record their third album. But this is no bucolic, hippy, communing with nature type affair. More a “getting lost in the woods, people with strange animal masks, ‘it’s time for your appointment with The Wicker Danzig’” situation. The creepy rural seclusion approach has worked: Demon Head have definitely got it together on Hellfire Ocean Void.

The Night Is Yours and In The Hour Of The Wolf are the standout tracks: occult, old-fashioned metal that will appeal to fans of Tribulation and In Solitude. There are also lots of rustic interludes and mystical ambience which, combined with the band’s Pentagram-style proto-doom, gives the album a folk horror allure. The guitar work is much improved, some exciting NWOBHM-esque workouts and solos here, and Ferriera Larsen is finding his own voice: shaking off the Bobby Leibling/Fonzig comparisons of old.

As with previous albums, there’s a tendency to meander which means it takes a few listens to grab you. But it’s their most thoughtful, consistent and well-crafted effort yet with depth and atmosphere in abundance. It builds on the promise of their earlier work and suggests exciting ways forward. Fan of pagan, old-school metal? It’s time for your appointment with Demon Head.

HMO Rating: 4 Out Of 5

Funeral Mist – Hekatomb (Review)

Funeral Mist – Hekatomb (2018)

The return of Swedish orthodox black metallers Funeral Mist has been one of 2018’s most welcome surprises. And Hekatomb, their first album in nearly ten years, is a raging reminder that the Devil still has all the best tunes. Tracks like Shedding Skin and Hosanna are absolutely flaying, a purist’s delight, and the rest of the album has imaginative depth and rich layers: In Nomine Domini’s addictive sliding riff; Naught But Death’s wicked mix of groove and gospel; Cockatrice’s ambient keys and the monk-y magic of Metamorphosis. It’s a stunning accomplishment from Arioch who, ably assisted by drummer Lars B, is the mastermind behind all the music, imagery and charismatically demented vocals here. Easily the album of the year so far. It’s so good I had to buy their entire back catalogue on vinyl.

HMO Rating: 5 Out Of 5

The very cool booklet that comes with the vinyl edition
Gotta get ’em all!

Mercyful Fate – Mercyful Fate EP (Review)

Released in 1982, Mercyful Fate’s self-titled debut is often referred to as the “Nuns Have No Fun” EP but I reckon even Mother Theresa would be hard-pressed to not get a kick out of this. The Danish band battered out a high-energy update on the pace-shifting, riff-laden approach of bands like Diamond Head and Priest but earned recognition as one of the “first wave” black metal bands by virtue of being extremely, extremely evil. While their style is fairly traditional, Hank Shermann’s riffs and solos are pure malevolence and the unique range of corpse-painted vocalist King Diamond is alternately threatening and ghostly, hitting high notes only Rob Halford can hear on Devil Eyes. A Corpse Without Soul and Doomed By The Living Dead are thrashing, twisting workouts with wonderful vocal hooks. Try not singing along with “I’m a corpse, I’m a corpse, I’m a corpse without soul”. The band’s seminal albums would be more cerebral and progressive occult offerings, but the four songs here have a more boisterous and naïve sense of blasphemy. The graveyard scares, pentagram pants, “fucking angels” and a C-word laden ode to religious sisters make Mercyful Fate a uniquely diabolical, gleeful and headbanging entry in their impressive career. None more fun.

HMO Rating: 5 out of 5

*Buying Note: This EP is also available in its entirety as part of the compilation The Beginning, which is a must-buy too.

Ghost – Prequelle (Review)

Ghost – Prequelle Ltd. Edition with bonus tracks and 3D cover thing

Hard to believe it’s already eight years since Ghost’s debut album Opus Eponymous. Time flies when you’re having satanic fun. And on the plague, death and apocalypse themed Prequelle, Ghost are still all about fun. Like on its excellent predecessor 2015’s Meliora, Ghost’s fourth album is full of blissfully catchy theatrical rock that laces its spiritually uplifting hooks with diabolical twists. But it doesn’t do much that Meliora didn’t already do better. Two flat instrumentals pad out the running time, Pro Memoria is beyond Muppety and the fiendish lyrical slants aren’t as keen or effective (replacing “be with” with “bewitch” isn’t enough to add depth to the ABBA-tastic Danse Macabre). But all gripes are rendered churlish when faced with the excellence of tracks like the glam metal Rats, the passionately defiant See The Light and majestically melodic Witch Image. Prequelle might be a weak facsimile of its predecessor but there’s still enough devilish fun in its diminishing returns to make it worthy of devotion.

HMO Rating: 3.5 Out Of 5

Tribulation – Down Below (Review)

When Sweden’s Tribulation premiered their new single Lady Death in late 2017, it left me expecting a bland, streamlined follow-up album to 2015’s excellent The Children Of The Night. I shouldn’t have worried. Their follow-up Down Below is definitely streamlined but, far from being bland, it hones their horror metal to perfection: simplifying their music and making it more accessible without sacrificing depth. No mean feat.

There are a lot of comparisons to be drawn with other Swedish bands. The melodic horror and direct, memorable riffing is akin to Ghost but tracks like Nightbound and Cities From The Underworld use layers of sinister instrumentation and harmony to add a thick, nocturnal atmosphere of gothic horror. Johannes Andersson maintains his ghoulish, gargled vocals style too. A crucial move that stops things getting too slick, giving the album a gritty, filth that brings to mind In Solitude’s superb Sister. And on the centrepiece track Subterranea the band conjure the kind of evil magick that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Watain album.

The Ltd. Edition version features excellent bonus track Come, Become, To Be

I can’t blame anyone for trying to pick out a single but this is best experienced in its entirety. Tribulation juggles variety and consistency, accessibility and obscurity with accomplished ease. It’s a major statement from a band that has come a staggeringly long way in just four albums and Down Below will cast a long, haunting shadow over the metal scene of 2018.

HMO Rating: 5 Out Of 5

Cradle Of Filth – Cryptoriana: The Seductiveness Of Decay (Review)

Cradle Of Filth are a British institution, one of the most recognisable and successful extreme acts to come from these shores. But, while they are loved and loathed by many, they’ve never made a huge impression on me either way. I’ve bought and enjoyed a fair few albums of theirs over the years but I’ve never had that phase where I’ve obsessed over them, where they were my band. Until now.

Although I was late getting to it, I was thoroughly impressed with 2015’s Hammer Of The Witches, and the band’s latest album continues in that vein. Themed around the Victorian obsession with death, Cryptoriana: The Seductiveness Of Decay is a darkly fabulous romp of hard-hitting gothic metal, delivered with expertise and passion. The overall approach is still the band’s patented blackened Hammer Horror style but there’s a whole wealth of approaches employed. Heartbreak And Seance’s romantic melodrama, thrash fury on Wester Vespertine, You Will Know The Lion By Its Claw’s pitch-black savagery and there are wonderful trad metal gallops and harmonies throughout (most thrillingly in The Seductiveness Of Decay). Best of all, vocalist Dani Filth puts each song over and then some: a spirited and veteran performance of considerable taste, breadth and character.

Hammer Of The Witches reached some peaks of excitement that aren’t quite reached here but its a nano-gripe about a near-flawless album. And, on the flip-side, the latest album has none of the excess that detracted from its predecessor. For all its expansive grandeur, Cryptoriana… is tight and direct. The pedal is to the metal at all times and the band’s cinematic flourishes are weaved and layered skilfully throughout the songs with no boring intros or interludes to be found. The style is familiar but the album is fresh and stakes its own unique place in their canon. An utterly wonderful release from a veteran band at the top of their game. My band.

HMO Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Possession – Exorkizein (Review)

Following an impressive demo and mini-album, I was expecting to be more impressed by Possession’s debut full-length album. The Belgians dish out impressively clear and concise black/death with plenty of evil atmosphere but they never really lift themselves out of the solid zone. Despite some strong riffs, the songs in the first half all blur into one. Exorkizein gradually improves, and is at its best in its closing stages with tracks like In Vain and Take the Oath being standouts. Possession have an appealing Watain-like delivery and catchiness but there’s not enough of that band’s threatening audacity and ambition here. Exorkizein is far from execrable but not exactly exciting either.

Formicarius – Black Mass Ritual (Review)

The last time I encountered the UK’s Formicarius was back in December when they contributed a track Lake of the Dead to the excellent compilation Speed Kills VII. Back then I called them “very promising” and I’m glad to report that, with Black Mass Ritual, they have delivered on that promise and then some.

Formicarius go medievil on your ass with their debut album, dishing out Cradle of Filth-style symphonic metal with power metal exuberance. The whirling atmosphere, rib-cracking riffs and exotic solos sound like Mustaine and Friedman jamming with Emperor, the potent speed metal velocity, galloping bass and catchy choruses bring to mind early Helloween and there’s a folky bent to the riffs and instrumentation that reminds me of the classic Skyclad albums.

All the performances are outstanding, from Lord Saunders’ articulate Abbath-esque croak to Morath’s grand and eloquent keyboard embellishments and solos (check out the excellent outro piano on Overlord, a standout moment). The songwriting is also uniformly excellent. An overly jaunty riff in Abhorrent Feast of Minds is the only thing close to a mis-step and it’s soon forgiven as Master of Past and Present closes the album on a dark, dramatic high.

It’s a fantastic debut: rampaging, grand black metal with a healthy dose of epic tradition and fearless creativity. In a year where I’ve been mainly knocked out by death metal albums, Formicarius have struck a decisive blow for black metal. And they’ve done it with an album that is all kinds of metal fun for all kinds of metal fans. The Black Mass Ritual begins on July 21st, don’t miss out.

HMO Rating: 4 out of 5

Nocturnus – Destroying the Manger (Song Review)

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“Chronometer reading 0 B.C.”

As my Top 10 Albums of the Year proved, “death metal in space” was a big thing in 2016. So let’s travel back in time to 1990 and the album that started it all: Nocturnus’ The Key and this excellent blast of sci-fi horror. Some sort of evil cyborg has invented a time machine and set a course for the date 0 B.C. He has only one goal: kill the baby Jesus!

“Blasting away Father, Mother, and Child/laughing hysterically all of the while” the cyborg proves to be devastatingly successful in his mission. And Destroying the Manger proves devastatingly successful too: a wild shred-fest of riffs and solos that gets down to serious moshing business at 4:10. And check out the prominent keyboards too… Nocturnus going where no death metal band had gone before.

HMO Rating: 4 Out Of 5

Death SS – Zombie/Terror (7″ Single – Review)

It's fun to slay at the YMCA
It’s fun to slay at the Y.M.C.A.

Considering the huge impact Italy has had on the world of horror movies since the 60s, it’s hardly surprising that the first Italian Heavy Metal band was steeped in the sepulchral atmosphere of the graveyard. Death SS were formed in 1977 by guitarist Paul Chain (the “Death”) and vocalist Steve Sylvester (The “Vampire” whose initials also provided the “SS” of the band name). The band was rounded out by guitarist Claud Galley (The “Zombie”), bassist Danny Hughes (the “Mummy”) and the superbly-monikered Thomas Hand Chaste (the “Werewolf”) on drums. If the Village People ever went Hammer Horror they would probably end up looking something like Death SS.

Although they toiled in obscurity, Death SS still managed to release demos and some privately pressed singles. The Zombie/Terror 7” is the earliest of those singles, an extremely rare release that has now been exhumed and reissued by Svart Records. A-Side Zombie is a 1979 demo version recorded at a rehearsal and B-Side Terror is a rough live take from 1980. Both are horrible, crudely performed and even more crudely recorded. But an inspired and creative magick cuts through the sonic fog. Naively simple but ominous riffs are topped with chiming, ethereally spooky guitar melodies and the vocal hooks in both songs are immediate and melodic enough to endure Sylvester’s cheese-grater vocals. The ugly rawness of the production and singing also strengthens the dark, occult atmosphere: a method that many Black Metal bands would make a virtue of years later.

You could draw style connections via the Italians from Killer-era Alice Cooper through to the Black Metal genre but Death SS don’t really sound like anyone else. Their otherworldly eeriness, melodic nous and the murky, macabre shroud of sound makes for a darkly seductive listen that I’d strongly recommend to fans of occult/horror-themed Metal. Superior versions of both these songs can be found on the essential The Story of Death SS 1977 – 1984 compilation so newcomers should start there. But for existing fans this single is a great opportunity to own more of this obscure band’s rare and early work and to hear their first lumbering steps from beyond the grave.

HMO Rating: 4 out of 5