Hiidenhauta - 1695 - (9/10)
Published on October 9, 2018
1695 is not only the beginning of the “Years of of Many Deaths,” but the title of Hiidenhauta’s sophomore album, released in March of 2018 through Inverse Records. The band’s debut full length, 2014’s Noita on minun sukuni was a fine, if more than a bit overreaching, piece of blackened metal. The band showed tons of promise within, but, ultimately, the album came across unfocused.
This latest effort from this eclectic group of Finnish troubadours sees a tighter focus on the eccentricities that made the debut seem so unhinged. There is still a strong wash of elements not typical found in black metal, but Hiidenhauta makes it work quite well. The base of the music presents itself from the opening seconds: razor sharp tremolo riffing that retains a highly melodic edge with deft and nimble phrasings paired with pummeling double bass and controlled yet inventively wild handwork. It’s a sound that a casual black metal listener would instantly place as “very Finnish sounding” (though there are a few moments of meatier, almost thrash-tinged riffs), yet this is where Hiidenhauta’s similarities to traditional black metal acts ends.
Not completely removing the schizophrenic reach of their previous material, Hiidenhauta incorporates several different musical elements into a cohesive maturation. A mix of traditional black metal vocals and clean, female vocals (that aren’t just a random afterthought, mind you), create a dynamic, engaging delivery. While the music is fantastic all around, with strong performances, the intricate keyboard and piano work stands out as the most striking. Steering clear of typical synthesized grandeur that one may find on any number of atmospheric black metal albums, the band instead focuses on upbeat piano flourishes and classically inspired movements, intricately woven into the band’s dark and melodic black metal (listen to “Nälkäkevät” for a prominent example). These keys are brilliantly performed, and sound quite maniacal at times, in spite of their beauty. Two piano-led tracks worth mention,“ Nimettömät” delivers a serene saunter while “Musta leipä” provides a devilish counterpoint with a clashing, dissonant crescendo.
1695 is an album that requires a few listens and a set of willing ears. It’s a grower, as the complex melodies unfold and constantly shift. Hiidenhauta’s sound is dynamic and fierce. It’s progressive and eclectic in the truest sense of the words, though it still listens like a proper black metal album. The vocals; the riffs; the drumming; it’s all something to behold, once you let it properly travel through your system. Those keys, though, they are just fantastic. 1695 is a fantastic step up from their debut full length.