Hooded Menace - Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhalllowed - (9.5/10)
Published on January 30, 2018
They’re back–and they’re better than ever
Hooded Menace is a special band. They have been around for over ten years now and are releasing their fifth full length, Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed. The band has been moving slowly—as is their wont—from essentially an epic doom band with death metal vocals, to a more expansive, adventurous, and more interesting band over their last several releases. This is not to say that their early releases were not stellar—I would argue that Hooded Menace has never released a bad album—but the direction in which they have been heading over their last couple of full lengths is more interesting, varied, and unique than their previous output. On their newest album, Hooded Menace continue to produce crushing, eerie, emotional death/doom and proves that they are still one of the best bands to ever play this genre.
The album starts off with what I would call the best track: “Sempiternal Grotesqueries” (you’re gonna want your dictionary handy for this album’s title and songs). This is an absolute behemoth of a track, taking the listener on a fantastic journey through multiple movements and several unbelievable riffs. It also introduces one of my favorite parts of the album: the creepy, single string riffs that tie together different movements. They sound like an uncomfortably tall and thin man in a top hat guiding one from a darkened room in a mansion to an even darker room. And the movements these runs tie together are all equally good. There are slow, pummeling sections with heavy, ringing chords that lead into speedy, palm muted thrill-rides, and contorted, midpaced single string stunners. In addition to the excellent variation in riffing, there are also fantastic, mournful lead guitars, slowly welling the tears in your eyes until you are sure you cannot take another second; luckily these tend to lead into more aggressive fare before you’re in a puddle. Solos are uniformly strong, delivering both shredding and feeling all wrapped in a wonderful guitar tone.
And guess what? All of that was just the first track; though it is a pretty good description of how the rest of the album plays out. Hooded Menace mix things up extremely well throughout the album. There are never slow parts that last too long and faster sections never outstay their welcome. Outside of the guitars, which I believe I have sufficiently extolled, other instrumental performances are fantastic as well. Otso Ukkonen’s drumming is very dynamic. He is great at augmenting the slow sections with forceful cymbal crashed; but he is equally adept during quicker parts, mixing up his ride cymbals, crashes, and rhythms to keep things interesting. Double bass is utilized sparingly so it never feels forced or trite. He increases the drama and power of every section of the album, never becoming overtly flashy, but still putting on a clinic that is a joy to listen to. Poutanen’s bass has a beautiful tone and provides an excellent foundation for the guitars. He doesn’t typically take center stage, but occasionally he shines on his own. Kuokkanen’s vocals, though they have gotten perhaps a little less cavernous over the years, are no less threatening. His deep, throaty roar perfectly suits the terror, emotion, and force of Hooded Menace’s music.
The album has the feel of a dark journey. It ebbs and flows well, the tracks seemingly having been ordered with meticulous care. Whether you’re listening to the beautiful, driving arpeggiated chords of “In Eerie Deliverance,” being crushed by the utter power of “Cathedral of Labrynthine Darkness,” or being destroyed by the heart wrenching “Charnel Reflections,” everything feels exactly in its right place. In addition to the pacing, the songwriting is compelling and memorable. Even after one listen, you will probably have various melodies and riffs floating through your grey matter. The cover art gives an excellent indication of what you are in for, because it often feels like one is travelling through a cavern of legend, surrounded by specters that one cannot quite grasp, reaching through the dark for something to hold onto. Ossuarium produces emotions, aggression, and awe in equal parts, and by the time the delicate guitar of “Black Moss” is over, you may find yourself drained—and ready to be entranced by the album all over again. Hooded Menace have produced yet another astounding album, but what else would we expect at this point? An absolute must listen.