Hoth - Astral Necromancy - (9.5/10)
Published on June 20, 2018
Rituals of Impending Darkness
Hoth is the icy planet with ton-tons where Luke Skywalker gets stranded in The Empire Strikes Back. It is also the name of a melodic death/black metal band from Seattle with you guessed it, Star Wars themed lyrics. Hell, their logo is the shape of a TIE Fighter, which should tell you how big they are on Star Wars. Astral Necromancy is the duo’s third album, and the first in four years. Star Wars nerds have speculated that the album is about Darth Plagueis given the lyrical themes of immortality. Regardless, it sounds cool and this band makes great music.
The riffs on this album are pretty awesome and there is plenty of variation to keep the listener on their toes. There is a ton of ¾ paced tremolo picking but it has plenty of melody packed into it to make it stand out more. This album also packs plenty of heavy, hard-hitting riffs as well as the fast pace you would expect for this style. You can find them all over the album but “The Gathering of the Accursed Artifacts” wraps it all up in a blistering package of extreme darkness. This track has hard-hitting riffs, fast tremolo picking, heavy riffs played at a blistering pace and so much more in the span of less than six minutes. The melodies on this album are excellent and fit the dark atmosphere very well while also being quite memorable. “Citadel of the Necromancer” is the best example of this as the recurring melody is fantastic and a total earworm. There are a number of great solos throughout this album as well as two very ominous interludes. There is an excellent one that serves as the intro to “The Gathering of the Accursed Artifacts” and another great one in the middle of “The Void Between the Stars.” This fits with the band’s desire to make an album befitting the end of all creation. The end of all creation will feature one final blaze of glory before the impending darkness wraps its icy essence around the universe, overtaking what little light was left. Then, the universe will simply be complete and utter darkness. This album may not achieve that level of supreme darkness but it certainly tries. Oh and if you have any doubts about the riffs on this album, listen to “Passage into Entropy” and those doubts will be cured.
The vocals on this album are exactly the kind of raspy black metal screams you would expect from an album that just seeps darkness. It is actually kind of an old school approach as the vocals are very harsh but the lyrics are actually quite intelligible. In a lot of ways, the vocals are actually very reminiscent of Abbath’s approach but a little harsher and raspier. Interestingly enough, there are some clean vocals mixed in on this album. They do not appear very often but they resemble a war chant and the stark contrast to the harsh vocals makes them extremely effective. Take the chorus of “Journey into the Eternal Winter” for example. The clean vocals come out of nowhere but the fact that it is a chant elevates the song to another level.
There are some really ominous keyboards on this album, like the outro of “Passage into Entropy,” that really add an extra sense of impending doom to the album. There are other examples but that outro is the most striking one. There is a ton of variation in the drum patterns and style of drumming on this album, making for an incredibly dynamic, standout performance. People like to say “there is something for everyone here” but Hoth actually accomplish this with the drumming on this album and it is a beautiful thing. There are a handful of punchy fills on here along with excellent cymbal work and a really progressive section in “The Void Between the Stars.” This album has plenty of rapid-fire blast beats and double-kick drumming for the speed enthusiasts and slow, pounding drum beats for those who admire skill and technique over pure speed. All of this amounts to one of the best all-around drum performances on an extreme metal album in recent years.
The production on this album is predictably lo-fi but the individual instruments are clear as day and so is the overall mix. This provides a great balance for what is definitely one of the best extreme metal albums of the year. The fact that Hoth is shrouded in mystery only adds to the sense of impending darkness created by black magic on this album. They are a duo and although their identities are no secret, their specific roles in the band are a complete mystery since they do not play live shows or tour. The real mystery will be where this album lands on year-end lists.