Aside from the acts over at Razorback Recordings, there are few bands playing today that mesh as profound a love of classic horror cinema with an even weightier fondness for gloom-slathered Death/Doom Metal than the Finnish duo of HOODED MENACE. Their latest exorcism, “Effigies of Evil,” released under the Relapse umbrella, is a crushing display of foreboding Doom that may not be breaking down any new mortuary walls, but it remains difficult to deny the band’s even mixture of primordial weight and contagious Castlevanian melody.
In true Mary Shelley fashion, the album opens with a monster of a track in “Vortex Macabre,” a grueling and lumbering introduction that beckons forth the abominably gross vocals of Lasse Pyykkö, a man who has apparently concocted a way of wrenching forth the tortured souls from some lost and unspeakable pit. Around three minutes in, the pace livens from a Doom-soaked, COFFINS-esque lurch to a grooving mid-tempo gallop that adds a fleeting and gracious break in cloud-cover, and as becomes customary, these melodic moments are used both sparingly and effectively, serving “Effigies of Evil” with appreciable doses of salvation. For you see, while HOODED MENACE are quite capable of manifesting peels of melodic groove, it is simply not their all-consuming aim. This is an album told from the viewpoint of the beast; gluttonous and powerful, it expends energy when it deems fit; not at the mercy of its listener.
With that said, the band does a solid job of adding these complementary mid-tempo sections, adding ominously layered guitar work behind ‘cacoffinic’ moments of cobweb-draped Doom. The winding riffs and solos that serve as vertebrae in a track like “Crumbing Insanity” help further the considerable crush that ultimately follows when the chorus riff comes barreling through. In fact, these more melodious guitar sections are just as affecting as the album’s tombstone-hurling weight; tracks like the aforementioned “Crumbling Insanity” and “In the Dead We Dwell,” both of which offer excellently used movie samples from House of Usher and Twins of Evil, begin with stark and malevolently beautiful guitar passages that practically scream for more air-time.
As has perhaps always been with a band like HOODED MENACE, variation remains a problem, but an excusable one. What helps these songs differentiate greatly from one-to-the-next are its samples, its cluster of occult-driven riffs, and the uniqueness of each track. It’s easy to tell which track is “Vortex Macabre” because, well, it’s over 10 minutes long. Likewise, “In the Dead We Dwell” has that killer opening sample and introductory guitar work. Yet when the songs hit their middle grounds, similar structures hamper the memorability factor, ultimately making “Effigies of Evil” less of a riveting experience.
But again, this should not be misconstrued as a deterrent. HOODED MENACE have once again delivered. Tracks like the album-titled “Effigies of Evil” is pure grooving Death/Doom that should please fans of bands like DECREPITAPH, DISMA, and BOLT THROWER; “Summoned into Euphoric Madness” is a righteous slab of Old School Death Metal pillared by Pekka Koskelo’s hammering percussion, and the closing “Retribution in Eternity,” in spite of its sub-two-minute running time, is an eerily effective outro that employs ghostly notes, feedback, and a sample from Amando de Ossorio's third Blind Dead film, Horror of the Zombies aka The Ghost Galleon (1974).
It’s no secret that from the inception of "Effigies of Evil," the riffs are at the very forefront, bringing down the castle with spell-binding grooves and a merciless defiance that conjures up moments of unbelievably dense Death/Doom Metal. HOODED MENACE are back from the grave, and they’ve brought with them a monolith of skull-crushing music chained at their heels.
(Online August 22, 2012)