Back in the late 1990’s / early 2000’s Finland’s Denigrate were just starting their musical journey but following one well received debut album, commercial success with a cover song not really representative of where the band wanted to be and a magnanimous split with their then record company Warner Brothers; that journey came to an abrupt end. All the members went onto other projects but all of them felt there was unfinished business with Denigrate. Fast forward to 2015 and the guys decide to get back together to see where this journey could lead them now. What we are presented with is Hollowpoint a self-produced 2nd album. What instantly strikes you about this release is how well put together it all is. Right from the great art work, to the press releases (I can’t remember if I have ever been sent all the lyric sheets to all the songs in recent times) to the album itself. This doesn’t sound like a band that have just got back together after over a decade, one thing that has not been lost is the chemistry of this band together.
Stylistically Denigrate are a metal band, I know these days it’s common to label them under one of the 20,000 sub genres that have been introduced but this is metal pure and simple. It takes all the best elements of metal over the last 40 years and blends it together into one pretty perfect album. So what makes it metal? Its epic, its weeps with symphonies, lyrically we have images of hell, betrayal, vocally we have everything from whispered, low vocals to full out metal growls and roars.
Opening track ‘Engraved and Hellbound’ (check it out below) is almost militaristic in its style and it is actually one of the more aggressive and metal of the tracks on the album. I love the opening riff with the solid drums behind. It’s a sound you are familiar with but can’t quite put your finger on. The call and return choruses by all the band work very well and these are intercepted by two guitar solos, one each in turn by Seppo Nummela on lead and then later Ari Manninen. These guitar solos are very competent but not over showy, they work well ringing the narrative of the song along and are full of passion reminiscent of the solos on the latest Iron Maiden album.
On ‘Am I Facing Hell’ singer Micko Hell seems to be fighting more personal demons. Musically the track is not as aggressive as the opener and shows a vulnerability to the band both through the lyrics and musically. ‘Am I facing hell through my mirror. Am I truly going insane. Again Seppo produces a lead solo that adds to the overall vibe the band are producing.
‘Erased Pages’ opens with subtle background noises that soon blends into a captivating opening riff. There is a great use of subtle verses building into an anthemtic chorus before being let back down again with a lead solo. This is one of those songs that works in its contrasts and the emotion worn on the sleeve is also a bit of an ear worm. Just when you think you have the measure of this song though, those angry, slightly demonic vocals are reintroduced, which is a welcome twist.
By ‘Death Reflection’ thematically we are already familiar with the riff based opening to the songs and the quiet and vulnerable lyrics, but it doesn’t become strained or boring but instead songs like ‘Death Reflection’ build upon the songs before the, interweaving the musical feel to the album.
’My Corrupted Soul’ breaks in with a heavier riff, almost Megadeth in its intensity and style. This song drips anger, as Mikko shouts and sings his way through. This is welcome change of pace to the album. It still has its familiar style to the chorus but this is on the heavier side of metal. Lyrically and vocally, we are more in league with Slayer here. ‘I terminate, I desecrate, I defecate your grave’.
The sound of ‘Liar’ instantly drew me in, its little bit more doom laden than the previous tracks with Mikko Hell almost goth like in his vocal performance which is actually a little addicting. The ‘I’m a liar, I’m alive’ chorus is particularly captivating. The symphonic breakdown in the middle of the song, with whispered words before bursting back into the main song is also another highlight.
‘Taken Away’ is another favourite of mine on the album. I think by the time you get to this point, you are familiar with the topics and styles but the songs still seem to grow. ‘Taken Away’ is again centred around a chorus and great riff but this is a 7 minute song that simply grows with intensity as the track progresses but without ever seeming contrived or getting in danger of overdoing any one section of it. Final Track ‘Meita ei enaa ole’ is incredibly atmospheric and starts with a low riff before again turning up the intensity. I liked the spoken word (in Finnish) segment to the song, which gives it a darker otherworldly feel to the track.
So in their 12 year hiatus a lot has probably changed for the Denigrate boys and this is reflected within the sound of the new album. There is a lot more subtlety, the playing has naturally improved over this time and this is put to good use right from the strong production, to song structure and even the guitar solos. As you would expect this album is probably less angry than its 2003 predecessor but lyrically and musically it comes across as much deeper and darker. Holistically the album has a great cohesive sound that makes for a great piece of work. I for one hope it is not another 12 years before the next release.
As a note of reference the version of Hollowpoint I got sent had some bonus tracks – a couple of extra songs and 4 cover versions including ‘Bleed the Freak’ by Alice in Chains and ‘Low’ by Testament.