Review: Hooded Menace – Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed

Finland’s Hooded Menace have relatively quickly become one of Europe’s leading proponents of death infused doom metal. With sixteen recorded releases to their name since forming in 2007, their persistency and sheer quality has garnered them a growing legion of rabid fans along the way.

Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed is the band’s fifth full length effort and is their first as a five piece since the arrival of Harri Kuokkanen on lead vocals.

As we have come to both love and expect from these guys, Silhouettes delivers six tracks of unique, monolithically heavy, groove ridden and unapologetically death-laden doom metal.

Ever fans of fantastical song titles, opener “Sempiternal Grotesquries” begins proceedings with a classic Paradise Lost melody before lumbering broodingly into the band’s trademark gallop and a riff so catchy, driven on by rollocking double bass kicks, that you lose track of time which at over ten minutes this track contains plenty. An auspicious start to the journey.

Following on, “In Eerie Deliverance” offers more again, opening with those signature twin guitar harmonies which twist and roll effortlessly before slowing to an achingly mournful march backed by a haunting female vocal. This is epic/anthemic stuff, all the better for drummer Otso’s inventive and experimental rhythms which cuts through and offers fresh perspective.

Third song “Cathedral of Labyrinthine Darkness,” is a real standout. Beginning with a suffocatingly heavy/bass-driven intro which is both joyously gloom laden and catchy in unison, it’s as close as I have heard to Cathedral’s epic Forest of Equilibrium – it’s that good. The track then picks up the tempo slightly, delivering another cracking old school riff which will have purists baying for more. Fourth song, “Cascade Of Ashes,” pounces next with a guttural burst from Koukkanen before building step by morose step yet maintaining that key ingredient of melody, keeping you hooked. Midway through there is a break where a solemn guitar mournfully weeps over some almost tribal drumming before being joined by its twin to provide a driving and groovy riff which carries the track to the end. Another sign of the band’s maturity and willingness to develop and experiment a little.

Fifth track, “Charnel Reflections” is another highlight. It begins with a classically atmospheric acoustic intro and then kicks into a trademark bludgeoning heavy/layered attack, carried by rumbling double bass rolls, breaking down into a monster of a riff which is simply brilliant.

Final track “Black Moss” at a mere 2 minutes 20 seconds lacks the staying power of the previous five behemoths but it certainly makes up for it in sheer quality. An instrumental, it builds into a brutally crunching riff layered with some delicate and intricate lead work before fading out majestically with a classical baroque piece. A melancholy and almost relaxing end to quite an epic journey.

The band have clearly honed their draft over the last ten years and Ossuariam Silhouttes Unhallowed really does show what a confident and mature outfit Hooded Menace have grown into. There’s no questioning the musicianship and song craft, as always driven by founder and leader Pykko Lasse, which is really quite flawless. There is a tad more experimentation on show but built onto the band’s classic trademarks it adds rather than detracts from the overall sound and enjoyment. The production is also worthy of praise, balancing the warm and heavy guitar/bass tone well against new vocalist Harri’s menacing rasp and drummer Otso’s lumbering rhythms.

If ever in doubt, this release should cement the band’s reputation as death/doom titans. Beware the Hooded Menace…

Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed is out 26 Jan through Season of Mist

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