Hooded Menace – Never Cross the Dead

Hooded Menace put out one of the best Razorback releases in 2008 with their debut full length Fulfill the Curse (shit I must be getting old, it really does not seem like it's been two years since I got that bad boy in the mail...ugh).  Basically the band combined imagery and lyrics about the Blind Dead series (a horror series from Spain about eyeless undead Templars who hunt by sound, really cool and atmospheric so you should check ‘em out if you haven’t seen them)  with some of the heaviest, most down tuned and crushing doom/death metal out there.  Now the band returns from the grave with another masterpiece of menacing doom that’s even slower, heavier and more morbid sounding than before. 

For the second album Hooded Menace decided to move to another label to increase their distribution, so instead of Razorback putting this one out it’s Profound Lore Records.  Not to worry though, the usual Razorback crew was still on board to write the lyrics (Billy Nocera, Lucio Holocausto, Elektrokutioner, and Tanya Sim) and this is some of the best shit I’ve seen yet from them. I like that the band has a more serious tone as opposed to some of the more cartoonish stuff Razorback is known for.  I also got this one from the Razorback Records distro as well, so I’d say they’re still on good terms.

The first thing that strikes you about this album is the amazing piece of artwork on the cover.  Putrid and Adam Geyer teamed up to deliver a Blind Dead themed masterpiece (Putrid handled the drawing and inking, which you can see on the CD label and Geyer the painting).  Fulfill the Curse was a strictly black and white affair and it certainly kicked some serious ass, but this one is on another level.  If Putrid and Geyer teamed up to do a comic book in this style it would fucking OWN!  The package this time is a digipak and the rest of it features additional artwork from Putrid and Eric “Rot” Engelman that’s put into a layout that looks like old decayed parchment.  All in all the visual aspect suites this style of music perfectly.

When comparing Hooded Menace’s sophomore release to their debut one thing you’ll notice is the music assaults you at an even more torturously slow pace, yet simultaneously features more complex riffs (that take their time to unfold thanks to their shambling slowness) and melodic leads.  Due to this the CD is admittedly less immediately catchy as it’s predecessor, but trust me, give this thing a few listens and you’ll find it gets stuck in your head and won’t let go.  The album creeps along at a morbid pace, taking it’s time song by song to lay in a heavy dose of atmosphere all the while building up to a mid-paced death metal assault just like the denizens of the Blind Dead films.  They won’t run you down, but the terror comes from the inevitability that you will be eventually hunted down, stabbed and devoured.  After listening to this album repeatedly for a month or so I can honestly say this is some of the finest crafted doom metal you will ever hear, bar none. 

The production is perfectly deep and morbid sounding with an utterly down tuned and filthy distortion on the guitar and bass.  Drums are appropriately powerful, though as with most doom metal they aren’t going to really blow you away with technicality.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s certainly a particular skill needed for playing doom, especially in the fills during the really slow parts and keeping a tight groove without letting the slowness make you sloppy.  Obviously you’re not going to get any blazing speed here, so if you can’t appreciate metal without 2000 bpm blast beats I suspect this album will feel like molasses crawling uphill.  The vocals, courtesy of Lasse Pyyko (Phlegethon, and Razorback heavy hitters Vacant Coffin, Acid Witch, and Claws) are some of the lowest, phlegmy and utterly inhuman in death metal.  They’re slathered in reverberation making them sound like they’re emanating from a deep cavern, and the meld perfectly with the music, never overwhelming it but never getting buried beneath the utter heaviness of the rest of the instruments either.  In short, this fucker sounds mind blowing when you crank the shit out of it!

Every single song on this album is going to have doom/death fans entranced.  I really like how they all build throughout each track, generally starting painfully slow but gradually transforming from riff to riff throughout the song until it builds to a mid-paced groove that sounds like Black Sabbath meets Euro horror soundtrack + an injection of 1000 times more evil.  Just like the first Hooded Menace release the album also closes with a cover of some classic euro horror music.  This time we get the theme from Return of the Evil Dead (part 2 of the Blind Dead saga, no relation to the Sam Raimi/Bruce Campbell vehicle) and it manages somehow to sound 100% faithful to the source material and yet simultaneously 100% Hooded Menace (don't let the earlier Black Sabbath reference fool you, these guys definately have a sound all their own).  If they released an entire album of instrumental covers of classic horror themes I would buy it in a second, and you can see from listening to this, as well as their cover of the Manhattan Baby theme from Fulfill the Curse why the band is able to gel with Goblin worshippers Anime Morte on the split 7 inch they did together.

Hooded Menace Never Cross the Dead is a mandatory release for all doom metal fans and fans of old school death metal will likely lap this shit up as well.  BUY NOW!!!