The year was 2007. I had just finished my undergrad studies and was accepted to graduate school for a Ph.D. My apartment was packed and I was quite anxious about moving away from the home I spent five years creating. To suffocate my anxiety, I headed out for a stroll through the neighborhood streets, up the hill beyond campus, and to my favorite hangout in town: Hastings. For being a run-of-the-mill record store, it sported the largest metal collection I’ve ever seen. Mind you, I’m no expert on record stores, but this selection was fucking huge, which was absolutely absurd in a town filled with greasy-haired, patchouli-reeking hippies. Anyhoo… I flipped through the discs and stumbled across a barely legible album cover that represented the picturesque hybrid of Indiana Jones and Stargate. Being that I had money and nothing else to do, I purchased the sophomore release [Katun] of Mexican blackened-death metallers Hacavitz; which I think grabbed my attention enough to get in two full spins.
Fast-forward to now, and I find myself in possession of Hacavitz’s newest release, Darkness Beyond. Yet, there is something odd about this album. One minute into opener “Terra Nihil” and I realized what it was. These dudes sound almost nothing like the band on Katun. Darkness Beyond deletes “death” from the sound found on their previous three releases and the result is a straight-up, Scandinavian black metal album. The foundation of “Terra Nihil” is poured with Watain concrete and tinted with some of the crunchier stuff found in Horna’s Pimeyden hehku before it fully cures. There’s just enough variety in the song to keep you from noticing its seven minute runtime.
As one would assume, the overall theme here is long songs. Nearing the hour-long mark, this seven track album sports an average nine minute track length. The shortest being the highly unique instrumental “Livskit,” which lulls the listener into a trance with its Shining-like qualities as it assumes the role of soundtrack to the album cover art; cold, dark, eerie, hopeless. Its three minute length is a perfect intermission following the highlight of the album. Exceeding nine minutes, “Deadream” represents the new Hacavitz style perfectly as it swings in and out of groovy black ‘n’ roll, a tinny guitar interlude with a crushing “breakdown,” and some classic mid-‘90s black metal melody
However, after the first four tracks, the quality begins to fall away into long tracks filled with mid-paced blackness and melody that lacks memorability and stickability. While not horrible, their long lengths and repetitious tone cause these numbers to meld together, and I find myself tuning out for most of the back half of this album. My attention is resurrected by the introduction to closer “Time Is Now,” but being a massive roller coaster ride of good riffs and not-so-good riffs, it can be difficult to remain captivated during repeat listens of its twelve-ish minute length.
While the production is quite clean in comparison to the rawness of their Scandinavian predecessors, the mix is not stellar. The drums are diluted down and, as a result, the mean riffs of “Terra Nihil” and “Deadream” become crippled. But I guess this isn’t surprising if you listen to a bunch of old Darkthrone. As for the dynamic score, it appears decent but is actually quite deceiving. Most tracks peak at the DR6 mark while the lone instrumental comes in at a DR13 (this is some of the reason I love this track so much). The dynamics don’t worry it but they sure as hell don’t help it.
Overall, you’re not going to find any surprises here and I suspect long-time fans will be very disappointed by Hacavitz’s new direction (I take that back, I KNOW they’re upset by the tone of other reviews in the dark chasms of the interwebs). Hopefully, this review gives a fair warning to long-time fans. It’s really not bad for black, but it sure as hell isn’t the standard Hacavitz sound. So, if you like your metal black as night and screaming through dense pine trees painted in winter’s flurries, then this might be up your alley. Otherwise, just stick to that kvlt collection you already own.