Hail Spirit Noir - Mayhem in BlueIt’s been a tumultuous couple of years to be a Greek. First stricken by a debt crisis following the global economic meltdown, restrictive austerity measures soon followed along with condescendingly exact oversight from various EU institutions. The inevitable civil unrest this birthed unsettled the existing government resulting in the election of an anti-austerity party. Tensions remain, not just between Greece and the overlords of the EU but within the country: between those who support the economic freedom conferred by greater government spending and those who advocate fiscal responsibility. It’s in this turmoil that Mayhem in Blue was written. I don’t suggest that such a unique black metal and psychedelic rock fusion actively comments on Greece’s recent history but Hail Spirit Noir arose from strife to produce a couple of really good albums. Far from basing themselves in ancient Greece, a strange and psychedelic approach to Satan is adopted, spinning cheerfully macabre tales of worship and evil.

While Pneuma was black metal infused with Floydian soundscapes and Oi Magoi ran this with greater jazz influences, Mayhem in Blue is a different beast. It retains the 70s flavor but chases the rabbit even further down the hole. It’s weirder, carnival-esque, swinging. Hammond organs, flutes, and electronic sounds feature more prominently. Compositionally it’s similar but the unorthodox instrumentation is prevalent and the black metal is stretched still thinner. Moments of true blackened ferocity are few and while tremolo-picked guitars and blasting drums are present and correct, their heaviness is gentler: always meshed with keyboards or a jaunty rhythm. Clean vocals are commonplace too but used with lurching tempos and odd vowel emphasis. It’s an eccentric listen but never unsettling – more like the overly chatty guy at your post office than the one who touches your arm too much.

It’s a credit to HSN‘s compelling songwriting that their unwillingness to be predictable doesn’t degenerate into anything inconsistent or messy. Change and transitions are subtle and clever, developing drastically but incrementally. The ramping up and down of the drums is particularly nifty but the musicianship across the board contributes. Each track adds something new and there isn’t a weak link. I can hear an A Forest of Stars-style wail on “I Mean You Harm” and “Lost in Satan’s Charms” which develops the vocal repertoire, while a faux choir is used in a slow passage during the title track, fleshed out with an acoustic melody, 80s synths and broken electronic effects. Indeed, “Lost in Satan’s Charms” features banjo(?) and bell passages interwoven with a hard-hitting riff, and “The Cannibal Tribe Came from the Sea” operates around a shout-along chorus. Strangest of all is “How to Fly in Blackness” at the conclusion: soaring synths and a groovy bass-line mingle with a distant saxophone and it’s fucking cool. It’s mesmerizing like Floyd but with heavier moments and rasped vocals.

Hail Spirit Noir 2016

Moreover, Mayhem in Blue has that one-more-go factor in abundance. It’s weirdly addicting, like picking your nose and seeing how many people you can touch. The album’s 40 minutes are split across just 6 tracks and while this demonstrates that the songs are quite long, none drag. This duration facilitates the flourishing of their unique subtlety. I didn’t realize that “Lost in Satan’s Charms” almost hits 11 minutes until my dedicated, note-taking listen given the material’s happy pace. Limiting these tracks to 6 ensures the scope of the album is always on hand so there’s no chaff and everything is cohesive.

While I confess I’m not truly blown away – it is recognizably HSN – we’re left with what is an extremely cool album. Cool is the operative word of Mayhem in Blue. There’s an effortless talent in the compelling songwriting and fascinating embellishments that adorn the music. Despite the questionable weirdness, you’ll never question that it’s metal but more importantly, you’ll never question that it’s also very good.


Rating: Very Good!
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Dark Essence Records
Websiteshailspiritnoir.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/hailspiritnoir
Releases worldwide: October 28th, 2016

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  • André Snyde Lopes

    So… it’s actually excellent. Ok, got it!

    Χαίρε Πνεύμα Σκοτεινο!

  • Kronos

    I haven’t paid much attention to these guys before, but I will now. Cool song, great review.

    • Innit Bartender

      They are definitely worth checking out. I always say that the world will be a sadder place when two bands stop making music: Mexico’s Molotov and HSN. We need that kind of craziness.

      • Oberon

        Don’t forget People of the Blaze,

    • Oberon

      I haven’t heard their first album yet, but Oi Magoi gets a lot of play time at work. It’s a weird and wonky album that really keeps me hooked. It gets better when the DI can be heard singing Satan is Time in a Down East accent

      • basenjibrian

        The philosophy behind the song is interesting. Satan as the force of entropy. I was actually told by a preacher that Jesus was the weak nuclear force that holds everything together. Sort of like a theory of intelligent falling. So Satan as time/entropy was intriguing.

  • Cockypock Aioli

    I’m excited to check this out. A little Oranssi Pazuzu vibe going on here.

    • Akira Watts

      I was intrigued, but the Oranssi Pazuzu reference was the kicker. This song, at least, is awesome. Can’t wait to hear the rest.

    • DIMENSIONAL BLEEDTHROUGH

      Yeah this totally reminds me of Oranssi Pazuzu. That “evil carnival” vibe…

  • John Abraham

    Hey man!! What about the album of the month September? and October?

    • El_Cuervo

      We’re all waiting as much as you are my friend.

      • John Abraham

        I wish to see winter’s gate as runner up

    • Pedro Morini Mietto

      I second this.

  • Innit Bartender

    I am really counting the days to this album release! I am very excited.

  • ElectricEye

    Sounds like sped-up Tribulation. Intrigued to check out the full album.

  • Wilhelm

    I like the gnarly part; black metal meets surf rock, hang grim dude

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Strip Club Black Metal!

    • Monsterth Goatom

      I think of their albums as stripped-down Black Metal Lounge music. They sound like no other.

      • basenjibrian

        Arcturus has this vibe a little bit?:

        • Monsterth Goatom

          I’m probably not the best one to ask. I’m kinda luke-warm towards Arcturus (sorry Dr. A!), and haven’t given their records a spin in a while…. and my memory’s not that good. : )

          • basenjibrian

            Arcturian has not “aged” all that well, but I still LOVE everything about the song Of Nails and Sinners off La Masquerade Infernale.

          • La Masquerade remains a classic. Nothing else they did comes close in my opinion.

    • brklyner

      If this is strip club black metal then I want to go to there.

  • Willem Stander

    Mr. Bungle-like quality writing. Diablo Swing Orchestra-like quirkiness. Mastodon-like rhythmic sensibility with a smidgen of The White Stripes blues nonchalance + Satan. This is very good.

    • Willem Stander

      Bought it.

  • Luke_22

    This sounds weird and wacky in all the right ways. Yet another album to the list of shit I need to check out.

  • Felchmeister777

    Great band. ‘Satan is Time’ off their previous record is one of the coolest songs I’ve ever heard..

  • Sharp-Blunt Boy

    It’s on the wish list. I really enjoyed the first two discs, and the package was rounded out with the dark, freaky artwork. There’s not enough avant guard around, in my opinion. These guys carry the torch homerically onwards.

  • maartje

    Some time ago they had a message for the EU institutions on their facebook : the song Non Serviam from Rotting Christ :-)

  • basenjibrian

    OK. I pre-ordered from Bandcamp. Am listening to Mayhem in Blue (the title track) right now and all I can say is WOW. I was blown away by this song, and cannot wait until the rest of the download.

    • GardensTale

      Spotifying this song right now and damn, that’s just right on the money. I love it when a band likes getting weird without becoming incoherent.

  • Brian Domijan

    is it just me? or do I hear a bit of a Sigh’s “Imaginary Sonicscape” influence on this? well I just bought this and went back and re-downloaded Sigh’s album…great listens for the season.

  • basenjibrian

    Cool! It has ARRIVED in my email inbox!

  • Listening to this right now and I don’t understand why I dismissed their previous album so fast, since this sounds really, really good!

  • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

    3.5 is criminally low for this album.

  • JJnetZach

    “It’s weirdly addicting, like picking your nose and seeing how many people you can touch.”

    Something is terribly wrong here… Oh, great album btw.