A great war has been waged, ladies and germs. Here at Angry Metal Guy LLC Turbo Hyper-Fighting Edition (Deluxe Remix) HQ, we take our reviews seriously. We slave, day in and day out, to give you, the reader, every bang for your (lack of) buck. But do you know what else we take seriously? Unicorns. Fluffy, majestic steeds of splendor and single-horned destruction that strike fear into the hearts of those who headbutt them or try to mount them from the front. These valiant creatures of yore grace our hallowed pages whenever a band or label decides to not send us a promo pic. So when I receive a promo for a band (in this case, Italy’s Hierophant), and the one-sheet that accompanies their fourth album, Mass Graves, states rather emphatically, “No pink unicorns here,” and they still don’t supply us with a promo pic? Prepare for battle, son.
And after a minute of ambient fluffery and a speech about eternal darkness or whatnot, “Execution of Mankind” blasts forth, sounding like a muffled Nails. Now, let me sidetrack a bit here… you know how we often complain about the loudness of the albums we receive, and how we wish they would give us the choice to create the loudness ourselves? Well, our wish was granted, as this has to be the quietest promo I have ever received in my entire life, mix-wise. I had to crank the volume up to maximum on whatever device I was playing it on, be it my phone or laptop. Even then, it was tough to really make out everything because drummer Ben is mixed front and center. Thankfully, he crushes it, as he’s the only person you can readily make out besides guitarist Lollo’s bellows. Then 40 seconds later, the song ends.
In fact, things don’t really get interesting until the title track appears. My heart fluttered with anticipation at the Bolt Thrower riff lifted right off of The IVth Crusade, hoping to salvage some semblance of hook and melody. Alas, it doesn’t, but the song shows that when the band slows down, hooks dig deep, and a sick groove creates a left-hand path of heaviness. “In Decay” swaggers with Entombed bravado. “Sentenced to Death” combines that feeling with a dash of Vainaja. Closer “Eternal Void,” however, wins as the clear highlight of the album, lurching forth like a confident beast, ready to devour its kill. The tremolo riff in the chorus grips and refuses to let go, building up to a satisfying climax as the song fades out at 3:45… even though it’s an eleven-minute song.
Which leads me to the other qualm I have with this album. Hierophant doesn’t seem sure whether to grind their way to darkened stardom, or to march and crush all those who oppose them in the slowest, most methodical way possible. The latter scenario plays well into their hands, as their sense of melody, groove, and hooks are impeccable. If they decide to go the former route, they would do well to attain a better mix. While there’s no denying the heft of the bass or guitars, the drums drown out almost everything. When they go into rapid fire mode, the songs coalesce into a giant blur. Oh, and “Eternal Void”? Those last seven minutes are just feedback. Guys, if you want to pad out your album, fill it with good songs. Better yet, leave the album as it is. There is no reason to fluff a song out to over triple its length by using feedback. None.
While I may be harsh on Mass Grave, I see ridiculous potential if they can just figure out what they want to do. I’ll keep a watchful eye out for Hierophant in the future. Maybe with a better production and stronger songwriting, they no doubt can crush. Just leave our damn unicorns out of this.