I know doom-death and funeral doom are the ultimate in niche genres and for many, things are just too damn slow and boring. While I find a lot of funeral doom borderline unlistenable, I’ve always had a soft spot in my skull plating for well done doom with death vocals. Bands like Swallow the Sun, old Paradise Lost, old Cathedral, Rapture and Draconian always resonated with me in a major way. The raw grunts and roars of death metal always seemed a natural complement to huge, thick and doomy riffing. With that in mind, I was pretty taken with the debut by Finland’s Hooded Menace back in 2010. In fact, it even made my end of the year “best of” list. Thusly, I was enthused to spin their sophomore opus, Effigies of Evil. As expected, it’s more of the same stripped-down, ponderous, thick and oppressive doom with a sound falling somewhere between the cheese of Acid Witch and the grim seriousness of Loss and Swallow the Sun. To help class things up a bit, there are plenty of old timey Amorphis, Cathedral and My Dying Bride influences in the riffing. Hell, at times they even cross into a Grave style of scabby death metal. While I’m sure a lot of this album will be slow enough to send some scurrying to the Moss Peepery, this is a surprisingly energetic and dynamic version of doom death with a fair amount of instantaneous, accessible riffs. Still…it’s doom death; you get it or you really don’t (kinda like Pokemon, veggie burgers and NASCAR).
While you only get seven songs (and a short outro), some of the compositions are rather lengthy and epic in scope. Case in point is opener “Vortex Macabre,” which clocks in at an unhurried ten-plus-minutes. This is actually a good thing, as it allows Hooded Menace to show you all their wares right off the bat. You get the expectedly grinding, heavy riffs of inestimable weight, mournful trilling and the super low, sub-basement death gurgles of Lassse Pyykko. They largely avoid the urge to drone til dawn and opt to incorporate aggressive, up-tempo segments to keep things moving and shaking. The result is a nicely arranged doom song that drifts by way quicker than you expect as you focus on one interesting segment after another. The title track brings in more of a Cathedral flavor to the riffs and they make a lot of nice transitions in riff patterns to keep the listener engaged.
As the album progresses, the old school Amorphis influences creep in and one will hear frequent nods to The Karelian Isthmus and Tales From the Thousand Lakes (which is ALWAYS a positive). “In the Dead We Dwell” has these influences fading in and out and I especially like the melodic riff at 7:21. “Summoned Into Euphoric Madness” ups the ante on the Amorphis vibe and the shifting riff patterns really nail that Tales From the Thousand Lakes feeling I’ve grown to love more than air or money. Also noteworthy is the sojourn into Grave space with “Evoken Vulgarity” (nice melodic riff at 4:44), and the Gothic-era Paradise Lost melancholy of “Crumbling Insanity (replete with an awesome Vincent Price voiceover).
Most of the songs work as they are designed and only the token attempt at pseudo-speed during “Curses Scribed in Gore” left me underwhelmed. I really enjoy Pyykko’s low-tech grunts and groans and I’m quite a fan of his guitar work. As on Never Cross the Dead, he shows a deft hand at composing both crushing and sad leads and when he wants, he convincingly adds in NWOBHM and 70’s rock flavor. While the 70’s swagger is less prevalent here than before, it’s fun whenever it appears.
While there are more accessible riffs this time out and the songwriting has improved, for some strange reason I can’t fully explain, I still prefer their last album to Effigies of Evil. This is still a goodie though and also a serious grower. Keep spinning it and you’ll be surprised just how much the individual tracks open up and speak to you (from the grave). I’m an admirer of these chaps and really appreciate the sound and style they traffic in. If you have any love for doom-death, you would be remiss to overlook these Finns. Now get your asses in the dirging lane!