This week’s foray into the blackened underworld takes me via the humid subtropics of Houston Texas – perhaps their abundance of air-conditioning helps keep them kvlt? At any rate Humut Tabal are new to me, and what little I’ve heard of their Gods ov Darkness, Hate and Flame debut doesn’t get me all hot under the collar or fill me with expectation outside a few ‘wait, what?’ moments. A lengthy five years after the release of the debut, one would hope Humut Tabal pulled out their self-regenerating dark matter power core and used the time wisely to hone their craft. Does The Dark Emperor ov the Shadow Realm lambaste you with its Megatron-sized punch or is this just another example of blah meh-tal?
The Dark Emperor kicks off with the lengthy sounds of “Across the Boundless Land ov Death.” The track runs at a mile a minute, the drum-work is crude and blasting and the guitar riff is one I’m sure I’ve heard before. Vocally, Rex Simmons (Grimzaar) has an approach that reminds me a lot of the horse, high-pitched, shrieking vocal style used by mid-era Illnath, although on this track he’s too pulled back for my liking. By the time “Through the Forest and Twisting Shadow” kicks into high gear and while the band states they bear the sound of Dissection, I mostly hear a serious case of Illnath-worship going on. Despite not exceeding the 6-minute mark, for some reason “Through the Forest and Twisting Shadow” feels like that death scene where the guy’s shot and it takes him more than a minute of writhing and stumbling around, putting bloody hand prints on every possible surface, before finally just getting it over with and damn well dying.
The instrumentation on The Dark Emperor is purely pedestrian. The guitar riffs lack any real character and despite Rex Simmons being a highly trained musician, he fails to show off his talents outside of a few moments in “Wielder ov the Daemon Blade,” “In the Shade ov Lord Satan’s Wings” and the title track. Adrian Voorhies (Njord) suffers the same slow death, I have no doubt that he can string together some mean blast beats – each track on the album gratingly testifies to that, but outside of a few moments where he pulled away from blasting in “Alone, in Purest Silence” I found his contributions uninteresting, tedious and vexatious.
The few vocal high points, like the dual screams and grinding growls in “Furious Winged Helldaemons Soar” and the reveling debauchery of “Wielder ov the Daemon Blade” along with “In the Shade ov Lord Satan’s Wings” and the title track would have made this a fun EP, but nestled in among so much superfluous clutter these shining moments are lost.
Black metal needs risk-takers, it needs anger, it needs a big and hearty HAIL SATAN! For all intents and purposes the crew of Humut Tabal have the right recipe, but the Devil’s food cake turned out wrong. Also while the mix is inconsistent, it’s decent enough to pick up on the bassy shenanigans of Aed (Chironex, Diminished, Perpetual Sickness) from time to time. Despite definite improvements over their earlier release, the band’s lack of delivery on the promise of technical, spatial, experimental and improvisational Scandinavian style black metal has left me disappointed with The Dark Emperor. There’s no HAIL SATAN here folks!