As a music critic I am strictly prohibited from judging albums by their covers, yet it’s a behind-the-scenes hobby of mine to analyze album art as a thematic companion to the sounds that lie within. A successful album cover shouldn’t just serve as a pretty face; from art style to color palette, it should be a reflection of the band’s ideas and personality, something that sticks in one’s subconscious as a valuable piece of the overall experience. Norwegian doom duo Hymn opt for an exterior aesthetic that’s more in line with black metal than doom on their debut record Perish, exhibiting a stark, monochromatic mountain ridge. From a distance the image seems to hint at an experience that’s melancholic, frigid, and exhausting. Unfortunately there’s some disconnect here, as to these ears only the latter descriptor applies. A more accurate illustration would be yours truly rendered unconscious by the album, strapped into my headphones, blissfully unaware while Perish blares away.

In constructing Perish, Hymn seems to have utilized the creative perspective of “design by subtraction.” The idea behind this philosophy is to remove any extraneous elements in the name of strengthening the core experience. Thus, Hymn’s approach is achingly simple: a collection of droning, down-tuned riffs accompanied by slow, deliberate drum performances and a harsh vocal delivery that falls somewhere between roaring and wailing. To this extent, the band accomplishes their goal of composing a record with an undeniably heavy feel. The end sound comes across as a balance between traditional and sludgy takes on doom, with occasionally blackened lead guitar work and a total of two fleeting blastbeat runs across the entire record. For those whose sole requirement for a doom album is that the guitarist never ventures above the fifth fret, Perish is likely to satisfy.

For me, however, Hymn’s trimming down of an already minimalist genre results in an absence of essentially everything I love about said genre. My favorite doom records aren’t just crushingly heavy; they carry an inescapable emotional heft supplied by guitar and vocals melodies that are unique to the style. Perish, in contrast to those records, is melodically starved. There is precisely one riff in the entire album that possesses so much as a whiff of feeling (the 4:40 mark of “Spectre”), but aside from this fleeting moment, Hymn only seems preoccupied with pummeling the senses (and my conscious state) into submission with walls of chuggy power chords. Incorporating clean vocals could have supplied some much needed hooks to accompany the rote guitar work, yet there are none to be found aside from eight measures of an intriguing, Messiah Marcolin-like (Candlemass) performance on “Hollow” that’s swept away before it can properly sink in.

Vocalist Ole Rokseth would be a comfortable fit for a hardcore band; I can feel every ounce of his energy being poured into his performance as he gasps between phrases, but in a doom context his shouty vocals begin to grate long before Perish ends. Speaking of the album’s conclusion, the closing title track of this record contains one of the most laughable moments I’ve ever encountered in the genre; near the three-minute mark, all instruments drop out except for a lonely bass riff. The bass is so buried in the mix that this passage is the first and only time I can hear it on the album, and it reveals that the sound of the bass strings rattling against the frets is somehow louder than the bass tone itself. This would be annoying if it weren’t such a hilarious production flub. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only poor choice in terms of instrument tone; in regards to “Serpent,” a track reliant on palm-muting, the guitar work loses impact because the notes being played are obscured by the sound of the pick scraping over the strings.

A good doom metal band should coax me into uncontrollably bobbing my head to its downbeat groove. Hymn does, in fact, make me nod my head; not to its rhythm or in acknowledgement of my inevitable demise, mind you, but rather as it lulls me to sleep with its lifeless riffs. I still suspect that Perish will find an audience, though, as Hymn are good at what they do. I just don’t see myself ever caring about it when there are so many modern bands on the scene that deftly pair heaviness with a genuine ear for melodic affect. In the case of Hymn’s threadbare approach, less is less.


Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Svart Records
Websites: facebook.com/HYMN | urskoghymn.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: February 10th, 2017

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  • Diego Molero

    Agree on the vocals, they simply don’t fit the music. And the music itself isn’t precisely interesting. I’ll pass.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      The music is not bad, but those vocals are grating. I don’t think they would fit ANY kind of music.

      • Diego Molero

        Somewhere in the world, a hardcore band disagrees with you. But hey, I agree!

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          The shouted vocals might be ONE of the reasons I really don’t like hardcore that much. And the higher, the worse! They get more grating as they get higher.

          • Diego Molero

            Have you heard of La Dispute? They are hardcore, and they are awesome. Love that band.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            I’ll check them out, even though I have been trying to get into hardcore for over 20 years to no avail.

          • Diego Molero

            I don’t like hardcore either actually, but La Dispute is really special. Calling them “hardcore” is short. You should hear the song “King Park”, is you like that song, you will like La Dispute.
            Let me know if you do it!

      • sir_c

        the only band who get away with a shouting vocalist is The God Machine.

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          I’ll have to check them out.

          • sir_c

            they were/are pretty cult. Not the easiest listen but so damn rewarding every time I hear it.

  • Reese Burns

    Your thoughts on album art perfectly sum up how I feel on the matter. Your cover is supposed to be the listener’s first impression before they even hear the first riff. It’s supposed to be a visual representation of your music, a sight to accompany the sounds. I’ve been criticized before for allowing abysmal cover art to affect my opinion on an album, but first impressions matter, and if you don’t give a shit about your cover art, odds are, you don’t give a shit at all. /rant

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Oh look, it’s a baby Triptykon. It’s so cute as it drools all over itself.

    Yeah, sadly this lacks the gravitas of Tom G Warrior at the helm or really any of what makes Triptykon such a magical experience… Real shame.

    • Eldritch Elitist

      This band is so far from the level of Triptykon’s proficiency that it didn’t even occur to me to make a comparison.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    For what it is it sounds pretty good but… The guitar melodies are subtle to say the least and the vocals have little to commend them no discernible lyrics or hook… Ultimately they really detract from the music and are borderline irritating.
    Listening to the embedded track. I do like the blackened doom moments about half way through and between 4:30 and 5:15 the guitar is starting to go places it’s a moment where an additional guitar or keys would’ve been excellent.
    Also song writing dynamics. The whole thing drags however that guitar passage (4:30-5:15) could’ve been a good end to the song, which to be brutally honest really needed something to lift it. But inexplicably they stop at 5:15 then whack an extra minute + of quite boring receptive breakdown type riffing to the song Why? It didn’t add anything, if anything it showed the limitations of the band. In particular the absence of good bass playing and drumming to build a crushing rhythm.
    Anyway..on the basis of one song I’d say the bones are there, but they really need a dedicated vocalist and an additional instrument.

    • Eldritch Elitist

      The “finale” of the embed track is really just terrible, especially since nixing it would’ve given the the song a pretty decent conclusion. As is, it’s equivalent to the most generic kind of metalcore breakdown.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    A stark, monochromatic mountain ridge – fail to see how that is so unacceptable as a doom metal cover.

    Sorry, but there was no reason to put all that analysis into a fairly run-of-the-mill album cover.

    No issues with the rest of your views, though.

    • Eldritch Elitist

      I think you may have misunderstood me a little – I think that the mood conveyed is perfect for the genre, even though it’s the type of cover you’d typically see on a BM album. I was focusing on how the mood of the art doesn’t match the feel (or lack thereof) of the band’s music.

      As for choosing to focus on the art, we don’t speak in specifics regarding the music in our introductory paragraphs, so I typically choose to speak about a random topic that I’ve been thinking about during the review process – in this case, the relationship between album art and music.

      • Oscar Albretsen

        OK, that makes more sense. Appreciate the clarification. Hope I didn’t seem too brash in my original post.

        • Eldritch Elitist

          Not at all! I ignore trolls, but I’m always happy to respond to reasonable criticism.

  • DrewMusic

    There has to be a word, maybe in German or French, for the pain of being lured into a subpar albums grasp via tantalizing cover art. Whatever it is, the pain is real.

    • Eldritch Elitist

      I imagine it describes the musical equivalent of clickbait.

    • hallowed

      I’m pretty sure you were thinking of Schlechtealbenkunstanziehungskraftschmerz

      • Bas

        Yeah !!! Wonderful !!!! You cannot beat german word magic ;-)

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      I was going to be funny and add the title of a subpar album that lured me with amazing cover art after the word “Schadenfraude” but couldn’t think of any such album.

  • junkyhead

    I liked it quite a bit. Looking forward to listen to the whole album.

    • Eldritch Elitist

      Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    The vocals are grating and don’t fit the music at all. The riffs are heavy and I like them, but those vocals… Hardcore yelping at its worst.