He dribbles down the court, the clock winding down to an excruciating ten seconds. He fakes left and tears right, leaving his opponent stumbling. This is why the Orlando Magic drafted the Most High with their No. 1 pick, because with God, all things are possible—like a deep playoff run. Winning this game will make or break it, against conference and state rivals the Miami Heat, no less. His white beard flowing around Him, He approaches the three-point line. This is it. Three points, and they win the game. The Lord Most High squares up to the basket, fixing his arms for the perfect shot. Out of nowhere! Another pair of arms reach out, belonging to the overlooked No. 48 draft pick, the Dane, Ustumallagam! The ball leaves God’s hands in a perfect shot, only to have the Dane’s mighty hands beat it down back into the Most High’s face as time expires! “Get out of my kitchen!” Ustumallagam roars in God’s face. Stuffed! Denied! The Miami Heat win the game, thanks to the Dane’s Denial of God.1
Denial of God is a Danish black metal band with probably not a whole lot of interest in basketball. Comprised of vocalist Ustumallagam, guitarist Azter, and drummer Galheim, they amassed a huge discography over their 28-year career, packed with ten EP’s, three demos, two splits, and two full-lengths. The Hallow Mass is their third LP, firmly rooted in the Darkthrone garden with little weeds of Inquisition popping up here and there. Blastbeats galore, tremolos aflame, throat-shredding shrieks abound—you know what to expect. Other than some neat little tricks that appear across The Hallow Mass‘ mammoth runtime, the Danes may have denied God that game-winning shot, but they can’t score any points beyond basic layups. Slam-dunks are sparse and they can’t hit any threes.2
To be fair, Denial of God certainly has this black metal thing down to a T, and they are at their best when they do so in a decidedly vampiric and Gothic atmosphere. Opening behemoth “Hallowmas,” the melancholic “The Shapeless Mass,” and the pummeling “Hour of the Worm” feature some interesting riffs, neat little melodic solo sections, and bits of organ that all fuse well with its macabre feel. A portion of “Undead Hunger” features somber plucking overtop the sound of wind that morphs into an Opeth-esque acoustic passage. “The Lake in the Woods” and closer “A Transylvanian Dream” are clear highlights, hinting at a somber folky atmosphere reminiscent of Falls of Rauros or Windir, which works surprisingly well with horror-themed organ and overlapping melodic solos. The Hallow Mass certainly has some “nothing but net” moments and impressive slam-dunks.
Unfortunately, these highlights are buried in an overlong album of airballs and bricks. Even the best tracks, in spite of their interesting features, are simply too long and not interesting enough to hold listener attention. A chronic issue in the production is its squeaky-clean atmosphere—the tremolos are not raw enough to warrant mention among Goatmoon worshipers, but nonetheless lack the heft to carry any serious weight. The solos are also collateral in the mixing, standing out more like obnoxious squeals rather than the melodic overtones they were intended to be. There are cool little segments of bass spotlighting, but the production violently shoves the bottom end to the back while chucking vocals to the forefront. Perhaps most damning, Denial of God takes the easy way out with their repetitive and predictable songwriting: an atmospheric opening passage, blazing tremolo, a contemplative plucking section two-thirds in, a chuggy portion, and a similarly atmospheric outro. It’s frustrating how predictable their track formula is, and as their goal is clearly Satanic shock and blasphemy, lukewarm songwriting makes it gaudy filler and little else.
While Denial of God is at its best in a Gothic and vampiric atmosphere, it ultimately falls flat because of its protracted length, a massive amount of filler, and a frustratingly self-defeating production quality. The Hallow Mass ultimately feels stiff, like these veterans are still reading Black Metal for Dummies without establishing anything particularly unique. Yes, there are highlights and slam dunks within, but they’re ultimately buried in a sea of mediocre performances. These Danes may have denied God, but their offense needs an overhaul if they want to make a deep playoff run.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Osmose Productions | Hells Headbangers
Website: denial-of-god.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/denialofgod
Releases Worldwide: October 25th, 2019