Hail Spirit Noir – Eden in Reverse Review

I’m enjoying that I’m now able to look back at the 2010s with retrospect. In all my personal affairs, life developments, and the end of my formal education. But in particular, musically. I can now definitively make sweeping statements like ‘Sleep at the Edge of the Earth is the best record of the decade,’ and ‘there was a better decade of music from 1971-1975 than across 2010-2019.’ But, and pertinently to this review, I can also state that ‘Hail Spirit Noir (HSN) is one of the most creative metal bands which became active during the teenies.’ With 3 experimental crossovers between black metal and the 1960s and 1970s released during the period, HSN have now unveiled their first of the new decade1, called Eden in Reverse (Eden). How do these Greeks manage in 2020?

Simply comparing Eden to Pneuma, the HSN debut, makes for a stark contrast. Even then, Pneuma was hardly thoroughbred black metal but it was both heavier and weirder, leveraging lounge jazz and carnivalesque swing. But tracking a course through the HSN discography demonstrates a natural progression to the psych-inflected prog which now represents their sound. The streaks of black metal are almost entirely renounced, and there’s not a lot of metal left in general. Only the single, “The First Ape on New Earth,” has the famous tremolo-picked guitars and blast beating drums, drawing on their blackened roots for a well-constructed climax. This divestiture from black metal isn’t inherently an issue for me as I’m a big proponent of 60 and 70s experimental rock.

While Eden is recognizably HSN due to the riffing style, guitar tone and unmistakeable clean vocals, the jazzier and swinging tendencies have been shed in deference to the soundtrack of a psychedelic sci-fi B-movie. The extended introduction to the finale, and 11-minute track, called “Automata 1980” exemplifies this, using longer, spacious synths to evoke a lonely spaceship tracking through space, with an appropriately boop-ing ship computer and a distinct sense of isolation. It’s another curious sound enveloped in the HSN repertoire and it demonstrates that they’re a band constantly seeking development, which is admirable.

Sadly, this is as far as my commendation can really venture. My overall response is simply that I lack enthusiasm after finishing the record. Despite its moderate 44-minute runtime, it’s lengthy, languid and lethargic. There are only 2 tracks with notable set-pieces I specifically recall. “The First Ape on New Earth” offers more diversity by counter-pointing its faster black metal with the more typical psychedelic / progressive / alt rock passages, while “Crossroads” is a more straightforward rocker with a stronger riff and good vocal hook, benefiting from the guest vocals of Lazare of Borknagar and Solefald fame. Besides these songs, Eden lacks fire. It lacks energy. Much of it plods along with consistent, mid-paced rhythms. Separate tracks sound too similar; “Incense Swirls” and “Alien Lip Reading” imperceptibly blur, and by “The Devil’s Blind Spot” mid-way through the record, I was fast tiring of the repetitive tempo. “Automata 1980” is especially egregious as there’s so little occupying its 11 minutes, and it further lacks cohesion and purpose as an individual song.

It was clearly a deliberate song-writing decision to use one repeating rhythm or melody as a foundation on which to build the songs. The vocal, guitar or synth melodies shift on top of these rhythms and core melodies, constructing and deconstructing across tracks. “Incense Swirls,” as the first proper track, begins this trend, and this trend continues across most of the record. It has a pulsing rhythm from its opening moment which initially has a decent impact. This approach makes for fairly sophisticated songcraft as tracks (generally) have a sense of cohesion, while developing through their durations. However, it ultimately incurs the issue of rhythmic repetition, where the drums become predictable and sound far too similar throughout.

Eden is disappointingly the most boring HSN by a sizable margin. It’s spacey and sedate, rather than bizarre and swinging. I never thought an HSN release would lack spark, or not fascinate me in some respect, but unhappily this is the case. I listened to Mayhem in Blue while finishing this review and it consolidated my opinion that there’s little here to which it’s worth returning. It’s not bad; just unremarkable. And that is a very far cry indeed from their Pneumatic roots.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Agonia Records
Websites: facebook.com/hailspiritnoir | hailspiritnoir.bandcamp.com
Releases worldwide: June 19th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. You can fuck right off if you try to science me into thinking that the decade is actually 2011-2020.
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