Hark From The Tomb – Let Them Die Review

Unlike most other genres, metal has made hating humanity a part of its quirky charm. Black metal in particular has turned the distaste for all things carbon-based into a truly terrifying art form. It’s no surprise then that Hark From the Tomb, an anonymous Swedish duo who play a prehistoric form of old school black metal, was formed solely to express their shared disgust for their fellow bipedal lifeforms. Indeed, their first LP, aptly titled Let Them Die, is influenced primarily by this venomous and vehemently misanthropic outlook. According to the group (heretofore known as the Secret Swedes), Let Them Die “is a statement of utter contempt for the current state of humanity as a species.” Charming!

Their outlook is made evident within the first few tremolo-picked minutes of opener “Bring Forth Armageddon.” This isn’t post-black avant-garde folk; this isn’t progressive blackened shoegaze. This is definitely your grandfather’s trv cvlt black metal, and he’s disgusted that you’re standing on his lawn. The general disdain for all things homo sapien truly undergirds all aspects of the album, from song titles like “Contamination of a Species” and titular tune “Let Them Die,” to the well-rasped vocals which beg for more effective methods of reducing the whole of humanity to a solitary smear of misused-brain matter. And for the most part, it works, largely because there’s no confusion about what you’ve signed up for: second-wave black metal worship (no time for Emperor-inspired synths here), short and (not so) sweet, a true labor of lo-fi hate with plenty of anger to spare. From “Bring Forth Armageddon,” with its surprisingly catchy chorus, to “No Longer Human,” a simple but mighty black metal banger with a just a hint of groove, this album is deliciously front-loaded. Each song hits you with a wall of blast beats, tremolos, memorably murky riffs, Abbath-meets-Ihsahn rasps, and if you’re looking for anything more, the early 90s called, and it wants to know why you’re a poser.

It’s unfortunate, then, that after such a solid slab of OSBM early on, that the last few songs feel like a missed opportunity. Once the fifth track “Blood of the Lamb” winds down, the musical pummeling you’ve received starts to take its toll. The songs slow, the riffs lose their potency and the charm of a well-(axe)ecuted throwback first half is marred by a much more generic second. The energy and excitement that was so effectively developed has nowhere to go and is instead unceremoniously diffused over the last three tracks. Album closer “Final Prayer,” which, under other circumstances, could have provided an inventive, moody catharsis after the preceding black metal barrage, instead closes out the proceedings on a morose and anticlimactic note. However, clocking in at a trim 33 minutes and change, the album doesn’t stick around long enough for these issues to derail the experience.

That’s also why the lukewarm back end doesn’t erase how enjoyable the album is overall. Even the intentionally-substandard mix is forgivable, given the band’s self-proclaimed emphasis on “the low-fi ideals set by their Nordic predecessors” and adoration of the “old-school, primitive parts of the black metal scene.” However, I do take issue with the flat, powerless sound of the bass drum on Let Them Die. No Nordic predecessor worth his (likely pillaged) salt would forgive blast beats and double bass kicks that actually lessen the impact of otherwise powerful sections like those on display here. The bass drum sticks out like a sore thumb on a handful of tracks and is enough to elicit at least a few grumbles through corpse-painted lips.

Overall, Let Them Die is a solid journey for those willing to take the human impugin’ ride, and it tends to grow on you with repeated spins. The strong first half makes up for the slower, less impressive second half, and minor quibbles with production aside, the mix of steadfast loyalty to the OSBM sound and effective, speciesist songwriting are, in their own strange way, to be admired. This is an enjoyable debut, something I’m positive these Secret Swedes would hate me for saying.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Released
Website: harkfromthetomb.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: September 18th, 2020

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