Hellish Form – Deathless Review

Here at AMG and Sons LLC we have a strict “no promo, no review” policy which must be adhered to at all times except for when we don’t feel like it. Back in 2021, we received a promo for Hellish Form’s debut Remains, I reviewed it favorably, and it eventually landed on my year-end list. Imagine my surprise when I found out a week ago that the funeral drone two-piece had released their follow-up, Deathless without sending us a promo. In fact, they’ve released it with very little fanfare at all based on my internet sleuthing. First, Willow Ryan and Jacob Lee, if you’re reading this, click here. Second, you’re not getting away that easy. There’s almost no one in the metal scene treading the same sonic territory that Hellish Form does, and it would be a shame to let this pass without coverage.

For those unfamiliar, Hellish Form has for three short years pulled the worlds of funeral doom, drone and sludge together in their minimal, onerous doom metal. On Remains, I described them as Khanate-plays-funeral-doom, and while that noise/drone influence still applies, there have been subtle progressions. On Deathless, Hellish Form leans harder into conspicuous beauty. There are melancholic, shimmering synths complimenting the tectonic heft of guitar distortion throughout the album’s 48 minutes, with simple but incredibly affecting melodies that remind me of the way Thou weaves longing and sorrow into their otherwise caustic sludge doom. Deathless also finds this project gravitating toward proper funeral doom more than ever. There are deep, guttural vocals acting as a foil to the higher-pitched shrieks this time around, as well as a stately structure to the riffs and keyboards on both “Transfigure” and “Texas Is Sinking” that edges toward Skepticism territory.

Considering it embodies three of the most miserable subgenres in all of metal, the remarkable thing about Deathless is how powerfully hopeful it is. The themes of the album are pointedly heavy and political. It’s an admonition of an oppressive world delivered with withering vitriol by the aggrieved, but both musically and lyrically, Ryan and Lee steadily fix their gaze upward. The opening title track is almost anthemic, as in the final minutes over harmonized guitars and swelling synths they echo the refrain “You can take my life, but I am deathless. I am deathless.” While ultimately addressing transphobia, it, like all good art, taps into something universal about defiance and the human spirit. “Pink Tears” is pure catharsis, offering lyrics like “I’m your shadow. I’m your home. You’re not alone” in the band’s most classic doom-sounding song to date.

As with the best funeral doom, Hellish Form use their arduous tempo and profuse guitar distortion to deliver emotional and sonic weight. The 16-minute standout track “Texas Is Sinking” builds a dolorous atmosphere through repetition of an exceptionally slow funeral riff until the halfway mark. There, the song takes a sinister turn into deep drone chugs that land with enough downward pressure to make diamonds of coal. On the right equipment or in a live setting, this would probably be involuntary-bowel-movement-inducing heaviness and a keen reminder that no matter how pretty they allow things to get, Hellish Form have a sublimely awful edge to their music. The song eventually returns to the mournful guitar lines, but the remaining impression is dark and indelible.

Deathless is a sophomore record that manages to improve upon every aspect of an already strong debut. Depending on how you feel about respective sub-genres, this is arguably the best doom record to date in an already strong year for doom, and it would have been a shame to let this slip by without review, promo or not.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: n/a | Format Reviewed: Stream
Label: Self Release
Websites: hellishform.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/HellishForm
Releases Worldwide: March 31st, 2023

« »