I don’t often dwell on cover art in reviews. Mostly because we can all recall an instance when a stunningly emblazoned record just couldn’t deliver on its promise. Italy’s Hideous Divinity just released their fourth album Simulacrum and the cover positively seethes with potential. 2017’s Adveniens was a favorite of mine. The band finally waited out their formative hour of penance so as to define their own character. Consequently, the album’s rich amalgam of technical and brutal death metal achieved a chemistry that exists somewhere between bilious and broiling. Simulacrum forges even further ahead with myriad permutations of an already mutated theme. The angelic atrocity that inhabits the front of Adveniens now appears mottled and in tormented flux as it attempts to assume a new form. The result is ugly and twisted but, for better or worse, remains affixed to the foundation from which it first drew such terrible life. The message couldn’t be clearer: some pain will last.
Hideous Divinity have always written powerful material but Simulacrum confirms their transition from blunt brutality to death metal with depth. Fortunately, it never abandons the almighty riff along the way. Opener “Deleuzean Centuries” erupts with huge staccato rhythms interspersed with grinding sections of dissonance and lashings of memorability. The band’s refinement is immediately recognizable and it doesn’t end there.
While “The Deaden Room” may begin as a typical blaster, it soon alters into something more: perpetually riff-oriented but almost progressive in its deviations. In fact, much of the album feels distinctly climactic, building to great crescendos at every opportunity. To this end, a rich vein of black metal pulses through the album, although not in any immediate sense. Referring to Simulacrum as blackened would be an overreach, but the genre’s hallmarks undeniably exist in the record’s minutiae. Tone changes, transitions, and certain tremolo-buoyed flurries all harbor black metal’s familiar cathartic qualities. But subtly, as if tastefully engineered into Hideous Divinity‘s innately deathly DNA. “Bent Until Fracture” is the only song that wears the influence plainly. From pummeling beginnings to a searing melodic finale, the track never fails to emote, exorcising demons aplenty throughout its run. Enrico Schettino and newcomer Riccardo Benedini only enhance Simulacrum‘s luster with the best leads of the band’s discography. Their reliable proficiency is enhanced with traditional nuances, which ensures each solo is never gratuitous.
Simulacrum is no exception to the band’s production issues. The album’s master is as crushed as its predecessor’s but, this time, the production is rescued by the mix. Stefano Franceschini’s articulate bass is unmistakably alive and Enrico Di Lorenzo’s furious vocals are never too prominent. Although the record has its fair share of distinct songs, it does require time to truly gestate. As a result, it isn’t as reliably consistent as Adveniens. But when it hits hard, Simulacrum is capable of plumbing arguably greater depths. The brief instrumental “Condense,” however, is utterly unnecessary. There is absolutely no reason why its entire twenty-eight seconds aren’t bolted on to its neighbor, “Anamorphia Atto III.” Fortunately, that song neatly consolidates the album. Giulio Galati’s impossible drumming shepherds the devastating riffing into a doomed final sequence that soothes all memory of any instrumental irrelevance.
Hideous Divinity have once again proven equal to the task by maintaining their focus yet expanding their dynamic horizons. Songs like “Seed of Future Horror” revel in brutality, while “Implemimi Exitio” concludes the album as a final exhalation; a stark contrast to Simulacrum‘s opening bellow. While the record may not quite be the omniphagus final word in 2019’s death metal conversation, it certainly cements its indelible point. Undeniably, the best extreme metal album to come out of Italy since Unbirth‘s Fleshforged Columns of Deceit, Simulacrum represents a band hell bent on mastering their identity whilst still wholly ravenous, effortlessly casting aside lesser fleshgods in a bid to attain a hideous divinity of their very own.