Hinsides – Under Betlehems brinnande stjärna Review

I’ll tell you what I like about raw black metal. Pretty much any band you ask will say it’s important to “build atmosphere,” and there’s nothing like shitty production to create instant atmosphere. Before I was a dedicated metal head, I went through a phase of finding every recording I could of American blues and folk made in the 20s and 30s. There was something almost magic about hearing such stark music in such a narrow audible range buried in static and needle hiss from a degrading wax master. It was like a crack in our reality opened and I could just make out something on the other side. The act of straining to hear nuance in those instruments and voices just drew me further into the all-encompassing atmosphere. Like climbing into a cloth sack where you’re alone with music that seems to be coming from a great distance. Raw black metal gives me that same experience, only instead of encountering the Devil at a muggy Mississippi crossroads, I find him in a frozen Nordic forest.

Under Betlehems brinnande stjärna is the debut album by Swedish one man raw black metal act Hinsides, 1 and it’s full of the influences one might expect. There are heavy doses of first (“Genom döden återfödt,” “Under Betlehems brinnande stjärna”) and second wave black metal (“Skymningsfärd,” “På jordelifwets sorgetåg”), but the compositions feel a touch more contemporary and lone member M. A. plays everything within an inch of its life. This feral approach combined with the static-y, buzzing low-fi atmosphere gives Under Betlehems brinnande stjärna a cacophonic quality, as if the wheels could fly off this black metal bus to Hell just as it rounds a winding cliff-side curve. Running counter to this clattering, jittery energy are moments of surprising melodicism.

Hinsides’ strength lies in this ramshackle sound and the sneaky guitar hooks hiding behind it. This, along with a strong run of songs from the title track to closer “På jordelifwets sorgetåg” lifts Under Betlehems brinnande stjärna above raw black metal also-rans. “På jordelifwets sorgetåg” especially sprints to the finish line as if chased by a bear wearing rocket skates, M. A.’s maniacal croaks and screams barely tethered to the song’s structure. “Under Betlehems brinnande stjärna,” by contrast, has a strong Bathory Blood, Fire, Death era feel to it, with a steady loping intro that grows slowly more epic. In a smart change of pace move, Hinsides place a cover of Samhain’s “Macabre” right in the middle of the album. This sudden swerve into demented black-and-roll makes a great palate cleanser between two courses of blistering, buzzing low-fi assaults. 

My main beef with Under Betlehems brinnande stjärna is its unremarkable start. Opener “Afsägelserit” is the longest track at six minutes, and it feels like it. The riffing and energy are solid, but standard, going on a couple minutes too long. It’s somewhat saved with a melodic twist late in the song that hints at heights achieved later, but just as interest is piqued, the generic “Genom döden återfödt” brings down the mood with a relatively uninspired first wave black metal ditty. Once things catch fire from the title track on, it’s easy to look back at the first couple tracks and pick out the hints that this will be a solid album, but on their own they fail to impress. 

Fans of raw black metal will want to put a bookmark on Hinsides. M. A. is more musically rigorous than the run-of-the-mill corpsepainted basement dweller with shitty recording equipment and a library of drum samples, and at a trim 28 minutes, Under Betlehems brinnande stjärna flies by in a static saturated blur. There’s nothing innovative here, just raw black metal that remembers to be good as well as kvlt.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Regain Records
Website: Too kvlt!
Releases Worldwide: July 9th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. Not to be confused with the Swedish one man, one woman black metal act Hinsides, or the Norwegian four man black metal act Hinsides.
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