Furthering what is sure to be the metallic trend of 2018, Lasse Pyykkö has seen fit to bestow upon us another nexus of death-doom via that sinister shroud, Hooded Menace. Fifth album, Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed, shrugs off the gossamer gathered between releases and prepares to enrapture a captive audience with riffs of yore and environs unsavory, but this time, with an added depth of disease. Pyykkö, ever Finland’s equivalent to Sweden’s prolific Rogga Johansson, knows better than most, how to precisely infest his riff-craft with deathly convulsions and enough sonic presence to resound over the thousand lakes, feeding Hooded Menace‘s depraved appetites for the kind of fathomless weight that only doom metal provides. Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed doggedly dares to demand even more.
Continuing the funeral doom tendencies that began to creep into the subconscious of the previous album, Ossuarium… considers the stylistic implication and, instead of becoming increasingly protracted, opts, alternatively, to layer the evocative riffing with an even darker sense of twisted melody. I’ve always felt that Pyykkö is an oft-underrated guitar talent; his rhythms never want for baleful presence while his writing presents a deceptive fluidity, shifting between jagged verses and suitably haunting motifs. Fittingly, the album wastes absolutely no time in introducing itself, as “Sempiternal Grotesqueries” arrives with a thunderclap of wrenching harmonies before new vocalist, Harri Kuokkanen, tears into the material. At ten plus minutes, the track is a fine exhibition of the record’s protean transitions and inherent groove. The song is also, in its grander moments, a decayed love letter to My Dying Bride, from the weeping melody to the pensive solo that divides the piece, borrowing particularly from that band’s formative records. This concept of musical reverence is a persistent theme, etching itself into the album’s disposition.
The ominous progressions of “Eerie Deliverance” maintain a less varied pace, electing to indulge a slower tempo. In-between the array of wicked notes – and a brief interlude featuring Jemma McNulty of Coltsblood – is a much more spacious reprieve, one that borrows its structure from post-metal, and one band in particular: Katatonia. The sidereal strains of Brave Murder Day are unmistakable, furnishing the song with a lofty extra dimension. However, the album’s taste for homage was irrevocably compounded in my mind the instant “Charnel Reflections” pondered into life, touting the undeniable gothic lamentations of Draconian. Now, I’m more than aware that drawing blunt comparisons can be considered bad review etiquette, but these features are overt in their placement and, to be honest, affected how I considered the album for a while. It was increasingly difficult not to identify each track with their stylistic counterparts, however momentary, but it would be willfully ignorant to claim that these songs’ efficacy is in no part due to the agency exercised by Pyykkö. While these asides are clear, the material’s foundation is built upon Hooded Menace‘s unique character, which boasts its own signature riffing and preternatural gloom.
“Cascade of Ash” returns the album to a more traditional composition, plumping for somber melodies and a steady pace that builds to a climactic chorus. Hearing Kuokkanen roar “cascade of timeless ash” practically makes me turgid every time. In fact, if anything, Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed puts a premium on a vivid sense of the macabre more than any other in their discography. Kuokkanen’s delivery isn’t that far removed from Pyykkö’s own snarls, but his more cavernous effect allows for a tumultuous result, the absence of which, conversely, serves to enhance the closing instrumental, “Black Moss.” The eerie dearth of any vocal usage allows the lilting lead work, emblazoned over the steady rhythm, to draw out the record’s final bleak breath, leaving me no with choice other than to step this wretched waltz one more time.
Despite some initial apprehension, the band’s dedication to committing classic death metal to doom’s intrinsic despondency was never in question. Hooded Menace have consistently succeeded in boasting a bludgeon of unruly extremity, and while the permutations of their exalted peers are more present than ever, they are ultimately complimentary; existing as small microcosms of the genre’s legacy. How the album’s standing in 2018 endures, remains to be seen, but I have absolutely no compunction in proclaiming Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed to be the Finns’ greatest work to date, and another relevant portent of this new year’s incipient potential.