Hornwood Fell – Cursed Thoughts – I II Review

Now, here’s an interesting concept. One that wouldn’t slip by ole Grier. Hornwood Fell‘s eighty-minute epic, Cursed Thoughts – I II, happens to be a combination of two records released earlier this year. With the help of Third-I-Rex and Kadabra Music, the band was able to combine this independently-released two-parter into a single release. The first part inspired by Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal and the second by the poems of Edgar Allan Poe. Bringing these works to life in an auditorial way, this Italian duo will use the black/death songwriting they’ve explored on four full-lengths over their seven years of existence. While the band delved into many facets of the black metal galaxy—which they continue to do here—they’ve also chosen to Behemothitize their vocal and songwriting structure, and bring heft to these dark, haunting inspirations. Shall the flowers bloom and Annabel Lee call?

Hornwood Fell is a rather difficult band to categorize. Their sound has evolved so much since their self-titled debut in 2014. Starting out, the band might as well have been Norwegian and the album released in the mid-’90s. From there, the band explored clean guitars and vocals, as well as allowed the drums to play a larger part in the end product. Twenty-fifteen’s Yheri is the better of these two experimental records. Followup record, My Body, My Time, is a chaotic record that I, for one, have a hard time enjoying. But, before the band spiraled out of control, last year’s Damno Lumina Nocte reeled them back in. Much like the Cursed Thoughts records, Damno is more honed; focusing on lurking, slinking, and slithering atmoblack with many a mighty riff.

For comparison sake, we are going to start with the back of the album and work forward. It’s the Cursed Thoughts – Part II that is a more familiar approach to an album like Damno and the general sound of the band. The second half of this record (we are talking about Track #7) opens with the back-to-back “Dream-Land” and “The Spirits of the Dead.” This fine pair of bludgeoning black metal pieces use a non-stop plucking approach that feels like climbing pell-mell up the face of a cliff, falling back down at a speed three times that of normal gravity, and repeating. These songs have an ebb and flow that rides hard with the vicious, accompanying rasps.

The biggest difference between the first half and the second is that the Poe-inspired pieces are—to no one’s surprise—sadder and more melodic than the Baudelaire ones. As one would expect, songs like “Alone” and “The Lake” are heart-wrenching. Slower than most, “Alone” uses calming effects in its introduction while “The Lake” concludes with almost Dimmu Borgir-like symphonics. More lavish tracks on this half are the agonizing “The Sleeper” and closer “The Valley of Unrest.” The former is a white-knuckled tanker truck of hate fuel, ruptured and spilling itself into a pit of mind-numbing melody. The latter is a “technical” black metal cruiser full of textural riffs and frenetic fretboard work. It is also the bearer of the most-haunting album outro.

But that’s where the comparisons to older works end. Cursed Thoughts – Part I puts its emphasis on the black/death qualities of a band like Behemoth. While the riffs are beefier and the vocals are more pummeling in the first half of the record, there is a lot of diversity. This comes in the form of haunting keys, eerie bell-like guitar effects, and clean guitars with distant voices. The bell-like tolls fit their way into the bone-crushing riffs and deathy direction of opener “The Joyous Defunct.” While the combination of clean guitars and unsettling voices appear in the “Obsession.”

Yet, the highlights are “The Giantess” and “The Spiritual Dawn.” The former is like a herd of evil mammoths trampling everything in their path. A path that isn’t straight but turns and curves depending on the amount of destruction achieved. “The Spiritual Dawn,” like Part II‘s closer, is a diverse piece. It’s an eerie song with a midway lull (much like “Obsession”) that reminds me of Nick Cave‘s soundtrack career. The riffs are a-plenty and the final chugs are neck-breaking.

Comparing the two halves, the first is my favorite. For nothing more than the uniqueness of the Hornwood Fell sound. That said, this release (these two releases) finds the band honing and calculating their sound more than ever. Yet, Cursed Thoughts – Part I proves that these Italians will continue tweaking their sound to keep fans on their toes. Cursed Thoughts – I II may not be my favorite album of the year or even the month, but the concept is clever. Especially for a fan, like myself, of the two authors that inspired this release. Listen to it as a whole or separate it into parts. Either way fans of black and death will find something they like about it.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: Third-I-Rex and Kadabra Music
Websites: hornwoodfell.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/hornwoodfell
Releases Worldwide: June 26th, 2020

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