Hours of Worship – The Cold that You Left Review

I was born in the mid-90’s, so neither it nor the 80s are decades I remember. Hours of Worship‘s second LP, The Cold That You Left, however, is so soaked in that era’s signature gothic electronica that it gives even me nostalgia. The duo’s professed touchstones of Type O Negative and early The Cure are pretty much on the money. Continuing to refine their mopey yet melodic style prefigured in February’s EP The Smell of Death Surrounds You, they have all but done away with anything approaching the up-tempo figuring on debut Fading Away to an Empty Nothingness. This is pure aestheticized depression that goths everywhere would clamor to inject directly into their veins. I’m no Wednesday Addams wannabe, but listening to this makes me want to dye my hair and paint my nails black, apply heavy eyeliner, and start hanging around in graveyards. This is no gimmick, but a testament to how well Hours of Worship marry the damned and the danceable. Well, sway-able, because this is doomy as it is gloomy.

That coalition between music which is very much a vibe, and themes that are honestly very dark gives The Cold that You Left a morbid allure. Alternating layers of floating, feedbacky, or stringlike synths accompany echoed, near-spoken ‘singing,’ and pulsing, languidly groovy rhythms. Simultaneously, the hatred, loneliness, and despair of the lyrics are clearly audible, unprotected by the obscurity harsh vocals would bring. From the very first track, “Your Lonely Death My Crown,” these strands come together. “To see you writhing would bring me joy. I want you crawling, I want you crying,” murmurs Wound/Trembling Master.1 But that dense, ringing, synthwave, those hints of melancholy melody…are irresistible. Such is the paradox of the sub-genre. And much the same holds true for the rest of the album. That’s not to say there are no problems at all, but by and large, their fusion is pretty bewitching.

With music that is by design morose and–compared to other sadboi genres like funeral doom—restrained, it would be easy to end up with grey, monotonous, tedium. Fortunately, The Cold That You Left includes more than enough intrigue to tip the scales in the right direction. It’s not only that the descending keys (“Watching You Beg for Your Life,” “A Wretch and a Liar,” “Wasting Away Forever”) and rising string synths (“Ancient Pain”) are beautiful. Not only that the interplay of breathy cleans and low muttering groans (“There by the Window”) is heartfelt. Not only that the weaving of reverberating gong strikes (“Ancient Pain”) and syrupy chimes (“Wasting Away Forever”) are skin-shiveringly intriguing. It’s that you could imagine hearing much of the album’s material wafting darkly from the speakers in an alternative club, as you sway in the arms of an equally misunderstood individual. The mournful floating keys, and slow-dance groove of “Ancient Pain,” and “A Wretch and a Liar,” in particular make for ideal features at a doomed disco. Particularly when the latter is defined by the repeated “dead on the inside, dead on the outside too.”

As good gothic music should, The Cold that You Left uses its allure to soften, but deepen its morbid lyrical content. Let nothing I’ve said so far diminish just how dark this is. “Your Lonely Death My Crown”‘s hatred; “Deep Depression”‘s bleak self-talk; “Wasting Away Forever”‘s misery. They’re all very real, simply made dreamlike as you absorb them through waves of dreamy synth and pulsing beats. Most of the time, this makes for an immersive experience. But things do go slightly askance when Hours of Worship allow otherwise effective material to outstay its welcome. With a couple of exceptions (“A Wretch and a Liar” for instance), all the songs could lose a minute. Perhaps just one chorus repetition fewer. “I Know it Hurts You” sees this problem exacerbated by playing things slightly too far towards the monotonous side. Its use of dungeon synth as the main melodic backdrop is also less magnetic than its sister tracks. Out of roughly forty-five minutes of content—which does go surprisingly quickly—this is forgivable. The beautifully full, spacious production lends even the weaker aspects a cloak of dark loveliness.

I went into The Cold That You Left expecting–as was advertised—something closer to black metal. What I got was far better, and far blacker. Managing to convey their heavy themes with ethereal and evocative music, Hours of Worship have produced a bitter pill I want to swallow.

Rating: Very Good
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Iron Bonehead
Websites: hoursofworship.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/IronBoneheadProductions
Release Worldwide: August 19th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. It’s unclear who has vocal duties here.
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