Hussar – All-Consuming Hunger Review

Imagine facing down a goddamned cavalry charge. Your boots squelch in the mud while a heaving line of battle-bred stallions bears down faster than you could ever reload your weapon.1 If the artillery fire doesn’t pulverize you into red mist, you might be trampled under a thousand pounds of hoof and sinew. Death and mayhem are everywhere: your skull could be gored by a lance, or your arteries geysered by the blade of an officer’s sword. Your job? To stand there in the blood and the mud and the piss and take what’s coming. Canada’s Hussar, named after the Hungarian light cavalry regimens of old, aims to recreate this sensation with their debut album All-Consuming Hunger. These six tracks of war-themed death metal stampede into your safe space with an attack that promises no quarter. Can Hussar distinguish themselves from the legions who’ve made this charge before, or will they be buried unmourned in a mass grave? Let’s form up into an infantry square, bayonets raised, and those of us who survive the day can tell our grandchildren the story of All-Consuming Hunger.

The tactics for this campaign are tried and true. These songs explore the horror of warfare from the perspective of a foot soldier who’s grist for the mill, or a relative back home who lost a loved one and gained nothing of consequence in return. Thematically, this platter lives closer to 1914 than it does Sabaton. Vadim Balayuk’s guitars lead the platoon, alternating between strummed and trem-picked riffs while the drumming of Nathaniel Reynolds-Welsh sets a mostly furious marching tempo. The pace and pattern of the riffing often evokes Slugdge, even as the cavernous old-school growls recall Cruciamentum, its sister act Grave Miasma, or (always and of course) Incantation. Some issues with songwriting and production scar an otherwise enjoyable debut–Hussar may not have covered themselves with glory on All-Consuming Hunger, but they can return from their first battle with heads held high.

The album rises and falls on the strength of Balayuk’s riffs. It’s an upward arc for the most part, with All-Consuming Hunger picking up steam as it goes. Opener “Ritual Castration of the Feeble-Minded Cowards” quickly wears out its welcome, with the central trem-picked riff exhausting its potency through repetition. This numbing effect rears its head at various points on All-Consuming Hunger–but the platter soars when it focuses on either dynamic songwriting or sheer punishment. “Citadel” and “Blind Charge into Gunfire” are examples of the latter, standing out by virtue of their bludgeoning power. “Citadel,” with its tempo pushing it almost into thrash territory, is a particular highlight. On the songwriting front, the band pours ample focus into “Dissonant Weeping of a Thousand Widows.” It’s the most dynamic of Hussar’s longer compositions, showcasing some welcome flourishes including a mellow section at the beginning that includes a rare appearance by James Thompson’s bass. When the trio is locked in, the familiar tropes they unleash on All-Consuming Hunger combine in novel and pleasing ways…

… and when they wander off the map, shit gets tedious right quick. The primary offenders here are the production and an occasional lack of focus in the songwriting. The guitars dominate the mix, overwhelming the other tones and wearing out your ears. Balayuk’s strings are so overpowering that, in an ironic twist, they sound weak at points–without suitable support from the rhythm section, there are too many chunks of this album that register as nothing more than a talented player noodling away on his instrument. The soldiers in Hussar also need to master the art of editing. Too many of these numbers start out in roaring good form, only to linger like a buddy who can’t take a hint and doesn’t know when to call it a night.

If you were to type “promising first album” into the search field on Metal Archives, All-Consuming Hunger could well be the top result. Its virtues are every bit as apparent as its flaws, and your ability to appreciate the record might just come down to where you land on the glass-half-full/glass-half-empty spectrum. Warren Buffett, the most metal of financial gurus, holds that optimism is the most profitable strategy… and with that in mind, I am taking a long position on Hussar. There’s too much good here to ignore, and, with time and training, it seems inevitable that these young grunts will hone their voice into something that can’t be denied.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: I, Voidhanger Records
Releases Worldwide: September 30, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. Interesting fact I learned researching this review: cavalry charges rarely happened at full gallop. The moment of impact had to be timed just so, and therefore coordinated effort trumped all-out speed.
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