Ever since I was a wee n00bian babe, Steel Druhm has been threatening to smother me with a metalcore pillow. Personally, I’ve always lived by the adage “If thou must be smothered, thou shouldst at least choose the pillow.” So rather than let Steel continue to hang The Core of Damocles above my head, I decided I would take matters into my own hands and pick up the next available metalcore promo. Hymns for the Hollow is the second album from Swedish band Leach and upon first glance it seemed as if it would do the trick. Surely I will gain copious brownie points by volunteering for this selfless martyrdom, no?1
No. There was a gaping hole in my plan, as I was unprepared for the possibility that I might actually really enjoy said album. And while there are certainly core elements included in Leach‘s sound, I would not feel right in describing them as simply metalcore. To these ears, Hymns for the Hollow sounds like an album that The Crown or The Haunted might make if they dialed back the thrash and upped the accessibility by adding some punk, groove, classic metal, and hard rock touches. The promo materials call it “thrash n’ roll,” and that’s probably as good a place as any to start. “The Untouchables” starts things off with pounding piano mixing with power chords before guitarists Markus Wikander and Jamie Andersson take off with an excellent 80’s metal riff. Wikander also handles vocal duties and he primarily uses a well-balanced hardcore shout that suits the music really well. The classic riffs and leads also rear their heads on “Free from All” and “End of an Era,” lending a fun headbanging feel to the album. Leach show off their thrash muscles on “New Low” and “Framgångssagan,” and “We Have It All” is an excellent hard rock song that’s placed perfectly as a change of pace.
I could repeat “Chapter Two” over and over. It has a doomy clean intro that ushers in some thrashy riffs before the verse brings a punk bounce to the party. The song includes some great leads from Wikander and Andersson and showcases why they end up being the MVPs of the album. The modern Jacob Hansen master is perfect for this style with a beefy guitar tone and strong bottom end. Musically, I don’t have a lot to complain about. The 38-minute runtime goes by in an entertaining flash, with only the final two songs giving me pause. The title track closes things out with clean strumming and soft percussion and Wikander’s echoing shouts. It’s not bad by any means, but I also felt like skipping it after a few listens so I could get back to the really good stuff. Penultimate song “Do It” is the closest thing here to what most people think of as metalcore with its aggressive riffing and a chugging breakdown (the only one found on the album) near the end.
More troubling for me is the lyrical theme of the song, which finds Wikander spewing “Do it! Kill yourself! And if not for me then for everyone else!” Now, I understand that this is cathartic artistic expression, but I think that as Diabolus eloquently explained in the intro for a recent review, sometimes the audience needs to know that you’re joking in order to enjoy the more disturbing aspects of your art. As this music is promoted as metalcore, I can see it being consumed by young people who may not be mature enough to understand the “joke” of encouraging suicide. I generally don’t care what people choose to talk about in their lyrics, but I have a job that forces me to witness the physical and emotional results of people “doing it” or trying to “do it.” This leaves me prejudiced against this sort of thing. *dismount soapbox*
Even after fifteen or so spins of the album, I’m still hard-pressed to come up with a definitive descriptive term for the style. Metalcore? Thrash n’ roll? Modern metal? I don’t know, so I’ll just call it a lot of fun, thematic issues notwithstanding. If you like riffs and melody and can handle hardcore vocals, give this a chance. Apparently I’ll have to go on living with the impending wrath of Steel hanging over me.