The Risen Dread – Night Hag Review

I appreciate a good concept album. Sometimes an album concept merely offers a quirky angle to music which is already enjoyable. Sometimes it is central to the album’s enjoyment itself. In the case of Ireland’s The Risen Dread and their debut record entitled Night Hag, there is a theme worthy of greater exploration and artistic endeavor: mental illness. Important though this subject no doubt is, concept albums that fail forget that substance trumps style, and similarly music trumps message1. This is a metal record and sadly falters in that regard.

Once more demonstrating that genre tagging is more an art than a science, the intriguing “horror thrash” tag attributed to this promo in our pool should more accurately be described as a hybrid of groovy thrash metal and metalcore. It’s a sound I will now be calling “thrashcore,” a term which I sincerely hope catches on because that sub-genre sounds fucking awesome. It’s just a shame that The Risen Dread which inspired this innovation are not as exciting as that term sounds. Night Hag sounds like a musical cross of the 1990s, but with the regrettable production of aesthetics of the 2010s. It’s somewhat comparable to a thrashier Machine Head but with infrequent and unexciting breakdowns, hardcore shouts and a dearth of creativity and memorability.

Listening to The Risen Dread’s guitar leads is like being aware that something is happening outside your apartment but lacking the energy to actually step outside. They’re there but insufficiently interesting to investigate. Considering the energy and enthusiasm of the music’s composite genres, this is a death knell for Night Hag overall. The other instruments are similarly uninteresting (and sometimes worse). There’s a mix of vocal approaches, comprising growls, piercing screams and hardcore shouts. None are good but the shouts are particularly bad; they sound like when I, a vocally-challenged man, try to do harsh vocals to myself in my room. They lack power and sound strained. Otherwise, I have little to say about the drums and bass. Those instruments were used in the creation of this music; that’s the best I’ve got. The net position is that no instrumental element here enthuses me, and there’s an overarching lack of quality.

Take the opener, “Psychoses,” as an example: the whooshing synth introduction is unnecessary; the verse lead is unspectacular; the second verse riff is even more unspectacular; the chorus is completely forgettable; the guitar solo is banal. These trends track throughout Night Hag, which is remarkably unremarkable. Re-engaging with the material after a period without it was always a chore and I found myself trying to argue why I didn’t need to listen any longer. With subsequent tracks such as “Silent Disease,” “Bury Me,” and “Sounds of the Unknown” and “Coward’s 9,” these arguments become stronger the further you reach in the album. They offer little not heard elsewhere and bloat a release which already suffers from a lack of dynamism. You may reasonably question why a record which is merely boring, rather than bad, deserves a score which is below average. I would respond that Night Hag is so tiring that it crosses that boundary.

The depressingly fleeting and infrequent enjoyable moments only serve as exceptions to prove the rule that Night Hag is far too bland, even to rate averagely. While I listened to it more times than I would choose, it’s difficult to pay attention for just one song, let alone the entire record. The only excess evident is a needlessly loud master, which undoubtedly compounds the fatigue. It’s the sort of album which was always destined for the bargain buckets of history. But in a digital age where streaming takes more market control by the day, where does that leave an album like this? My strong suspicion is oblivion.

Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps MP3
Label: WormHoleDeath
Releases Worldwide: January 28th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. There are reasonable limitations to this argument, of course. For example, I’ll not choose to listen to NSBM even if the music is good.
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