Them – Return to Hemmersmoor [Things You Might Have Missed 2020]

I can’t believe we never received the promo for Them‘s Return to Hemmersmoor. I mean, seriously, I’m their biggest fan! Even when their first album fell into the hands of an anti-Diamonder, I still hailed the shit out of it. This October, I even asked my kids if they wanted to watch Tim Burton’s Sweet Hollow. That’s how much the band is on my mind. Just the same, I got my hands on Them‘s newest release, and I’m here to tell you, these chaps brought it. But in a way much greater than just another King Diamond clone. While the storytelling of each Them album gets a little more absurd, the band performances and songwriting continue to impress me. Maybe more than they ever have before. But, enough of this squabble! Let the show begin…

Seconds into “Diliuvium,” you’ll know exactly what I mean about the storytelling. After Remsen saves Fosser from burning alive at the hands of Peter Thompson, the pair set off to Hemmersmoor. There they will conjure up Fosser’s beloved daughter, Miranda. The race is on and, what I love about a good concept album, is when you can feel it. “Age of Ascension” follows up like a zombie swarm on an unsuspecting village. The vocals climbing over each other in a surprising way and the guitars charging on with a vengeance. “The Tumultuous Voyage to Hemmersmoor” keeps the pace going and adds a chorus as addictive as crack. It’s so good that it threatens to take its place as my Song o’ the Year. I’m right there on deck—waves crashing around me as we head to our destination. Other pieces that work great with the story are the back-to-back “Hellhounds: The Harbingers of Death” and “Battle Blood.” The first is a goddamn beast (literally) of a track that actually sounds like dogs chasing you down.1 While the second track unloads some seriously chuggy riffs, with a touch of Annihilator in the verses.

As with all stories and albums such as these, Return to Hemmersmoor also includes a handful of melodic pieces. These being “The Thin Veil” and “Waken.” Neither are ballads, per se, but the emotion is heavy as Fosser finally resurrects his dead daughter. The bass shines bright and the vocals scratch and claw at the heartstrings. “The Thin Veil” is the better of the two and one of the highlights of the album. It’s also the longest and most developed of the lot. But things aren’t as they seem for this crew. Something is not quite right with Miranda. You can feel it in “Maestro’s Last Stand.” The massive riffs smashing along as the falsettos tear across the sky. Miranda gives her father a sinister look that the guitars and vocals personify. Fosser’s fate is sealed. He’s unwittingly resurrected the Crimson Corpse.

Like Metalium, I foresee Them carrying this storyline on until they finally fold. For now, though, the recipe still works and the songwriting is better than ever. With ease, Return to Hemmersmoor pushes back boundaries and the band really makes a go of it. The vocals are no longer standard Diamond fare, the story is no longer the focus (like so many of the lesser Gwar and King Diamond records), and the instrumentation is big. As with all their albums, Return to Hemmersmoor is fun and exciting. But, on top of that, the band has never been more on their game.

Tracks to Check Out: “The Tumultuous Journey to Hemmersmoor,” “The Thin Veil,” “Hellhounds: The Harbingers of Death,” and “Battle Blood.”

Show 1 footnote

  1. Side note: For the best example of this, check out Hank III‘s “Trooper’s Holler.”
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