Hail Spirit Noir - Mayhem in Blue (2016)

Mayhem in Blue

Tracklist

  1. I Mean You Harm
  2. Mayhem in Blue
  3. Riders to Utopia
  4. Lost in Satan's Charms
  5. The Cannibal Tribe Came From the Sea
  6. How to Fly in Blackness

Hail Spirit Noir is a Black Metal band from greece who mix Black Metal with Psychedelic and Progressive Rock. Their 2014 album Oi Magoi got critics excited and now they returned with Mayhem in Blue and the band evolves on both sides of their spectrum.

Black Metal is a strange genre. It's beginning spit out countless tape releases, with horrible mastering and even worse songwriting, but the purity and aggression transported by the music appealed to many, which made the genre step into mainstream in the mid-ninties. Where early Black Metal was obviously rooted in Punk, clean and cold production was key in this new wave of bands. Low on bass, high on treble, shredding the high strings of their guitars, bands like Darkthrone, Samael and Cradle of Filth had major success. And then the genre stagnated.

A few years back the genre started to evolve. It flirted with Shoegaze (Post-Black-Metal), with Jazz and friends (Avantgarde-Black-Metal) and bands like Alcest or Orannsi Pazuzu showed us how beautiful the genre can really be.

Hail Spirit Noir also mix Black Metal with other styles of Rock music, namely Progressive Rock and Psychedelic Rock. A mixture that seems odd at first. While Shoegaze and Black Metal share a certain coldness, Progressive Rock normally presents itself in a more positive way. Which is no surprise, the genre has its roots in the 60s. How good can a combination of such contrary genres actually be? Sure there are bands like Opeth mixing Death Metal with Prog, but Death Metal, while being a beast of its own, normally does not share the same bleak atmosphere as Black Metal does.

To make things short: Hail Spirit Noir show that it can work. And they make it work, by going back to the very beginnings of Black Metal. Production is grounded and sounds quite analog. None of the clean, empty vibes are found on this record. Instead the drums sound like proper drums, instead of far away echoes of drum beats. The whole thing sounds like a proper Rock album. Basically Hail Spirit Noir take what was Punk about Black Metal in the early days and modernize it. This way the distance between the two styles presented on the album minimises and it's not such an abstract form of music anymore.

The only thing left to make this perform well is good songwriting and Hail Spirit Noir proved themselves already in this regard. Oi Magoi was already showing lots of promise in the songwriting department. Espacially the Progressive parts were great. And Mayhem in Blue builds up on that experience and manages to top it on every level. The songs are more straight forward when they need to be and at the same time have more turns and whistles than their previous efforts. Take the center-piece of the album, which is also the title track.

It starts with a fair like instrumentation and clean vocals, that set the vibe. A word about the clean vocals: They are brilliant. A warm and talented voice that manages to provide great vocal melodies. For fans of traditional Progressive Metal: No, he does not sing the high registers. Around the 2-minute-mark electric guitars prove that we are listening to a Rock/Metal album and some Opeth-like guitar leads further the clean vocals start again, now accompanied by guitars and suddenly: Blazing fast double bass and a hymn of a refrain, great stuff! It takes nearly 5 minutes until harsh vocals can be heard. The closest comparison for these is probably Oranssi Pazuzu. The song takes a more typical Black Metal aproach from this point on, but the theme of the song remains the same and the clean vocals return too until another bridge leads us into a guitar solo with clean rhythm section. Once again this section reminds of Opeth. In the end the fair returns to lay the song to rest.

The balance of heavy and clean passages is just right to please both Metal and Progressive fans alike and there are lots of great moments to be found. The use of organs, the warm production and aforementioned drum sound, the feel for melody, Hail Spirit Noir hit the right buttons on this album all along.

So if you like your Black Metal a bit experimental, if you enjoy earlier Opeth or newer Enslaved for what they are, this is the album to go to.

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