Horror and metal have long gone hand-in-hand. Whether it’s the Dennis Wheatley homages of Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, the ‘70s and ‘80s gore film tributes of Necrophagia or White Zombie’s constant film references, you can’t swing a dead cat in the metal genre without hitting some film or literary reference. There’s something to be said, though, for any band that makes the Blind Dead of Amando de Ossorio’s series of Spanish horror films their touchstone. That alone would typically be enough to get me to pick up an album of theirs (hello, Machetazo’s Sinfonias del Terror Ciego), but it takes more than just an appeal to my horror movie fanaticism to get me to return to the tomb.
Thankfully, Finland’s Hooded Menace brings more to the funeral than imagery of skeletal Templar knights, appealing though that might be on its own. Taking some downtime after delivering 2010’s outstanding Never Cross the Dead (a wait only relieved by the appearance of a handful of split EPs in the meanwhile) Hooded Menace returns with yet another potent mixture of death and doom metal; melodic guitar leads soaring over stomach-churning rhythm riffage, topped with the eerie vocal growl of guitarist/bassist/vocalist Lasse Pyykkö and peppered with samples from classic horror films. Soundwise, it’s majestic and lumbering, like a colossus striding over the landscape, the earth trembling beneath each step.
It’s true: there’s not of variety of tempo on display here, as opposed to on Coffins’ most recent release, but it’s never been Hooded Menace’s style to pummel. Rapid-fire death metal attack isn’t their modus operandi. Again, unlike the recent Coffins EP, they lean heavier on the doom side of the scale than on the death side. The tunes range from slooooooow to moderately quick, much like the reanimated corpses that populate their album art. And while that lack of brutal speed might make some listeners balk at spending a whole hour with this album, it’s not the variety of tempo that’s important to me here; it’s the variety of riffs on display and the melodic turns and twists that the songs take as they stalk along the countryside.
In short, this is at least as impressive a piece of work as Never Cross the Dead, and just might qualify as Hooded Menace’s best album to date.