HOODED MENACE’S EFFIGIES OF EVIL SOOTHES THE SAVAGE BLASTBEAST
Death metal listeners love comparing their music to violence against their person. It’s pummeling. It’s an all-out assault. Listen to the attack. These terms make sense, as death metal, with its throttling drums and chainsaw guitars (see, now even I’m doing it) has a certain abrasive quality that even the hardened fan recognizes and desires. That punch in the gut that comes with every instrument (vocals included) being used as a form of percussion makes extreme metal satisfying, similar to ultra-hot Mexican food or an especially passionate lay. But there is a type of morbid cacophony that is more balm than bomb, that is cold beer and a comfy armchair to the often-irritated headbanger. Albums that pull this off perfectly include Carcass’ Heartwork, Autopsy’s Mental Funeral, and, as of now, Hooded Menace’s Effigies of Evil.
This isn’t to say that this Tombs Of The Blind Dead-loving Finnish duo don’t bring the darkness on their third full-length. From beginning to end, Effigies is loaded with creepy-crawl melodies, gamey grooves, zombie-march drums and sewer-gurgle vocals. Tracks like “In The Dead We Dwell” and “Crumbling Insanity” are so slimy and thick that they actually earn their horror movie samples, a rarity within the genre (sorry, Mortician, but you overdo that shit). Closer “Retribution In Eternity,” a sprawling splatter of feedback and Hammer Horror audio clips, manages to be ugly and atmospheric without overstaying its welcome. But within this whirlpool of buzzing guitars and pounding drums, the Menace have brewed something intense and diabolical while at the same time easily palatable. Rhythmically, the band’s pace moves forward at a steady march without breaking off into unnecessary thrash worship. The riffs are catchy enough to cause soft humming and foot-tapping long into the workday.
There are obviously downsides to Hooded Menace’s slow-burn approach to death metal. The consistent pace of Effigies can make some of the songs blend together. The brief moments of double bass-fed speed, like those within penultimate track “Evoken Vulgarity,” leave the listener yearning for a little more fierceness, and variety in general, throughout. Sometimes, a boot to the face is refreshing, wakes you up, lets you know you’re alive. But the consistency of sound, speed, and style on Hooded Menace’s part doesn’t seem to display their laziness, but rather a desired unity of sound; to put it more colloquially, they feel no need to impress you by imitating every band you like or playing faster and harder than your favorite grindcore outfit. They’re in it for the riffs, which they bring in massive amounts with perfect form.
You don’t always want to wreck your neck; sometimes you want to bathe in gore and horror until it washes the hangover away, in which case Hooded Menace have made the perfect album for you. From start to finish, Effigies Of Evil is an old-school bleeder that will keep heads bobbing if not banging, smoothing out the wrinkles in your war-torn soul. Nothing about this album slams or crushes, it just festers and oozes and totally fucking slays.
(four out of five horns)