After The Fire - Ashes
posted on 8/2008 By:
Like most Polish metal bands, Hermh is polished and tight and destructive. On the musical front, there’s nothing new here—Hermh is a standard symphonic black metal band, with a smashing production, keys that dominate but aren’t too overpowering, and a dash of death metal in the mix. They’re not pushing the envelope, but they’re doing what they do with the reverant zeal and skill that Polish bands usually exhibit. In their fifteen-year career, Hermh has released three full-lengths, a DVD, two EPs (of which this is the second), and two demos. They’ve split up and reformed, with only vocalist Bart from the earliest incarnation, and during those fifteen years, a host of Polish metallers have passed through the ranks, including almost the entirety of Abused Majesty, plus members of Christ Agony, Squash Bowels, and a guest appearance from Behemoth mainman Nergal. They’ve managed to do all of that without overly exciting me much, and with this EP, they’re continuing that trend.
After The Fire – Ashes is clearly thematically linked to the previous two releases, 2004’s Before The Eden – Awaiting The Fire EP and 2005’s Eden’s Fire full-length. Four of Eden’s songs appear here in live versions, and one from Awaiting The Fire is presented as an alternate version, an industrialized re-imagining done by yet another Hermh-related group, electronic act Red Emprez. (This version sounds like a mix of Depeche Mode and black metal. Interesting, but not something I’d listen to often.) Add to those five a cover of Venom’s “Black Metal,” and there’s only four new songs on hand, one of which is just a symphonic intro track. (Note to black metal bands: “Black Metal” is a great song, yes. Now stop covering it. Find something else. Seriously.)
Tracks like “Crownymph” exhibit a decided Cradle Of Filth-ness, except not as ridiculous and without Dani Filth’s super-high inhaled screech and any female vocals. So what’s left that reminds me of CoF? Well, there’s still the keyboard-heavy vampiric atmosphere. That theme of vampires plays a heavy role in Hermh’s lyrical bent, both here and on previous records. (Case in point: earlier track “Vampyronium,” presented here in the live set.) The live stuff is played well but is, by nature, of interest to fans only, and nothing in these four tracks transcends the inherent sonic difficulties of live recordings to make my head do anything approaching banging.
Truth be told, I prefer my black metal to be rougher and rawer than this, less gothic and less symphonic, so while I respect this for what it is, given a choice, I’d listen to something more like the latest few Darkthrone efforts. But fans of Dimmu Borgir and older Thyrane and other such bombastic black ness will find Hermh to be an excellent band, if perhaps a bit copycat-ish. As for After The Fire, my recommendation would be this: newcomers to the band should check out the previous record, an actual full-length first, because between the covers, live tracks, and remixes, there’s just not enough here to make much of a decision.
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