Worship Or Die
posted on 10/2009 By:
Most black metal outside of the folk-oriented realm tends to fall into three camps. You have the unholy raw stuff, the floaty atmospheric stuff, and the grizzly rockin’ stuff. There’s generally little room to borrow from all three of these distinctions and come out with a sound that feels credible, as despite the fact that most black metal shares instrumental and musical tactics, there’s a gigantic difference between bands like modern day Darkthrone and, say, Walknut.
The solo project of Algol from Italy’s solid death/doom project Forgotten Tomb, Hiems attempts to change this, although not in a revolutionary way. Boasting a competent mix of the genre’s ethereal and hard-hitting sides, Worship Or Die is a forward-thinking black metal album that also manages to remain highly song-based, with each track serving its own distinct role in the larger picture. Songs like “I,” “Scum Destroyer,” and the devilish “W.O.F.” deliver icy grooves and forceful riffs, rendered even more sharp due to the superb mix, while also incorporating some ominous bass and keyboard flourishes into the guitar-heavy attack. Algol’s vocals, harsh but effectively placed throughout the songs, are a big highlight, as is the tight and cymbal-riffic drumming. Many of the riffs here have a sinister tone highly reminiscent of Cobalt, but played in a more loose and groove-heavy manner.
The second half of the album sees some more progressive tendencies come into play. The leering “Bringer Of Light” (with a delightfully menacing tremolo riff at around the 2:00 minute mark) and the discordant “Wounds Just Death Can Heal” pave the way for the trippy journey offered by the lengthy title track. The strung-out psychadelic keyboards and the floating dreariness of the guitars creates an engaging wash of sound, and the more low-key elements of this track segregate it from the straightforward earlier songs. It’s a change of pace that will likely surprise listeners, and then just when you’re ready to relax into this side of the album’s repertoire, Algol turns right back to the rocking stuff for the album’s final track. This sudden gear-shifting may not appeal to everyone, but I give props to Hiems for keeping the listener on their toes, and when all the material is of high quality, it's hard to complain.
While there’s little in this album that is terribly original on its own, the simple skill in songwriting and the top-notch quality of the production makes Hiems’ latest effort a worthy purchase. Worship Or Die takes some good influence from all of blackmetal’s various strains and compresses it down into one aggressive, undeniably memorable package. Impressive.
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