Effigies of Evil
posted on 10/2012 By:
I was quite taken with Hooded Menace’s debut, Fulfill the Curse, when I reviewed it some years ago. The band’s mixture of Candlemass, early Cathedral and Asphyx hit the right spots for me. Despite adhering strictly to the established formula, the follow-up record, Never Cross the Dead, did not resonate as strongly with me. I would not go so far as to call it a sophomore slump – Never Cross the Dead was a good album – but I thought the music did not quite live up to the promise of the spectacular cover art. Hooded Menace’s third album does not screw with the formula, either, but Lasse Pykko seems to have come up with a somewhat more engaging batch of horror-themed doom / death tunes this time around.
With a band as consistent and single-minded as Hooded Menace quantifying what makes one record better or worse than another is difficult and largely subjective. Each record is made from the same few ingredients, the only real variation between them coming from the proportions. On Effigies of Evil, to these ears, the band gets the proportions about right. Anvil-heavy, sloth-slow doom is always going to be the basis of Hooded Menace’s sound, and even if Hooded Menace does it better than most, there are still hundreds of bands that do it well. The beautiful, haunting melodies that Lasse weaves into Hooded Menace’s songs are the band’s most unique feature and rank among its greatest strengths. On Effigies of Evil, these melodies are more prominent, prevalent and memorable than they were on the last record, though the difference is admittedly subtle.
Another subtle change that elevates Effigies of Evil above its predecessor is a greater emphasis on uptempo riffs. Uptempo for Hooded Menace is, of course, still slow by conventional standards, but nonetheless, these riffs have an effect, rendering Effigies of Evil a (again, subtly) more dynamic listening experience.
"Vortex Macabre", the album’s opener is a prime example of Hooded Menace pulling it all together. After the requisite spooky intro, the song crawls out of the coffin at the band’s usual snail’s pace. A sublime counter-melody accompanies the second verse and then the speed ramps up to a mid-paced trudge and slips into a slippery groove reminiscent of mid-Nineties Cathedral, complete with bluesy soloing. After a brief, clean breakdown, there comes a choir of harmonized guitars that leads back into more verses and then a false ending. The outro introduces an entirely new riff that trudges along, slightly off-kilter, to the plaintive wail of Pykko’s lead guitar. This sprawling, nearly eleven-minute piece could have easily grown tedious in less capable hands, but Hooded Menace makes it work by providing an ear-catching lick at every turn.
Other standout tracks on Effigies of Evil include “Curses Scribed in Gore” and “Crumbling Insanity”. The former finds Hooded Menace hauling ass, relatively speaking, as the band deals out some early Celtic Frost-styled brutality in the song's opening bars. Crushing doom, of course, follows. “Crumbling Insanity” starts as a typical Menace dirge, but it is highlighted by a killer mid-paced riff, around which Pykko spins an entrancing melody, creating a perfect marriage of beauty and aggression.
If horror / doom / death is a sub-genre, Hooded Menace is undoubtedly its master, and Effigies of Evil just might be the band’s masterwork. Fans of the group should purchase without hesitation. Those yet unexposed to Hooded Menace’s sonic horror show would do well to rectify that situation, and Effigies of Evil is a fine place to start.
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