Review: Gloam – Hex Of Nine Heads

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Released on July 25th this year, the debut album Hex Of Nine Heads from Santa Cruz black metal band Gloam is quite unique and worthy of your attention. 

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After doing a cursory search for “toiletovhell gloam” to make sure I wasn’t going to review something that had been covered already but buried in the pile of awesome that can happen so frequently in this here bowl, I discovered a brief but nonetheless informative review of their (free!) 2014 EP Vanquished, from none other than the Masterlord. Upon learning that this album had not been attended to, I was simultaneously disappointed and glad. Disappointed that this had been overlooked for review thus far by the Toilet and glad that I got to be the one to gush about it in an over exuberant manner. I also learned that gloam is the period immediately following sunset. The time when albums like this transcend and stake their claim for ownership of the night.

On Hex Of Nine Heads, Gloam start out squarely in what I would describe as a form of intricate doom, this doesn’t persist too long though, as less than half way through the first track the Californian quartet unleash a chaotic blackened fury, which persists for much of the remaining 62 minute duration. The album doesn’t bend genres so much as it harnesses their power, utilising aspects of doom but resting overall in the realm of black metal. The intro track is an exceptionally crafted layering of acoustic guitars, replete with gusty background ambiance, which serves as a portal of sorts and segues perfectly into the first song ‘Where Freezing Winds Forever Blow’. This 14 minute beast of a track continues the slow crawling build-up, giving you that unhinged feeling of tension which is exactly what one desires from a release of this style. Never tame, its essence primal.

I’m going to embed the third track ‘Torrents Of Blood’, which I would consider to be the best representation of what is on offer here, but I would highly recommend investing the extra bit of time and stabbing play on the original embed up top. The tom beating intro of ‘Execration Trance’ adorned with its dirty raked chords which give way to the odd yet catchy main progression are just one example of how Gloam manage to make the unconventional work for them. The sixth track ‘Corporeal Torment’ has some throwbacks to OSDM single-note riffing in the intro and is suitably headbangable. The doom-laden title track follows and ends with a crack of thunder, ushering in the storm which was alluded to in the intro. The album is bookended with another beautiful clean section which will leave you ruminating in the puddles forming around you.

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The production should please both members of the lo-fi camp and listeners who seek clarity, which in itself is a remarkable feat. Gloam manage to achieve this through the dampened use of distortion which allows each note to be distinguished whilst still sounding raw. The guitars, in particular the lead motifs, have a similar sound to the those found on the excellent 2015 releases from Predatory Light (split with Vorde) and Volahn (Aqábál). The leads have that drenched-in-delay/reverb tone rather unique to surf guitar, which when married with the black metal note choices and phrasing, create a vibrant and often hallucinatory effect. The rhythms they sail atop of are similar in style to the majestic riffing present on Barshasketh’s Ophidian HenosisThe bass is ever-present and solidly performed. The vocals don’t offer much variance, which is not really a problem in this particular situation, as they appear to act as a factor of stoic consistency rather than as a decorative element which is usually the case. The music has enough substance and intrigue on its own.

Throughout Hex Of Nine Heads, Gloam show a deft ability to always be aware of when to make a change. Be it through adding another layer of guitar or shifting gears into a different passage completely, there is not a moment in which they stagnate, something we all could learn from. So don’t stall, head over to their bandcamp and pick yourself up a copy of this amazing debut.

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I really wanted to give this album a 4.75/5 but our system works in halves so it gets 4.5/5. In all honesty, I’m sure it will be a 5/5 to some of you, providing you give it the chance it definitely deserves.

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