Review: Hooded Menace – Darkness Drips Forth
Death! Doom! Hoodies!
Hooded Menace is back with their fourth LP, their first since 2011. While three years might feel like an eternity in today’s hectic world, the band has done their best to fill the gap with smaller releases: two EPs, a split with Loss, and an excellent compilation that gathered all of their vinyl-only releases into one CD. Same thing with the gap between Effigies of Evil and Never Cross The Dead, you’d think founder Lasse Pyykkö and long-term drummer Pekka Koskelo would have run out of steam keeping up with this pace. Like all bands, Hooded Menace has its highs and lows, but never have they released anything bad or unsatisfying. However, it has been noted that writing isn’t getting any easier, and what we have in our hands right now is the band’s most massive release to date. Darkness Drips Forth is composed of four songs, only one of which doesn’t exceed the ten-minute mark. How does it stand against the band’s history? I’m going to spill the beans here and say: well.
With each passing release Hooded Menace, since 2012 a fully-fledged band also including Markus Makkonen on bass/vocals and Teemu Hannonen on guitar, has refined their sound. Looking at the big picture they’ve been heading for a bigger, more melodic and – dare I say – more ‘epic’ sound. Their journey culminates with Darkness Drips Forth. The album begins with a ringing of bells; some would call it cliche, but it simply works. The song unfolds very slowly. For four whole minutes the band trudges on like a funeral doom band, until “Blood for the Burning Oath / Dungeons of the Disembodied” explodes into a a flurry of melodic leads – or so it feels even though the band keeps their approach restrained, opting to blow the listener away later on with the same melody, now tremolo-ish-picked. The songs are long, but the tension is kept at high levels throughout – especially on the slower parts – the riffs keep you banging your head and the melodies bury ‘neath your skin where they remain nesting. In other words, every song is filled with memorable hooks without ever compromising what we have learned to know Hooded Menace as.
While the rest of the songs mostly do follow suit, each has its own personality as well. Closer “Beyond Deserted Flesh” is a more straightforward cut, whereas “Elysium of Dripping Death” builds on the mournful melodies more than any other Hooded Menace song before. The only song running shorter than ten minutes, “Ashen With Solemn Decay” is also the most upbeat one. Within the context of the album it fits perfectly, but if put to another album and stripped of Pyykkö’s deep growls, it wouldn’t be so obvious who the performer is.
Hooded Menace is keeping busy with their releases, but they’ve somehow managed to keep the quality high. Darkness Drips Forth succeeds at every front, the songwriting, arrangements, performance and production. The crushing bass serves a dictionary definition of heavy, the sharp drum sound sinks well into the occasionally layered world of sound, and the buzz of the guitars conducts power to the riffs and yet takes nothing away from the melodies. Like with their writing, the sound has been evolving slowly, the most perceptible difference here being the vocals – no longer so oppressively on the forefront but rather more integrated into the whole.
In case you didn’t get it yet, Darkness Drips Forth is Hooded Menace’s most complete piece of work to date. And quite possibly their best album. A Four-song fourth effort worthy of: