“Lasse Pyykkö has an impressively deep gurgle, like a clogged sink draining.” – MacDara on Effigies of Evil, the latest LP from Finland’s Hooded Menace.
Sometimes it’s okay for a band to rehash the same sound from song to song over a single record. If you’re, say, Slayer or something, it’s damn near expected; that trademark tone is exactly what the fans expect. Sometimes it’s even alright to lead off your album with a 10-minute epic; bands that do it right never leave you checking your watch.
Hooded Menace haven’t earned such indulgences. The Finnish outfit (formerly a trio, now a duo) came together in 2007 with the intention of blending old school death metal – monster vocals and all – with even older school doom, which is a great idea on paper, though their first two albums (the last for boutique metal label du jour Profound Lore) produced mixed results. And their third full length, Effigies of Evil, doesn’t fare much better.
The opening salvo of ‘Vortex Macabre‘ shows promise – varied tempos, contrasting atmospherics, coffin-tight playing and a hermetically sealed production that’s not for the claustrophobic – but it goes on for far too long, losing all its steam well before the home stretch, and leaving one impatient for what’s to follow. When that turns out to be the more coherent slower-tempo crushing of the title track, you might wish you’d skipped ahead. That’d the shortest song in the bunch, too (not counting the movie-sampling outro ‘Retribution in Eternity‘), and its telling that it’s their most solid composition from start to finish.
I’d be remiss in ignoring the good stuff – the chugging riffage and twin-axe action on ‘In The Dead We Dwell‘ that demands your contribution on air guitar; the off-kilter timing of ‘Curses Scribed In Gore’; the almost post-metal denouement of ‘Evoken Vulgarity‘ – but it’s buried under six feet of sloppy top soil. Even the striking vocals are both a blessing and a curse. Frontman Lasse Pyykkö (who also handles guitar and bass duties here) has an impressively deep gurgle, like a clogged sink draining. But I can’t help thinking it would be all the more impressive – and all the more genuine – if paired with faster, more aggressive music; in this context it comes off as little more than a spook house gimmick.
Most of the eight songs proper in this set overstay their welcome by a couple of minutes. And there’s a sameness to their sound from tune to tune that’s hard to get over – not just the guitar tone, but the structures and rhythms. By the sixth track, ‘Summoned Into Euphoric Madness‘, they’re already retreading ideas they had not even 15 minutes before. Sure, the chord sequences might change, barely, but the song remains the same – especially when the lyrics are so indecipherable. Taken as a whole, it’s all too much of a muchness.
Effigies of Evil doesn’t even have the cartoon horror trappings of a Cannibal Corpse going for it, falling between two stools as something that comes across as an attempt to make music with mature intent, but with adolescent execution. Indeed, the overall presentation is a muddled message. The song titles reference cult horror movies, the cover imagery is pure EC Comics, and even the band name evokes that Hammer or giallo brand of melodramatic Grand Guignol. So why does it seem like they want to be taken so seriously?
Ultimately, this is a record that doesn’t know what it wants to be. And with Hooded Menace now on album number three, you’d think they’d have figured it out by now.