Review Summary: Imagine if Opeth, Disillusion, and Mirrorthrone got together to create a blackened, less accessible version of 'Back To Times Of Splendor'. Are you excited? You should be.”Discrete thoughts were forged in deceiving arrogance…”
-"The Ignoramus' Elegy"
Born out of Germany, the aptly-titled Hidden In The Fog were a force to be reckoned with – a progressive black metal band where originality and innovative takes on past influences were utilized to create something special and pleasantly unique. The band has been dormant for a while; their website has become quiet and traffic-less, and their Myspace’s last blog was last updated in 2006. Upon release of this debut album in 2005, the band was heralded by critics as being worthy of classic status among the greats of the genre, but unfortunately, it seems as if Hidden In The Fog have slowly slipped through the cracks. Hardly anyone seems to have known who they were, and problems with the promotion of Damokles
seem to have added to this slow decline. In essence, the slow dying of this band is truly a tragedy for any black metal fan – it’s just that they probably don’t know it yet.
is a conceptual piece written around the laments and depressive feelings of lead vocalist Ghash. The band brings many sub-genres of metal into play here – symphonic, melodic, black, and progressive – yet somehow everything is able to work well, cohesively binding together as one destructive entity. Ghash’s vocals are best described as a blackened yet intelligible shriek that controls the primary role in the narration for the album. However, he does happen to utilize clean vocals for a number of situations; the sound of which bring to mind a less accented version of Disillusion’s own, Andy Schmidt. Unlike that singer, however, Ghash not so much as sings his vocal melodies as much as he seems to speak these parts, giving off the feel of a narrator that is somehow apart from the music and is merely commenting on the events therein. Strong and catchy vocal melodies do come into play at times – see the epic closer “For The Sightless To Behold” - but these are fashioned to be subservient to the music at work here and never completely rule the song structure, much less the other band members themselves.
The other band members create a speedy, technical sound that often borders on the chaotic and unpredictable. This aspect of the music makes for a listening experience that takes a while to truly grasp and digest; however, Opeth-like acoustic interludes do happen to be spaced throughout the album and offer listeners a welcome reprieve every now and then – e.g. “Miasmic Foreboding” and “By the Alter of Reflection”. At first the symphonic and acoustic touches feel random and lacking in conceptualized placement; however, repeated listens to the album will soon bring clarity and understanding. One thing to note about the structure of the songs is the fact that the band have stated that they were inspired by the renowned composer, Johann Sebastian Bach. First listens may cause some to doubt the truth of that statement, but upon closer inspection, a beautifully hidden composition beneath the outside work begins to arise and everything falls into place: a truly beautifully, crafted and composed work of art is hidden under the chaos. The symphonic touches buttress this reference point and act as buffers that reinforce the main picture drawn from listening to the album - see the soothing finale of "A Desolate Spectaculam" or the beginnings of "By The Alter of Reflection". The instrumental emphasize of the album, however, is clearly on the speedy, blackened guitar work of Ghash and Gorbag as they chase power metal-paced riffs with a solo thrown in here and there for good measure. The rhythm section is no slouch either as Botis confidently follows behind the technical work of the guitarist while behind the drum kit, and even the bassist shows stunning work with a few of the interludes showcasing his instrument as a tool of reprieve.
is meant to be listened to all the way through. Individual songs, such as the eleven minute closer or the musings of the technically impressive “A Desolate Spectatulum”, hold strong as individual tracks, and after repeated listens, are sure to find a home in the minds of listeners. However, the effect of the whole work – listened to again and again – is priceless in the context of a listening experience and shouldn’t be missed by any extreme metal enthusiast. I cannot stress that there’s just so much locked up and waiting in Damokles
: an impressive and melancholic set of lyrics, technically proficient instruments, and progressive, chaotic and soothing song structures work together to create an album that can probably stand toe to toe with the progressive greats like Back To Times Of Splendor
or Blackwater Park
. It’s such a shame that Damokles
has remained so long ‘hidden in the fog’ – let’s see if we can get the word out, eh?