Review Summary: All the beauty, all the energy, none of the bullshit.
Oregon black metallers Leech have made it clear they wish to stay in the background of the American Northwest scene, and it almost seems a shame since the band has the talent and prowess to turn the whole thing on its ass, should be they be so inclined to do so. While the members’ other projects (Mania, Ancestortooth, Velnias, etc.) have their own cult followings, this project might just show the most promise of all of them. Since the band’s conception in 2004, Leech have illustrated great diversity in their catalogue of only splits and demos while also sculpting a unique sound to call their own. As of late, this sound has shifted to include more of a post-black metal aesthetic with the folky Cascadian roots one might expect of a band with their geographical disposition, but the group’s debut, Ten Black Hymns
, boasts a colorful and effective synthesis of that distinct folk flavor with blackened crust and hardcore. While this fusion might sound as odd as vanilla ice cream and balsamic vinegar, Leech manage to make the end result just as enjoyable. Maybe even more so.
Right out of the gate, the demo commands attention with energy and exceptional riffing. The up-tempo attitude and almost elegant chord choices make for a more-than-enjoyable listen, but it’s the little things that punctuate the album that elevate it to the next level. The guitar squeals are downright smile-inducing, and the acoustic passages are some of the strongest around. These things combined with thoughtful drumming and equally thoughtful (and audible) bass make for a dynamic, one-of-a-kind atmosphere. And so melody charges forth, hand-in-hand with aggression, achieving excellent results. This culmination of beauty and raw power is damn near mesmerizing, and the word “demo” hardly does justice when thinking of all the slapped-together twenty-or-so-minute rough drafts many underground bands have put out. It’s a work that feels more complete than many of the full-lengths of their contemporaries. Ten Black Hymns
manages to be a body of music that’s not only well-crafted but genuinely fun to listen to.
Leech do some truly great things on their debut and have the potential to do even greater things for black metal music down the road. They’ve certainly managed to distinguish themselves from their peers and surely will continue to do so over the course of their career. With all the copycat bands roaming the Cascades, it’s nice to see this leech isn’t so parasitic. And best of all, they’ve given the gift of ten wonderfully black hymns worth revisiting again and again.