Review Summary: How would a black metal band sound if black metal was popular in the '70s? The answer is given by Haris, Theoharis and Dim from Transcending Bizarre?.
I've been really trying to find something new to get excited about in metal. There were awesome records this year so far but still nothing really spectacular in terms of originality. Until I stumbled upon these guys. Hail Spirit Noir from Greece and their debut album, Pneuma. Just so you know, they are a trio and all three of them are in Transcending Bizzare? as well.
Now for the difficult task of describing this thing. Psychedelic black metal with progressive tinges. I was preparing myself for an Enslaved album but this is absolutely different. Take the 60s and and most importantly the 70s, mix them with horror movies and their atmosphere from the same era and then add black metal of all sorts. I can't really find any bands to compare them to. One minute they'll be pushing hard some Doors-style keyboard melody, then , all of a sudden there's raw black metal coming out of your speakers. Dodheimsgard moments hide nicely in between subtle acoustic guitar and flute melodies and vocals of all kind serenading you into their stories and sucking you into their twisted universe. You could,maybe, compare them to Opeth and "Heritage" but despite the disparity of styles here, Pneuma is much more catchy and focused than Heritage. Oh, did I mention punk riffing in the strange "Against the Curse, We Dream"?
Maybe I should give you the track-by-track and you'll get a better idea pf what this whole thing is, again maybe.
Mountain of Horror: This kicks the whole album off with a weird open chord progression and weird melody on top, much like the Beatles' "I am the Walrus". The screams of Theoharis add to the intensity of the song which halfway through transforms into a King Crimson free-style jazz oddity filled with Haris’ incredible synth work, only to return to its main riff and find a way to end with a rocking solo provided by Dim.
Let Your Devil Come Inside: Did you really thing that the above was strange? Wait till you get an earful of this. In this track we have the first sign of clean singing over a gentle, almost folky acoustic guitar that comes immediately after a hypnotic opening riff which consists of basically one chord yet sounds amazingly disturbing.
Against the Curse, We Dream : The third track on the disc is the one with the most , well, regural song arrangement so far. This does not mean it’s any less strange. Starting off with what is essentially a black/punk riff , a drum beat that could have been on a Goblin album and crazy, creepy synths, this one features a chorus, maddening whispers and some sort of narration in what is most likely Greek that will give you goosebumps.
When All Is Black: You could easily dismiss this as a 70s folky type song based on its opening acoustic guitar but just as soon as the King Crimson-via-Virus-via-via-ELP riff comes roaring, you will find it is anything but.
Into The Gates of Time: Ok. You want originality? You want different styles mixed with the greatest of inspiration? You can find them here, all 13 minutes of them. This song goes from absolutely guitar driven rock moments to quiet atmospheric ones just as easily as it breaks from its structure to provide the listener with a middle section that has everything but the kitchen sink in it.
Haire Pneuma Skoteino: The final track is one for the radio. If the airwaves were satan-friendly and loved a little darkness to their music. This is as catchy as all you favorite bands from the 70s with the Doors proving a great inspiration and the chanted title a hook so huge you’ll be dancing and praising the horned one in no time.
Well, all in all if I had to use one word for Pneuma that would be original. And adventurous. Ok. That’s two but it’s not self-indulgent like many progressive albums and the attention to detail is of such a high level that after a few spins everything will be clear. All of the above do not do justice to an album so rich. This, though rotten, is a breath of fresh air taking things to a different level that bands such as Nachtmystium should be shooting for. All Hail the Spirit Noir.