Released 1999 on Napalm Records.
Martin Schirenc - practically everything
Elena Schirenc - lyrics, occasional vocals
Mike Groger - drums
Hollenthon is a horrendously overlooked side-project of Pungent Stench mainstay Martin Schirenc. Anyone familiar with Pungent Stench's..interesting brand of death metal could probably guess that anything Schirenc is involved in won't be entirely normal.
To fill in the uninitiated, Pungent Stench are an Austrian band who make a very groovy, catchy variant on death metal, with a sense of humour. Often what could be called a rather tasteless humour, but that's just half the fun. They release albums fairly sporadically (though I think they have just recently released another), and at the time of the release of this, they were actually broken up, a state of affairs which thankfully turned out to be temporary.
Anyway, Domus Mundi
was released about five years ago and, though the few people who took notice of it were impressed, it was largely and unfortunately overlooked. It's premise is rather simple - Schirenc makes an extreme metal album whilst indulging his love of world music. Funds dictate that he doesn't actually work with all the different people who would be required to make all the various pieces of the album, but rather just uses samples. It's quite ridiculously well put together though, so most of the time, you just can't tell. In a brief overview, the album starts in Europe (Renaissance-style) with an orchestra, and proceeds to journey through, amongst others, the Middle East, America (native American styled themes), back to Europe (this time for choral and Gregorian samples), Ireland/Scotland and New Zealand. Don't take this to mean each song is sharply divided from the others - elements often mix.
As a quick aside, "Domus Mundi" is Latin for "house/home of the world", a name which actually means something in light of hearing the album.
Of course, the fear would be that any semblance of good music would just be lost in the mire of indulgent avant-garde excess this could so easily turn out to be. Fortunately, this is not the case. I don't know whether he chose his samples and built his writing into it, or vice versa, but whichever he did, he's made sure that each song is just that - a song. He forms real hooks and choruses out of the various samples, and each song has a core of classic metal. Bloody good metal at that; high-quality riffs and solos abound. The clean, melodic lead which comes in about 2:11 into Homage
is heart-shakingly awesome. Groger isn't lax on drums, either.
Competent they may be, but the focus of the album isn't musicianship; it remains on effect, atmosphere and, not to sound too high-brow, how blatantly cool the samples and, often, the ways they interact with the metal, are. Prime example of this comes in the form of Lure
. Apart from maybe the part of Homage
already mentioned, Lure
's beginning is the best moment on the album; after a fast paced riff, it slows down to a crawl for some slow dragging and chugging of guitar, dramatic drumming and the best use of Gregorian chants on the whole album. Seriously, if you thought Gregorian chanting could never be cool, or both awe-inspiring and catchy at the same time, listen.
All of this brought together makes for some of the most original, catchiest and most interesting metal, death or otherwise, I've heard in a long time. And just when it seems things could be no better, by practically all accounts that I've seen, Hollenthon's second album, With Vilest of Worms to Dwell
, is even better than this. Frankly, I can't wait to get my hands on it.
You can take your pick, based on style, or otherwise. Homage
is possibly the best song on the album, and Lure
has the aforementioned brilliance of the Gregorian chants - try listening to it at high volume, in the dark. Reprisal
, though close to being the weakest track on the album, was an early favourite of mine, and uses Maori war chants (I think) rather effectively. Both Interlude
bring in Celtic themes (plenty of Scottish and Irish folk influence), if that's what appeals to you, and the tracks which bookend the album, Enrapture
fall very firmly on the epic side of things (with the former being more orchestral than the latter).