Review Summary: Familiar, yet distant. Hooded Menace release their most dynamic album to date.Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed
is at once quite familiar as a Hooded Menace recording, yet altogether alien. The Finnish death/doom we’ve come to know and love is perfectly intact on the band’s fifth full length outing, but there’s enough floating around the boundaries of their tried and true sound to warrant inspection. Hooded Menace continue to peddle an old fashioned blend of old school death metal, only slowed to a doom laden crawl and funneled through dense tones that call to mind adjectives like “cavernous” (which is applicable, but only in a relatively accessible sense). Perhaps the difference is that the emphasis has fallen on the instruments and the atmosphere more so than the vocals this time around. That’s not to say that Hooded Menace were a vocal-driven band before, but new frontman Harri Kuokannen lends a much less intimidating presence compared to guitarist and founding member Lasse Pyykkö’s growls on Darkness Drips Forth
. Pyykkö’s more ferocious and prominent tone demands more room in the mix than Kuokannen’s vocals, which sink distinctly into the mix just enough that the instruments need to fill that empty space. By all appearances, Hooded Menace were aware of this and adjusted accordingly.
There’s a grandiosity to Ossuarium
that belies the inherent simplicity of Hooded Menace’s career. A creeping sense of melody has been present for a while, but it’s only now that it has become such a fixture in their music to the point that it elevates the straightforward death/doom-ness of it. One of the refrains in “Sempiternal Grotesqueries” calls to mind old school Dethklok (I know, right?) bizarrely enough and less bizarre are occasional callbacks to gothic melodies a la My Dying Bride. This heightened melodic presence is welcome and finally serves to set a Hooded Menace album apart from the rest (let’s be real, the rest of their albums were more or less the same thing no matter how good they were), but the band knows to swiftly silence concerns that their sound might be softening or shifting too quickly. Death and doom metal is alive and well on Ossuarium
and only an extreme melodic approach would obscure the fact that this is still some damn heavy stuff. For example, “Charnal Reflections” is a somber dirge in the first half, opening with a surprisingly pretty guitar melody before violently dipping into pure death metal later on just to remind us where the band came from. Most surprising is closer “Black Moss”, which is mostly a glorified jam session at heart. A few heavy riffs underlie some loose guitar soloing before transitioning into isolated acoustic passages that really lead to nowhere but an ending. While the song makes little sense on its own, reading it as a hint at things to come gives it some weight. Are Hooded Menace going in a more dynamic and grandiose direction? One listen of Ossuarium
tells us that they’re learning a few new tricks, as only old dogs can’t, but there’s no indication that these Finns are giving up on death or doom metal any time soon.