Hoplites
Π​α​ρ​α​μ​α​ι​ν​ο​μ​έ​ν​η


3.9
excellent

Review

by hug rap's painful goodbye STAFF
January 25th, 2024 | 77 replies


Release Date: 01/12/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A potentially unique proposition of barnstorming metal built from one man's unrelenting dedication to the life of hard parse.

Ὁπλίτης (Hoplites) is a one-man black metal project from Zhejiang, China, established by sole trooper Liu Zhenyang to explore his apparent fascination with the Ancient Greek language. Yes, pals and friends – the language. Not the mythology, not the history, not the traditions of debate, literature, logic and performance that shaped the lion's share of Western culture: we're talking syntax, phonetics, pragmatics, and altogether bringing a dead language back from the grave. Zhenyang bases his claims to fluency and grammatical precision in his exposure to the likes of Euripides and Sappho in their originals, and I am reliably informed that Euripides, at least, is indeed a tangible presence behind his pen strokes. By the looks of it, the chap needed an outlet for his polyglot necromancy and just so happened to love his metal – voila, Hoplites.

For the vast majority of his audience, this linguistic background will likely have no bearing on the conveniently kickass brand of off-kilter black metal Zhenyang churns out here, blistering riffage, whiplash rhythms and all. *​α​ρ​α​μ​α​ι​ν​ο​μ​ *​ν​η (Paramainomenē) takes no prisoners and demands little introduction: the music here is each of Heavy, Fast and Intense as you've come to know and love them, structurally contorted yet so bullishly kinetic that it slices through its own Gordian knot whenever the occasion demands. There's an overt leaning towards mathcore in the erratic rhythms and abrupt shifts in pace here, but Zhenyang is never averse to complement this with more traditional pyrotechnics: when it hits its stride, as in "Συμμαινόμεναι Διονύσῳ Ἐλευθ*ριῳ" (#4)'s propulsive midsection, the album displays such palatable grooves and melodic sensibilities that it surprises me not one bit to read that Zhenyang grew up on Trivium. However, he's more adventurous than this might suggest – throughout the dissonant freakouts in that same song's opening minutes, you're just as likely to be reminded of jazz-syphoning maestros Imperial Triumphant and those dogwhistling French posers that let Mikko Aspa stooge for them. It's testament to Zhenyang's considerable talents that he navigates such a broad pool of inclinations with such idiosyncratic flair – for all Hoplites will remind you of a dozen disparate things you've previously enjoyed from elsewhere in the metal universe, you won't be mistaking them for anyone else.

So all-in-all, a blackened mathcore belter of just the right pacing and density to trade moment-to-moment thrills against substantive songwriting, and no further reason to spotlight the artist's epimusical peculiarities? Well, uh, sure, if you like – but peer a little closer, and the record's composition and production both go hand-in-glove with the more fastidious qualities of Zhenyang's bookish profile, hubristic undertones and all. For perspective, we're looking at someone who claims to have turned his back on musical collaboration wholesale after his covers band requested he play a gig the night before an exam*, shades Mayhem for grammar mistakes in their Latin lyrics, and identifies with Steven Wilson for having been born into the wrong generation.

There's a sense of perfectionism here, which you'll also catch in the album's watertight musicianship and production quality (the latter of which is replete with so much clarity that you can practically flush your horoscope through it), but I also get a sense of the same insistent independence that can just as easily pivot to indulgence. At points, the record's polish and hyperfocus boil down to airlessness – the Imperial Triumphant-esque dissonant jazz freakout in the backend of "Ἡ τῶν λυσσημάτων ἄγγελος" (Track #3) is belaboured yet well short of the grit and friction required to sustain such things – while at others, Zhenyang's creative autonomy gets the better of him: the rather unfortunate closer is a hodgepodge between directionless folk plod and half-baked metal blowout – it pans out as a disjointed stew would never have survived the collaborative process in its current form.

By and large, though, the man's instincts are on point and his burgeoning energy levels provide sufficient bombast for his haymakers to land. Case in point, the synthesiser sugar-attack synths that erupt midway through "Συμμιαινόμεναι Διονύσῳ Ἐλευθ*ριῳ" (Track #5) are incongruous as anything with the rest of Paramainomenē's palette (one finds Children of Bodom listed alongside Trivium as a formative influence), but it – and perhaps this track specifically – establishes such a flair for the spectacular that it pays off as one of the record's most entertaining flourishes. Zhenyang thrives on the unexpected time and again, from the slinky doom-jazz that kicks off "*αραδειγματιζομ*νη μουσική" (Track #2) to the frenetic finale of the same (are those the burst beats you've been looking for?) – he may not entirely escape the classic solo project foibles of complete creative control, but his ability to furnish ear-catching thunder from the most abrupt derailments proves key to what is ultimately a highly impressive and deliciously vitalising album. Indulge away, rogue archon.





*though he does seem to perform with a full band live – check out this
alongside relative newcomers Cut, and veteran Asian black metal acts Sigh and Zuriaake: https://www.bilibili.com/video/BV1Xh4y1P753




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user ratings (110)
3.8
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
January 25th 2024


60160 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

Yes yes sorry sorry this is late I will jam the other albums later, album slaps etc.

These interviews are entertaining please read them:

https://www.invisibleoranges.com/hoplites-interview/

https://machinemusic.net/2024/01/16/the-war-inside-my-head-an-interview-with-ὁπλίτης/

Zac124
January 25th 2024


2567 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I already know this is going to be in my AOTY list. Some of the most insane mathcore out there.

DadKungFu
Staff Reviewer
January 25th 2024


4696 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Mad respect for this man's craft like what an accomplishment but how much I vibe with the music beyond that I'm not sure yet

DePlazz
January 25th 2024


4478 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

fascinating character to say the least, his output is stunning.

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
January 26th 2024


32013 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great read Johnny, thanks. Happy to see the man not so focused on just harshness and trying new things instead. This one really sounds like he's having a blast with it.

Faraudo
January 26th 2024


4596 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Well that was something

MeatSalad
January 26th 2024


18548 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Gud review as always, insane album

Purpl3Spartan
January 26th 2024


8443 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Good album yeah

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
January 26th 2024


18240 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this band's output is insane. i wonder how many albums they'll pump out this year? wasn't as fond of this one as much as the others, but it's still great.

dedex
Staff Reviewer
January 26th 2024


12773 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7 | Sound Off

Awesome read johnjohn



"Mad respect for this man's craft like what an accomplishment but how much I vibe with the music beyond that I'm not sure yet"

dis fr. after 4-5 listens im more impressed than actually entertained yaknow????

Hawks
January 26th 2024


86681 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Gonna give this a proper listen at some point today/tonight. M///

Demon of the Fall
January 26th 2024


33475 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

'throughout the dissonant freakouts in that same song's opening minutes, you're just as likely to be reminded of jazz-syphoning maestros Imperial Triumphant'



okay, there's my cue... gonna czech!

Frost15
January 26th 2024


2700 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Cryptopsy + Cobalt + Deathspell Omega + Blackened zeuhl + a fucking saxophone = This

Absolutely brilliant

DePlazz
January 26th 2024


4478 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The sax blew it somewhat for me tbh

Pun intended

ThyCrossAwaits
January 26th 2024


3956 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm thoroughly impressed with this guy



If you need any more proof that Chinese culture values constant work, dang, dude does NOT stop.

botb
January 26th 2024


17743 Comments


Need to check this

Demon of the Fall
January 26th 2024


33475 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is A LOT… and I’m mostly digging it… I think

Who tf knows?



Seriously tho I do get a nice sense of the psychedelic when he really hits a groove, it’s chaotic but weirdly listenable for that reason. The sax has an odd tone at times, but gives it a pretty unique vibe. Just adds a little eerie mystique or something (certainly doesn’t seem to be there for ‘showmanship reasoning’).



I’ll be revisiting again soon!

Hawks
January 26th 2024


86681 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

They also value comminism and hatred for my country. But dammit they make some good music.

tectactoe
January 26th 2024


7262 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This is really good but my favorite of theirs (his?) is still the LP debut. One with the chick with the red hat on it lol.

Demon of the Fall
January 26th 2024


33475 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I need to check his other stuff then, seems to be one of these one-man projects that can’t sit still given his current level of output lol



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