Delusions and Grandeur: A Review of So Hideous‘s Laurestine

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This is not a conventional metal album, so we’re going to try to do things a little differently with this review.

So Hideous has never been shy about straying from the beaten path. To hear founder Brandon Cruz tell it, the band has never sought to fit in to the black metal subgenre proper, and the art of So Hideous is more influenced by Ennio Moricone and Beethoven than Mayhem or Dissection. This is evident in the approach the band employs when writing new albums. The process begins with Cruz writing melodies on a keyboard. From there, he adds synths and orchestra. The metal elements, those with which readers of this blog will likely identify most, come last, the finishing touches to an already elaborate work.

For this reason, I’d like to propose something. Rather than listening to Laurestine as a metal album, I’d like to suggest that you listen to it as a film score. If you can, close your eyes and let the drama of Lauresine wash over you. Ready? Press play below.

As the lush orchestral work of “Yesteryear” unfolds in your mind’s eye like a flower in bloom,  you begin your journey through madness toward enlightenment. Those strings and the repeated note arrangements will be your guide throughout the rest of the album, acting as a golden thread linking it all together. In fact, it’s hard to miss from the very beginning that Laurestine is a concept album, one with the number 7 and its divine bearing on human existence at its core. “Yesteryear” opens with a subtle heartbeat that evokes the last seven minutes of brain activity after you’ve suddenly died. From there, a woman’s angelic voice, embodied by that sonic motif and the gentle caress of the strings at about 5:20 in the song, leads you by the hand through 7 tracks built around a rhythm of either 7/4 or 7/8. The concept is painstakingly crafted to take you through an emotional upward arc into the white, searing light, and every fiber of this album’s being serves that purpose.

To accomplish such a task, no simple orchestral samples would suffice. No, Cruz and his bandmates enlisted a local orchestral group in Brooklyn called the First Light Orchestra to record the intricate compositions, and the album is all the better for it. Every track surges and swells as the strings rise and fall, casting light into the shade and obscuring the radiance with shadow as each song needs. From the dark chiaroscuro of the cellos thrumming at the opening of “Hereafter” to the roaring bombast of the violins that introduce “Falling Cedars”, the music written for the First Light Orchestra is what grants this album its depth and power. In fact, the orchestral elements (and what sounds like a light choral touch on “Relinquish”) take center stage more often than not on this album. The string arrangements are what keep you enthralled as you undergo grief, denial, and ultimately absolution alongside the protagonist; the metal elements are just another piece of the grander puzzle, accenting the arrangements and adding a palpable gravity to the danger-fraught sonic journey.

That isn’t to say that the album isn’t heavy. Drummer Danny Moncada beats his skins with a mercilessness that evokes images of desperate mourners crying out to the void of death for mercy for those lost. In fact, if any instrument soars alongside the strings, it is Moncada’s drums. Check out the dizzying fills around 1:00 in “A Faint Whisper”; the incessant ringing of the cymbals haunts you like demons of the past rearing their ugly heads to torment your sanity one last time before you find freedom. If the percussion is any indication, the passage into that cold night is anything but gentle.

The harsh screamed vocals (more befitting the hardcore-tinged style of black metal than traditional black metal) also add a significant amount of force to the conceptual weight, but even Chris Cruz’s tortured screams are subject to the ebb and flow of the orchestral arrangement, following the melody at all points and adding a slightly rougher texture to the aching cello and violin lines. The vocals are the perfect counterpoint to the string arrangements, balancing light with shadow and pain with joy; they accentuate the compositions without ever overpowering them and act as a constant companion on the journey toward eternity, dripping with yearning and hope in equal measure.

If you come into this album looking for riffs, though, you’ll be a bit lost in the purgatorial haze. Yes, the riffs are there, but the production on this album places the buzzing guitars just below the orchestral strings so that they are often more difficult to pinpoint in any given song. One of the more prominent examples of their use is when they scythe and serrate through the sonic cloth created by the strings in “The True Pierce”. Most often, though, they too operate in service to the orchestral elements, adding another buzzing, slightly alarming hint at the rigor and triumph of the call of Laurestine.

Truthfully, the soft-spoken nature of the guitars raises my only complaint of the album. Like the conceptual protagonist in its story, Laurestine presents a band in transition, one wrapped up in all the ugliness and beauty of evolution. So Hideous find themselves currently somewhere between the more distinctly metal sound found on Last Poem/First Light and a grander, more artistic vision yet to be fully realized. The band is in a chrysalis, and I’m convinced that they’ll truly hit their stride on the next release.

But what a chrysalis it is! Ultimately, this album is a stunning work of art, a journey that will undoubtedly reward those willing to let go of their preconceptions regarding metal and simply embark into new territory. It is not a journey devoid of heartache and loss, but the shortcomings are part of what makes the album feel like an ever more arduous victory over a daunting challenge, each track progressing closer and closer to some sublime zenith where conquest is rewarded with cathartic release. Final track “A Faint Whisper” is one of the most triumphant crescendos you’ll hear all year. All the sorrow and joy of the transformation make the band’s (and the protagonist’s) journey from dark to light all the more rewarding.

TOILETSCALE_4-5_of_5

4.5/5 Toilets ov Hell

If you want to go on the journey too, you can pre-order the album on the band’s Bandcamp pageLaurestine comes out October 16 on Prosethetic Records. If you dig what you hear, give the band a like on Facebook.

(Photos VIA and VIA)

 

  • BEARD OV GREAT DAWKINS

    Im McDonalds up in this bitch. I, regretfully, passed this over the otherday.

    • Vote for Jeb

      It took a few listens for me to really wrap my head around it, but I absolutely love it now.

    • EsusMoose

      I don’t get your statement but the album is fucking great

      • BEARD OV GREAT DAWKINS

        Im McDonalds (ie im lovin it)

        • EsusMoose

          AH that makes sense now!

        • Iron Spagheti’O Nose Hair Doom

          Oh, I get it now! Still do upvote my nonsensical comment in response to the confusion over your comment.

    • Iron Spagheti’O Nose Hair Doom

      If I could be any vegetable, I’d be God.

  • Celtic Frosty

    This is fucking gorgeous.

    • Vote for Jeb

      I have something queued up for you to listen to instead.

      https://cavernaabismal.bandcamp.com/album/ossarivm-emanation-cd

      • Listening now.

      • Hmm, it reminds me of a doomier sounding Von with some hints of Archgoat and Beherit. Very minimalist and evil for sure which ain’t a bad thing. The drum machine is a bit annoying but, I’ve heard worse. Vocals are demonic as all fuck. I’ll be curious to see what this dude comes out with next. Didn’t realize this was 5 years old.

        • Vote for Jeb

          Oh dang, I didn’t either. I think the minimalism actually gives the sinister atmosphere room to grow.

          • I just started song 2 here. I’ll get back to you.

            EDIT: Eh, song 2 is all ambient shit. Boring.

          • Dang, this could be so much better with out the programmed drums. They make this sound way too industrial. Song 3 is a burner of a song with some serious potential but damn… It just comes off as plastic sounding when it should feel much more organic. I gave it a shot, like I said the potential is there.

          • Vote for Jeb

            Note that I have no skin in this game. I was just looking through that label’s catalog to see if I could find something for you.

          • I do own that Tyrant Goatgaldrakona album that is on there. Plus
            Praise The Flame is awesome! Good mean death metal from Chile. You looked in a good spot.

          • Vote for Jeb

            Also note: it isn’t out yet, but that Ysengrin/Black Grail split is nuts. You’ll probably hate Ysengrin, but I think you’ll like the Black grail song.

  • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

    Arrrghhhh, it’s getting me in the feels!!!

    • Vote for Jeb
      • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

        Hehe, that’s a grand ‘un.

        • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

          For cereal though, this is fucking ace.

          • Vote for Jeb

            I’m glad you dig it.

          • Cereal is pretty great. I had some this morning.

          • Waynecro

            I miss cereal. I’d cut myself with a razor for a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch…and, you know, to feel something again.

          • Vote for Jeb

            Put your hand on my chest. Feel my heart beating.

          • Waynecro

            Screaming commences at 4:01:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLaWz3Oe9g4

          • Iron Spagheti’O Nose Hair Doom

            Put your hands on my hips. I dip you dip we dip. FTFY

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZPQdZLyHYE

            *invites Guacamole Jim*

          • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

            I tend to just have toast in the mornings these days but I used to be a Crunchy Nut Cornflakes fiend. Coco Pops or Weetabix were standards too.

          • Vote for Jeb

            Those all sound made up.

          • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

            Crunchy Nut Cornflakes are like manna, even when you run out of spoons and have to eat them with a ruler.

          • BEARD OV GREAT DAWKINS

            I had an ex that was obsessed with Weetabix, i think its a euro thing

          • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

            Apparently Weetabix originated in Australia. But it is a very English thing too.

          • Lacertilian

            Weetbix are the shit version of Vita-Brits [Source – an Australian]
            Crunchy Nut Cornflakes are killer.

          • FuckMeInTheEar666

            I’ve not heard of Vita-Brits, but I guess you need the best breakfast possible when everything in your country is trying disembowel or eat you all the time.

          • Based Pingu

            Australians are the shit version of Brits.

          • Lacertilian

            4/10.

          • Based Pingu

            Eh, could be a worse score.

          • Lacertilian

            I think you could do better.

          • Based Pingu

            I can, but I don’t want to.

          • Lacertilian

            3/10.

          • Based Pingu

            2/10

          • I just had regular Cheerios with a sliced banana. Very bland.

            http://i.giphy.com/FgvGBjiV4lIfS.gif

          • Janitor Jim Duggan

            I like Count Chocula.

          • That does not surprise me in the least.

          • Janitor Jim Duggan

            It’s the only cereal I eat in the month of October.

          • KJM, Shake Zula

            Well, it’s only available in the month of October.

          • Iron Spagheti’O Nose Hair Doom

            Funny, I’ve seen it year round over here, and even back in Chicago.

          • KJM, Shake Zula

            Stores around here only get them during October. Wiki sez that’s been a thing since 2010. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Mills_monster-themed_breakfast_cereals

          • Iron Spagheti’O Nose Hair Doom

            My eyes >>>>>>>>>>>> Wikipedia.

          • KJM, Shake Zula

            Well, my eyes only see it in our stores(and only certain ones at that) during September/October and friends in Florida says it’s the same there so I had no reason to doubt until now.

          • Iron Spagheti’O Nose Hair Doom

            #ToiletDetectives:CountChoculaDecoded

          • KJM, Shake Zula

            I’m gonna re-consult my Count Chocula expert, indie wrestler Leva ‘Blue Pants’ Bates. If anyone knows for 100% certain, it’s her.

          • Iron Spagheti’O Nose Hair Doom

            In the meantime, I wanna see where I can find cucumber soda around here.

          • KJM, Shake Zula

            Local deli?

          • Iron Spagheti’O Nose Hair Doom

            I have no idea where one is around here. I can probably find it at one of the world markets, or god help me, the Whole Foods that’s opening up across the street from my work. *cringes at the thought of WF*

          • KJM, Shake Zula

            Don’t blame you for cringing. Whole Foods = Whole Wallet

          • Óðinn
          • KJM, Shake Zula

            I get my once a year Monster Cereal fix with The Count.

          • Iron Spagheti’O Nose Hair Doom

            For a moment, I thought you meant that Monster (the energy drink) was making a cereal. A true breakfast of bros!

          • KJM, Shake Zula

            Ugh, that would probably taste nasty.

          • Iron Spagheti’O Nose Hair Doom

            Bros and Five Finger Death Punch/UFC fans would consume it like mother’s milk from the Fountain Of Youth.

          • KJM, Shake Zula

            They probably use Monster Energy instead of milk in their cereal anyway.

          • Iron Spagheti’O Nose Hair Doom

            Or Four Loko.

          • Waynecro

            If given the opportunity, I’d eat nothing but the marshmallows from Lucky Charms every morning.

          • Iron Spagheti’O Nose Hair Doom

            Ever ate that or Cocoa Puffs while sitting on the toilet?

          • Óðinn
          • KJM, Shake Zula

            I’m happy with Bran Flakes, sugar and 1% milk.

          • Iron Spagheti’O Nose Hair Doom

            Always gotta have some Splenda with my Cheerios. My best friend actually eats it with applesauce and no milk. I’m notorious for eating some offbeat stuff (like silkworms last year), but even I had to do a double take when I saw that.

            Also, Cheerios in a cup of coffee (or some animal crackers or graham crackers) with some cream and sugar is the ultimate quick breakfast.

          • Iron Spagheti’O Nose Hair Doom

            Coffee, cigs and burritos from my work most of the time over here.

          • Iron Spagheti’O Nose Hair Doom

            Especially eating them on the toilet head (while checking out The Toilet, of course).

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7iPQGxnb5kg

        • OldMetalHead

          Ever had an beaten egg cooked in a coffee mug in the microwave? It only takes about 50 seconds, and so good! Word to the wise, put a saucer on top of the mug to keep it from popping everywhere.

          Yesterday I put a frozen vegetarian breakfast sausage on the plate, put the whole thing on a whole wheat bun. Ghetto egg-mc-muffin, and so much better for you

          • Iron Spagheti’O Nose Hair Doom

            Put your eggs in under medium heat, throw in some warm butter (not melted), and stir like risotto (aka constantly). Add a little bit of cheese, and tumeric (if you have it), and bam! Perfect eggs. The tumeric gives a bit of earthiness to the eggs.

          • OldMetalHead

            Sounds good, but that defeats the purpose of quick and easy.

          • Iron Spagheti’O Nose Hair Doom

            Takes me about 4 minutes, so it’s not all that long.

          • 3leggedDog

            He means more effort than microwave. Not quik roastin 2 el bees of beef in the oven. Sear first. Braise with beer and onions and leave alone.

      • Iron Spagheti’O Nose Hair Doom
  • Waynecro

    Every time I hear songs from this album, I like them more. Your review has pushed me over the edge: I will purchase the CD.

    • Iron Spagheti’O Nose Hair Doom

      Doing the same on Friday. It’s rare that I do that nowadays.

      • Waynecro

        I should have my company just deposit half my paychecks directly into Bandcamp.

  • Hubert

    Really digging that first track. I’m impressed at how well they incorperated the orchestral element. The orchestra is prominent in the mix, which I find important. Bands like Fleshgod Apocalypse completely drown out the orchestra in the mix, making it almost pointless to have it in the first place. Will give this a spin.

  • COAL ROLL

    this is garbage, bring back the metal!

  • Matt Pike’s Sweaty Left Nipple

    Tried listening to this album a while back, didn’t really gel with me at the time. I’ll give it another go. Nice review, W.

    • Vote for Jeb

      Thanks, mate.

  • Dagon

    Oh, man, you knocked it out the ballpark with this text. What a great read. Too bad this isn’t on Spotify, but I shall give it a full listen soon.

    • Vote for Jeb

      It will be soon.

      • Dagon

        Friday soon?

        • Vote for Jeb

          I believe so. That’s a full stream above too.

    • Iron Spagheti’O Nose Hair Doom

      I’d highly recommend getting it from Bandcamp, rather than Spotify making money off of their backs.

  • EsusMoose

    They remind me of another group and I just figured it was this album, too bad their label fell apart and the group seemed to disappear. I have posted this before but as it’s kinda related here it is again.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBpZ35tSi1c

    • Edward/Breegrodamus™

      Cool cover.

      • EsusMoose

        Yeah, kinda pissed there really isn’t a legal way to get this album. Even when it was on bandcamp it was only streamable.

    • Iron Spagheti’O Nose Hair Doom

      Been a bit since I’ve heard these guys, but damn good stuff!

  • Edward/Breegrodamus™

    This is without a doubt one of the best reviews on the site, to date.

  • ‘Spose it’s time to revisit these guys

  • OldMetalHead

    It sounded somewhat TSO at the beginning, but then it get’s much more punishing. Just bought the pre-order right now.

    • Vote for Jeb

      Rad, glad you dig it.

  • KJM, Shake Zula

    Man, Bandcamp is dragging it’s feet tonight. I’m downloading ‘Dark Foil’ by Dopethrone at a staggering 25KB per second. -___-

    • the doomload goes as fast as the riffs!

      • KJM, Shake Zula

        I had to download it all over again because the rar archive got corrupted.

        Thanks again for the delivery, always nice to get fun stuff in the mail.

        • you’re welcome! i saved a few, what’s a good serving suggestion?

          • KJM, Shake Zula

            I just tend to pop em a few at a time. I have a deviated septum so snorting doesn’t usually work for me, might work for you though.

          • whoa, never snorted nothin’. time to start!

  • Iron Spagheti’O Nose Hair Doom

    Goddayum, this has certainly gotten my wiener all moist and tarty! Kinda sounds like a cross between Black Tape For A Blue Girl, Midnight Odyssey, with a pinch of Atlantean Kodex. Definitely might have to buy this bad boy come Friday!

  • Count_Breznak

    melodies on a keyboard ->