Review: Hooded Menace – Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed

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Finnish death/doom masters Hooded Menace have been conquering listeners for more than ten years now. In that time, their core sound hasn’t changed much- except for their fourth album, Darkness Drips Forth, which slowed down to even more of a crawl than you’d expect from death/doom, let alone from Hooded Menace. Historically, Hooded Menace has been a pretty straightforward band, delivering absolutely massive death/doom riffs with pretty Candlemass melodies interspersed, never afraid to speed up and start smashing skulls when their horror-themed music demands it.

However, Darkness Drips Forth had an extra melancholy and a bit more of the weird Finnish bent to it than their other albums, leaving some listeners to wonder where they’d go from there. Darkness Drips Forth was slow, regal, and built to beautiful crescendos more than it built to skull-smashing onslaughts of horrific crushing frenzies (though it certainly had those as well!), and at least based on the average speed of their setlist when I saw them a couple of years ago, I was expecting more of that. Finally, Hooded Menace is back again, and here’s the answer to the question of what it’d sound like- something in between their classic sound and the last album.

Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed is by no means a departure for the band (probably for the best- not too many bands doing this well right now), returning in many ways to the more aggressive style of their first couple albums. However, some of the melancholy (if not the pacing) from Darkness Drips Forth has remained, resulting in what may be the most melodic and the most haunting Hooded Menace album yet, crushing and mourning in equal measures without falling afoul of the cheesiness or overly gothic feelings that put me off of lot of melodic death/doom. This is a lesson in how to use a ton of leads without losing a lot of heaviness, and I love it.

 

The return to the classic Hooded Menace template (extra infusion of melody aside) is made more interesting by the almost entirely new lineup, with only two members who played on a previous full length remaining after its recording. Ever-present main songwriter (and vocalist on every album aside from this one as well as the bassist this time) Lasse Pyykkö and returning guitarist Teemu Hannonen, who’s been on the last few Hooded Menace releases and played with Pyykkö in Phlegethon in the early days of the Finnish death metal scene, are still around, but the album would prove to be long-time drummer Pekka Koskelo’s last album with the band and new vocalist Harri Kuokkanen’s first one (a controversial move, given the widespread love for Pyykkö’s vocals). Lineup instability aside, the performances are all fantastic; the guitarwork is as tight as ever, the drumming is extremely competent and well produced, and though I admit that the bass isn’t particularly distinguishable on its own, the sound is thick and full enough to point at Pyykkö doing a decent job there. New vocalist concerns prove to be unfounded and Kuokkanen does a fantastic job here, proving to be a bit more haunting than previous inhuman Pyykkö-fronted efforts; while Pyykkö’s deep growling is fantastic and has always fit the music, Kuokkanen’s approach is probably a better one for Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed.

With this, Hooded Menace cement their status at the forefront of modern death/doom and prove Pyykkö’s songwriting prowess once again. While I’d definitely like for some of his older projects to resurface at some point (particularly Claws, whose presence is much-missed), Pyykkö’s touch is always welcome in new material, and especially with new Hooded Menace.

Follow Hooded Menace on Facebook here, and listen to and buy the album here.

All images courtesy of Hooded Menace.

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