Review: The Haunting Presence
It’s procedure – a label touts their newest death metal release (for example) as sui generis, utterly unique and extraordinarily different from your average death metal album. This is something Hell’s Headbangers Records does pretty frequently. The press release for The Haunting Presence’s self-titled MLP is slinging the album as “far removed from the now-typical bestial metal cliche.”
I’ll shoot you straight, slick. It’s really not that far removed. It’s actually pretty cozy with “the now-typical bestial metal cliche.” Their butts are probably touching. But – and here’s the ticket – that’s okay. Typical doesn’t necessarily mean average. While, stylistically it’s really not too different from what bands like Blasphemy have done before (and even less so what bands like Teitanblood are doing now), quality still merits its existence.
Depending on who you are and what you’re into, that quality might shine through right from the get-go. The moment the first gutted, crackling chord wormed its way through my ear canals, my fists and buttocks forcibly clenched of their own volition. By the second, I was repeatedly muttering yesssssss through a crooked scowl. By the third, I think I was just punching shit clear off my desk. Those three chords are hammered out on repeat for the short duration of the album’s intro (“The Deity of Darkness“), and heaviness of the same caliber isn’t encountered again until warped variations of the the passage return in the outro (“The Deity of Destruction“). Between this – the dense bread of our bestial sandwich – rest four thin-cut slices of high-speed fury.
It’s all the work of one mysterious fella from California under the pseudonym THP-SOH (also a member of The Black Twilight Circle, though based on the music, he’s an odd fit). He specializes in quick, volatile songs that burn out fast, each running somewhere between 2-4 minutes long and damaging between 2-4 of your intervertebral discs. The Haunting Presence, like most of its ilk, isn’t concerned with drawing you in; it’s all about delivering the sudden, caustic blast right to the teeth and through the back of the skull. The short songs work splendidly.
It may be claustrophobic, but that’s not to say it’s a mess without form. The riffs are muddled, but they forge ahead in clearly discernible patterns. The propensity for a nonstop salvo of vicious speed leaves very little room for more substantial, pendular grooves. It’s breakneck almost all the way down, and the drums are to blame. Riffs that may have grooved hard in another life are re-purposed by the relentless snare – a zealot in its devotion to the blast and its many manifestations. “The Ultimate Climax of Darkness” introduces passages of a (relatively) slower pummeling, but they rest on a hair-trigger, returning to full tilt just before you’re able to get your bearings. It’s unsettling, which is almost certainly the intent, as according to THP-SOH, the album is meant to be “…a demonstration of [his] paranoia, perversions, madness, psychological understandings, connection with negative feelings/thoughts, and the energy being produced through these meditations…”
The vocals drive that motif home with a frantic almost-whisper curtained in so much delay that quick phrasing often translates to deranged chatter between multiple cold-blooded throats. His snarling only lets up for some of the guitar solos, which come across as equally frenzied and unhinged. The way their razor-sharp tones slice through the musical slop is most satisfying, and the last section of “Continuously Assaulted by Spirits” is a dead ringer for Solo of the Week. Bonus points for their liberal use of the most underutilized and under-appreciated of all musical flourishes – the sacred divebomb. My formal stance on divebombs is “do as many of them as you can, as fast as you can”, and THP seems to be of the same mind.
This is a pretty lengthy review for a 17 minute piece of music. You can either take that as evidence of its value, or as evidence of my inclination to ramble on, but you ought to give The Haunting Presence a chance either way. It’s a concise, effective battery of black/death metal. What’ve you got to lose? Even if you hate it (you won’t), you’ve wasted 17 minutes on way dumber shit.