Hierophant – Death Siege


Italian noise extremists, Hierophant, are a unique band. They started as a metallic hardcore unit with their 2010 self-titled debut and continued with a form of blackened d-beat music up until their vocalist, Karl, departed in 2015.  The turning point was their 2016 album, Mass Grave, which saw them transform into a blackened sludge metal group. Now on their fourth record, they occupy an extreme rump of territory somewhere between the atonal death metal of Portal and the dissonant transgressions of Altarage. It’s too primitive to earn the avant-garde tag, but it’s sophisticated enough for you to purse your lips. Few albums will challenge you as much as this LP in 2022.

You already know after the intro track, ‘Mortem Aeternam’, that Hierophant will bury you in an avalanche of nauseating static. The lesson is clear – don’t open the box. Pure evil will escape if you let the demonic spirits through the gaps. Lorenzo Gulminelli’s grisly vocals are only a fraction of the torment that will befall you if you let the darkness take hold. Of course, you have no choice but to open the floodgates if you want to continue. ‘Seeds of Vengeance’ is total chaos. Ultra-distorted guitars zap in a layer of fuzz with the might of sludge metal gain settings. You can just about make out the lo-fi blast beats and primitive death metal rhythms under the ubiquitous reverb. Any traces of hardcore that still existed in the band’s DNA meet their demise here. This is more attuned with the harshest atmospheric black metal on the planet.

Calligram are a good comparison, but Hierophant have their own angle that’s as impenetrable as it is extreme. The Morbid Angel riff at the beginning of ‘Devil Incarnate’ sounds like somebody took the original Blessed are the Sick master tapes and recorded a layer of hostile bass cackles over the top. Gulminelli’s savage roars terrify with the same hostile thirst as the creatures in the Alien films, yet the band also produce a hallucinatory element to this cavernous audio assault. This music would be an environmental offence in a live setting. How do they not break the recording software under the bottom-end bass overdrive of ‘Bloodbath Compendium’? You’ll struggle to identify the chord changes in ‘Crypt of Existence’ due to the cacophony of noise ripping through your headphones like an arctic gale. If they ended the album here, we’d be talking about a contender for extreme record of the year.

The problem with Death Siege is the way in which it becomes a monotonous chore on side two. Like Portal, the band have some genuine moments of high-calibre originality and possess a strong unity of purpose in what they do. Only the mangled Adam’s apple vocals and Celtic Frost riffing of ‘In Chaos, in Death’ and the title track standout on the latter part of the record. The latter parades its nasty death metal credentials in a blaze of circular tremolo riffs and aches with a sharper bite than the other songs. Sitting through six minutes of deliberate extirpation of melody on closing composition, ‘Nemesis of the Mortals’, will destroy any remaining enjoyment you experienced. But that’s the point, and that’s why this is more highbrow than you think. Hierophant don’t write music – they explore the darkest recesses of the mind and speak its formless language in a harsh audio translation that speaks to us all in different quantities.

You must ask the question if this severe noise experiment has repeat listening value after two sittings. The answer is no. Death Siege has some great ideas that disappear under the weight of its apocalyptic reckoning.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 26/08/2022

Record Label: Season of Mist

Standout tracks: Devil Incarnate; In Chaos, in Death; Death Siege

Suggested Further Listening: Portal – Vexovoid (2013), Hissing – Hypervirulence Architecture (2022), Altarage – The Approaching Roar (2019)