Hooded Menace are the best death-doom band in the world. Sure, My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost are still going strong, and the mighty Asphyx put out a solid album this year. But if you want Black Sabbath-style riff lords with thunderous growls, look no further. Now on their sixth LP, the Finns have their guitars tuned to drop-B and their croaky throat fulminations at the ready like it’s 1992 again.
It’s fitting that Hooded Menace release The Tritonus Bell in the week after the death of Trouble singer, Eric Wagner, for the Chicago doom legends are all over this record. ‘Chime Diabolical’ is a prime piece of extravagant doom metal played with the savagery of modern Carcass and the low tuned brilliance of Trouble’s Bruce Franklin. We’re already at the third riff before the one-minute mark, like it’s Paradise Lost’s classic Shades of God album revisited. Those of you that pray for Pallbearer to remain a metal band will be hoping they sound like this on their next record.
The sceptical among you will wonder if Hooded Menace are no more than flag-bearers for a sub-genre that never had its moment of blossoming importance in the metal family tree. It’s true that you can count the number of iconic death-doom bands on two hands, and half of them have already garnered a mention in the opening paragraphs of this review. But this time around, the Finns are desperate to inject a shot of traditional heavy metal into the mix, none more so than on the exquisite ‘Blood Ornaments’, with its Mercyful Fate riffing and stomping bass guitar upstrokes. The stupendous hard rock guitar solo belongs on an Ozzy Osbourne stage, yet the sorrowful harmonising guitars of My Dying Bride balance the emotions between ecstasy and foreboding. Every new passage demonstrates that Hooded Menace could play all day and weave in and out of endless modulations like telepathic musicians.
Of course, the biggest challenge for a death-doom band is keeping the listener interested. Two of the tracks breach the nine-minute threshold and do everything possible to second-guess your expectations. ‘Scattered into Dark’ could qualify as prog metal if it did not have such a grounding in pentatonic doom. Harri Kuokkanen’s abundant death grunts and grisly throat transgressions are as brooding as the distorted bass guitar rumblings, yet they end the song with an eloquent female narration. ‘Corpus Asunder’ experiments with a brief spoken word passage among the galloping guitar crunches and double-kick beats. Might it be (God Forbid) that the Finns are enjoying the experience with hidden smiles underneath those hoods? (Yes, they cover their heads with hoodies and wear sunglasses.)
A couple of reservations will persist during the forty-seven minutes of supreme death-doom metal. Sometimes, the band sound like they’re influenced by just one record – Paradise Lost’s aforementioned Shades of God opus from 1992. Indeed, you’d be forgiven for thinking Nick Holmes and Gregor Mackintosh are coming at you on ‘Those Who Absorb the Night’. The Tritonus Bell is also an album that can lose impact on the third listen only to reinvigorate you once more on the fourth helping. You’ll need to invest a modicum of effort to remain onboard, but it’s worth it.
Hooded Menace love their filthy metal riffs and exaggerate their morbid sensibilities with an occasional smirk on their faces. You won’t slit your wrists listening to The Tritonus Bell, but you might use a blade to slash open a six-pack of beers for a night in a dark room with your headphones at the ready.
Release Date: 27/08/2021
Record Label: Season of Mist
Standout tracks: Chime Diabolicus, Blood Ornaments, Those Who Absorb the Night
Suggested Further Listening: Paradise Lost – Shades of God (1992), Asphyx – Necroceros (2021), Trouble – Trouble (1990)