Hoofmark – Blood Red Lullabies

Hoofmark are fearful you might be at a loss for words when experiencing their music. They save you ten minutes of rumination by calling it “evil blues”, which sounds awful on paper but is far more interesting when you listen to it for the first time. Blood Red Lullabies wants to place you in a swamp with the fairies and ladybirds and a promise that you can go home after thirty-eight minutes of captivity. There’s no doubt you’ll be ready to return to normality when it reaches the end.

Before we begin, we must banish the comparisons to Ved Buens Ende and Imperial Triumphant as if Hoofmark are a new name in avant-garde black metal. They’re not an experimental black metal band, and that does not hold them back, either. Opener, ‘So Indifferent Blues’, mixes sludgy hammer and pull-off melodies in open tuning like Soundgarden at their most psychedelic but with traditional metal vocals in the mould of Queensrӱche. It’s as strange as you’d expect with such a bizarre combination. Throw in the art-school mysticism of Jane’s Addiction and you have an abstract grunge sound that even the Melvins would rule out as too weird. Maybe ‘Folktales of the Archdemon’ is the closest Hoofmark come to a black metal style. The drums pulsate at one notch below the blast beat, and the singer hyperventilates like a demented version of Captain Beefheart. But listen to the unorthodox guitar chords and transient effects – these are colourful and happy to leave you twitching your nose. An excess layer of fuzz permeates through the mix like a stubborn blemish you must learn to accept as permanent.

If this music comes from the art school, it’s because the collective that wrote and recorded it wanted to capture the spontaneity that often drains out of the music with too much pre-production. Hoofmark deserve credit for the way they take the heavy psychedelic rock of the early Smashing Pumpkins records. The atonal wash of the guitars dominates the sonics on ‘5 Azuis & Vermelhidão’, and the band demonstrate a unique ear for melody here among the rousing folk shapes and fuzz rock tremolo riffing. They threaten to dwell in a doom metal paradox but stay clear of this when things approach a Black Sabbath moment. Mastodon would probably sound like this if they embraced a noise-rock direction on their next outing.

Yet for all the admirable experimentation and determination to avoid clichés, Hoofmark suffer from one great flaw – their songs sound like the best interludes on any of the defining alternative rock albums of the early 1990s. Instead of ‘Outshined’, ‘Ocean Size’ or ‘I Am One’, they give us those tracks that Soundgarden, Jane’s Addiction and the Smashing Pumpkins would save for their home video releases. ‘Mito Artificial’ is enchanting at first but soon reveals itself to be an innocuous studio jam with no direction. Closing track, ‘All about our family (ella está muerta)’, is six minutes of acoustic drums and piano improvisation that Talk, Talk would have left on the scrap heap after twenty-four hours of deliberation. Only its unpredictability saves it from mediocrity, which, of course, diminishes the second time you experience it.

Hoofmark should stay courageous and continue in their avant-garde mindset. Maybe on the next record, they’ll learn that you can use choruses, counter melodies, orthodox guitar riffs and the odd punch in the face when operating in these parameters. Let’s see what happens in the future when they embrace more pre-production rather than less.



Release Date: 30/11/2022

Record Label: Raging Planet Records

Standout tracks: So Indifferent Blues; Folktales of the Archdemon; 5 Azuis & Vermelhidão

Suggested Further Listening: Smashing Pumpkins – Gish (1991)

Pornographic Sunset – Gold; Flesh; Dirt (2021)

Jane’s Addiction – Ritual De Lo Habitual (1990)