Hulder – Godslastering: Hymns of a Forlorn Peasantry


We don’t know much about the female multi-instrumentalist behind the black metal execrations of Hulder. She’s an America-based artist from Belgium, which makes her the second most important person to settle on the shores of the USA since the arrival of her fellow countryman, Jean Claude Van Damme, in the early 1980s. Trying to find even the name of the composer of Godslastering is a struggle, although images of a woman in her mid-20s wearing corpse paint is enough to illustrate what we can expect here. Those of you that like TRVE black metal are in for a treat.

Now on her second album, Hulder is just as enigmatic and always looking to push the boundaries of atmospheric black metal with splashes of melancholy folk guitar and analogue keyboards that replicate the sounds of woodwind instruments. Her voice is strong and raspy, sometimes dry enough to conjure images of a sorceress cursing her enemies with blood-gurgling gratification. ‘Upon Frigid Winds’ is unadulterated black metal with raw production, like Burzum and Darkthrone. It sets the tone for the album and gives way to the first standout track, ‘Creatures of Demonic Mystery’, which draws upon Hellhammer and latter-era Satyricon for its primitive darkness. The corpse paint image is justified on the evidence of the spleen-rupturing sounds coming from the creator’s throat.

The root notes of the bass guitar come to the fore on ‘Sown in Barren Soil’, but the delicate folk arpeggios in the tempo reset offer the first chin-wag moment of the album. It’s clear that Hulder wants to create the agitated beauty of the blood and soil rhetoric that seldom finds a musical expression. On ‘De Dijle’ she succeeds with a layering of sombre keyboards over the top of the guitar plucking. This is Dead Can Dance embracing the misanthropy of black metal. Or perhaps we can even make comparisons with Myrkur.

Glimmers of light sneak through the impenetrable mist of Godslastering, like sun rays piercing the early morning fog of the grain fields. Yet underneath it all is an oppressive anxiety, none more so than on the haunting, ‘Purgations of Bodily Corruptions’, which takes The Animals’ ‘House of the Rising Sun’ as its shadow dawn setting and transplants the mood to a medieval European forest. Best of luck to Myrkur if she hopes to create something as mystical as this on her next album.

Though captivating for most of the journey, Hulder sometimes slips into a void of muffled blast beats and primitive guitar rhythms that could do with an injection of intensity befitting the malevolent vocals. No songs descend into mediocrity but ‘Lowland Famine’ comes close with the drum triplets and palm-muted syncopations at the end not dense enough to produce the awesome sound its creator had in mind. ‘A Forlorn Peasant Hymn’ demonstrates where the true glory of Hulder may lie in the future in a hybrid black metal-cum-folk setting where harmonised vocals ghost in and out of the ferocity. In moments like these, we experience something on the verge of innovative greatness and need more of them on the next album to be convinced that the multi-instrumentalist composer behind the music deserves a place at the elite round table. There’s no reason why she cannot reach the lofty heights given the talent on display here.

Godslastering has the making of a cult record and will increase the clamour to find out the identity of the woman who composed it. If this doesn’t intrigue your taste for the dark caverns of the underground, nothing will.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 22/01/2021

Record Label: Iron Bonehead Productions

Standout tracks: Sown in Barren Soil, De Dijle, A Forlorn Peasant’s Hymn

Suggested Further Listening: Burzum – Hvis Lyset Tar Oss (1994), Drudkh – Forgotten Legends (2003), Myrkur – M (2015)