Hulder – The Eternal Fanfare EP


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.’ So said Scream Blast Repeat in our review of Hulder’s debut album from early last year. Now the metal world knows her identity. The mysterious woman in the corpse paint who brandishes a sword in the snowclad forests of the USA is Marz Osborne, newly signed to 20 Buck Spin and a convert to the thrill of daily Facebook posts. The contrast in personas could not be any different, but is the music a casualty of Hulder’s abandonment of anonymity or a new chapter in her evolution as an artist?

Those that enjoy the rustic folk elements of Hulder’s atmospheric black metal will wonder what happened to this element on The Eternal Fanfare. No acoustic guitars grace this EP, and no woodwind samples offer a sparkle of serenity among the aggression. Instead, she opens with a stunning composition built on the crackling sounds of burning leaves and a faint keyboard drone. ‘Curse from Beyond’ will surprise you with its angelic anguish of gothic soprano harmonies and mournful lamentations. Dead Can Dance at their most despairing is the best way to describe it, but your mind will conjure images of its creator with arms aloft and face imploring the heavens to open up before her. It provides a wonderful contrast with the noisy black metal pollution of ‘Burden of Flesh and Bone’, which thrives on the clatter of violent blast beats and a blanket of distortion that could turn dirt into soil. Think Burzum mixed with gothic metal from the darkest catacombs. Her growls are one note away from blowing her voice, yet the dungeon synth respite at 03:15 seconds will stretch your curious eyebrows to the limit.

The adrenaline fury of Hulder is rapturous rather than murderous. Her black metal is about catharsis. How do you release those burdens that weigh on you like a millstone around your neck? ‘Sylvan Awakening’ uses Medieval scales and black metal tremolo patterns to enshroud you in a fog of contemplation. Listen to the subtlety of those solemn backing vocals behind the guttural savagery. How does she make this type of primitive noise so enchanting? You can hear the heavy presence of Bathory in the title track, yet the explosive drumming from Sam Osborne (nephew of Melvins legend, Buzz Osborne) brings it out of the shadows and into the open fields. An avant-garde entity sits in camouflage, ready to subvert the song to its caprices at any moment, but the overwhelming power of the guitar reverberations keep it at bay. The granite chords and bubbling tom beats of ‘A Perilous Journey’ are much more successful in penetrating through the force field of noise. Hulder’s use of captivating choir harmonies gives this song a sombre glow. What is it about her music that makes you want to lie at the foot of the millpond and die among its willows in a peaceful transcendence? The fact she can do this with a crushing guitar tone and unmelodious chord choices is even more impressive.

We have every reason to be excited for the next album if this is the future of Hulder. She might even be an unintentional Instagram star by then…

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 01/07/2022

Record Label: 20 Buck Spin

Standout tracks: Burden of Flesh and Bone, A Perilous Journey

Suggested Further Listening: Noctule – Wretched Abyss (2021), Burzum – Filosofem (1996), Wolvencrown – A Shadow of What Once Was EP (2021)