In terms of extreme metal – mainly death and doom/death – Finland had, and currently has, a very, very strong scene. The Finnish death metal domain in the ’90s might not have had the same flash that the Swedish and US scenes did, but the albums released in that period were nothing but monumental. The obvious ones being are, of course, the albums that Amorphis and Sentenced put out before further evolving their music. The Karelian Isthmus and Shadows From The Past are excellent examples of what Finnish death metal was all about. But those two were not the only two bands around to release great records. Abhorrence put out a series of excellent demos and EPs before splitting up, setting the tone for the rest of the scene. In 1991, Convulse released their debut album, World Without God an absolutely disgusting album of terrific death metal, while the following year Demigod were putting out the monstrous Slumber of Sullen Eyes, and one year after that Demilich would unleash their technical death metal mayhem with Nespithe.
Hooded Menace might fall within the doom/death spectrum, but the history of Finnish death metal is encrypted within their tracks, and the Finnish death metal scene always had a bit of doom in its death. That much is obvious as the groove finally comes in on “Dungeons of the Disembodied” and the pace starts to rise, with the guitars creating a chaotic vortex in their presence. Unfolding the groove with it slowly creeping in on the track, and resulting in that old-school death metal vibe is just such a powerful weapon in Hooded Menace’s arsenal. But there is not just one single aspect in the death metal quality of this band. “Ashen with Solemn Decay” sees them taking a turn for the slower, more torturous side of their music, without that signalling the cease of this death metal-esque distorted element. Still, the groove of the band can be further evolved in a drunken mutation of itself, as happens in the final track of the album, with the embrace of their darker and audacious side. Something even more destructive occurs with “Beyond Deserted Flesh,” with the brutality rising exponentially in a more aggressive and feral form. The pace picks up, granting a towering form to the music through this powerful, monumental part.
However, there is also a darker aspect that completes Hooded Menace’s vision, and that is no other than their doom core. The band manages to balance their concept and vision so well, making it difficult to define which of the two sides (doom or death) is prevailing in their music. The doom, though, sets the tone in a magnificent and drastic manner on this album. The heavy riffs unleashed with the opening of “Blood For The Burning Oath/Dungeons of the Disembodied,” along with the minimal tempo, result in what is almost a loss of groove. It feels like the track is just one long, torturing guitar strum, one single drum hit, being repeated again and again in the most devastating way possible. “Elysium of Dripping Death” is even more cruel in terms of its glacial pace, but the guitars do not reach for their heavy personification this time around. Instead, you get a twisted, clean, dissonant quality, resulting in the creation of an abhorrent solitude. Finally, the heavy riffs come in, demolishing the sickening vision of the track. The disgusting weight of the guitars leads to the absolute desolation that is revealed further in the track, with the scenery going very dark in the process. But still, Hooded Menace can dwell even further beneath the surface. “Ashen with Solemn Decay” sees the band reaching an extreme doom/death, almost funereal tonality, with the pace growing slower and the groove almost extinguished in the process. And yet, in the closing track, they will give you a much anticipated gift, wandering within the more straightforward realms of doom/death, taking on a more direct form and constructing a much more infectious vibe in parts, leading to the production of some massive riffs and imposing moments.
Label: Relapse Records
When it comes to doom/death it is quite easily to fall into one obvious trap. Some bands will just think that as long as they play slow and their guitars are heavy they will be successful within the genre. Hooded Menace know better than that, and all of their works have revealed as much. The first quality that the band employs is their construction of sceneries. That can be in the form of an ambience, as is the case with the start of “Blood For The Burning Oath,” or through switches in the structures of their music. Take for instance the clean part in the second half of the opening track, on one hand showing a slight equilibrium and a delicate balance, and on the other retaining the stomach turning essence of Hooded Menace intact.
The second quality is even more obvious, and Hooded Menace seem to be masters of it. Keep the songs interesting with your lead work. Darkness Drips Forth stands on two pillars when it comes to its lead parts. The sorrowful quality is obvious, resulting in great moments filled with anguish and despair. The beginning of the opening track signals the pessimistic view of the band and at the same time lets on the imposing nature of their music. “Elysium of Dripping Death” follows the same mantra, with the mournful leads taking on a more twisted form this time around with some nice additions, such as the discordant guitar parts. But sorrow is not the only emotion that comes through the guitars of Hooded Menace. The majority of their work lies on the infernal domain, and on that they are truly exquisite. The opening track first exposes the hellish quality, but it is the spiralling lead work in “Ashen With Solemn Decay” which really sets the tone. Especially on that track, everything seems to be clicking, even reaching for a schizoid twist with a solo. And then there are more obscure parts within Darkness Drips Forth, as is the case with the slithering parts of “Beyond Deserted Flesh,” with the rotten core of Hooded Menace exposed and the doom enhanced.
Everything in Darkness Drips Forth shows some of the finest, most gruesome doom/death out there. Hooded Menace feel like veterans in the field, having mastered the different aspects of how to make an album that is heavy, guttural and horrific while at the same time retaining the interest of the listener and throwing some great hooks our way. Hooded Menace know in great depth the doom/death domain, and how to navigate it. Combine that with the heritage of the Finnish extreme metal scene, and there is not that much more you are going to need.