Less than two years ago, a bomb was dropped that decimated the world of avant-garde extreme metal. Greece’s Hail Spirit Noir debuted with Pneuma, a fusion unlike anything previously heard and a true gem in the current landscape of bedroom dwellers and post-everything noodlings. 70s prog and heavy psychedelia were grafted onto a bizarre black metal body that resulted in a twisted monstrosity of the most delightful proportions. Now the Thessaloniki trio is back with their heavily anticipated follow-up to continue down the bizarre path they discovered.
Continuing in much the same vein as their debut; Oi Magoi starts off with their trademark balance of all things catchy and weird. The band dance their way through tempo changes and tribal drum breaks as frontman Theoharis projects his mind-altering vocals over the din. New instruments seem to come and go effortlessly, keeping you on your toes as you don’t know what could happen just a few seconds down the line. “Demon for a Day” rules hard with its beautiful string synths and induces heavy headbanging despite the guitars’ clean tones.
It all starts to feel like the same band as before, but soon it becomes apparent that there’s a new side of Hail Spirit Noir starting to take place. They’re taking their time, not obsessing with immediacy or structure. Not that they ever did before, but now it seems a new hefty cloud of opium has wafted into the practice room and the band is having more fun simply jamming. But the new, free-form turns taken by the band don’t always work flawlessly. “Satyriko Orgio” starts off as the band’s most aggressive track to date but quickly evolves into another drug-fueled orgy that turns what could have been a masterpiece into more filler than killer. Not all experiments can be flawless, and this hardly affects the success rate as HSN dive into their most angular track. “The Mermaid” is a prog aficionado’s wet dream that conjures up images of a malevolent King Crimson. The 11-minute opus wanders through organ worship and Tullisms that pay a worthy tribute to HSN’s influences of old.
Penultimate song “Hunters” showcases their best talents. Infections yet simple riffs dance endlessly over ever-changing drum patterns and fills, accompanying harsh and clean vocal interplay, unorthodox tremolo and their most effective tempo change to date that leads to a blistering, ethereal bridge. These are masters of misdirection just like the magician who graces the albums cover, and this just might be their ultimate illusion.
Overall, Oi Magoi takes a less direct approach than its predecessor. All of the fantastic schizophrenic trademarks remain, they just appear in a slightly more convoluted manner. These Greeks are even harder to digest this time around, but patience will be rewarded with understanding. This is an acid trip to be sure, and not one that should be taken casually.
Oi Magoi is out now via Code666.