HELL, the doom/drone/sludge entity, one-man project of M.S.W., appears to be in a state of re-discovery. Having released a number of albums since 2009, including their trilogy in Hell I, II and III, and participating in some exciting collaborations, the one with Mizmor standing out in particular, it now feels like Hell is closing a chapter and turning the page. Five years have passed since Hell III, and M.S.W. attempts to converge back to a point of origin, simply titling the record Hell. Writing and recording the album over a longer period and in total isolation, M.S.W. attempts to coalesce the diverging elements of his music and its dark aesthetics.
At first glance, Hell can appear as a one-dimensional entity, moving into a heavy doom/sludge territory alongside a demoniacal demeanor. The riffs are heavy, the pace is slow and the grooves are grimy in their progression. However, that is just the surface of Hell, and as one travels through the album, all the different elements and characteristics of the band slowly reveal themselves. The drone dimension is an easy addition which further indulges the slow pace, as waves of feedback arrive, creating a harrowing experience – but the actual centerpiece of this work is its atmosphere.
Label: Sentient Ruin Laboratories
Samples and effects are applied over the structure of the record, making the oppressive and relentless manifestation richer, granting a colossal perspective to tracks like “SubOdin” with its drone/sludge merge. What is really telling in the record is the level of detail that has gone into the guitar work, and more so in the phrases and lead parts that Hell unfolds. Sure, the heavy riffs work fine, but when the cleaner parts arrive, the full extent of the band’s malice is felt. There is a certain aura that arrives with them that adds this twisted element, that devilish touch, as parts in “Helmzmen” and “Inscriptus” showcase. It is an ominous perspective and it works wonders, making the tracks appear darker and at the same time more open and expressive, as in parts of “Wandering Soul” and the excellent “Seelenos” which includes some fantastic operatic voices.
Another important aspect of Hell is that M.S.W. does not simply give in to the slower pace and progression, and is keen to explore further possibilities. The old-school spirit is still well-preserved, as the pacing of “Machitikos” suggests, with most of the range existing in the drone to doom via sludge range, but parts with more expressive groove appear, as do faster, aggressive moments with a black metal inspired facade, coming forth in a blaze of blastbeats. However, the most important capability is the switch Hell performs in introducing the cleaner parts of the tracks amidst the heavier riffs, without losing their essence and hostility. “Inscriptus” features such moments, where the transition between these two sides is seamless, carrying all the malice and bitterness from one mode to the other.
Hell does feel like a statement from M.S.W., a powerful record opening up future possibilities for his project and the direction it takes. Without being too adventurous, Hell has created a complete extreme doom record, encompassing all the useful information and crafting very well the sound and progression. Is this opening a new trilogy? Not sure, but hopefully Hell will travel through all the cycles of Inferno.