Band Line up:
2. The Living Dreams of a Dead God
3. The Horrid Truth
4. Passage into Entropy
5. Citadel of the Necromancer
6. Ad Inane Precatio
7. The Gathering of the Accursed Artifacts
9. Journey into the Eternal Winter
10. The Void Between the Stars
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Hoth are quite probably the world’s only Star Wars themed, black metal band. I’ll also say it’s an idea that on paper sounds so corny and contrived it couldn’t possibly work. Could it? Well, yes it could… and it does!
In their favour, and certainly on Astral Necromancy, Hoth aren’t focussing on the well known plot points of the Skywalker saga. It seems this album is more of an expanded universe offering. The sense you get from this collection of songs is that they take place deep within the same galaxy, on distant worlds where the influence of the dark side is ever present.
Hoth describe Astral Necromancy as the product of three intense years of writing and composition between 2015 and 2018.
“We wanted every piece of the album to match our vision of vile sorcery so powerful and terrifying it could reshape the cosmos. It is a concept album in the sense that there is a common thread through each of the songs that bind them together as each individually explores an aspect of this darkness. (The album) is a collection of black magic rituals and unholy spells that weave a tale of forbidden knowledge and spiritual transcendence. Astral Necromancy already exists in the crushing, unforgiving darkness. There are no paths. There is no light and no hope – just an exploration of cosmic mysteries and black magic. The eleven tracks explore themes ranging from corruption of the self to what lies at the end of all time.”
With this being understood, Hoth have certainly achieved their goal. Astral Necromancy is an album that is both dense and unremitting with lo-fi blast beats and tremolo riffing. The majority of the record is made up of a relentless hammering that leaves the listener in no doubt of Hoth’s credibility in a well populated genre. Songs like, Vengeance, The Horrid Truth and Solitude are bleak and unyielding without any room for light or contrast – but that is not to say there aren’t moments of variation across this disc. To give Astral Necromancy a fair assessment it seems necessary to highlight its distinguishing passages.
Alongside the icy, blackened aggression there is an emerging traditional metal influence. For example, The Living Dreams Of A Dead God charges forward on a chugging heavy metal riff and features some harmonised twin guitars. Similarly, with a subtle nod to a classic rock sound, Journey Into The Eternal Winter starts with an overdriven humbucker tone that can at a stretch, reasonably be described as AC/DC’s take on black metal. The song further implies Hoth’s wider influences via a hearty chorus of folk singers and a rousing, power metal guitar solo.
Indeed, repeated listens seem to highlight frequent touches of NWOBHM on Astral Necromancy. The main riff on Passage into Entropy and the triumphant guitar melodies on Citadel of the Necromancer all indicate a keen appreciation of vintage, melodic metal.
Among the album’s prevailing cacophony there are also some brief moments of calm. Ad Inane Precatio is an atmospheric, ecclesiastical, choral piece and the ferocious intensity of The Gathering of the Accursed Artifacts is preceded by a gently picked meditation on guitar.
Perhaps the most surprising moment on the album is an inspired diversion that takes place on The Void Between the Stars. In a momentary lull, we are presented with a short, bluesy guitar solo that draws on something more akin to the work of David Gilmour or Mark Knopfler. It’s certainly the most dramatic contrast to the intensity we have experienced across this collection of songs, but shouldn’t be taken as a diminishing moment by any means. Instead, it’s a brief moment of light, reminding us of hope but accentuating the stark and powerful nature of the dark side which dominates this album.
In summary, Hoth have actually gone above and beyond their intention to create something with “no light and no hope.” While that bleak sense of despair is absolutely present, there is also something contained within its melodic moments and the push and the swing of the riffs and the rhythms that carries an air of fist-in the-air triumph. It’s an album that comes across much like Darth Vader. On the surface, it is completely committed to the darkness, but buried deep inside, there IS a light in its heart.
Either way, the force is certainly strong with this one.
Review by Beandog