The behemoth stirs. Having been somewhat out of our eye for a time, the mighty men of Hull hath returned, laying waste to our ears once more.
Barring a more readily-available re-release of their one-song ‘Viking Funeral’ EP last year neither hide nor hair has been heard from Hull since their last full-length recording, ‘Sole Lord’, knocked my figurative socks off, but the aching silence is now no more as ‘Beyond The Lightless Sky’ hoves into earshot with an ominous rumbling.
Ever the purveyors of sonic complexity, Hull have gone full-tilt with ‘Beyond The Lightless Sky’, conceiving and erecting a labyrinthine musical structure so dense that it verges on impenetrability for large swathes of its length. Very little in the way of light escapes here, a combination of the nature of the music and an overly naturalistic production that serves to rob clarity and punchiness from the sound as a whole. The guitars just don’t have the kind of heft that they need to punch through the airy ambience that surrounds the music, unfortunately.
Taking the approach of alternating ‘heavy’ tracks with ‘lighter’, more obviously atmospheric, one is a trick that has been used fairly often by bands in the heavier end of the spectrum, and generally works to throw the heaviness into sharper relief and to allow the band to stretch out more. Here, however, it doesn’t work so well due to the fug covering everything. Where things should be light and airy, they merely come across as muggy and tonally subdued. The three-pronged guitar attack that was previously used to such great effect is herein rendered impotent by the unflattering production job which totally flattens any dynamics.
I’m not quite convinced, though, that the production is entirely to blame for the shortcomings of ‘Beyond The Lightless Sky’. The material here, although clearly well-wrought and finely honed, just doesn’t stick in the memory. At no point during the entire album is there a riff, passage or vocal line that I could enthuse about five minutes after I heard it – something that ‘Beyond The Lightless Sky’ has in common with the latest Mastodon album, as far as I’m concerned…’Curl Of The Burl’ aside.
It really is a shame to have to say this but I have to be honest – this album disappointed me greatly, being as eagerly awaited as it was. I’ve lived with it for a little while and given it a number of full listens, but to no avail. It moves me just as little now as it did when I first heard it.
I even decided that my customary track by track breakdown was unnecessary as, sonically and tonally, the five ‘heavy’ tracks and the four ‘lighter’, linking, tracks, were cut from cloth that was so indistinguishable from each one so as to make them basically identical. Think Neurosis-epic, Mastodon-progressive and Yob-doom, but remove the sense of individuality that gives each of them that spark and you have the sound of this album.
All in all a damned shame.
Scribed by: Paul Robertson