I have to say, up front, that I am a MASSIVE Hooded Menace fan, and have been since 2010s Never Cross The Dead so there is every chance that this review is going to get a little gushy. The Tritonus Bell is their sixth full length record, following their 2018 masterpiece Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed, and is out now through Season Of Mist. For me, these Finns started and perfected this modern death/doom sound that everyone has been aping for the past decade, so it is always good to see the originators back in action.
Chthonic Exhordium builds anticipation with teeming rain and a surprisingly Maiden-esque lead guitar line, climbing up into the brutality of Chime Diabolicus‘s absolutely murderous opening riff. Immediately you get a sense that the death/doom titans aren’t going to play by all their usual rules, as this track has a classic doom gallop before breaking into a more traditional Hooded Menace grinding crawl. That guitar lead flair returns on numerous occasions throughout this record though, and never detracts from that iconic crunch.
Blood Ornaments starts with some lost Angel Witch riff, before we begin a mournful journey through weeping riffs and cavernous roars. It runs the gambit from classic 80s lead guitar work to dragging, moss covered death/doom riffs. The super clean, Andy LaRocque production does wonders for the band, giving me sounds I’d never heard from them before, and definitely explains where the odd Mercyful Fate reference appears.
adding a shit ton of classic melody into their nevertheless weighty brutality…
Another great mystery about Hooded Menace is quite how they manage to consistently write such compelling music of this length. If you leave out the closing, spiralling instrumental Instruments Of Somber Finality and the intro, the shortest track is barely less than six minutes, and Those Who Absorb The Night doesn’t exactly feel brief. You’d assume somewhere it’d feel a little long in the tooth but that is never an issue. You’re never far away from a devastating riff, a melancholic clean guitar line or a chugging, galloping doom monstrosity. Corpus Asunder has plenty of the latter in its tank, while Scattered Into Dark brings that classic Hooded Menace sound out of the filth it’s normally caked in into the bright light of day.
The grand irony of The Tritonus Bell is that just as every death/doom outfit is catching up with what Hooded Menace perfected a decade ago, these guys decide that maybe we need a bit more doom in our death and have taken to adding a shit ton of classic melody into their nevertheless weighty brutality. The Tritonus Bell is tolling for a new direction, an end time for the murk of yesteryear? Whatever this signals, I am so on board for everything here and to come.
Scribed by: Sandy Williamson