- Death May Die
- Doom Metal
Right off the bat I’m seeing Hela is a female fronted doom band from Spain with songs around the ten minute mark. Definitely what I would consider within my comfort zone. European doom is always going to be appealing to me, this year has been insane so far with Witch Ritual from Germany, Everest Queen from the UK and Dead Acid People from France. Every new country has a different sound and influence, each unique. So I’m pretty happy to get something out of Spain to add to the archives.
A far darker opening than I was expecting. Apparently the opener track is based on the story “The nameless city” (read), I don’t know how I keep happening into these Lovecraft themed bands but I just do. Everyone who makes this kind of music seems to be on the level so maybe check out the source materials. It will give you context for the half of metal that isn’t Tolkien. I can’t get a hold of lyrics to tell the extent of this inspiration but I’m content to know lyrical intent is there. The song titles alone say to me that this is a chronological story starting with a horrible discovery, The Gateway. There’s some kind of mythical figure and perhaps the revelation of evil, Mothers Of Monsters and Touched By Evil. Then that touch of evil infests or takes hold in the form of the Dark Passenger – possibly analogous of mental illness or possession. This passenger causes chaos and unnatural acts, resulting in Repulsion – of self and externally. The Gateway inevitable leads to Bodies Burning In Hell – The end destruction, death or suicide from madness and hell because of the corruption. I can’t wait to find out how far off I was with this. Here’s the metal as fuck final paragraph from “The nameless city” by HP Lovecraft that’s definitely fitting to this record:
And as the wind died away I was plunged into the ghoul-peopled blackness of earth’s bowels; for behind the last of the creatures the great brazen door clanged shut with a deafening peal of metallic music whose reverberations swelled out to the distant world to hail the rising sun as Memnon hails it from the banks of the Nile.
It would be interesting to see how the lyrics look on paper and how the vocals shape their structure. I’m also curious if they laid the tracks first then vocals, like Tool did or if the music was built around the vocals more. There is clearly a unit of instrumental musicians at the heart of this record, which is how it survives such long track lengths. It’s a sound I have a lot of love for and really cemented my teen music years in the mid 2000’s with stuff like November’s Doom, Swallow The Sun, Ahab and Cult Of Luna. I can always dig the long metal. It’s certainly a nice change from the run of grindcore I’ve been on which is essentially the antithesis of doom musically. It’s nice to return to harmony and rhythm. It’s music to be carried over oceans on waves, tentacle like riffs, ever-expanding and reaching. This is a soundscape.
There’s a similar progression and busyness to Opeth, perhaps coming from the influence of Spanish musicians. It’s downright atmospheric and romantic at times too. The vocals can get super high and long, it get’s quite impressive as far as resonance and endurance go. It has a similar pronunciation and word emphasis as Stanley from Alice In Chains. It’s closer to old rock and metal classics from America than the more tribal/primal sounding vocals I’m used to hearing form Europe. It’s a good blend of ideas into an indisputably solid serving of stoner doom. Is it stoner doom though? Well I’m stoned and I’m doomed and I dig this. This record has a wide appeal, with fans of all the dark and long genres such as funeral doom, post metal, prog metal, doom metal, melodic black metal and a lot of sludge stuff finding something to appreciate here.
Can’t tell if it’s prog or grunge or what but its not just the vocals, the instruments change beneath the rockier vocals into a crescendo of 90’s aesthetic. The energy shifts like songs within songs, the peaks are massive. It gives me Jucifer vibes, which is never a bad thing and I bet a lot of doom fans would appreciate the idea of doom sensibilities being turned into something more hooky. Hela are similarly fresh in that way but reverse engineered the ideas back into doom, to create a bunch of smaller moments that don’t feel like they’re obligated to fit the tag exactly. A sound with agency.
It’s this bizarre mashup of doomy post metal and early MTV Daria rock/stoner rock with a knack for literature. It has no right sounding as good as this, but It just works. I think the right musicians have found each other here because it has all the ingredients of old recipes without all of the typical trappings. It’s a dynamic female fronted doom band that doesn’t depend so heavily on the vocals because there’s a solid audio thesis on an instrumental level. Naturally the people who just love female vocals in doom are going to talk about the vocals more than anything but it really isn’t the case with this band, the vocals are apart of the music and balanced in the mixing. It doesn’t feel egotistical, it feels collaborative and smart. I’d consider this a perfect opportunity for anyone with reservations about female singers in doom to check this out and fix your heart.
Album cover by Deadsign.net. I actually have a mild critique for this otherwise great artwork. For me the focus gets pulled by that skull face which looks like a digital asset thrown on-top of a custom body. Once you see that detail it’s hard to unsee it, it’s not in theme with the rest of the image which seems very detailed and carefully crafted otherwise. I think it’s possibly because it’s a skull on a flesh covered body so the tone is inconsistent. Love the circle design inside of the diamond with the antlers crowding that part of the piece. I also like the faded color scheme and framing. I enjoy it when there’s an established framing but the thing that’s being framed spills out of the frame at the top and bottom. It contributes a lot to the albums identity and the bands marketing. Between bandcamp, Instagram and Vinyl collectors… album art really matters for maximizing appeal or reach right now.
Death May Die is the perfect album to listen to when you’re stuck in bed crippled by depression. It starts as darkly as your mood but by the end so much has happened and arcs progressed, you kind of just end up feeling better. Like there was some kind of resolution or meditation. It is dark but the ending gives me the impression that the character of the story is ending in a place of strength somehow, at least that’s what the new rougher vocals tell me. On the final track there’s a lot more organic vocal gain, which I don’t recall her using earlier in the record. It’s a good ending that doesn’t fluff around trying to ease you out of the record. It peaks one last time and then ends, leaving you in the silence with the decision to get out of bed.
This was recommended to me by our very own Interpreter of Doom, Jessica Seeders. Check that hyperlink to follow her on insta. She recced me Monolord earlier this year which was my first 10/10. Jessica also posts chair related photos as a creative response to various doom records like Sleep. Here’s one for Death May Die, titled “SINNERS CHAIR” :