Written by Kirk
Through Mists — Starkiller / Homicidal Hamsters
> Progressive blackened death meta
> Quebec, Canada
> Released September 15
> Syrup Moose Records
I swear to everything sacred, I have no idea how some of these artists do it. Really and truly. In just a hair under two years, Through Mists has managed to release ten singles, five EPs, and six albums, and another two albums just came at you through the unyieldingly prolific Syrup Moose Records. Each and every single, EP, and album released follows the story of The Traveler as we experience the world through their eyes, be it witnessing an eerie fungus (Sporogenesis), acquiring the ability of flight (Razorhawk), encountering the Octopus Queen (Until My Lungs Explode), or being cast outside of space and time (Chronosphere), the music of Through Mists is rife with as much mystic and wonder as it is…well, riffs.
I don’t know about y’all, but I find this level of productivity to be pretty rare outside of someone like Garry Brents. One difference being the use of multiple different project names through which to release so much music—Cara Neir, Gonemage, Homeskin, Lev’myr, Memorrhage, etc.—the amount of music that Through Mists has been able to release in such a small amount of time is staggering. The ability to weave such an enchanting tale through so many songs is even more impressive, creating an immersive universe unlike any other. To fully grasp and appreciate its breadth takes time and patience, two things that are often very hard to come by but are oh so rewarding when we do.
It should come as no surprise to anyone even remotely familiar with Through Mists that the opening track, “Blessings Undone”, comes out ready to crowdkill from the moment it starts. With riffs ablazing, drums blasting, and synths…uh, synthing, this album means business. What I like about Through Mists is how casually the music leans into that “progressive metal” side of its sound—it’s more about the narrative than it is about flourish and showmanship. Sure, there will be the occasional instrument not typically heard in death or black metal, but these are done to embellish and enhance the music. Try to imagine what Pink Floyd might have sounded without Richard Wright’s fantastic keyboard work, and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.
The narrative of Starkiller finds The Traveler in a world outside of space and time (see Chronosphere), standing firmly in the land of the gods. It is here that The Traveler sees the elaborate web of pain, suffering, and tragedy that has been intricately woven for all of mankind and decides there is only one way to free the human race of these shackles: some good, old-fashioned deicide. Now, if that doesn’t get every single metalhead’s heart racing with sheer delight, I don’t know what will. It is now The Traveler’s singular goal to eradicate everything about these gods from all of existence, which is the only way for which we can truly be free. He dares not only to tempt fate but to defy it altogether. But can he succeed?
From a musical standpoint, this album is really all guns with minimal glory. The songs themselves are relatively short in length, ranging from a hair over 4:30 to just a breath short of 1:30. The majority of the record is comprised of songs under three minutes in length, so don’t let the track count intimidate you. By the time you get to the title track at the end, you’ll be ready to pick your face up off the floor so you can reattach it; there is literally no lull in this record whatsoever. In fact, it pummels you so relentlessly that the 33 minutes will feel more like three, and you’ll be scrambling to hit that play button again.
Not to be outdone (or would it be more appropriate to say underdone?), the double EP of Homicidal Hamsters turns up the heat even more. Yes, you read that right: the EP is titled Homicidal Hamsters. Sounds ridiculous? Sure, but, if anything, it’s a nod to heavy metal’s love of excess and all things B-movie related. Besides, we’ve seen The Traveler morph into a bird-like creature (see Razorhawk) and battle the Octopus Queen (see Until My Lungs Explode), so I think we can rest easily in the knowledge that this seemingly absurd title will be handled with the utmost care.
What the opening of “The Fur’s Gonna Fly!” tells us is that Through Mists has, in fact, given such a silly premise all the attention and devotion needed to make this as intense as any of the previous releases. The riffs are intense, the drumming like the rainfall of an F-5 hurricane, and that signature growl/shriek that only Through Mists can pull off. Plus the songs are longer, the solos are beefier, and there’s even a discernible bass tone, which can often be missed or ignored in modern death metal. And the synth work is also more prevalent, though it presents more as standard piano than spacy textures like we heard on Starkiller. All in all, this EP is a true feast for the senses.
Bringing up the rear is the second half of the Homicidal Hamsters EP, called Hunting the Ones Up High. To diffuse any confusion between what’s on Bandcamp and what’s…well, everywhere else, the songs on Hunting the Ones Up High are labeled as “bonus tracks” on the Syrup Moose Records release whereas it’s its own three-track single on all other streaming platforms. But since buying music from Bandcamp is kooler than streaming (financial means aside, not everyone has pockets deep enough to go out and buy all this amazing music), we’re going to focus on what’s available on Bandcamp. These songs are markedly darker and have a more somber tone than those on either Starkiller or Homicidal Hamsters, which is a fantastic example of Through Mists’s emotional depth in terms of musical composition.
THE BOTTOM LINE
It’s easy to turn your nose up at an artist who pumps out release after release after release. As someone who is not a professional musician, it’s easy to make assumptions as to what level of quality you’ll receive when there’s a new single, EP, or album coming out every few months. Be that as it may, you’ll never know how good something is until you try it first. If you’re like me and have kids, you know this to be true; crossing your arms and refusing to try something you’ve never had before because you “don’t like it” is not a great argument. And sure, not everything out there is for everyone; I’m not a big death metal guy, but there are some bands I like and others I don’t. The nice thing about Through Mists is that you’re not just getting death metal: you’re getting a blend of black metal, death metal, and progressive metal that really and truly is unique. And whether you prefer that old-school death metal sound (see Starkiller), a more melodic death metal style (see Homicidal Hamsters), or something more akin to that signature Black Flag Greg Ginn attack (see Hunting the Ones Up High), Through Mists has it all. So uncross those arms and give this one a try; I can all but guarantee you’ll find something to love.