Written by Kep
>Hulder – The Eternal Fanfare
>Releasing July 1
>Via 20 Buck Spin
There have been few young projects in the black metal underground over the last few years that have inspired the amount of hype and adoration that Hulder has. Lamp of Murmuur is up there, Spider God too, but the list is short; it’s rare to see the combination of sterling composition, strong appeal within the metal scene as a whole, and the acceptance of fans in the black metal underground itself, which is eminently (notoriously?) arbitrary. Hulder is deserving of the hype, though, because they haven’t put out any less-than-excellent material yet. The Eternal Fanfare, the project’s second EP and third overall non-demo release, falls right in line with what we already know to expect.
This EP is Hulder’s first outing under the 20 Buck Spin umbrella (and lemme get a HELL FUCKING YEAH for them leaving Hells Headbangers), and it works well both as a continuation of the trajectory that got them to this point and as an entry point for new fans. At five tracks and 25 minutes it’s a substantial listen that shows off a little bit of everything the eponymous one-woman project is good at, including a haunting intro track with ghostly weeping clean vocals that could easily be part of a movie soundtrack, underscoring the carnage of some desolate battlefield. After that the riffs come on thick and fast, full of plainsong-esque melodies that could’ve been sung by peasants in feudal times and icy second wave arcs that blast and sweep like the wind through a graveyard.
What we get on The Eternal Fanfare is an army’s worth of tracks that will drive you to charge horseback into infernal battle against a horde of inquisition soldiers while simultaneously fighting a creeping doubt as to whether anything is worth fighting for at all. Hulder’s songwriting is tight and focused, song elements meshing organically into unified wholes. From sandblasting frostbite riffs to toothy melodies that carve, from her characteristic hoarse roar to the subtle touches of layered cleans that decorate a few notable moments, from the scorched earth aggression of “Burden of Flesh and Bone” all the way through to the inward-facing expectation of grief in “A Perilous Journey”, everything feels cohesive and clearly connected with intent as a distinctive take on something classic. Hulder’s sound isn’t weird—honestly, it’s timeless in many ways—but you won’t confuse their sound for anyone else’s. It’s excellent and subtly unique stuff.
One of the greatest indicators that you’ve list heard some great black metal is when you find yourself walking around humming the riffs immediately after the record finishes. I found myself doing that after my first (and second, and third) listen, because Hulder’s ear for tremolo-picked earworms is on par with the best. There’s something tremendously grandiose about the melodicism of her work; lead single “Sylvan Awakening”, for example, features a sweeping 4-bar pattern that lifts up and out before rapidly descending back to its starting point. It’s juxtaposed against passages of relentless ostinatos with slow-changing chords and zero melodic movement, and other riffs that are clear developments on the ideas of that original one. Throw in a evocative touch of medieval flair in one particularly Renaissance-y verse riff and you’ve got the makings of the sort of epic, captivating music that makes Hulder so special.
“A Perilous Journey” feels quite melancholy, at a more middling tempo and with mournful melodic riffs that make you feel like you’re riding through a frosty forest on the way to what will surely be your final battle. The use of somber synths, supporting rather than leading the guitars in their plaintive song, is A+ stuff that you might not even notice on first listen (I didn’t!), but it quietly takes the song to an especially impactful place. There’s a lot of that going on in The Eternal Fanfare: little touches that you don’t quite catch at first, but that will open your ears to a clever new layer once you do. For example, there’s an easily missable chant-style choral effect on sections of the title track, so subtle that it’s almost imperceptible at first blush, that really thickens the texture in an significant way at the moments that are the height of the song.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Hulder continues their upward trajectory with The Eternal Fanfare, a perfect entry point for new fans and another reason for trve OG fans to keep spreading the word. It’s the kind of black metal release that rewards every listen, from the first to the second to the fifth and so on, and it’s a quality addition to the project’s growing catalogue. Make sure you check it out.