This may look to you like the start of a review, but I’ve actually been sitting here writing and re-writing the first sentence for a good hour. You see, I made the fatal mistake of listening to Grand Cromlech while trying to write about it, and each time I hit play I’d be so awe-stricken by the thing that I just sit here listening and gawping at the cover art. I must have sat through this fifteen-minute EP a dozen times over the last day or two and still it sucks me in, refusing to cough up any useful descriptors. Once you start writing about metal, it can be hard just to sit and listen to a new release without jotting a review of it in your head. It’s a bad habit, and one that’s tough to break. I suppose I should be grateful to Hivelords, then, for letting me think of nothing but Hivelords when Hivelords is playing.
These Philadelphians have a knack of being able to play their style of metal both excruciatingly slowly and extremely fast while still sounding completely natural and unstudied. This is a rare talent. When Triptykon play fast, part of me wonders if their sound was built for speed. Not so with Hivelords. Pick one of the songs below. It’s choose your own adventure time: through one door lie blastbeats, through the other, a crypt-bound dead-march. Then try the other and you’ll see what I mean.
Upon arrival at the grim structure | Divining goliath astragals
Everything about this EP is utterly compelling, from the sickly intervals of the riffs down to the labyrinthine structures they’re built upon. It’s the vocals, though, that steal the show. Alan Dubin and Edgy 59 both spring to mind – which is a compliment in itself – with an unnerving mix of rasps and scattered snarls that give way, at one point, into eerie Ihsahn-like crooning. (Anyone who has the good sense to check out their first EP, The Cellar Scrolls, will discover that this guy does a pretty strong Patrick Walker impression too.)
The recording itself was handled by none other than Chris Grigg of the excellent Woe, and what a fine job he’s done. You’ll find none of the artificialities of modern recording techniques here, just a rich and very natural sounding job that lets this ghoulish entity live and breathe in its dark den.
It is time. Go forth and pay fealty to the Hivelords.