Heavily influenced by Scandinavian extreme metal and classic Star Wars lore, Seattle based duo Hoth took their first breath in 2011. Quickly shaping the ideas from their first demo into a second that, more or less, served as a quasi full-length debut ‘Infinite Darkness’ was a competent melodic death metal record. With a slightly scooped, barreling tone and a tendency towards ranting melodic sections Hoth‘s debut seemed sluggishly intent on soaking in the moment and less obsessed with progression than their peers at the time. Science fiction themes and 90’s symphonic black metal keyboards (“The Frozen Wastes of Hoth” is so delightfully Castlevania) served as mystique and atmosphere that felt ‘throwback’ but not necessarily blatantly derivative or predictable. It was a solid starting point and showed early signs of Hoth‘s greatest strengths: Memorable guitar work and a greater understanding of ‘flow’ well beyond their influences.
The two year conception and execution of ‘Oathbreaker’ achieved far greater goals in terms of incorporating distinct melodic black metal permanence as well as creating a proverbial conceptual/thematic vacuum toward darkness that begins with might and lands within despair. An album that grows increasingly heavy and dark as it plays out is such a higher concept than most of Hoth‘s influences to begin with, and I think most folks who aren’t prone to reading press/interviews/blurbs barely sat through it’s initial Thyrfing and Old Man’s Child-esque meloblack/folkish sway. I’m not enough of a fan to care about Star Wars but oh man do I love melodic black metal with folk and keyboard diddling. ‘Oathbreaker’ was certainly a major first step in cementing sonic personality for Hoth and established an ‘epic’ tone that continues on with ‘Astral Necromancy’.
The most common complaint I saw in 2014 was that anyone fully invested in groups like Dark Forest, Thulcandra or King of Asgard might’ve felt ‘Oathbreaker’ was something they’d heard before. With nearly a full four years from conception to release ‘Astral Necromancy’ certainly gives that same feeling of déjà entendu in terms of sound and melodic influences but this time they’ve attuned their pulse even more entirely towards melodic black metal and leave behind some of their latent death metal influences in favor of owning their ‘most complete’ take. Unlike ‘Oathbreaker’ the band’s second full-length begins in darkness and thrives within it. Already fully accomplished in terms of rhythm guitar on ‘Oathbreaker’, the lead guitars of ‘Astral Necromancy’ initially stood out to me the most. Beyond their resemblance of meloblack era Ancient and maybe early Octinomos, Hoth‘s grasp of Scandinavian extreme metal rhythms and melodic sense is admirable. In terms of melodic black metal historics Hoth resemble that late-90’s era as Dimmu Borgir hit alongside melodic death metal creating a blur between symphonic, melodic, viking, and black/death metal elements. They’re building a tapestry of those elements and sometimes manage to build upon them heartily within ‘Astral Necromancy’.
Nostalgia becomes slightly intrusive as I listen to any such black metal album with a sound mildly evocative of it’s influences. Rhythms that could fit in Midvinter or any post-Windir band’s repertoire clutter the annuls of my mind with my own reference points and it took a few listens to turn off the ‘comparison generator’ and appreciate the effect of the music. You can decide for yourself if that is my own crazed affect, or the fault of the music’s inherent familiarity. Above all else I entirely appreciate the flowing nature of the tracklist and ‘Astral Necromancy’ excels in passing a torch from song to song. The leads and keyboard/synth work are immaculately achieved highlights for most every track but where I think the experience falls short is in the drum sound which sounds flatly robotic in a few sections. The drum sound is no great issue, though, and only worth mentioning compared to the previous record. “Passage Into Entropy”, “The Gathering of the Accursed Artifacts” and “Journey Into the Eternal Winter” are strikingly memorable and outshine many of their surrounding tracks, leaving me yearning for even more frequent trips to the cusp of that early Månegarm/Thyrfing feeling. So, if I had one real complaint it would be my own expectations of that folk/viking-ish element of the first half of ‘Oathbreaker’ being retained more severely.
As a listener who has followed Hoth‘s holistic progression it is easy to agree that they’ve made a steady amount of progress with each release and ‘Astral Necromancy’ feels entirely preened over and meticulously arranged even beyond ‘Oathbreaker’. The melodies are similarly evocative of their influences yet the songwriting and lead work is increasingly memorable. Within the highly derivative, space-raced realm of melodic extreme metal the details are what ultimately count towards leaving any sort of mark upon the messy minefield of melodic black metal history and this is where Hoth‘s enlightenment shines above groups who merely imitate their favorite bands. As a complete and finely-crafted melodic black metal experience, that rests upon no laurel in 2018, ‘Astral Necromancy’ leaves a fantastically deep impression.
|Released||June 15, 2018|
|BUY/LISTEN on Hoth’s Bandcamp!||Follow HOTH on Facebook|
Belabored by a slow-gnawing truth. 4.0/5.0
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