HAIL THE VOID – Memento Mori (2023)REVIEW

It’ll take more than thoughts to separate me from my neck. The body is heavier than flesh in its resignation and the weight’s in the rope, anyhow, all the balance in the hitch of the noose. Chances are the trap door hits and it comes flying off, catching absolutely mediocre air for seconds. An unspectacular, bloody thud. There’ll be more gasping, more choice spectacle to be found within the distraught gloom-tones of Victoria, British Colombia-based stoner/doom metal trio Hail the Void‘s return for a second full-length as it manifests in mind. An experience meant to hang in the air, thick with atmospheric dread yet built for loosing into the expanse with umpteenth generational doom intent. ‘Memento Mori‘ sinks in as psychedelic/stoner doom metal which accepts, relishes in the end and the abysm of the ‘self’ without irony. Rather than protest the inevitable hand of Death any longer they hold it, staring longingly into its sparkling sockets.

Hail the Void‘s sound has refined more than it has evolved in the couple year interim between releases with their efforts affording a much more precise, professional production value as this second full-length expands on the hi-fi psychedelic doom/stoner metal affect of the band while leaning heavily into a freshened realm of miserable, captivating gloom. The late 90’s Acid King feelin’, wah-pedal maxing style that’d impressed on their first record (‘Hail the Void‘, 2020) has been burnt down to its essence and now bears a stature much closer to Windhand‘s earlier sound per their debut and especially the warm, buzzing psychosis of ‘Grief’s Eternal Flower‘ on this second record. Leaving behind the raw mid-2000’s Electric Wizard fuzziness and stringy stoner metal bustle found on their self-titled debut helps to emphasize the chilled yet affected side of vocalist Kirin Gudmundson‘s presence who’d been otherwise Liebling-esque on the previous album. Though this zaps the over the top feeling one might get from a comparably hypnotic record from a band like Spelljammer, the trade off is a tuneful and approachable record which still feels like it embraces dread, the horror of existence with open arms.

Some considerable part of the ‘Dopethrone‘ generation still manages to shine through as a righteous balance between tunefulness and the utter dark ensures you’ll still feel the DNA of that now distant world as the main rhythms of key single “Talking to the Dead” fire up, and soon after the creeped captivity of “High and Rising” pushes things along that same hallway of dread. You’ll find the vague signature of Hail the Void in those two singles, and a pretty solid sell on the vibe of the album up front, though I’d argue there are bigger, badder moments elsewhere on the full listen. “Writing on the Wall” approaches with its morbid, horrified mumbling already setting the mood and the wailing register of Gudmundson isn’t far behind, in fact that’ll have to be the major point to make up front: The fellow has gone from an ordinary asset to a veritable multi-tool’d arsenal on this record when it comes time to analyze ‘Memento Mori‘ for its expressive qualities. In most every sense we are getting the blues, haunted by Staley-esque harmonies, capable of prime anthem-era Danzig yet inspired by the cadence of Jus Oburn and occult rock in general the doom metal tune is so rarely carried with such power and consistency as we’ll find on the defiant moodiness of “Goldwater” through the deeply disenfranchised “100 Pills”.

There’ll be no need for a full on track-by-track event here, the mood of ‘Memento Mori‘ is consistent in setting out to pulverize with heady doom metal up front and this means the first five pieces, beyond the pointless intro of “Mind Undone”, are all hits lined up in a row. They’ve gotten the budget, the idea, the mood in mind and all of it comes together for a standout roll through slow, sombre defiance of existence which reads as proper psychedelic doom with a bit of an occult rock edge minus the camp one might expect from said qualifier. The leads once again set off what Hail the Void do, the riffs are big yet traditional in their spaced sojourn and the production values are frothed with sublime dread-tones yet (again) the vocals send this sophomore LP into orbit an far away from typical stoner/doom metal tussle for my taste. The average listener will surely know what this is, understand the motions of this style of doom and its sonic glory yet the most consistent pull I’d gotten from ‘Memento Mori‘ is its expressive, dramatic qualities and how well this sells the whole gig as a point of great interest. A very high recommendation, even if the “stoner” tag wilts the argument for some the doom metal fan will happily sink in quick.

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