Friday, November 1, 2013

So Hideous - Last Poem​/​First Light (2013)

Sometimes, the best albums are the ones you stumble on unknowingly. We have been fortunate enough to receive promotional copies of albums from all over the world. Some are good, some are not so good. But when we are charged with writing a review for something that was submitted, there is an element of "work" added to the equation. Meeting deadlines, making sure our reviews are as well written as we are capable of, and even using social media to spread our reviews and opinions can be a lot of time and effort. But when you find an album, all on your own, something special happens. Listening to the album, digesting it, hearing it again and again until you have all the information you need to write a comprehensive and informative review becomes fun again. So Hideous can now be added to the short list of bands that have made me sit back in my seat, and just let it all happen around me. Their new album, which was found by pure chance in a routine sweep of the internet, is unlike other things we've heard. "Last Poem​/​First Light" is something special.

Once the first scream washes over you, some five seconds into "Rising," there is simply no going back. You have been washed away in a chaotic sea of blackened drum beats and well utilized keyboards. There is a density to the instrumental here that may seem counterproductive, yet it somehow manages to equate to something far more grandiose than one would imagine. Even when the drums seem out of control, the crying ambient noise always brings them back. The last minute,  with the crackling and humming of feedback seems like the haunting white noise of a dungeon. It becomes a recognizable pattern; building from a whisper, and eventually returning to it. But it isn't all massive kick drums and distortion in between. Beginning with "Stabat Mater," the symphonic element takes on a role of it's own. It sets the stage, quietly, for an explosion of epic proportions. I would be remiss to fail to note the presence of hardcore tendencies in the mix, but their unification with black metal seems almost too good to be true. Each well placed scream adds to the ever deepening soundscape. A magnificent piano outro returns you to that base point, this time erupting with the force of a volcano as "My Light" begins.

The climbing keyboard notes here are incredibly rich, despite being so far back in the mix. Organized chaos reigns supreme, a bombastic sonic assault that runs counter to everything you thought you knew about black metal in all it's forms. To be replaced soon thereafter by a sweeping orchestral melody seems impossible, but they do just that; it is short and fleeting, but a clearer example of black and white contrast would be impossible to find. If there was only one track you could use as a weapon to spread the gospel of So Hideous, "Rhapsody" would be it. The fusion of elements is now complete, finding a striking balance here unlike anything I've ever heard. Whether you find your solace in the neverending battery of drums, or in the atmospheric keyboards that rise and fall behind them, something will catch your ear. It would be a challenge to find a segment of music more compelling than the last minute of this track.

What's even more stunning is the way they follow it. The sound of "Last Poem" is immense; The sound waves would stand a miraculous mile high if your screen could contain them. Every kick drum slams into your skull, every scream rattles your inner ear. But amidst all of that, you can find serenity and calm in the use of strings. You will be swept up in the wonder of it all, captivated by the constant shifting and changing of this single song. When it cuts out to silence, only to return with the most minimal of synthesized sounds, you might be concerned that you've lost your sense of direction. But fear not; it really is every bit as beautiful as it seems. Yes, with the screams, blasting drum beats, squealing guitars, and everything, it is still awe-inspiringly beautiful. How you complete this masterpiece would be far beyond my mental reach. But they do it with ease, allowing "glory" to rise, to build, to take shape, and then to fall. How this combination of sounds works here is a complete mystery, but even note on the keyboard seems to sync up with every kick drum and distorted riff. They all work... somehow.

It's hard to keep all of our label partners and sources straight. Which albums came from who, who represents which bands, and so on. It is up to s to do that due diligence to make all the pieces come together. It's what we do, as music lovers, for all of our favorite bands. So Hideous may have a name that almost told me to shy away, but they have a sound that is now engrained into my head for an undetermined length of infinite time. They have a sound all their own, which is nearly impossible in this day and age. But they've done it here, and in a way that is not only impressive, but exciting. They are doing something outside the realm of any one genre, and they are doing it without hesitation or pause. And in doing so, they have truly joined a very limited list of bands that have redefined a sound or genre for me. Malnatt opened our eyes to what black metal could be. Blizzard At Sea made sludge an office favorite. And So Hideous has now taken symphonic post-black melodic hardcore and given it a face.


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