Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hathorious - Beneath The Shade Of Hathor (EP) (2013)

Money makes the world go 'round. We've all heard it before, and we've probably all uttered those words ourselves. Making music is, unfortunately, no exception to that rule; the bands with the huge budgets can often trump much more talented bands on sheer strength of sound alone. Just ask Metallica. So the lesser known acts, those with minimal if any budget must make the most of what they have; be it a computer, laptop, or friend's garage, you just have to make the best of a bad situation. Whatever the circumstances are for Hathorious, an Egyptian band that floats somewhere in the realm of blackened thrash, it may be time to invest in the future of their sound. Their talents are vast, and their vision is undeniable. But hiding all of those intangibles is the one thing we can hear clearly or ourselves; the production. And while you will certainly hear worse this year, maybe even today, "Beneath The Shade Of Hathor" pushes our audio threshold to the limit.

There is no point in masking the obvious or waiting to point it out; the production on the album is mediocre at best. The early moments of "Dawn Of The Ancients" do an admirable job of hiding that fact behind sound effects and a plucked melody. It is a great way to open the album, building a mood that is equal parts ominous, with the rumbling background noise, and enchanting, as the melody floats through the air. But as soon as the album begins in earnest, the mix is hard to bear. Whether it is the recording of each instrument, or just how they are layered together, it becomes increasingly hard to discern one from another. Drums mask guitars, guitars all but drown out the bass, and when played simultaneously, there is little more than a mass of distortion flooding through your speakers. In the few moments where the dust settles enough to make heads or tails of it all, you get treated to a flurry of deft guitar work. Guitarist Alhussin is the band's biggest weapon, despite a chaotic place in the pecking order.

When his guitar is left alone, clean or distorted, he works wonders; the opening to "Glory Be To Osiris" is all the proof you need. But the metallic clang and sizzle of cymbals fairly drowns out much of the remaining work. The chorus hear, a black metal meets thrash affair, might be the best thirty second chunk of full band action contained on the album. But the cymbal work alone becomes the bane of the album at the same time. When tamed and contained, it can be a great accent piece, as on "Abydos," where the machine gun snares find a fitting home. Drummer Tarek El Maghrabi finds a way to exercise his speed drills, and still be a part of the cohesion of the song. Here it is less a question of the ability to record a great track, as much as it is about piecing it together and finding balance. Alternating melodic and vicious segments would be much more well received if the transition was handled with care. Unlike any other on the album, " the closing track "Funeral of Akhenaten" is a down tempo doom march, overflowing with massive kick drums and distortion. As surprising as it may be, it brings the low end into the spotlight for the first time. 

It takes a lot of talent and vision to overcome severe faults in the recording process. A poor mix, lackluster engineering work, or just minor volume issues can take a classic album and relegate it to the land of the mediocre. While Hathorious may not have written the next huge metal release, they certainly envisioned something far more refined than what sits in mp3 format on your hard drive. The mixing issues alone make this album difficult to listen to in one sitting, for an audiophile, or someone with a sound system they are particularly proud of. The cymbal sound alone taints a large proportionate chunk of the album, much like the snare sound of little Lars Ulrich did to the steaming pile of manure that was St. Anger. By no means is this as big a faux pax as that was; not when millions of dollars were involved in a single recording session. But for Hathorious to get any better, they will have to start from the beginning, and treat the recording process with more attention to detail. That, or "Beneath The Shade Of Hathor" become the first in a line of production failures.


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