Hooded Menace - _Never Cross the Dead_
(Profound Lore Records, 2010)
by: Mark Dolson (9 out of 10)
When I first came across Hooded Menace a couple of years ago, I must admit that I thought the name was bad -- really bad. I know that's not really a fair assessment -- as prima facia as it was -- as there are plenty of excellent bands out there with really bad names: Babylon Sad and Loudblast are just two examples from an ongoing list of many. Because of the name, then, I completely passed up the opportunity to get acquainted with Hooded Menace's debut release, _Fulfil the Curse_ (2008) -- an album I plan on buying soon.

As soon as I finished the first spin of _Never Cross the Dead_, my first reaction was "this is just awesome". I have a penchant for slow doom/death, and immediately I knew this was going to be a great album. So, then, what do you we have here? Well, this second album from the two-piece from Eastern Finland is in the vein of old Anathema (_Crestfallen_ and _Serenades_), Maleficium (_The Illusion of Humanity_), Decomposed (does anyone remember _Hope Finally Died_ from 1993?), and Disembowelment (_Transcendence Into the Peripheral_); however, unlike the aforementioned bands, Hooded Menace's interpretation of doom/death is characterised by some interesting inflections of "dolorous groove", with those languid string bendings and all -- vaguely reminiscent of the easy, depressive but somewhat melodic style featured on Cathedral's _Forest of Equilibrium_ and _The Ethereal Mirror_. Now, I'll admit that I'm one of those doom/death purists who thinks that groove really shouldn't make its way into such a morose and sombre sub-genre, but Hooded Menace are able to pull off the groove in such a way that it still sounds somewhat depressing -- hence the term "dolorous groove". For a great example of this, just listen to the opening of "Terror Castle".

On to some specifics: the music is very slow-paced, with no atmospheric frills like keyboards, violins or piano. I wouldn't label this funeral doom, though, as each song is punctuated by brief pulses of energy (see the middle part of "Night of the Deathcult" as an example); however, these succumb to an overpowering urge to lessen the pace of the songs. Lasse Pyykkö's vocals are of the deep and guttural variety, somewhat like those of Renato Gallin's from Disembowelment. The guitars are low and heavy; not quite sludgy, but close. Jori Sara-aho's drum sound is clear and audible, and not muddy or in competition with the other instruments. The bass is pretty inaudible, as it seems to be just a complement to the guitars, and therefore follows the guitar riffs in an overly faithful way -- but that's fine, as a death/doom band with a bass guitar virtuoso like Jean-Jacques Moréac from Misanthrope would be quite the incongruous affair, wouldn't it?

Well, aside from the band name, I think Hooded Menace are a consummate doom/death band. There's not one boring part throughout the 51 minute duration of the album. So, if you're into some of the bands mentioned above, then definitely head on over to the Profound Lore Records website and order yourself a copy of _Never Cross the Dead_(you can't go wrong, as it's around $10.00).

Contact: http://www.myspace.com/hoodedmenace

(article published 2/5/2010)

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