Halloween is this Saturday, which means you need a soundtrack for the kiddies that’ll be gracing your doorstep for tricks or treats. Hooded Menace try to fill that role with their fourth full–length, Darkness Drips Forth. Over the years, the band has carved a niche with a ruthless strain of death and doom metal, but this time out, they push melodicism to the forefront — a move they’ve hinted at in the past but never fully realized. But unfortunately, that adjustment turns out to be the proverbial thorn in the album’s side.
On the band’s previous output, the focus centered on headbang–worthy death metal tunes over molasses slow pacing. But the key was the band’s ability to keep things taut; on each song, they got in, slayed and got out. This time out, the slow and methodical pacing is still at the core but the immediacy is gone. The album’s four tracks — all at least nine minutes in length — tend to feel even longer than their run times suggest. The eleven-and-a-half-minute “Elysium of Dripping Death” opens with lumbering doom, but doesn’t get moving until close to the halfway mark. Once it does, fatigue has already set in and the strangely uplifting guitar chords seem aimless, meandering even.
Much the same can be said for two of the other tracks. Save for a few well executed solos here and some solid bottom heavy bass work there, the outcome feels like a significant step back from their past work. There are many acts succeeding with melodic and melancholy structures right now, and Hooded Menace doesn’t do a ton here to stand out as memorable or unique. At least the guttural vocals keep things from getting completely stale.
Album closer “Beyond Deserted Flesh” finally hits the mark, though. Here, the band abandons the monotony and comes away with something more closely resembling their previous material. Drummer Pekka Koskelo’s double-kick opening sets a galvanizing tone from the onset, while vocalist Lasse Pyykkö delivers his best, most guttural vocal performance of the album. It’s the only true home run of the bunch.
Also missing this time out is the raw and dirty production that made past albums Fulfill the Curse and Never Cross the Dead such beasts. The cleaner mix on display here would be better suited to traditional doom, and simply doesn’t work for Hooded Menace. The otherwise vicious low-ended guitar tones get their nuts clipped throughout as a result.
Overall, Darkness Drips Forth is a surprisingly lackluster effort from Hooded Menace that will likely fade from memory fairly quickly. There’s just not enough of the unique brand of death-doom savagery we’re used to from them. Had the first three tracks closely resembled the last, though, it might have been a different story.