There’s never been a more fertile creative period for doom metal than the present. That’s probably true for most corners of metal, but doom’s resurgence from one of the earliest, most primordial of metal styles into a newly diverse, expansive territory has resulted in an impressive number of modern classics. From Pallbearer’s mournful, progressive songwriting to Windhand’s bluesy churn and YOB’s transcendent dirges, a style born of blues-rock has found new life in a generation willing to explore its depths without losing the dark soulfulness of its aesthetic.
Finland death-doom band Hooded Menace have been honing their own Candlemass-inspired juxtaposition of menacing growls and melodic beauty for more than a decade, and they’ve been—to somewhat less hype—helping to transform doom metal into something both breathtakingly ornate and contemporary. Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed, the band’s fifth album, is a continuation along the band’s path of darkness set upon with 2008′s Fulfill the Curse. It’s at once gorgeous and ghastly, juxtaposing some of the most striking melodies in doom today with a slow-moving, painful lurch. The purpose of metal is, of course, to hit the listener like a ton of bricks, which Hooded Menace accomplishes handily. But it’s a pummeling in slow motion, wherein time seems to stand still and one’s surroundings take on a certain quality of curious beauty before the point of impact.
The six tracks on Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed are somewhat more concise than those of 2015′s Darkness Drips Forth—relatively speaking. They still move slowly and gradually, and at no point does the band burn through them at a Buzzcocks-like pace. But only opening track “Sempiternal Grotesqueries” (Hooded Menace enjoy absurdly long, Carcass-like phraseology) feels unusually sprawling at 10 minutes and change. They’re 10 minutes well spent, however, the band’s steadily unfolding landscape of riffs and roars a truly breathtaking one. By comparison, the seven-minute, somewhat more uptempo “In Eerie Deliverance” feels like the band ripping through a single, its crunch more pronounced and gothic atmosphere all the more subtly seductive. But the slo-mo sensibility that Hooded Menace embraces can feel a bit like listening to a melodic death metal album on half-speed; the escalating riffs on “Cascade of Ashes” and double-bass thumps almost seem too perfectly paced to have been performed by human hands.
That Hooded Menace balance so well their more guttural, death metal influence with a doom aesthetic that leans toward the intricate and graceful is what makes them such a fascinating band. Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed is a continuation of a sound they’ve well established, yet it’s executed with alternate grace and ghoulishness that it stands as one of the strongest refinements of their sonic approach. It sounds contradictory to say music that moves this slowly is truly exciting, but then again death-doom is rife with contradictions. To hear it firsthand, however, is to understand how all these paradoxical pieces fit so perfectly.