ThemEarlier in the year, I received a copy of the “Fear Them” tour edition EP which was a wonderful three track teaser and exhibition of what to expect from the full length release which was to follow. Fast forward to late summer, with autumn slowly creeping in, along with the darkness and longer nights, “Sweet Hollow” rears its head. From a band who initially were conceived as a tribute to King Diamond and Mercyful Fate, along with their live work and the tour EP, one thing is clear – theatrical, grandiose and supernatural adventure await. Onwards, into the darkness!

The main theme of this album is the story about a man who has turned to ‘darkness’ to save his family, but as always in these situations, things go rather unexpectedly. With the EP giving a very brief outline of the initial story, “Sweet Hollow” unleashes it in full. A pseudo Psychological thriller with horror and supernatural overtones, all delivered in a dramatic metal fashion is how this story is told.

From blazing metal riffs, laden with intent and atmospheric quality to a rumbling bassline and solid drum beat, giving a sound reminiscent of early heavy metal mixed with elements of proto-thrash, speed and power metal, it’s a real solid musical delivery from start to finish. Vocally, like I mentioned in the previous coverage of this act, it is like King Diamond. Shrieking Falsetto wails, raspy spoken word and plenty of emphasis where needed to add drama to the tale all combine with the music and the chilling samples and effects to create an all round heavy hitting album.

Of course, this overall view and summary of the album would not be complete without any mentioning of specific tracks. “Down The Road To Misery” flows like a turbulent river. Winding and twisting leads in the intro give way to a chilling heavy metal feast of cutting riffs with ominous overtures whilst the short track, “The Quiet Room” is a full on display of theatrical brilliance. Haunting piano melody lines and vocal lines laced with a mournful tone give way to some story telling with a raspy, almost demonic feel. Chilling samples, thundering bass and eerie string effects build it up, giving it a real sinister edge which helps develop the story further from this point. Of course, “Dead Of Night” which follows is an epic performance (Previously covered earlier in the year) and one of the true stand out moments of the album, but the real eye catchers are the surging thrash like “The Crimson Corpse” and the closing track “The Harrowing Path”, which power forward at blistering speed and really help the chilling story come to a climax. [Appears there are 12 tracks but our promo missed off last 2 Salve and When the Clock Struck Twelve.] 

Of course, an album like this has a niche to it. Not all heavy metal fans like the musical delivery in the style of King Diamond and Mercyful Fate. The wailing falsettos, whilst impressive can grate on the casual listener, and it does take a few listens to catch the story properly, but in light of that, there are some great tracks which can stand alone and demonstrate the musical talent and proficiency of this band which does include people who have appeared in Symphony X and Suffocation.

In all, this is a superb release. A real high quality display of cutting edge heavy metal, incorporating multiple genres to give a well-rounded sound. Musically tight, atmospheric and intriguing, “Sweet Hollow” is a place you should visit… Be it at your own peril.

(9/10 Fraggle)