hryreThis atmospheric black metal album draws inspiration from nature and the English countryside, and specifically West Yorkshire whence Hryre come. I use the word “whence” because this is the kind of word that Hryre would use. There’s no plain Yorkshire here but a kind of mediaeval bombast which accompanies the vast scenes which they depict. The sleeve work portrays the world to which Hryre ascend. It’s not mundane and to be honest, it’s not England that I recognise either, other than perhaps some stylised country of yore. My immediate mental and musical image brought up Fen, whose work captures a similar expanse of atmosphere.

This album is divided into two parts: An Empire in Run and Transcendence. I preferred the five tracks, which make up “Transcendence”. It’s all dark, atmospheric, harsh and sinister but the levels of intensity build up as the album progresses. And the intensity is on many levels. It is always moody but as the fourteen minute “Cast into Shade Part Two (Black Sun)” is spine-chilling with its screams over a darker-than-dark backdrop, so “Lamenting the Coming Dread” is tormented, cold and dingy as an awesome ring passes through its centre. Then “Regressed State of Malice” is music for suffering with its fire and harshness, but equally its flow is majestic. And “Return to the Earth” is impressive for its powerful melancholy.

This isn’t to say that the first section is bad. On the contrary, “Alive Beneath the Surface” rises up and down like stormy waves, and dark passages are superimposed on menacingly dark passages, notably on “Plagues on Ancient Graves”. The whole album is weighty and harsh, and pants musical pictures of epic scenes, sometimes through heaviness and at others through quieter and eerie moments. “Cast Into Shade Part One (Farewell)”, the first of the “Transcendence” section, introduces a further dimension with its acoustic and folk-like feel. It is mournful and melancholic, and calls up the image of nature, which is at the centre of this work.

There is one thing I didn’t like about “From Mortality to Infinity”: the spoken word. I am unconvinced by the olde English, in fact I’m not sure that “I stare unwittingly” is English. Talk of temples, and of being “in the haze of euphoric delirium” just sounded pompous and contrived to me. This for me was a transgression but as the narrator tells us on “Cast into Shade Part One (Farewell)”, “all transgressions cease to exist”. “Upon fire may my soul rejoice”, announces the narrator in another Hereward the Wake type moment (yes, I know he was from the East of England and therefore more Fen than Hryre). Fortunately the artificiality of the spoken word doesn’t override the dark magnificence of the music, which I guess they are supposed to support. Far better are the growls, which do work in sinister harmony with the unstoppable fury and fire which run through the work.

So let the music do the talking and create the atmosphere, I say. And there’s plenty of atmosphere here on this impressive debut album from Hryre.

(7.5/10 Andrew Doherty)