I was first introduced to this Greek band via their second album titled “Oi Magoi” and was struck immediately by their uniqueness and their completely off the wall style. So, buckle up as we head down the proverbial rabbit hole to a sonic landscape that only this Greek band can cultivate such is their mind boggling vision.
Classed as black metal generally the band sits in a niche all alone on this third album which will have you scratching your head, raising your eyebrows and generally making you feel very uncomfortable indeed. The six songs on offer range from a sub four-minute opener to ten minutes plus of psychedelic insanity. It is the psychedelic superlative that should have you thinking this is going to be weird, and it is but infectiously so as “I Mean You Harm” starts fairly typically with a melodic blackened structure with a catchy beat similar to Satyricon, but as the tune progresses and the end of the rabbit hole closes the tune devolves into a progressive multi-coloured multifaceted tapestry of experimental dementedness via keyboard additions, electronic effects, etc that were possibly used in the late 60s and early 70s through drug addled album writings in the early trippy rock period.
After the opener finishes things return to some semblance of normality on the title track only for the Hail Spirit Noir landscape to distort again with dream like sequences of percussion and keyboards that feel schizoid and palpably disturbing in a Hawkwind guise. The clean vocal is excellent, almost sang in lullaby tones but with something menacing lurking around in the background when the tone shifts momentarily to a nastier delivery and when acoustic guitar is added the adage of expect the unexpected is completely relevant.
There is a sense of wonder about this release that needs to be taken as a whole rather than as six separate entries into the diagnosis of outright sonic schizophrenia even though every track is completely different to the rest as “Riders To Utopia” offers some respite from the bands unhinged approach to writing songs. The repetitive marching drum beat is linked to a melody that sits comfortably but escalates into lunacy via nightmarish vocal repetitions that leave you gripping onto something looking for refuge. The massive ten minutes plus of “Lost In Satan’s Charms” begins with a fairground melody and radio like vocal style that develops into an augmented style but splashed with various other titbits that reminded me of French wackos 6:33 and I guess a bit of Devin in there too. After a minute or two the track dovetails itself into a more normal melodic black metal posture with a very catchy riff and excellent lead guitar effects. But as you’d expect the tune rarely stays within one aspect for too long before diverting elsewhere catching you unawares which is the beauty of this album that makes it so addictive and hypnotic. Granted there are aspects you won’t like but when you get the whole package it makes perfect sense even if it comes across as being really awkward and just plain bizarre.
The curiously titled “The Cannibal Tribe Came From The Sea” begins with an inauspicious drum beat and fade in guitar that suddenly relents for a vocal diatribe that reminded me of another bunch of wackos called Slagmaur from Norway. As peculiar as the song title suggests the tune meanders through waves of trippy anaesthesia with the dulcet melodies being very alluring in a sinister way of thinking. As the track progresses, it narrows down to a more progressive blackened piece complete with backing effects that are utterly essential to this song as they are for the whole album.
I know this review is long but this album has so much to describe that a typical 200 – 300 word review would be doing the album a serious disservice as the whole epic journey culminates with “How To Fly In Blackness” which begins very serenely like a band playing some soft jazz in an old smoky club whilst sipping a vintage red wine. The vocals only enhance that vision as the guy croons smoothly with a soporific tone that yields to leave a tune intent on totally screwing with your mind, building sequentially for the snarled vocals to make an appearance. The way this album ends is brilliant, as you get a feeling of returning to some semblance of normality via the acoustic guitar thereby retreating back up that rabbit hole.
Quite possibly the weirdest and most divergent album I’ve listened to in a long while Hail Spirit Noir are sonic escapism and any fans of Arcturus, Devin Townsend, 6:33 or even latter era Nachtmystium will have hours of enjoyment with this album as each listen gives you something new to savour.
(9/10 Martin Harris)