If you’ve ever read some of my inane scribblings, you’ll know I’m not at adverse to firing the occasional barb in the direction of the grim, kvlt mob who like to apply corpse paint and scream, and as such it’s a real surprise that I find myself reviewing an album from Dark Essence Records, a label that specialise in such extreme sounds. Even more surprising was just how much I’ve enjoyed it! ‘Over Phlegethon’ is the debut album by Five The Hierophant, and it really is at odds with the labels normal fare, being an instrumental release loaded with an array of sounds and instruments not normally associated with Black Metal and the ilk.

Whenever I listen to an instrumental album, I always wonder what sort of film it could be the sound track to, and with this release, I again couldn’t help but imagine the same, the six tracks each being massive sweeping pieces that evoked a host of images. Opener ‘Queen Over Phlegethon’, (Phlegethon being a flaming river in the underworld of Greek mythology), is a darkly psychedelic trip, combining looping beats from a variety of percussion instruments, mixed with heavily distorted guitars, the fabric of the sonic soundscape stitched through with a wailing saxophone. All I could imagine was Hawkwind after taking the brown acid had jammed together to create the soundtrack for an undiscovered Kenneth Anger Satanic movie, an image reinforced by the spoken words of a stoned underground guru that plays over the top of the end of the track.

‘Vampire’ follows, with the saxophone dominating the opening, sounding positively sleazy over a bizarre bump and grind rhythm, creating a sound that is half seventies blue movie and half retro-Italian supernatural horror; surely the band must have been watching some Lucio Fulci when they composed this piece. Things get even darker and more bleak with ‘Seafarer’, the dark dissonant howls surely being an invocation to summon Cthulhu from his eternal slumber beneath the waves in sunken R’lyeh, and if Alan Moore ever gets to make a film the way he’d like from his Lovecraftean work, Five The Hierophant are ready to step up and provide the sound of insanity such a film would surely need.

Whilst every track on the album was utterly fascinating, the one I was constantly drawn to was ‘Der Geist der stets verneint’. A quote from German renaissance man Johann Goethe, “I am the spirit that denies”, the combination of a tripped out fairground hurdy-gurdy opening that builds into tormented shrieks of musical agony had me imagining Ken Russell at his most over the top and outrageous, obsessively directing an orgiastic biography of the eighteenth century polymath and philosopher in a display of insanity that would make ‘The Devils’ look like Disney at their most insipid!

The music of Five The Hierophant is not easy or light listening, and not really something you could just dip into for a couple of minutes. Rather ‘Over Phlegethon’ is an album that deserves, in fact positively demands to be listened to in its entirety. It is not music that can be easily pigeonholed and neatly defined, the band bringing in such strange and exotic sounds as the tribal beats of a djembe and the mystical bellowings of the rag-dung, next to which the use of bowed guitars and saxophone sound positively mundane. It is a heady mix of Prog, psychedelia, nightmares, and exceptional musicianship that sounds like little else that is out there. For that Five The Hierophant deserve to be listened to.

(8.5/10 Spenny)