Some albums thunder towards you like a line of fully-plated cavalry with armour and shining swords flashing in the blazing sun, while others prefer to sneak up on you from the shadows. Labyrinth Entrance – full marks for a great name – belongs to the latter school of musical combat. This tarnished gem is the first album by Polish enigma Hunger – also the bassist for black metal band Stillborn (worth checking out if you feel like most black metal these days hasn’t reached your preferred levels of eyeball-exploding intensity) – but there is no hint whatsoever that this is some kind of test run. Rather than going full-on one man black metal band and delivering a meandering windblast of yawnful proportions, Hunger has crafted a beguiling and stealth-ridden piece of charred death metal that mixes some clever tricks and frolics of black metal with some of the damnedest, grooviest and coldest death metal I’ve come across.

The first track is a bit of a scene setter – an eerie film soundtrack event that sounds a bit like someone cleaning grandma’s front door steps while clinking some chains and making the odd grunting sound. Nothing new there, you might say as you gaily reminisce about the last time grandma forced you to do the cleaning gagged and tethered in chains. And, indeed, the first teasing riff still holds nothing particularly new – grinding and roiling against some extremely guttural vocals. But, barely perceptible, the progression alters slightly, becomes a little more controlled and Labyrinth Entrance begins slowly but surely stepping up the pressure.

While you could argue that things take a little longer than they should from that point to reach the point of simmering hostility that Monumental Bitterness has to offer, there’s still fun to be had on the way. Shimmering riffs, hypnotic effects and a nice headbanging break for starters, before the main event kicks in and Canto 3 – otherwise known as track four – erupts, as the raging vocals and infectious riffs take hold of proceedings like a rabid ringmaster egging on calculating, salivating wild beasts and then morphing into unadulterated bliss. The mid-paced blackened death metal – which always maintains intimidating levels of psychotic self control – reminds me of Vanhelgd or a more blackened version of Asphx. But here the perfectly constructed riffs are often provocatively simple and benefit from hypnotic, circular repetition and shifting progressions.

The final furlong of the album steps things up further – as Labyrinth Entrance begins to press harder on the pedal. Drifting between violent thrashing and eerie, drifting black metal the penultimate track then gives way to an all consuming thundering vortex that, unsurprisingly by now, even has room to squeeze out a last spasm of blackened death metal just when you thought things couldn’t get any more intense. Top stuff and well worth checking out for all those that like their death metal black to the core and driving like an out-of-control snowdozer packed with six inch spikes and high explosives.

(8/10 Reverend Darkstanley)