I’m a dad of two, and I am not a great cook. It is fair to say that when I am called upon to provide sustenance for my two by now not-so-mini offspring, unless it is something that I can break out of the freezer and slap straight into the oven, they are going to reject it. For some time they pretended to play along to my so-called “special stew” – which (and this is a culinary secret) was a whole host of whatever I could find in the cupboards cooked in a big pot very slowly. Sometimes, the ingredients produced a weird alchemy, and we could eat something tasty and edible; sometimes it was a horrible mess and nobody wanted it again.
So why the weird introduction to this album review of Hraun’s debut album? After all, there is nothing to suggest here that the German chaps are in the slightest interested in cooking. Yet, they do have a similar approach to music that I do to the culinary arts; they have a good look out in the cupboards, gather handfuls of musical ingredients and chuck them all in the same pot. Opener “Occult Blood” has an angular take on early 90’s doom/death, bringing to mind the more experimental periods of My Dying Bride. Without warning, “Rituals” takes over, with its early Immortal meets 1349 hyper-ferocious take on black metal. Once the incredible bombast and fury of that sonic attack dies down, “In the Pouring Rain I Lie” emerges, with its late 80’s Goth dark rock and atmospheric, if not Bond-theme-lite chorus.
So far, so discombobulated.
“Seducing Voices” comes next, perhaps the bastard child of old Samael and some of the more churny, stomping -be-doomed moments of mid-period Morbid Angel. “Hamarinn” is the kind of tortured, ultra-sad and ultra-slow doom that used to be produced in droves by Russian doom bands. “Take Back The Light” is a Katatonia track, if Katatonia was being fronted by Darren White from his early Anathema days. Album closer “Through the River” is more filthy, angry black metal wrapped up in an angsty blanket of tasty guitar work.
Production wise, this album is pretty much spot on. There’s plenty of murk and grime around the slow, grief-laden sections, but also lots of top-end shine for some of the discordant but sparkling six string sections. I guess the question to ask is this: does chucking every idea into the pot really work to produce a coherent whole?
Actually, no, not really. I mean, there are a couple of songs here that do sound out of place – to my mind Hraun actually work best when they are ploughing that fertile ground somewhere between doom, goth and death metal. While I am sure they would be able to produce a fine black metal album if they wanted to, the inclusion of it here doesn’t really work that well. I’d rather that the couple of more black metal tracks had been removed to allow for more time for the bleaker music to work its magic.
As it goes though, a promising first album, and I would definitely ask to listen to their follow up.
(6/10 Chris Davison)