Thursday, January 26, 2012
Get Into: Hecate Enthroned
It's been a while since I've done a proper "Get Into," and even longer since I've done one on an old black metal band! Time to get back to what I love.
You've probably heard of Hecate Enthroned, and probably know them as either Cradle of Filth wannabes or just some generic English black metal band. I can't speak to their later material, but lately I've been really enjoying their early shit. Their wordily-titled debut album, The Slaughter of Innocence, A Requiem for The Mighty, is a really enjoyable exercise in the lofty, sweeping, keyboard-embellished black metal of the ancient brood. Yes, Hecate Enthroned owes something to Cradle of Filth, particularly the vocalist's hair-raising shriek (which thankfully lacks the "angry duck" quality of Dani's early stuff), but they seem to have paid just as much attention to the Norwegian forefathers, especially Emperor.
My favorite track by far is album-opener "Beneath A December Twilight." Hecate Enthroned introduce themselves with a brooding disharmonic groove strongly reminiscent of "Wrath of The Tyrant" (in a good way), but just before the 2:00 mark they completely turn around and hit the fucking gas. The drummer drops a charging Slayer beat as the guitarists open up into an exultant harmonized melody that takes a full 8 measures to run its course. This sort of thing pretty much sets the tone for the album, and captures two of Hecate Enthroned's greatest strengths. First, they tend to write thrilling breaks and transitions, keeping the album interesting all the way through even when the guitars get a little same-y towards the middle. Second, they value pure ripping forward momentum, something that was lost in a haze of blastbeats as black metal became a formula. The other brilliant moment in this track, by the way, is 5:35. Just when you think you've heard it all, a crushing, much darker riff brings the song to a whole new level, setting up one of the most dramatic conclusions I've heard in a long time.
But it's the final full track, "The Danse Macabre," that hints at an even cooler Hecate Enthroned sound. Here their melodic sensibility is warped into something far nastier, and you can tell it's drawn from earlier writing sessions. I was curious to find out where the fuck this came from, and checked out their Promethean Shores (Unscriptured Waters) EP. Turns out I may like this even better than the full-length that followed it. This is some sick, primal shit--Second Wave black metal before it stopped drawing strength from the poison wells of death metal. Here, Hecate Enthroned still favor heavy guitars and power chords. They infuse their riffage with darker harmonic ideas, so that some proper dissonance creeps in around the edges, and they play fast sections that rip even harder than those on The Slaughter... The keyboards often provide an interesting extra dimension, instead of simply reinforcing guitar ideas or adding flamboyant embellishments. Every track is killer. I chose the sprawling "A Graven Winter" because it's fucking brutal. But you also have to hear the introduction to "An Ode For A Haunted Wood." So I stuck that at the end here.