[8th January 2013]
01. Black Shrouds Of Dementia
02. Murder for The Masses
03. Slaves To The Atom<
04. The Outer Limits
06. The Strain
07. The Coming Doom
08. Towards The Within
09. Suffer As One
10. At The End The Dead Await
In essence we’re dealing with a chunk of Swedish black metal with a deep dark sludge tone. I did an experiment once, when I still ran Death Metal Baboon, and the result is surprisingly much alike Hopelorn’s From Withered Branches‘ record. Imagine a piece of typical slow-ass sludge with its characteristic heavily distorted guitars and then speed it up by a factor of three or four. That’s it. Hopelorn.
Hopelorn is the musical offspring of a man named Rami Stålnacke, who’s solely responsible for all vocals and instruments – that is guitars, drums and some atmospheric keys – if there is bass, I’m not hearing it in his work. After starting out his project in 2008 and releasing two roughly half-hour long EPs, From Withered Branches is his first proper-length studio effort. It’s eight songs and well over forty minutes of surprisingly pleasant barge-on black metal.
Listening to From Withered Branches, ‘refined’ isn’t the first descriptive term to come to mind, most notably due to Stålnacke’s ham-fisted but hooky riffing and drumming style. It all just runs along without any form of rhythmical groove or variation. Steady, staccato, axing are terms that spring to mind. However, there’s a whole lot more beauty in its simplicity than one would expect. Most notably this can be attributed to a certain melodic allure that more than balances out said straightforward musicianship.
Perhaps it’s my usual focus on music, perhaps not, but Stålnacke’s vocals demand very little attention. They’re definitely not too soft in the mix – instead, I find it rather pleasant – but perhaps the man’s style just integrates really well with his other efforts. Style-wise he’s primarily screaming his lunges out, though some low-end growling may be detected on rare occasions as well. Most invigorating is the almost orthodox-Russian styled clean male singing on “Reclamation“. It’s incredibly powerful and memorable, despite that it has only seconds to shine.
Unlike black metal in the tr00est sense of the word, there is no hope-depriving atmosphere full of devil-chords and screeching tunes. On the contrary, I find most of the songs to induce something that could actually be reminiscent of hopefulness, or is at least positive. Not the first thing one would expect in black metal for sure. But, what does make it distinctively black metal, is the record’s raw-ass production, speed of playing and black-and-white look and feel. Distortion, as indicated, is a key feature of the album and combined with a mixing style that turns results into a thick, slurry paste of sound makes for something that’s undeniably going to make your mom cry.
Adding up the total, Hopelorn is a bit of the odd-ball out in black metal and it’s a pleasant change of scenery. From Withered Branches is a record best blasted loud – like most metal – and enjoyed in good spirits. It’s energetic and catchy and a marvelous achievement for something that is as inherently raw and colorless as it is. Mr. Stålnacke has a knack for it and is one to watch into the future.