Nostalgia is big business. In the time it takes you to read this, probably a dozen bands have formed out of nothing other than the desperate urge to make something new. Their songs – and most likely their very existence – will drop down a bottomless hole without echo. But a band that put out a single half-decent album twenty years ago decides to dust it off for a handful of creaky “reunion” shows? They get all the eyeballs, all the words, all the adulation, all the (admittedly scanty) dollars.
This isn’t unique to metal, or music, or art, or really anything, and of course it makes sense: it’s infinitely easier to sell someone on something familiar, and even more so when you can tie that familiarity to the (almost certainly false) idea that we were all happier then. We’re all madeleine-sniffing, boats-against-the-tide morons when it comes to managing the swell of our own emotions and the ceaseless march of time. Hell, there’s probably even a German word for “the pleasant twinge of sadness you feel when the first truly cold breeze of autumn reminds you of the emerald green sweater an old love used to wear but now she and it are both gone to some grey place beyond reckoning.”
Proust and Gatsby notwithstanding: nostalgia is poison if it does nothing but ossify a vision of the past that can never be again. But it can also be a creative force – a sharp sting that eventually becomes a dull ache which in turn may stir in you a decision: “No more. The future does not need your stale bones. Put this to rest now and rise again.” This is all a roundabout way of saying that Hooded Menace‘s new album, Darkness Drips Forth, is a great goddamned heavy metal album because its nostalgia is just as much a pitch-perfect homage as it is a call to action.
Hooded Menace (mostly) plays a classicist doom/death of the sort that pretends anything later than 1994 never happened. Some of this is new, however. On previous albums, these Finnish creepy-crawlies rumbled and rattled with a much more cavernous death slant, at times closer to the Autopsy-on-cough-syrup nastiness of Coffins than to the Peaceville 3. Throughout Darkness Drips Forth, the gut-bellows and funeral doom torpor are more frequently leavened with stately, gothic melodies and surprisingly nimble fretwork. It’s all still slow, deep, and hard, but Hooded Menace is more actively stoking the nostalgia fires by approximating a collision between The Karelian Isthmus, Stream from the Heavens, and Pentecost III.
Where those musical shout-outs might seem cheap in other hands, Hooded Menace’s skill and completeness of vision ensures that their nostalgia is the creative sort. By picking out some of the best pieces of heavy metal’s storied past and reassembling them in expertly new compositions, they are equal parts archivist and improviser; these familiar sounds are cut into jutting angles that cast new shadows. Halfway through “Elysium of Dripping Death” (how’s that for a song title, you dweebs?), for example, they break into a melancholy 4/4 straight out of mid-period Katatonia, while elsewhere the profusion of winning, nimble leads amidst the snail’s-pace hammering calls to mind the modernist funeral doom of Profetus. No matter your proclivities, if you have any fondness for doom/death in any of its many forms, Hooded Menace can taste your blood running in the long nights and knows your heart. Who among us will deny that the pinch harmonics in “Beyond Deserted Flesh” are a comfort blanket?
I have a very strong memory of buying My Dying Bride‘s The Angel and the Dark River one summer and very nearly blowing out the speakers in my parents’ car to “The Cry of Mankind.” Rather than helping me to dwell on those times past, however, Darkness Drips Forth sends me out into the world again, ready to make a new story.