Your enjoyment of an album likeThe Bloodwine of Satan, the debut album by Canada’s Hostium, depends entirely on how much “type metal” you have or want in your life. Type metal is easy to spot, though it comes in all genres, and can be defined as “metal that is good not on its own merits, but because it meets most of the stylistic conventions of a given genre in a satisfying way.” That is, type metal is comfort food metal.
To put it another way: I don’t think I’ll ever listen to Hostium because I really want to listen to Hostium; I’ll listen to Hostium because I feel like listening to a particular type of black metal. Contrarily: I never listen to Emperor because I simply feel like listening to black metal; I listen to Emperor when I feel like listening to EMPEROR.
Of course, Iron Bonehead is mostly a “type metal” label. Although this leads to a somewhat circumscribed audience, it also means that when they branch out from type (as with last year’s Onirik album or this year’s brilliant Khthoniik Cerviiks album), those branches stand out all the more sharply.
The Bloodwine of Satan, it might go without saying, is not one of those startling digressions. Hostium plays a gleefully regressive, slightly punked-up second wave black metal that flaps and flails and generally has a good time doing exactly what you expect it to. As it is with all type metal, the smallest things are everything. When a guitar solo pops up wildly in “Bloodwine Chalice,” for example; or the twanging bulldozer of a bass tone; or the occasions on which the vocals swing low and disgusting like Wrest on the early Leviathan albums: these are the minutiae by which Hostium distinguish themselves, but it’s all pegged within a very slight range of deviation. “Arcane Deathwomb” is an exemplar, lurching with a classic 12/8 meter that allows for the drummer to blast his kit to pieces while the vocalist stretches out his moaned and spat phrases.
Throughout the smartly concise album, you may hear snatches of Horned Almighty or Impaled Nazarene or Horna or Baptism, but the one true and ancient scripture for Hostium is Darkthrone. “Bloodwine Chalice” might be the best example, as it moves from Under a Funeral Moon grimness to Panzerfaust Frost-y stomping. “Heathen Burial” pulls a similar Bathory-by-way-of-Ildjarn trick as Satanic Bloodspraying, but these moves have coalesced into a type because, by gum, they work.
Based on Hostium’s evidence, this (sadly non-Klingon) bloodwine is a bit like an $8 bottle of cabernet: it’s not quite bottom shelf, it tastes pretty decent if you don’t think too hard, and it’ll get you drunk just the same as a long-cellared Bordeaux. The hangover’s worse here, though: you won’t even remember it tomorrow.