[Artwork by Max Rovers]
It would be unreasonable to speak of the debut full-length from Molassess and not make reference to the now defunct The Devil’s Blood. The two are intertwined via four previous members (Farida Lemouchi – vocals; Oeds Beydals – guitar; Ron van Herpen – guitar; Job van de Zande – bass), Through the Hollow ends with a residual The Devil’s Blood song that never saw the light of day, and “Molassess” was the last song TDB founder Selim Lemouchi released (under the moniker Selim Lemouchi And His Enemies) before his untimely death by suicide at the age of 33 in March of 2014. To say Molassess would not exist without The Devil’s Blood is clearly an understatement, but rather than looking at this latest excursion as an extension of the past, it’s perhaps best to view it as a form of cathartic release that in turn ushers in a new era that channels a similar energy while walking its own unique path.
- One copy of The Devil’s Blood – Come, Reap (still their highpoint, in my humble opinion)
- A smattering of 70s’ psych / prog rock (sure, make it Necromandus’ Orexis of Death)
- A black snake’s forked tongue
- A pinch of the modern gothic hard rock swagger that made In Solitude’s Sister and Beastmilk so satisfying
- Goat’s bile
- The 1973 version of The Wicker Man
- Root of hemlock
- The atmosphere conjured and left lurking in the dark after spinning Melissa or Don’t Break the Oath
“Formless Hands,” for example, is a delectably dark encapsulation of what the listener can expect from the overall gist of the record. The song kicks off with a fairly mellow and melancholic guitar and keyboard lick that quickly moves into a hypnotic strut once that pulsing bass rolls in. Farida Lemouchi’s voice is throaty and ominous, and the band dispenses equal amounts of flanged, gothy wooziness and sizzling melody. By the 3:40 mark, things get a little slower, quieter and a bit trippier. That narcotic strut lingers for multiple minutes as guitar breakouts and chunks of spaced-out keys (courtesy of Matthijs Stronks) continue to thread around Job’s pulsing bass and Bob Hogenelst’s steady thump. Once we approach the closing 2 minutes, Farida’s voice ushers back in and becomes increasingly layered during a taut crescendo that culminates with her forewarning that “We’ve all been led astray / an open door awaiting / cut new paths through the maze…Maze…MAZE.”
The remainder of the record does a great job of shifting the mood and pace—from the ethereal, drifting doom of “Corpse of Mind” to the lighter in spirit but still mischievous swing of “The Maze of Stagnant Time” (great snazzy-jazzy piano breakout) to the velvety smooth and iniquitous barroom gloom of “I Am No Longer”—but what steadily dominates the whole of the record is that comprehensive sense of witching hypnotism that soothes the listener into surrender like slipping into a warm, sedative tub. The biggest leap from the pattern occurs with “Death Is,” which scoots at a surprisingly brisk pace with slide guitars and a funky keyboard run that makes it nearly roller skate-ready.
Closing the record with an epic cut like “The Devil Lives” is a baller move. Being an unrealized The Devil’s Blood song, guitar leads play a more prominent role throughout its 10 minutes, but the overall level of hypnotic elevation here is matched only by the degree of absolution and deliverance that must have been felt upon deciding to fine-tune it for their debut full-length’s finale. Suffice to say, it’s a very powerful conclusion to an already spellbinding album, where Farida Lemouchi finds an even deeper level of sulfurous allurement, and the wicked atmosphere is augmented further still through the use of ritual bells, moody organ and heaps of fiery fretwork.
Closure is a complicated path in that it…well, arguably does not exist. Or perhaps it shouldn’t need to exist. Life’s tragedies mark each and every one of us like battle scars, and the hope is that acceptance and some semblance of absolution will eventually grant a level of tranquility necessary to persevere and conquer. By the same token, Through the Hollow does not really feel as if closure was ever deemed a specified objective. Acceptance, on the other hand, and finding a fresh and unique way to express a related energy as the journey continues to move forward? In that regard, Through the Hollow is a triumph that indicates maximum potential for the future.
Rest in peace, Selim Lemouchi.