Written by: Continuous Thunder
When it comes to doom and sludge metal, I’m beginning to notice that a lot of the bands I tend to enjoy have very few members; often no more than three. I mean, think about it, bands like Sleep, Conan, BlackLab, and Bell Witch all have only two or three members. There are very few exceptions to this rule, and with their latest release, Norwegian duo Hymn stands to reinforce it even further.
Yes, while their logo and album artwork might lead you to believe that they are a black metal band, Hymn is, indeed, a sludge metal band. Breach Us is their second full-length album and their first with Norwegian underground label Fysisk Format. It’s a relatively tight album for the genre with only four tracks clocking in at 38 minutes. But it becomes quickly apparent that this is a case of quality over quantity. And since there are only a few tracks, I think it’s best to break this album down by going over them one-by-one.
Breach Us opens with its title track and kicks things off with some feedback before the album’s three main components introduce themselves in sequence: fuzz-laden guitars, explosive drums, and throat-shredding vocals. The opening riff establishes a sludgy groove for a few bars before being supplemented by the drums, and then vocalist Ole Rokseth belts out “BREACH US!” like a challenge shouted from the ramparts of a city under siege. This combination hooked me in a way similar to the first time I heard Conan. I didn’t know music could be that heavy and still hold so much tension. And, in some ways, Hymn pulls off the same feel. As this is the album’s shortest song, the formula remains mostly unchanged throughout it, with the riffs slowing down and devolving into feedback again at the end.
The next track, “Exit Through Fire,” manages to be even more high-strung than its predecessor and opens with a riff that’s probably the fastest they could go without losing definition in the distortion. They maintain this energy with frantic drum fills and passages of downright propulsive riffs. And then they throw you a curveball about two-thirds of the way through by seamlessly transitioning to a section in 5/4 that’s as disorienting as it is hypnotic. This locks you into a groove and drags you down to the track’s droning conclusion.
Things change up a bit on “Crimson.” The band seems to have calmed down a bit with a slower, almost swaying rhythm, and you’re met with clean vocals (provided by David Johansson of Swedish doom metal band Kongh) that give the track a more psychedelic feel. This is compounded when the track takes an ambient instrumental break. The respite is shortlived though, as the relative peace is broken by a howl from Ole and a bombastic reintroduction of the guitars and drums that is jarring, but oh so satisfying.
The album closes with its longest and most experimental track, “Can I Carry You.” It starts with an off-kilter rhythm and haunting, spoken word lyrics provided by fellow Norwegian noise artist Guro Moe. From here, the track plays out like an extended jam, taking you through various movements that range from furious punk thrashing to syncopated riffing on a single note. This all eventually tapers off to an extended drone and the guitar riffs are replaced with bass riffs. The bass and drums continue to jam over the drone for the remainder of the track with percussionist Markus Støle indulging in some frenetic fills before it all fades to nothing.
As you can probably tell, Breach Us makes for a pretty wild ride and one that impressed me very much. So much that I started looking for Hymn merch during my first listen through the album (unfortunately that involves ordering it from their label’s Norwegian website). I had hopes that 2020 would be a good year for slow metal, and it’s proven to be over and over again (not that it’s been good for much else). If you like your doom and sludge metal with a bit of an edge, I highly recommend that you give this one a try.
Breach Us was released on August 28, 2020 via Fysisk Format
Continuous Thunder reviews even more music both inside and outside the realm of metal on his own blog, conveniently entitled Continuous Thunder. Now that you're done reading this, you should head over there and check it out!
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!