PICK OF THE WEEK: Hell’s massive fourth album simmers in riffy sludge, atmospheric suffering

There are people who believe we are actually in Hell. Not an earthly existence, not in Purgatory, but actual Hell. Would anyone be surprised? This past week alone is evidence enough for me, a joke of a time period in this country that feels like we are being fucked with by an evil force we cannot seem to overcome. See how that feels like real life?

So, it’s apropos to have a visit from a Hell of another kind, the Oregon-based doom beast that is the product of the elusive M.S.W. We are being served the band’s fourth full-length record, a self-titled affair that also happens to share a name with the band’s debut opus. At seven tracks, 45 minutes, these are the most songs we’ve ever gotten on a Hell full-length, and the running time should clue you into the fact that this document isn’t packed with dirge epics like we’d grown accustomed to hearing. In many ways, the tenets one expects from Hell—somber, draining drone that pounds away at your soul—remain, but we also get thicker sludge, stoner-style guitar riffs in greater amount, and a sense of urgency that’s surprising to hear from M.S.W. But it also makes for the most unique offering in the Hell catalog, and a massive record that’s devastating and molten from front to back.

The 9:34-long opener “Helmzmen” starts ominously, with clips of the mayday call from the Northern Belle sinking in 2010, which already pushes this into darkness. Then, molten, stoner-style riffs kick in hard as fuck, as noise-drenched growls pierce the surface, a heaping dose of sludge crumbles, and a nasty Sleep vibe spreads and kills. As the song reaches its end, the guitars burn, drums devastate, and the thing ends in corrosive bubbles. “Sub0din” simmers in feedback before riffs rise from the ash, and the growls scorch. There is a severe power surge out of that, as the guitars chug and pound, and then atmosphere whooshes in. Creaky growls that remind of Leviathan jab the veins, while sound spreads like illness and reverberates into oblivion. “Machitikas” is a shorter cut, at least for Hell, and it rolls into burly riffs and a face-stomping groove. As the song progresses, it takes on a hypnotic edge that disorients, while harsh, maniacal screams lash out, and the abject heaviness disappears into the fog.

“Wandering Soul” runs 5:09, and it stomps gigantic holes in everything at the outset. Meaty riffs mix with weird voices, and then guitars swirl and create a mind fuck. Things feel like they’re soaring into a nightmare void, and then the hammers drop again. Strange voices echo, panic is induced, and this instrumental comes to a menacing end. “Inscriptus” is a beast, with scathing screams and blistering violence, as voices argue back and forth over the validity of Biblical truth. The shrieking gets crazier, tearing at your ear drums, and while some atmosphere filters in later, this is a beating. “Victus” is the longest track at 12:35, and it starts with slow-driving horror and wild shrieks that tear at the flesh. Noise gathers like an oncoming storm, as the darkness gets to near sun-blocking level, but later the mood changes. Solemn guitars trickle, while strings layer in texture, but later a hole is torn in the center. Gut-wrenching doom levels cities, vocals scorch the flesh, and layered guitars give the final moment an equally sorrowful and glorious sheen. Closer “Seelenos” is an instrumental that cuts right to the heart, as guitars drip and leave black streaks, while a reading of Emily Dickinson’s “I felt a Funeral, In my Brain” sinks this further into despair. Female operatic vocals cut in and swell, while the final moments gently bleed away, unable to heal the wound of vulnerability.

The return of Hell three years after M.S.W. started writing the record and five years since the last full-length could not come at a better time. The world feels like it’s crumbling, humanity is accumulating filth, and existence has never felt less desirable or worthy of the sphere we’re given. Hell pack their music with vitriolic power, and these songs will feel like they’re burning you alive.

For more on the band, go here: https://loweryourhead.bandcamp.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://sentientruin.com/releases/hell-hell

Or here: https://loweryourhead.bandcamp.com/album/hell-full-length

For more on the label, go here: http://sentientruin.com/