Canadians Hail the Void reach for metal’s roots, darken skies with swaggering ‘Memento Mori’

Heavy metal used to be a singular thing. At one time, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest and Motley Crüe were all just labeled as metal, and that was the end of the story. Over time as the sound progressed, things splintered, subgenres were created and adhered to, and heavy metal became more of a continent with different countries tied to it. Let diplomacy begin.

Hearing a band like Hail the Void, a trio based in British Columbia, makes me feel for the time when things were just heavy metal, and the rest of the world hated it. This band feels like they are from that era, and while the doom tag certainly can be applied and makes total sense, I see them as pure metal through and through. Ozzy Osbourne’s bassist Blasko got wind of these guys and brought them to the attention of Ripple Music, and I guess he knows what he’s talking about. He does play with this Osbourne guy who has done a little bit for the good of metal all over the globe. So, the band—guitarist/vocalist Kirin Gudmundson, bassist Dean Gustin, drummer Curtis Bennet—benefits from having a hand up, and they fucking hit this thing out of the park, making good on Blasko’s support by releasing the swaggering and infectious “Memento Mori,” their second album and easily their best.

“Mind Undone” is a quick intro cut with buried singing, dissonant sounds, and a slow fade into “Writing on the Wall” that slowly drips open before the pace begins drubbing. Guitars fire up and give off a bluesy smoke, and the ominous singing sinks in its teeth as Gudmundson calls, “It’s so damn cold, you stole my soul,” as the final surges quake the ground. “Goldwater” likely isn’t about the former senator and trickles with dusty guitars and a power surge that gets the adrenaline kicking. Fiery leads take control as the chugging tempo bruises, energetic guitars pulsate, and throaty howls jolt and leave you toppled on the ground. “Talking to the Dead” opens with drums scuffling, the guitars blazing, and fierce vocals registering and ringing your ears. “When you were alone, I bought and sold the world,” Gudmundson levels as the guitar buzz swells, and the final moments rattle bones.

“High and Rising” opens with rains soaking and a spooky ambiance being set, chilling your bones as the track envelopes. “I hope the life you lead is sound, because I’ll run you straight into the ground,” Gudmundson warns as the guitars develop a psychedelic sheen, and the final drops of doom sink into the earth. “100 Pills” slowly thaws and takes on a dour, sinking feeling, with dreamy sentiments mixing with the soot. “I feel my life against the grain,” Gudmundson calls as the agony increases, and the darkness leaves the room on a breeze. “Serpens South” starts clean before the guitars start buzzing, and the verses build on the emotional mound being built. Darkness spreads as the guitars darken and give off tormenting spirits, dripping into pain as the moodiness strikes like a slowly unfolding tidal wave. Closer “The Void” dawns from a fog and quiet guitars, moving like a ghost as Gudmundson calls, “Take me on a trip down below.” The pain never relents, the playing blackens, and the dust fades into the skyline, merging with the horizon.

Hail the Void’s largely traditional doom works on so many levels that it’s hard to pinpoint what they do the best. Perhaps it’s the dark human emotion and relentless melody on “Memento Mori” that is what stand out the most, or maybe it’s their ability to stomp terrain long ago walked by the masters that makes them so effective. Whatever it is, this is a record that scratches an itch a lot of modern bands seem to miss, and the power contained inside leaves an impact you can feel for days.

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