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A Hill To Die Upon - Holy Despair review

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Band: A Hill To Die Upon
Album: Holy Despair
Style: Melodic black metal, Melodic death metal
Release date: April 2014

01. A Jester Arrayed In Burning Gold
02. Unyielding Anguish
03. Let The Ravens Have My Eyes
04. Hæðen
05. Nekyia
06. Somme
07. Rime (Jerub-Ba'al)
08. O Death
09. Satan Speaks

This is a band who still know how to make their metal without resorting to keyboard overload. This is melodic, it's death in substance, it's black in presentation and it's A Hill To Die Upon's third successful studio effort, a combination of melodic extremes.

It's quite possible to refer to it as melodic blackened death, although the black metal aspect seems to be just as fundamental in the sound of Holy Despair as its death basis. This album is vicariously melodic whilst benefiting from its shared proportions of death and black metal. A Hill To Die Upon have relinquished their new hybrid sound upon us all, which moves with eagerness and deterministic poise with the controlled strength of both subgenres, but it finds itself best dressed in black. Death personified is typically manifested in black garb, and so it is with this band's third album. Holy Despair is for death itself.

Their stylistic pendulum seems to have swung away from a more melodic interpretation of Behemoth, still carrying with it all the weight of comparable lyrical and thematic trappings, and they've moved further black metal's way. Having said that, death metal remains to serve as the backbone of their sound, and as far as a mix of melodeath and meloblack go, this is actually pretty original. For example this sounds nothing like Dissection, probably THE masters of the blend and a "go-to" band in terms of inspiration, and there's little that would make this outfit directly comparable to any other band that merely toe the melodic line between black and death, without offering any further distinctiveness to it. Set on providing something original, A Hill To Die Upon take a Behemoth-like sound into this field, which at the same time manages to distinguish their style significantly.

I'd say it carries the same riffing edge of Old Man's Child but then again it sounds nothing like that either, as there's not nearly as much thrash or any symphonic elements in the tunes. Holy Despair is mid-paced in tempo but with prolonged blast beats used in a distinctive conjunction. The rhythm section seems averse to rapid speed in its placement before a backdrop of these blast beats, which are continually busy battering away in the mix. More rapidly delivered guitar work is only unleashed when the black metal element leads the death metal punch, such as in segments of the melodic swerving of "A Jester Arrayed In Burning Gold."

Concerning the production there aren't any qualms to note, all the lyrical offerings are wrapped up nicely in this well mastered quality packaging of sound. Instrumentally and vocally, everything finds its place.

Much of the album's variation comes from rhythmic and percussive changes throughout the near fifty minutes of its driving melodic riff work. Each track isn't particularly distinctive within the context of the album overall, pushing a similar sound throughout, but it is by no means lacking in any diversity. The feminine vocals in particular provide a nice contrast to the growls, such as in the metal rendition of the traditional American folk song "O Death," as well as adding emotional peaks to "A Jester Arrayed In Burning Gold."

A Hill To Die Upon have found themselves an individual style in the field where melodic black and melodic death metal are mixed, their efforts in Holy Despair managing to cement their position.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 8
Production: 8

Written on 16.04.2014 by R'Vannith enjoys music, he's hoping you do too.


Comments: 1   Visited by: 131 users
16.04.2014 - 18:28
I had no idea this was finished and soon to be released. Can't wait.
If you're 666 then I'm 777

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