Håndgemeng - Ultraritual review
|Release date:||March 2023|
01. The Astronomer
02. Cro-Magnon VS Neanderthal
03. Visions In Fire
04. Temple Of Toke
06. Tales From The Thundra
07. Occulation Of Mars
Formed by musicians from the hardcore scene, the Norwegians in Håndgemeng have bestowed the term ‘stonercore’ upon the music they’re currently producing. In truth, there is very little of Ultraritual that resembles anything close to hardcore, but that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a strong addition to the stoner metal scene.
Håndgemeng first appeared on Metal Storm in the March 2020 Clandestine Cuts issue with their Grim Riffer EP. This was the first edition of Clandestine Cuts to which I contributed, and while Håndgemeng weren’t the band I covered, nor were they my favourite of the month’s entrants (both of those roles were filled by Caustic Light from Autolith), I did find them to be one of the standouts in a strong month for the series, and ended up buying the EP. Håndgemeng’s re-emergence with their full-length debut, Ultraritual, serves as the latest frustrating reminder that Autolith still are yet to make the same jump, but it’s always nice to see bands from Clandestine Cuts graduate to full-length status, particularly when they do it as successfully as the Norwegians do here.
That term ‘stonercore’: it’s hard to imagine quite how one could successfully merge the two styles, but sticking hardcore vocals on top of what is otherwise entirely stoner/sludge material isn’t really the answer in my opinion, so I’m going to disregard that label. This is stoner metal with a very occasional dab of sludge, and it continues much of what Håndgemeng were doing on Grim Riffer, albeit arguably with a greater emphasis on mellow vibes. There is strong desert rocking to be found here, between the likes of “The Astronomer”, “Cro-Magnon Vs Neanderthal” and “Tales From The Tundra”, but there’s plenty more here on top of that.
“The Astronomer” has a striking lead guitar opening very much in the vein of “Snakes For The Divine” by High On Fire, but this approach is very much limited to this one song, and the rest of the track does not deliver the high-octane fury of “Snakes For The Divine”, instead delving into cool desert grooves, and psychedelic doom at the end, all with Martin Wennberg’s roars on top. The combination of these vocals with some of the riffs found on the record is at times reminiscent of Kvelertak, but that’s the closest the band really get to hardcore or punk. Instead, “Cro-Magnon Vs Neanderthal” is closer early on to the swell jams of Elder, and there are some lush mellow passages in this track, with Håndgemeng alternating between bursts of fuzzy riffing and more spacious guitar noodling. “Tales Of The Tundra” also features both chilled passages and groovy distortion, including an absolutely boss riff when the fuzz first kicks in.
There was a degree of sludginess to Grim Riffer; this feels far less pronounced on Ultraritual, with only the title track really injecting some sludge into what is still a predominantly stoner base. There is still range within the record, however, even beyond what’s already been emphasized. “Visions In Fire” is slow, doomy and has slight ritual vibes with some of the chanting vocals, in a way that reminds me of Rama at their heaviest. “Temple Of Toke” is again on the slower side, at first plodding along at a measured pace but slowing things down for an emphatic doomy ending. The ambitious 10-minute closer, “Occultation Of Mars”, dabbles in a bit of everything, incorporating mellow jams, driving rock, and big, crushing stoner doom, as well as briefly throwing in a curveball near the end with a short burst of blasting, much like a similarly unexpected dose of intensity in the closing track of Rezn’s Solace.
Ultraritual isn’t a pioneering piece of genre-hopping; it’s very much of an established style. However, that’s not remotely a criticism, as what they have produced feels far fresher than a lot of new stoner metal. I was pleasantly surprised last year when fellow stoner metal Clandestine Cuts graduate Eye Of Doom managed to take a big step forward in expanding their range on their debut album The Sapient, and Håndgemeng have done just as well, if not better, in their own development across the past 3 years since Grim Riffer. If you want to rock hard, bang your head, and space out in equal measure, Ultraritual has you covered.
||Written on 14.03.2023 by|
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