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Hail Spirit Noir - Fossil Gardens review

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Band: Hail Spirit Noir
Album: Fossil Gardens
Style: Blackened progressive metal, Psychedelic rock
Release date: June 2024

01. Starfront Promenade
02. The Temple Of Curved Space
03. Curse You, Entropia
04. The Blue Dot
05. The Road To Awe
06. Ludwig In Orbit
07. Fossil Gardens

The progressive nature of Enslaved, the exploratory nature of Dødheimsgard, and the psychedelia of Oranssi Pazuzu. And yet Hail Spirit Noir have never been about sounding like other bands, and Fossil Gardens is no exception.

I do remember there was a time when Hail Spirit Noir was an up-and-coming band, when Mayhem In Blue brought me along the hype train and made "I Mean You Harm" one of my most listened to songs of that year. I know I wasn't around from their very beginnings, but it's always a bit of a shock for me to put the passing of time in perspective, and to think that it's been seven years since the only time I saw that band live (which was sadly an experience that stood out not only because of it being a black metal festival held at some thermal gardens during a heatwave, but also because I regret being too inebriated to enjoy the experience). Comparisons like the one I made in the teaser obviously make some sense, especially up to that point, because Hail Spirit Noir's psychedelic progressive black metal didn't spawn in a void, but also they had an air of authenticity from the start. They created an original sound from what was already out there and developed it over three albums.

Tracing the band's trajectory since then is interesting, even for as short of a period as it was. Not to say that no changes in sound happened on the first three, but that genre consistency would be challenged by Eden In Reverse, which subdued the black metal elements to focus on the prog and psych sides of the band's sound, at times almost being more of a rock album than a metal one. The subsequent Mannequins was an even bigger jump towards a completely different genre, and having a synthwave detour is nice and I'm sure it appealed to a lot of people and made the already strong connection between the two genres even stronger. Even though it was clear that Mannequins would be a detour instead of a shift in sound, such a thing wasn't clear about Eden In Reverse.

Somehow my first reaction towards Fossil Gardens wasn't even close to "they brought back the black metal". Something about the listening experience was so good that it somehow washed the memory of its absence on Eden In Reverse, something I only realized upon a subsequent discography binge. Even as a reintroduction of the black metal side, it doesn't feel like a return to the band's older sound, even with all the elements still there. Somehow the psychedelia changed shape from something more playful towards something that feels spacious in the same way that, as much as I hate to bring up another band again (though in my defense they literally have them as a tag on Bandcamp), Dødheimsgard's Black Medium Current did. It's cleaner in production, a lot more focused on creating an atmosphere, and with its avant-garde side a lot less focused on tackiness.

Fossil Gardens's pristineness makes it pleasant to listen to in a way that doesn't feel sterile, maintaining a dash of a psychedelic vibe. I was curious to see if they'd apply what they learned about synth soundscapes on Mannequins here, and while none of it feels specifically synthwave-ish, a lot of the album's spacious feeling comes from the way the synths are used. And perhaps my lack of surprise at the black metal elements comes from how well integrated they are with the rest of the sound, how they sometimes sound closer to something more in line to traditional melodic/atmospheric black metal, and how a lot of the album's most memorable vocal lines come from clean vocals. And "Ludwig In Orbit" might just have became my favorite interlude, and I won't spoil the surprise of its sound.

Written on 04.07.2024 by Doesn't matter that much to me if you agree with me, as long as you checked the album out.


Comments: 4   Visited by: 67 users
05.07.2024 - 18:31
I Mean You Hard is certainly the best typo I’ve seen this year
05.07.2024 - 18:48
Written by Vellichor on 05.07.2024 at 18:31

I Mean You Hard is certainly the best typo I’ve seen this year

Oh God, I'm tempted to not even fix it
Do you think if the heart keeps on shrinking
One day there will be no heart at all?
07.07.2024 - 12:16
"If I told you I could take you to a higher place, would you come with me?
Would you depart this world for a journey towards spacelessness?"

The lyrics in the beginning of the title track say everything about the album. The first line was also used on Transcending Bizarre?'s track "X_xx_X".

Your intro is spot on. I also agree with the DHG-Black Medium Current comparison, and with "Ludwig In Orbit" being a superb interlude.
08.07.2024 - 10:32
delicious dish
Yeah this sounds very different to what they did before. They already had mellowed out a bit with Eden In Reverse being much calmer, but this one goes to new lengths with its focus on atmosphere over the whacky hijinks of the first 3 records.
For that it's much harder to take in, because songs really do blend together much more.
When I heard Mayhem In Blue in 2017, my reaction already after I Mean You Harm was sort of like "Maybe I don't need to kill myself ", meanwhile this is like gazing out the window in a cold morning, seeing the sunrise and going "It's... it's fine...."
You are the hammer, I am the nail
building a house in the fire on the hill

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