Hooded Menace - Never Cross The Dead

Finland’s Hooded Menace’s debut "Fulfill The Curse" was such a impressive album that i thought it would have to be all downhill from here for the band. How could they possibly follow such up a classic slab of crushing Death/Doom like that. As unbelievable as it is, they have done it with the new album "Never Cross The Dead". Better artwork, better production, chunkier guitar sounds and songs that flow a little easier than the first album makes "Never Cross The Dead" a worthy companion piece to "Fulfill The Curse". The Hooded Menace sound remains intact, Cathedral, the Doom/Death riffing of Asphyx, the atmosphere of early Candlemass, the brutality of Autopsy and of course the love for all things in the realm of obscure cult horror movies. The band led by Lasse Pyykkö on guitars, bass and vocals breathes new life into the Death Metal scene especially for those sick and tired of cookie-cutter bands with pro-tooled fake-ness. Hooded Menace also give Doom Metal a kick in the ass by delivering twisted, deranged inflections of groove into their plodding, morbid mesmerizing slog-fests. Add to that languid string bends, waves of orchestral sweeps, morose roaring vocals and sorrowful melody lines and you have a soundtrack for the morbid and the downright insane.

Starting out with the title track "Never Cross The Dead", the album wastes no time in filling your room with a vibe of deathly woe and torment. The music is punishing with the buzz-saw guitars that slowly cuts away at your flesh for almost 9 minutes. The opening riff is a funeral march to insanity and when the bellowing vocals make their first appearance, the overall effect is one of sheer devastation. Hooded Menace are renown for their haunting grooves but its also the lead guitar work on this album especially that give the band a sinister vibe that is all their own. The opening of second track "Terror Castle" is so creepy, it makes Saint Vitus sound like Motley Crue. While its mostly slow, churning grooves there is the odd burst of energy and "Terror Castle" has that in passages that verge on Progressive Rock. The thickness of the grooves especially at the halfway point to the end of the track are overpowering and just when you think you have heard it all, there is even tortured female screams inserted into the final minute of "Terror Castle" just to add a even more sinister vibe. One of the best tracks has to be "Night Of The Deathcult", it pays tribute to bodily dismemberment not only in the lyrics but also in terms of sound. This track crushes everything in its path and the tempo changes within it are purely inspirational. What sets this album apart from "Fulfill The Curse", is where as that album had the killer guitar sound, "Never Cross The Dead" has a fuller, richer sound from all instruments, no more so than on "Night Of The Deathcult".

"The House Of Hammer" has the strongest melody lines Hooded Menace have ever produced along with a mid-tempo shift into a pulsating groove with guitar virtuoso bits that are way beyond anything found on their first album. "Rituals Of Portal Cremation" has a Doom Metal orchestral vibe that is unlike anything i have heard, while bands like Skepticism come close to it, in my opinion Hooded Menace not only nail the technique, they take to a place its never been before. While its all extremely gloomy, they have a strong sense of Heavy Metal craftsmanship in the way melody lines are delivered. Creating atmospheric music like this without resorting to using keyboards is a achievement in itself and even though the songs are real long, dragged out slabs of morbid deathly doom, they hold your interest right up the last thunderous notes of each track. "As The Creature Ascend" is equally as punishing as anything on the album, seething with threatening malice it takes the Death/Doom genre to its ultimate degree of catastrophic, depressive heaviness. "From Their Coffined Slumber" continues in the same twisting, turning fashion as the previous tracks. Swirling, mutated riffing and the trademark guttural vocals spreading their tales of horror and the morbid curiosity for zombies and rotting flesh in general. Still there is a kind of harrowing beauty behind the wall of sound, like the crunchy, catchy riffing that fills up most of the second half the song. This is infectious while remaining as heavy as anything around in the scene today.

The final track is the biggest eye-opener of the bunch, its the "Theme From Return Of The Evil Dead" and its a monumental tribute to all the "dead" films. At only a tad over 3 minutes long, its the shortest and most direct track on "Never Cross The Dead" but a fitting way to finish this masterpiece. Without a doubt, Hooded Menace are the consummate Death/Doom band, the bar has been set ever higher with this release. Despite the long running times of 7 of the 8 songs, it never drags or gets boring. The atmosphere of the album is maintained throughout without ever getting bogged down by repetition, even the vocals which stay the same throughout the entire album suit the music perfectly. This is a landmark album for Hooded Menace and for the Death/Doom genre as a whole, its also a album you can listen to over and over again. It also presents a problem to me the reviewer, "Fulfill The Curse" got a 9 rating from me which i still think is justified so "Never Cross The Dead" has to get a 10, this makes me want to re-think my whole rating system for albums. Very few albums exceed expectations but Hooded Menace have done just that, in my opinion this is the best album ever made in the Death/Doom genre.

1. Never Cross the Dead
2. Terror Castle
3. Night Of The Deathcult
4. The House Of Hammer
5. Rituals Of Mortal Cremation
6. As The Creatures Ascend
7. From Their Confined Slumber
8. Theme From The Return Of The Evil Dead

Profound Lore Records
Reviewer: Ed
May 19, 2010

Share this: