Hoth’s icy, melodic black metal packs riffs into storytelling on stunning ‘Astral Necromancy’

As I write this piece, it’s 98 degrees outside. I’m in Pittsburgh, which only sees temperatures like this a couple days a year, if that, and it’s the third day in a row of its kind. I’m pretty much melting away, and taking a long walk about lunchtime definitely wasn’t a wise choice, as I have been completely dead ever since that senseless venture.

So, it’s weird to be talking about a band named Hoth, which is the name if the ice planet on which Luke Skywalker is trapped at the start of “Empire Strikes Back,” the greatest movie of all time. You know, I thought these things smelled bad on the outside? But this duo’s approach has nothing to do with Star Wars at the moment, though the cosmos plays a part, and what’s on their killer third full-length “Astral Necromancy” definitely is steeped in drama and havoc. Contained on this 11-track, 50-minute album, the follow-up to 2014’s “Oathbreaker,” is melodic, compelling black metal that’s devastating and catchy at the same time. The riffs envelop you like a Tauntaun’s guts, while the non-linear storyline about hidden knowledge and spiritual transcendence keeps you looped into the magic that these guys—Eric Peters and David Dees—conjure on this tremendous collection.

The record starts with killer “Vengeance,” as speedy riffs and creaky growls power the front end, before a blast-furnace chorus strikes, with howls of, “Vengeance against time! Vengeance against memory!” I can’t get it out of my head. Glorious leads spiral and pummel, leading to the end and toward “The Living Dreams of a Dead God” that unloads classic metallic fury. The track chugs along, with the vocals scraping, strong leads dizzying, and more traditional-style playing kicking up dust. “The Horrid Truth” has a fluid opening, with synth flushing and the vocals piercing the flesh. The guitar work shines again, with the track coming to a punishing end. “Passage Into Entropy” bleeds in, with organs flooding, and the band hitting a rock n roll-style vibe as their blackness is unleashed. The track is punchy and rousing, with a killer chorus and the track bleeding out into a haze of keys. “Citadel of the Necromancer” is the scene of a great battle, with riffs chewing, the vocals telling the volatile tale, and some of the melodies feeling folkish, though they remain heavy as hell. The track keeps piling on, as the track ends with defeat, with the howl of, “The necromancer’s apprentice is defeated, left to die in the wood,” though vowing the person will return again. “Ad Inane Precatio” is a quick interlude with operatic-style singing, a passage with a pastoral feel, lending an essence of dark spirituality.

“The Gathering of the Accursed Artifacts” has guitars gently trickling before the gates are blown down, and the playing starts mauling. The guitars mix and leave dizzying ripples, while the vocals are beastly, and the ambiance is cold as deep winter. “Ascension” bursts to life, with the guitars ripping flesh, and the melodic verses amplifying the track’s power. The intensity continues to grow, fed by the fiery riffs, charring before it fades away. “Journey Into Eternal Winter” has a rock-style start, with energetic singing over the chorus, giving it a European beer hall-style vibe as they bellow, “Journey into eternal winter, through white frost and endless cold, in a forsaken place of sorrow, time stands still and silence reigns.” The tempo is bludgeoning but also highly energetic, another example of how Hoth can mix punishment and catchiness into the same package. “The Void Between the Stars” unloads colorful riffs, another dose of classic metal, and the vocals scratching out the story, as the aforementioned vengeance is unleashed. The track eventually goes cold and serene, teasing you with calm as a sweltering solo strikes, and as everything charges ahead, we come to a stunning finish. Closer “Solitude” is a raging fire when it starts, with the guitars punishing, and the creaking vocals flooding. The track gets spacious, as a penetrating pace shakes the earth, the guitars conjure blinding light, and the final lines, “Feeding upon the light of stars, rending all life to empty husks,” drops a final curtain of darkness.

Hoth’s music isn’t making it any cooler around here, but the music on “Astral Necromancy” at least is taking our minds off this as they deliver icy riffs and mysterious storytelling. These guys prove you can do the melodic black metal thing and not sound over-processed nor lack an edge, as their power and fury help them do over the course of this whole record. This is a band that’s been floating under the ground for quite some time, and this record is the one that might help them smash through the surface.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/hothmetal

To buy the album, go here: https://hothmusic.bandcamp.com/album/astral-necromancy

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/EpicurusRecords/

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