Himsa - Hail Horror
Prosthetic Records
Gothenburg Influenced Metalcore
10 songs (46:16)
Release year: 2006
Prosthetic Records
Reviewed by Al

There are a number of things that depress me about the metal scene as we know it today. One of these things is that just about every band that seems to be rearing its head out of the underground quagmire of the US scene these days seems to fit into one of two categories. On the one hand we have the Gothenburg influenced melodeath acts which fail to quite capture the individualism and technicality of their European peers. On the other hand we have the swarms of sub par metalcore acts attempting to emulate the success of bands such as Shadows Fall and Killswitch Engage. There has been such an overabundance of acts of this ilk that have disappointed time and time again that the genres involved have developed a nasty bad name for themselves, something which is not easy to shake off with the unforgiving public.

This leads me neatly on to Himsa, a prospect I must admit I was dreading approaching. My knowledge of the band consisted of the fact that they came from Seattle and played metalcore. At the prospect of another bland ‘my pain is more painful than yours’ grunt-a-thon I felt my boredom levels increase in anticipation. Soldiering on like the trooper I am, I strapped myself in for a first listen and I was shocked. Instead of hearing one of the cookie cut bands I mentioned in my first paragraph, I was met by a sound which successfully fused aspects of both the Gothenburg scene with the better aspects of metalcore to create a delicious blend of sonic bedlam.

Himsa’s sound encapsulates dual lead sections and solos that are not a world away musically from the likes of Arch Enemy. Combine this with powerful riffs and rhythm sections that hark back to Bay Area thrash and vocals which tread the fine line between metalcore and death metal and you have an unexpected and exciting prospect on your hands. The musicianship across the board is well above average, nothing jumps out as incredible but there is nothing that detracts from the listening experience either and some of the guitar work and drumming is more than a little impressive.

At this point to pick out some highlights as opposed to analyze every track with a fine toothcomb. Pestilence, is a storming multi faceted gem of sonic brutality. It features a fantastic shout along chorus interspersed with blistering thrashy rhythm sections and a superb solo. Wither begins with a brooding, melodic build up which washes away into squealing guitars before your smacked head on by a Bay Area sounding thrash fest meets Dark Tranquillity cover band ho-down. It comes off rather well. S.E.M.I.N.A.L. raises the bar to its highest level by blending an uncommonly good main staccato riff with a fine vocal effort that incited the urge to jump around like a demented child with ADD. To be blunt, it lives up to its namesake.

The good however must be washed down with the bitter taste of the bad. In this case Himsa have done two things wrong. The first of which is that they have erred on the side of repetition, particularly towards the start of the album the verses seem to resemble each other a little too much and there is a lack of variation in song structure. This is slightly more forgivable due to their ability to write a good chorus and solos, but it is a negative aspect nevertheless. The other downside is that the album starts off weak. The first three tracks are the worst of the album (bizarrely this includes first single Sleezevil)and thus you have to sit through these before the album develops into something worthwhile. I usually see the opposite of this with an album starting off strong and finishing badly and I’m not sure which is the lesser of the two evils. Suffice to say the skip button has been getting used since my first five listens.

Overall I was very impressed with this effort and it has creeped into my regular rotation. It is undoubtedly a flawed gem but one that at least proves there is hope for the US mainstream(ish) metal scene if bands like this can shake of the shackles of emulation and stubborn adherence to trends and produce something of note. I can only hope they throw a little bit more variance and experimentation into their work on their next effort but they have firmly planted their first foot on the ladder to brilliance. I for one certainly hope they climb it.

Killing Songs :
Pretty much the entire second half of the album
Al quoted 83 / 100
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