Hail Spirit Noir - Pneuma
Code666 Records
Blackened Prog
6 songs (36:57)
Release year: 2012
Code666 Records
Reviewed by Charles
Surprise of the month
Progressive black metal is all quite ho-hum by now, but the idea of “blackened prog” seems a little bit further from the beaten track. To brutally oversimplify, this is a world away from the “post” influences that typically form the route to progress in modern black metal, but rather retro-prog, of the kind Opeth aim for nowadays. This is a niche populated perhaps by Meads of Asphodel and precious few others, but it is one that Hail Spirit Noir, from Greece, successfully contribute to. The occult leanings of 70s bands like Black Widow would seem a close match for black metal at least spiritually, if not musically. And as for the latter, in this day and age who really bats an eyelid about mashing together such diverse constituent parts? Pneuma is an accessible and characterful album which suggests a long and rambling list of different influences but which also finds its own coherence.

Let us take opener Mountain of Horror. The very first bars of the record seem to ape the opening to The Beatles’s I Am the Walrus of all things, with their swooping introductory synth strings, but this transitions into what feels like a more sedate and down-tempo version of Virus, with its jangling, meandering lead guitar riffing. It quickly falls apart into a phase of gnarled, Lugubrum-like black metal scuzz, over which spacey synth solos leap into action. A sublimely warped mishmash, in which the weak link is perhaps the overly theatrical harsh vocals. At other points, the latter adopt a clean tone which comes on almost like Serj Tankian. An example would be Let Your Devil Come Inside, which works delightfully as a tribute to either the folksy occult prog of bands like the aforementioned Black Widow, or the quaint-yet-sinister “folk horror” films of the same era- Blood on Satan’s Claw and the like. Acoutic twanging and whimsical melodies accentuated by neat use of strings and the band’s ever-lurking black metal influences. The latter are here given a Negura Bunget-like quality by quite a nice glockenspiel solo. This might be the first time those last five words have been typed on this site.

Elsewhere, the metal elements become more potent and the “quirky-to-threatening” ratio shifts ever-so-slightly in favour of the latter. Against the Curse We Dream is a for much of its lifespan a more straightforward black metal stomper, though its ramshackle riffing is overlaid by Hammond organ soloing. The thirteen-minute Into the Gates of Time is a tangled epic, at times reminiscent of the brooding melancholia of In the Woods…, though augmented by some really lovely flute lines, which give it a pastoral, otherworldly feel. Everything comes together again with the last song, Haire Pneuma Skoteino, which is a deliberate but effective attempt to create a crowd-pleasing anthem like Hawkwind, with the album title chanted over and over as a chorus, with riffs based around parping organ and jaunty flauting.

It’s far from a perfect album. The more concise tracks work better, and the abovementioned Into the Gates of Time feels over-ambitious and occasionally incoherent. But it is immense fun, and well worthy of investigation by the curious.

Killing Songs :
Haire Pneuma Skoteino, Mountain of Horror, Let Your Devil Come Inside
Charles quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Hail Spirit Noir that we have reviewed:
Hail Spirit Noir - Eden in Reverse reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
Hail Spirit Noir - Oi Magoi reviewed by Charles and quoted 80 / 100
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