Oct 132011

I’ve been meaning to write something about this Illinois band since  NCS reader Austin sent me a link to one of their songs a couple weeks ago. Today seemed like a good day to do it, for reasons I’ll explain later.

Their most recent album, Omens, was released in June of this year and followed their 2009 debut album Infinite Titanic Immortal. The core of the band are two brothers, Adam Cook (guitar, bass, lead vocals) and Michael Cook (drums, backing vox). Even before listening to the music, I was struck by the eye-catching cover art for the two albums. The cover of the debut is above and you can see the cover of Omens after the jump.

The two-headed eagle can mean many things, but among others it connects (in my mind) to the imagery of Polish death-metal heavyweights Behemoth because AHTDU’s music reminds me of that band. So far, I’ve only listened to a handful of songs from the two albums, but from what I’ve heard, the music has a similar imperial weight and obsidian edge. The band deliver heavy, crushing rhythms with a controlled, martial drumbeat; fat, groaning riffs augmented by bursts of rapid-fire, blackened-thrash leads and slithering solo’s; and predatory, lionine vocals. (more after the jump . . .)

The band also list Old Man’s Child as an influence, and there’s a stylistic resemblance in the music to the work of that excellent band, too, with AHTDU perhaps falling in between the musical realms of OMC and Behemoth, without coming off as a clone of either one. Comparisons aside, A Hill To Die Upon are solid practitioners of blackened death metal and a band to watch.

I’ve got two songs to share with you. The first is a track from the debut album, and after that is a song from Omens, which is available for free download on the band’s Facebook and ReverbNation pages. I like both of these songs a bunch.


[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/02-Prometheus-Rebound.mp3|titles=A Hill To Die Upon – Prometheus Rebound]


[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/A-Hill-To-Die-Upon-Darkness-That-Can-Be-Felt.mp3|titles=A Hill To Die Upon-Darkness That Can Be Felt]

To follow the doings of AHTDU and stream more music, you can find them on Facebook here or on ReverbNation here. Both albums are available for download at Amazon mp3 and iTunes.

I’ll also mention, before someone else does, that despite their trappings of black metal, AHTDU is a Christian band, by which I mean the lyrics have a Christian focus. Normally, I wouldn’t mention this, because when I size up metal, the music comes first, the lyrics are a distant second (and only when I can hear them, which is not often), and the personal beliefs of band members (with rare exceptions) aren’t even on the list.

To me, the fact that AHTDU has a Christian lyrical focus doesn’t make the music any better or any worse, no more so than the anti-Christian lyrical focus of Archgoat — the subject of today’s first post — either improves or detracts from the sound of their grisly music. For that reason, I thought a feature on AHTDU might be a fitting bookend to the post about Archgoat. And for a similar take on the appreciation of metal, but coming from a Christian perspective, check out this thought-provoking piece that SurgicalBrute sent our way in one of yesterday’s Comments sections:


But I know the lyrical themes of music do matter to some metalheads, as do, at least in some instances, the beliefs of band members. Maybe you’re one of those people. If you’ve got any thoughts about this subject, that’s what the Comment section is for.

Finally, since I’ve now got Behemoth and Old Man’s Child on the brain, along with A Hill To Die Upon, I might as well turn this into a mini-mixtape and throw a couple of their songs your way, too:


[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/01-Chant-For-Ezkaton-2000-e.v.-Explicit.mp3|titles=Behemoth – Chant For Ezkaton 2000 e.v.]


[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/01-Slaves-Of-The-World.mp3|titles=Old Man’s Child – Slaves Of The World]

UPDATE: I failed to mention that the stunning cover art for AHTDU’s debut album is an original commissioned painting by a Serbian artist named Bogdan Amidzic, who’s got a MySpace page here:


AND, I discovered that the cover art at the top of this post is only half of the complete painting. Check it out:

  55 Responses to “A HILL TO DIE UPON”

  1. I remember seeing this album cover one time in a magazine…totally badass

    • I just updated the post to identify the artist and to include the entire painting from which the cover was excerpted. I assume this wraps around the back of the CD, which would be very cool.

  2. Yay! A HIll To Die Upon! I swear I’m not bullshitting you, but, like the Horde, this is another band that I got familiar with from the local metal scene in Illinois (the Horde actually played at A Hill To Die Upon’s release show for Omens). I’m friendly with the drummer; he goes to a school not very far away from mine, and he and I have run into each other a few times. I’m a fan of these guys, their stuff is pretty excellent.

    As far as lyrics, the only time lyrics and band beliefs are an issue is when it’s NSBM. In all other instances, good music comes first. Hell, I’ve even been known to listen to worship music from time to time, and have played guitar for the worship portion of my college’s IVCF (InterVarsity Christian Fellowship), despite not being a Christian. I will say, however, that I find I can get more into Satanic lyrics than Christian lyrics. When it comes to music that has some kind of religious influence, part of what I enjoy are the lyrics of praise and glorification, especially if they seem to come from the heart, and while I’m not a Satanist either, I feel more (Comfortable? Connected? I’m never sure of the right word to use there.) with Satanic lyrics than I do with Christian ones. Cliched though it may be, I appreciate the idea of Satan as a metaphor, but I can’t find anything metaphorical in Christianity. It also might just be an appreciation for darker themes and subject mater as opposed to light ones.

    • Seeing The Horde and A Hill To Die Upon on the same bill would be quite something. Cool that you’ve got connections to both bands; they are both deserving of a lot more attention.

      As for lyrics, apart from the fact that they’re unintelligible in most metal I like, when i do track down lyrics to metal songs, I generally find that they’re atrocious — often as bad as the music is good. Literary skill and musical skill clearly don’t go hand in hand. So I’m quite happy to just jam the music and remain blissfully ignorant about what’s being sung, and have the voice simply function is another brutal instrument.

      • Ashes of Avarice is another good band from that area, and the drummer from AHTDU and the vocalist from AoA both play in an equally good band called Awaking Leviathan. They’ve both got music up on Reverbnation, I think, and they’re both on Facebook.

        For the most part, I agree that metal lyrics are terrible, but when they’re good, they’re REALLY good. Watain and Funeral Mist are prime examples of this; those are the two main bands whose lyrics add a lot to the listening experience for me. I also like later Marduk’s lyrics, especially ROM 5:12 and Wormwood. I don’t know who mainly writes the lyrics to those songs, but they’ve taken a definite upturn since Mortuus joined the band, and I can definitely see his influence (between that and Funeral Mist, he’s probably my favorite black metal musician).

        I also find that when I like a band’s lyrics, they tend to be black metal. 99% of death metal I listen to, I have no idea what they’re saying, and I don’t really bother to find out.

        • I confess that I’ve rarely looked at any black metal lyrics, but I’m a fan of all those bands you mention, so I’ll give it a shot. Also, thanks for the tip on Ashes of Avarice and Awaking Leviathan.

        • My biggest problem with Marduk is the fact that one of its members is proud that his grandfather served in Germany’s military during WWII, for some reason anti-Semitism isn’t like anti-Christianity to metalheads in that, it’s popular to hate one, but not the other. Maybe because the rise of Hitler and the execution of the Holocaust made racism “uncool” (yes, racism was the “cool thing” around that time period, I find myself comparing that to how metalheads feel about deathcore/metalcore/nu metal: the “cool thing” right now is to hate those genres).

          • I’ve read that interview, and it’s a pretty old one, so I like to think that he’s changed his views with age. He’s also on record as saying “You believe a lot of things when you’re seventeen” (not in response to a question about anti-semitism, but still, it gives me hope that he’s mellowed out a bit).

  3. Great band. I first heard them the same time I heard Slechtvalk, on a MetalCast episode highlighting Christian metal.

    I share your perspective on lyrics (I actually prefer non-English lyrics), although I am sometimes interested in learning the viewpoints of different musicians, in an intellectual sense.

    • I guess I’m repeating myself from the comment above, but I love harsh vocals for reasons that have nothing to do with what’s being sung, They function as another musical instrument, conveying a sense of mood and emotion (and maybe danger), but not much else, which is just fine. I’m a big fan of non-English lyrics in metal, too. They don’t detract from my appreciation of the music since I can’t understand most of the English ones anyway, but they add a different color and even exoticism. And now I need to go check out Slechtvalk. That’s a good throat-clearing name. 🙂

      • I like harsh vocals as well..much more than clean ones. Its the way the rhythm of the vocals blend into the music that create that heavy feel I enjoy in music

      • Yeah, I pick up on the emotion and musicality of the vocals more than anything else. The human voice is the most versatile instrument there is.

        Slechtvalk review here, if you’re interested. Kind of like Dimmu Borgir meets Amon Amarth–epic and easily accessible.

        • I just read the review — and I was already sure, based on it, that I would like the music a lot. That was confirmed after I listened to the song you featured. Really good. I’m getting that album.

  4. I was checking out a band from the Czech Republic called Stigma. The lead vocalist is a woman with a really impressive growl. The thing is you can understand her, and despite the music being pretty good, I kept laughing/cringing at how awful the lyrics are

  5. I have no problem with people who want to use music to profess their faith. The thing that I can’t rap my head around is picturing the icons of the Christian faith even coming remotely close to liking extreme metal.

    To me metal is all about a powerful, violent expression for an aggressive, dark artform. Christianity just doesn’t project that image to it’s followers. Old Testament Judaism maybe, but not really. New Testament Christianity is a big no. And it’s not just Christianity, but any pacifist religion. I can see the pagan religions of Europe and Asia and metal mixing. They were very violent religions. Satanism and metal go together like water and blood. They are both violent and dark. Christianity and the pacifist religions are all about the light.

    To me, metal is and always should be the dark art to balance out the light. Trying to mix a dark art with a positive light just doesn’t work for me.

    • The old testament isnt serperate from the new testatment..its one whole religion. Yes it was taken from Jeweish beliefs, but you cant really seperate it like that. The new testament needs the old testament
      Also Christianity isnt really a religion of pacifism..peace yes, but they will fight for what they believe…even Jesus showed anger and some violence towards the tax collectors in the temple
      Finally..Revelations man..the most metal thing in the Bible

      • I hear what your saying. In my opinion, the precepts are based on peace and pacifism. It may always not be practised that way.

        I also have to disagree with you about the Old Testament. It has been the insipiration for metal lyrics for a long time, becuase it is a very dark piece of work that includes murder, geoncide, infanticide, rape and a whole list of other really nasty things. I think the Old Testament and the New Testament represent two distinct periods. The Old Testament is the point were God lost his cool with the world and decided to teach it a lesson with severe punishment. The New Testament is about an older, more level headed God that wants to help by showing humanity the way to salvation instead of beating the way to salvation into humanity.

        Every religion has a myth about the end of existence. And they are all metal as fuck. Because it’s all about DESTRUCTION.

        • Testament rule.

        • Oh they are distinct periods no doubt, and you can have the Old testament without the New Testament (Judaism). You cant sperate the New Testament from the Old Testament because acording to the Bible the New Testament is the fulfilment of everything that was prophesied in the Old Testament. Christianity is all about both testaments..you cant really remove the old from the new, theologically speaking, without losing the point

          • Hey Islander…ever think youd be hosting a Sunday School on NCS?

            • Nope, but there’s a first time for everything, and besides, the thing I like about our comments section is that it shows people . . . THINKING.

              • I find it hard to think while hopped up on DayQuil while fighting this motherfucking cold. WHich is readly apparent because my argument and counterpoints are not very articulate.

          • I agree. I think we are both trying to say the same thing. I tried to differentiate between the two and it ruined my point, sort of. My basic point was that while Old Testament stuff is somewhat metal, the New Testament is definitley not.

            I still think that Christianity, which evolved into a peaceful religion in theory, is not very metal.

            The acts that have been committed in the name of Christianity and Jesus Christ are a completely different story.

            • Okay..I see what youre saying. The New Testament is far lighter in tone. I guess I see it all as Chrisitanity, so I dont make the distinction between the two testaments in that way.

              While not necessarily in the Bible…the various deaths of the Apostles is pretty hardcore..boiling alive, stabbed, shot, crucified upside down

  6. Unblack metal eh? Never really looked into it I don’t think. The sound is good, but just knowing something is Christian is kinda off-putting to me… not sure why, but it is. By the way, I seem to have dealth with the listening to Satanic/anti-Christian music problem, as SB said yesterday (summarizing FullMetalAttorney’s article, and I’m paraphrasing):

    “The article is about how the music doesn’t change his [FMA] beliefs, so there isn’t anything wrong with listening to it.”

    I’ve thought of that before and have had discussions with another person(s) about it, but for some reason, that had more impact than most of the times I’ve considered this idea. I’d like to thank SB and FMA for the help and the article, I was finally able to listen to the title track of “To Hell With God” today without much of an issue.

    I still have some questions which I might bring up at some point on here, but the one that stands out to me most is: do I believe that God exists, or don’t I? And if not, should I try to change that?

    • I’d also like to thank Islander because he supported me as well.

      As a side note, the album cover reminds me of The Lord of the Rings, what with the large pachyderm in the background, the large flying eagle, and the dark orb that is emitting an orange light reminds me of Sauron’s eye. Yes I’m mostly comparing to the movies… I rarely have any drive to read books… sorry LotR fanboys…

      • I think you are right. Looks like it was inspired by the battle at the Black Gate at the end of the Return of the King.

        • Could be..the Eagles were involved in the war of 5 armies during the Hobbit…

          Dont worry Utmu..I read the LotR trilogy…thats a tough read. I wouldnt want to do it again

          • I used to read it every year. I didn’t last year and it looks like I won’t read it this year. Sigh.

          • I probably would read more if I didn’t zone out while reading so much, so it ends up being more like work than recreation because I force myself to go back and read it again, and sometimes I zone out when I read it in the subsequent re-reads… I wish I didn’t zone out while reading.

            • Cant speak for books in general because I do like to read a lot, but LotR bored the hell out of me…and I like fantasy. Its just too detailed and long winded. I respect what Tolkien did for fantasy, but I prefer R.E. Howard or Fritz Lieber

              • I am a huge fantasy/sci fi guy as well. I am partial to RA Salvatore, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. I spend just as much time reading as I do listening to music. They, along with movies, are my passion.

                My inner nerd has been released.

  7. Speaking of religion, I find myself in real sticky situation. I moved my mom in with me to help take care of her. The problem is that I am agnostic, my mom is Christian (Lutheran) and my wife is Wicca.

    That makes for some interesting situations.Right after she moved in, my mom asked what my wife what her altar was. My wife told her what her altar was where she worshiped. The funny thing is that the next time my mom and I were alone, she asked if my wife was worshiping the devil. She also told me that she didn’t like me listening to that “music” anymore.

    My mom has mellowed over the years about my choice of music and metal lifestyle, but the altar really threw her for a loop and she has started trying to subtly change me ever since. I love my mom, so I let her try and don’t give her any crap about it.

    • Coincidentally my mom is Methodist-Wiccan, I personally just think she wants to be different… but I digress, have you tried explaining what exactly Wicca entails?

  8. I tried to go over the basics, but my mom can’t get past the witch part. The good thing is she doesn’t start crap about it, but I know it makes her feel uncomfortable. She is tolerant, but not open to changing how she perceives the world. Christmas is fun because we have a “Happy Birthday Jesus” cake and sing happy birthday for my nieces and nephews, who are all raised in the church.

    • Meant that as a reply to utmu.

    • Yeah, I would think that the witch part would trip a lot of people up who aren’t familiar with it, if I recall correctly, my grandmother had a problem with my mother being Wiccan (and possibly still does…). Try distinguishing between the stereotypical depiction of a witch and the real thing with her, she probably has the fictional version in her mind, the kind where witches are evil, which I’m guessing goes back to the colonial days of the Puritans and the Church. Maybe you could explain to her that the Church just depicted witches that way early on and that version never really changed throughout the years; the Church had it wrong in the first place. That’s my suggestion… unless your mom is strict when it comes to following the Church itself.

      • At least I’m making an educated guess it was the Church that was wrong in their interpretation/depiction, if not them then I guess you could use the Puritans, because they were most certainly worried about witches, have you read The Crucible?

      • I admit that you guys are the first people I “know” who have close connections to Wiccans. My circle of friends and family are obviously way too white bread.

  9. Well, I’ve had a bit of time to think of what to say regarding this, and since I’m not sure where to put this in the tangled mess of nested comments, I’m starting here instead. I hope this makes sense; I’m running on little sleep, my head and back are both hurting and with the band in the other room, it’s hard to concentrate.

    I don’t think it really matters if a band is a Christian band, pagan band, “Satanic” band or whatever; if the music’s good and you’re comfortable with that, there’s no good reason to dismiss a band because of their beliefs. Personally, I don’t care for the Bible banging, preachy stuff some Christian bands put forth, nor do I care for the vitriolic Bible bashing of other bands. Somewhere between the two theological extremes works for me. Furthermore, I don’t think there’s a problem with a Christian listening to black metal (or Muslims, Jews, pagans, etc.), something I think it works the other way as well. It depends on what you’re looking for with your music.

    Now, I have to disagree with comments made that metal is meant to be dark, evil and dirty, among other negative or indifferent connonations that may be associated with metal bands. There’s a lot of material that can be covered, positive and negative. This also applies to Christian metal bands as well; there’s a lot of dark material to be found in some bands’ material, while others who identify themselves as a Christian band (as opposed to a band with Christians in it) shy away from biblical (and similar) inspiration for their songs.

    In this regard, it comes down to what the band is aiming for. Are they putting the music first or are they using their music as a vehicle to get their message across? Some Christian bands are in it for the music first, some see it as their calling. Bands on the other side of the spectrum operate in the same way: music or message. There is room for both, but I would think that the majority of fans are listening more for the music than what the band’s talking about. At least, as far as metal (and rock) bands are concerned; this may not be quite the same with other genres, although metal has the clearer “sides” that other genres don’t have, or at least not enough to be well known.

    As alluded to, there’s another level to consider, one that isn’t necessarily tied to religious beliefs. What to do when the music doesn’t reflect the band/musician’s beliefs. For this, I think I need to point to Burzum, if only because Varg is known well enough among certain metalheads to serve as a dividing line. From everything I have read about Burzum online, it seems that the music doesn’t display what the man himself is like. For all I know, I could be missing out on some great music, but I do not feel comfortable about buying music by a man like Varg Vikernes – and I am not going to pirate his music to sidestep that. He’s not the only one whom I have decided not to buy anything from, only the one who comes to mind first.

    What gets me about the whole thing is that there is a knee-jerk reaction to Christian metal (or Christianity in general), but a lot of anti-Christian sentiments are not only supported, they are endorsed. The odd thing is, it’s Christianity that’s a fair target, but anything that’s racist or anti-Semitic (among other things) are typically looked down upon (which is a good thing, by the way). So, in certain circles, Christian music joins white power and neo-Nazi tunes as the bad stuff, while bands spewing forth their own breed of hate and intolerance towards the church, Bible, God, Jesus and Christians is perfectly okay. True, Christian metal has a strong following and isn’t underground like some of the bigoted bands, but to a lot of metalheads, it’s treated with as much contempt.

    What. The. Fuck?

    • A couple of random thoughts inspired by your comment: I think artists draw their inspiration from different places, and some Christian metal bands draw inspiration for their music from their faith — it’s what drives them to create. Take away the source of the inspiration, and you take away the music that comes from it. I’m not saying that’s true of all Christian bands, but certainly some of them. I have that sense about Living Sacrifice, for example.

      Another thought, about why it’s “OK” in metal to attack Christianity and religion but generally not OK to broadcast racist or anti-Semitic spew. Metal is so anti-authoritarian — doesn’t really matter who the “authority” is, and of course churches and religions are generally full of prescriptions about how to live and not live, how to think and not think. They provide authoritarian platforms for people to tell other people how to live and think, and that goes hard against the metal grain. On the other hand, anti-Semitism and racism (for example) are a form of hate directed against individuals based on some characteristic (skin color, personal belief), rather than against institutions who are seen as oppressive of the freedom of others.

      I don’t feel I’m articulating this very well, and I’m not even sure the distinction I’m trying to draw holds up very well. Have to think more about this.

      • I suppose there’s some merit to that, but going against a religion in general shouldn’t be seemed as alright, when the same against a more limited group – Muslims, Jews, blacks, gays, whatever – wouldn’t be. And that’s the part that bothers me more than the crap that’s spewed itself. Granted, for some, it’s not actually a mirror image of one’s personal feelings, but I’m sure there are a lot who do use music as the medium to air their hatred.

        I’m not trying to say that the church doesn’t deserve criticism. They do. A lot. But it’s not only Christian churches that should be looked at. But as far as they are concerned, what a handful of churches or what was done in centuries past does not represent the whole or what the church is today. Really, most Christians are actually level headed and have an open mind. Sure, maybe not to anything and everything, but I believe the majority do try to “practice what they preach”. However, it’s the batshit crazy ones (which includes a lot of “born again” Christians, the pedophile priests who turn their back on their vows, the ones awaiting doomsday (again)… these are the ones you typically hear about.

        Sadly, there are a lot of assholes in charge, kinda like politics, and it’s not just the Christians. Jews, Muslims, Buddhist, athiest, agnostic, deist, whatever-ist, they all have their unfair share of people who shouldn’t be in any position of power (or being in the public awareness), power that may be.

        • I don’t disagree with any of your points, so I think my distinction in fact doesn’t hold water. And yes, there are a lot of assholes in charge, which unfortunately is one of the biggest problems with all “institutional” religions, and always has been: they provide a vehicle by which the power-hungry and the arrogant can control the lives of others by cloaking themselves with the mantle of a higher power; purporting to speak for a god gives them power, when otherwise they would be ignored.

  10. I’d like to add a quick “Hail Santa” to this thread, if I may?

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