(We first came across A Hill To Die Upon in October and posted this feature as an introduction to their strikingly good music. Now, Andy Synn reviews their 2011 album, Omens.)
One of this year’s great discoveries, A Hill To Die Upon ply their trade in the bloodstained arena of blackened death metal, taking their cues from the crushing power of Satanica-era Behemoth and the decaying grooves of Sheol-era Naglfar all wrapped up in a monumental package of fire-brand riffage and pulsing drums that recalls Immortal in their prime.
The album itself is a phenomenal listen, ripe with potential and possessed of a godlike strength and tenacity. As empowering as it is devastating, its perfectly harnessed power grants listeners colossal strength and vigour, enough to challenge all the forces which hold sway upon their lives.
From the moment the imperial march of “Darkness That Can Be Felt” stomps into view, breathing fire and brimstone, A Hill To Die Upon lay all their cards out on the table. The drums pulverise with lightning fast blasting and thunderous kick rolls, while the jack-hammer guitars and rumbling bass combine into a terrifying war-machine of unstoppable groove and power. The majestic chorus refrain showcases the group’s ability to interweave melody and monstrosity, while the skittering guitar solo slices through the song with the cut-throat precision of a straight razor.
The vocals bite and growl with violent intensity, gnashing their teeth through the clashing cymbals and scattergun kick patterns of “The Perfection Of Evil” and the titanic grooves of “Adept In Divinity”. These tracks aptly demonstrate the dominating power of the band’s guitar tone, one akin to the huge, thrumming sound found on the most recent Immortal records but with an unholy life all its own. The former song is a serpentine offering of twisted, barbed-wire riffs and seductive melodies, while the latter is a more controlled burn, primed to ignite in a crippling explosion of earth-shaking drums and scorched earth vocals.
In amongst an album of exceptional compositions, the heaving, blast-heavy delivery of “The Chant Of Mighty Offspring” stands out as one of the crowning jewels, the juddering, quaking riffs and biting harmonic chords only superseded in their calculated aggression by the utter vehemence of the scathing vocals, spitting forth venomous proclamations of impending doom. A dark and malevolent undercurrent of scalding melody underpins the song throughout, without limiting its twisted technique or the dense, obsidian ferocity of its pile-driving finale.
“Heka Primus (Ordo Norma Mysterium)” is a display of ritualistic mysticism, its jagged guitars carving a giant edifice of ebon might from the bones of the earth, while acid-drenched vocals chant a blood anthem of violent, vituperative invective. Following this “I Come As Black Fire” is another unadulterated triumph, a galloping stormblast of tremor-inducing force delivered over 5 minutes of decadent grace and blackened glorification. Its volcanic eruption of molten tremolo riffs and searing lead guitars cascade down upon the listener with unfettered brutality, laying open fragile flesh to the bone. The song’s final death march is shrouded by a decaying miasma of brutal guitar work and unhallowed melody which descends into a stark, piano-led display of majestic melancholy.
Instrumental track “Nehushtan” provides a mellow calm in the eye of the blackened storm, its soothing acoustics lulling the listener into a false sense of security before the aural hellfire of “The Thing Must Be Destroyed” assaults the listener, the drums laying down a constant barrage of booming artillery while the abysmally contorted growls and caustic guitar work combine into a frenzy of dark, endless torment, wrapped around a callous, diamond-hard heart of ice.
The ritualistic chant of “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down” pays tribute to its forebears, a blackened hymn of hope and despair, grinding away with malicious intent, leading into the ringing chords and chugging guitars of album closer “Ancient Enemy Of Death”, which writhe in wretched agony, lashed by waves of crashing cymbals and scorching anti-melody, driving the song through a maze of torment, sowing seeds of destruction and leaving only desolation in its wake.
Sample song: “The Chant of Mighty Offspring”[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/04-The-Chant-of-Mighty-Offspring.mp3|titles=A Hill To Die Upon – The Chant of Mighty Offspring]
I was not expecting to get into this…but the vocals are really hitting the sweet spot, and the guitars and drums are just that right kind of grimmy…
Easily one of the best albums of the year. I picked this up after your first post on the band, and was thoroughly impressed by the band’s musical power and lyrical majesty. I rarely enjoy black metal, especially due to the lyrics, but this band’s twisting of traditional black metal lyrical occultism into vaguely Gnostic Christian utterings floored me. Thanks for this one, and all of the other great bands I keep hearing about through NCS.
I very much like this band. Even if you don’t agree with christianity, you have to give in to the fact that these men are talented.