(DGR reviews the new album by Italy’s Hideous Divinity, which is out now via Unique Leader.)
The tree of the Italian super-fast death metal scene, as it has currently come into focus, is one that has so many branches that have crossed over with one another that photos of it could be turned into logos for other death metal bands. It is also one that has been intensely vibrant, dropping new seeds and allowing new trees to form underneath it, becoming slight permutations of the initial home from whence they came.
The section that houses bands like Fleshgod Apocalypse and Hour Of Penance is one that has seen groups not only founded off of each other, but also exchanging musicians time and time again. People have left and rejoined and likewise gone off to form their own groups. Despite making conscious efforts to be clear of that musical style, some of the offshoot bands can’t seem to help themselves and go back to the super-fast, intensely brutal branch of death metal from which they sprouted.
Hideous Divinity is one of those bands, a group two albums deep into their career so far and one whose lineup has been fairly consistent but still prone to some rotation, founded in Norway yet still somehow having found its way back to Italy. It’s helpful to know Hideous Divinity’s lineage, as well as something about the scene that many of its musicians have called home, because it will help clue you in as to what to expect from the music.
Hideous Divinity play a violent, technically focused version of the insanely fast brutal death metal that has been coming out of Italy – but one that (as acknowledged by founding member Enrico Schettino in his excellent interview with us) is also willing to focus on a damned good groove hook. Cobra Verde, which saw release on October 31st, is the group’s most recent demonstration that the world can handle another permutation on an established style. If you love the bands I’ve name-dropped already, you can stop here because you absolutely need to be assaulted by this disc. But if you haven’t, allow us to guide you through an explanation about why it’s worthwhile to let Cobra Verde sink its fangs into your skin.
Cobra Verde, even with its familiar foundation in place, is a dynamic album. With a length of about forty-three minutes, it doesn’t drag, because the band are always in one of three modes: super-fast, frighteningly technical, or bludgeon-heavy with a groove-and-hook combination. The shifts in mode aren’t abrupt, but they instantly feel welcome the moment you notice. When the three combine, this Cerberus-headed monster of death makes it difficult to resist some form of rocking out. I know that, personally, a couple of people have borne witness to the weird gesticulations and body spasms I refer to as headbanging as I’ve listened.
Not only that, but due to the group’s super-fast clip, they make songs fly by like they’re nothing — including the adventurous, progressive-length, near-eight-minute wall that they’ve erected as the front of the album and expect people to climb over, the song known as “In My Land I Was A Snake”. The song itself feels like two different snakes entangled into one, constantly taking different bites at each other and always on the attack. It makes a two-phase assault, and the one moment it seems to calm down, it ramps up right back into light speed and accelerates again with a slamming groove.
Bouncing around the disc a bit, you have the polar opposite from the full frontal assault of the opener with the album’s second-to-last track, “Adjinakou”. “Adjinakou” is one of the slowest songs on Cobra Verde, a large, empty, and slow-moving crawler of a track with discordant yells buried under a wall of guitar and crashing drums. It is almost ritualistic in its despair and markedly different from the tech-death and brutal-death assaults that make up much of Cobra Verde. Fitting to discover later, via surfing Wikipedia, that “Adjinakou” takes its name from one of the many, many Loa in Vodou. Not only that, but it is oft-portrayed as an Elephant, and given that the song likes to stomp its way around before becoming a storm, it’s a hell of an apt song-title choice.
While Dallas from Nile actually does appear on “The Alonest Of The Alone”, it still seems fitting to point out that there is a little bit of a Nile influence worming its way around Hideous Divinity’s latest as well. It’s a small one, but still noticeable enough that after a couple of spins through the CD — including the Ripping Corpse cover that closes it (also a great cover!) — had they not disclosed that he was on the album beforehand, I would not have been shocked to learn that he appeared as a guest. It feels fitting and organic, and not one of those appearances where the band just seems to be close friends with the dude.
People who appreciate bass guitar will also really enjoy Cobra Verde, as bassist Stefano Franceschini gets a lot of moments, spread through the CD, to set the pace for upcoming movements in songs. Not only does the band willingly stop the madness just to let him bounce on the fretboard, but he’s also keeping up with everyone else with the ease most folks have with blinking. Dude is terrifyingly talented, and if you ever have any chance, just watch him murder it for a few minutes over on his YouTube account where he posts all of his playthroughs and covers. Right now, he’s got a playthrough up of the song “Sinister And Demented” from Cobra Verde — that one especially needs to be watched.
The song itself is another highlight and one of the most bass-driven tracks on the CD, but it also sees vocalist Enrico “H.” Di Lorenzo roaring through multiple different ranges at the drop of a dime. Enrico’s roar is an interesting one because it’s pretty low, but in death metal terminology it might be a more mid-ranged timbre. It is one that feels like has a lot of his voice present in it, rather than being a strictly from-the-gut-style bellow that goes so low he could be replaced with a recording of a V8 engine. Fans of Hour Of Penance will find a ton of similarities between him and a couple of that group’s vocalists, but his specific delivery seems built for the style of death metal at hyper-speed that Hideous Divinity deliver.
Giulio Galati, the band’s drummer, quickly adds himself to the front ranks of Italian hyperblasters as well, though he shows a remarkable amount of restraint by not going at hyper-speed all the time and being perfectly content to let the bass drums follow the guitar grooves of Enrico Schettino and Antonio Poletti (also of Deceptionist, whose EP release we covered a little earlier). Enrico makes sure, though, that there is something in every song, even if it’s a small riff, that will latch itself onto the back of your skull. I believe the man when he says they have no issue making sure a song has a goddamned strong hook in it.
The only unfortunate aspect of Cobra Verde is that it enters a market in which much of what the band does is a known quantity, so they don’t quite get to fully enjoy the “Look at how fucking fast” or “Check out how tech this part is!” sentiments that other groups inspire. The bigger looming shadow, of course, is the group’s own work, which means that Cobra Verde has to prove itself as a worthy successor to Obeisance Rising. That is a little tougher, because even though it went a little under the radar, Obeisance Rising is a frightening monster of a disc in its own right, and its quality is part of the reason people were looking forward to Cobra Verde so much.
We can rest easy, though, because although things are shorter and, despite its lead-off track, somewhat tightened and sleeker, Cobra Verde still provides many justifications for the existence of Hideous Divinity. They haven’t said all that they feel they should say, and Cobra Verde doesn’t see them maxing out there either, but it does show the band stretching a bit within their boundaries and making it so that Cobra Verde isn’t a direct sequel to their previous work.
As a standalone, and I say this knowing full well that I have developed a reputation for loving this style of music, Cobra Verde is absolutely worth it, and time flies when listening to it. It’s a brutal death record that starts with progressive sensibilities but then moves at the speed of a grind album, minus the fact that every song is a five-minute demonstration of these guys being way better musicians than I could ever hope to be. Obeisance Rising put this band on my radar, and the two albums back-to-back make an excellent pairing. Letting them shuffle together is a little odd, but an hour-and-a-half block of Hideous Divinity still feels damned good.
Unique Leader knew damn well what they were doing when they grabbed these guys again for this album, as Cobra Verde is a great get. It’s well-produced and rings through super-clear, and that forty-three minutes of headbanging is enough to leave you with a bangover for days.