(In this October edition of THE SYNN REPORT, Andy reviews the discography of Italy’s Hierophant — including their brand new album Mass Grave.)
Recommended for fans of: Trap Them, Rotten Sound, Black Breath
There are times in your life when only the nastiest, gnarliest, most pissed-off and punishing form of auditory abuse will do. Which is the perfect time to crank up any one of the four albums by Italian iconoclasts Hierophant.
Each of the band’s releases is a short, sharp, 600-volt shock to the system, a nose-splintering headbutt from out of nowhere, a stiff, straight shot right to the kidneys, a swift and sudden punch to the throat that leaves you gasping and choking… what I’m trying to say is that these boys don’t play nice, they fight dirty.
Straddling the line between Hardcore and Grindcore, with a hefty helping of blackened venom and sludge and doomy nihilism to boot, the band’s sound is definitely one of the most singularly aggressive and gleefully ugly that I’ve had the (dis)pleasure to encounter in recent years.
And so, with a new album on the horizon, I felt it was high time that the rest of you were made to share my pain!
HIEROPHANT – 2010
One thing you’ll probably notice if you’re paying careful attention is that the band’s debut, as nasty and pissed-off as it is, is also their longest album, and subsequent releases only get faster, harder, and harsher.
That being said, it’s not like their self-titled release pulls any punches, kicking off with the squalling dissonance and clanging, doom-laden chords of “Hermetic Sermon pt.1 (expectatio)” and the meth-and-misanthropy fuelled frenzy of “I Am I, You, Nobody” showcasing, respectively, the darkest, sludgiest side of the band, and their most ferocious and blistering.
“As Kalki” is a harrowing blast of howling vocals and barbed, ripping hooks, mixed with an undercurrent of brackish, creeping sludge, while both the truly evil-sounding “Mother Tiamat” and the grimly atmospheric “Hermetic Sermon pt. 2 (Invocation ov Abraxas” push things in a much more blackened direction (though the final minutes of the former also find the band dredging up a bubbling mass of doomy melody from the darkest, dankest depths of their souls).
“Lambgoat” is 2:27 of blasting, bruising, tooth-gnashing Metallic Hardcore that offers absolutely no quarter in its attempts to bludgeon the listener into submission, after which the punky grooves of “VVe Knovv Love” offer something of a reprieve (a sudden, mid-song eruption of blastbeats notwithstanding) before the chaotic assault of “Abissus Abissum Invocat” steps up to the plate with its mix of hacking, chopping riffs, seething vocals, and subtle undercurrents of suicidal melody.
With “10,000 Winters” Hierophant get grim and groovy, the song’s sullen, stomping rhythms and occasional spasms of auditory self-flagellation providing the perfect primer for the ominous, doomy finale of “Hermetic Sermon pt.3 (The Ultimate Realization)” in all its booming, gargantuan glory.
GREAT MOTHER: HOLY MONSTER – 2013
Eight songs. 27 minutes. No survivors. That’s pretty much the best way to sum up Hierophant’s sophomore album, Great Mother: Holy Monster.
Opener “Son of the New Faith” is a no-frills, all-thrills, avalanche of hammering distortion and bone-cracking drum work that gets in, does its damage, and gets out fast, leaving you wide open and defenseless before the punk-infused, blackened grind of the utterly savage (and yet surprisingly melodic) “Son of the Tongue’s Prison”, which culminates in a bowel-shaking, sludge-soaked breakdown of biblical proportions.
“Son of Four-Hands Way” is the album’s longest track, a monstrous crust-doom hybrid of lurching, choking riffs and scorched-earth vocals that drags the listener down into the abyss whether they like it or not, where the whirling, whiplash-inducing “Son of the Carcinoma” lies in wait, ready to strike without warning.
With “Son of Egotistic Love” the band get a little brooding as well as bruising, wallowing in their own darkest impulses even as they sharpen their hooks and riffs to a gleaming, merciless edge… although when “Son of the Public Castration” hits, there’s simply no more time to brood, as the track’s manic blend of skull-splitting riffage, raging vocals, and warped threads of poisoned melody act in concert to supercharge your nerves and set your blood to boiling.
Doom and gloom is the name of the game on “Son of the Cathartic Cave”, a song that delivers – appropriately enough – nauseating waves of broken, wounded catharsis and croaking, cavernous riffs that threaten to drown you in pure, asphyxiating misanthropy, after which the climactic “Son of the Black Mirror” serves to take whatever remaining hope or self-worth you had left and smash it into dust in just over four minutes of unflinching, unforgiving sonic sadism.
PESTE – 2014
It’s time for round 3… fight! But make sure to keep your guard up, because Hierophant really aren’t fucking around on this one, and if you’re not careful you might get knocked straight out by the swinging haymaker that is opener “Inganno”, which sees the band going full on Grindcore for a 1:40 blast of thickly muscled, steroidal riffage and brutal, Death Metal-edged vocals.
“Masochismo” refuses to let the intensity level drop, its ugly, Hardcore grooves buttressed by spasms of blasting belligerence and detonations of d-beat shrapnel, while “Nostalgia” pushes everything into the red in a relentless display of pure audio terrorism.
At 2:32 “Sadismo” is one of the longer songs on the album, a mid-paced Sludge/Hardcore bruiser that concludes in a menacing doomy crawl of grief and self-loathing, after which the berserker Death-Grind of “Apatia” seems somehow to hit even harder (if that’s possible).
Both “Paranoia” and “Sottomissione” continue the album’s merciless auditory assault, the former benefitting from a humongous second-half breakdown that straddles the line between Sludge, Doom, and Deathcore, while the latter hits you with a savage two-pronged vocal attack (reminiscent of classic Anaal Nathrakh) in a catastrophic explosion of grind and grimness.
“Alienazione” at one point actually threatens to touch on a little thing called “melody”, but the moment is gone so fast that you’ll miss it if you’re not paying very careful attention at just the right time. Otherwise it’s business as usual for the band, who kick out jams and kick in some teeth with a bunch of gruesome, weapons-grade riffage and ravenous, roaring vocals, before immediately slamming straight into the churning, chugging charnel house of “Egoismo”, which transforms into a rotting hulk of suppurating sludge and venom in its second half.
The album concludes with the epic (well, at almost five whole minutes, it’s relatively epic compared to the rest of the album) “Inferno”, a doom-laden slog of gigantic, chug-heavy riffs and surprisingly atmospheric, suitably apocalyptic melodies, topped off with a staggeringly heavy, morbidly hooky chorus.
MASS GRAVE – 2016
For their fourth slab of musical mayhem the Italian quartet have produced some of their most visceral and harrowing material yet, kicking off with the unsettling introductory track “Hymn of Perdition”, which is quickly disintegrated by the sheer force unleashed by “Execution of Mankind”, easily the most pulverizing 39 seconds which the band have ever recorded.
In quick succession it’s followed by the frenzied brutality of “Forever Crucified” which, with its blackened tinge, seeks to answer the hitherto unsolved puzzle of what Behemoth might have sounded like as a Grindcore band, after which the ominous and oppressive title-track only continues to build on this comparison, delivering a deathly, doom-tinged groove that would definitely make Nergal and co. proud.
“Crematorium” is a sub-two-minute paroxysm of guttural, throat-ripping vocals, pounding, anvil-heavy riffs, and raw, blood-spattered drum work that cleanses the palette with its sheer, acid-spitting ferocity, just in time for the flavours of burnt flesh and putrefaction which underpin the deathly-metallic “In Decay” to come through loud and clear.
“In Decay” is followed by the monument to impending doom that is “Sentenced to Death”, a glacially-slow monolith of chunky, chugging guitars, heaving, gallows-chords, and chokingly dense atmosphere, which concludes with a final cataclysmic convulsion of sludge-coated Death Metal might before the album dives straight into the neck-snapping whirlwind of “The Great Hoax” and the punishing, blast-heavy bludgeon of the aptly-named “Trauma” which, true to form, threatens to leave you utterly broken and traumatized by the time it’s had its wicked way with you.
Hierophant bring the album to a close with the titanic “Eternal Void”, featuring some of their most massive and viscerally infectious riffs and vocals yet, coming across like a Death/Doom obsessed version of Crowbar at their darkest, and delivering some of the most insistent and irresistibly nasty hooks of the band’s career (although the 6-ish minute fade-out of rough, ambient noise is a little superfluous to requirements).
Mass Grave will be released on November 4 by Season of Mist. Stream it below.