If you’re looking for titanically heavy music, the kind that will loosen your teeth and vibrate your spinal fluid, you’ve come to the right place. If you’re looking for music that glimmers and shimmers like the northern lights, you’ve also come to the right place. If you want the sounds of tension and pain, lead-weighted gloom and feverish desperation, mechanized warfare and sunrise grandeur, you’ll find that here as well — plus a steady dose of what makes people compulsively bob their heads.
Even if all you know about Hegemone’s new album, We Disappear, is what you just read, you can already tell that they’re devoted to creating contrasts on multiple levels, sometimes by separating and juxtaposing the differences, and often by layering them together. The music surges and subsides, seems to crack the earth and heat the blood to a feverish boil, and spirits the listener away to heights of of perilous and panoramic wonder.
Apart from their devotion to dynamic changes and contrasting layers of sound, there are other marked tendencies in their songwriting. They repeatedly build tension — and rarely let it go, instead transforming the stress from the low pain of fraying nerves into destructive forms of desolation. You come to know that when the power subsides, it’s going to mount again soon to some new height of almost overwhelming, demolishing power.
They’re also students of repetition. They lock into sequences, elaborating upon them to greater and lesser degrees, letting them penetrate and get a firm grip on the listener, and then switch to another sequence that might be softer or tremendously louder but is no less sure-handed in its grip.
And man, do they have a way of dropping in some massively head-moving, girder-thick riffs just to make damned sure you’re not going to drift away — or want to run way too quickly from the frenzied anxiety of the leads or the emotionally scarring effect of the vocalist’s angst-ridden roars and incinerating shrieks.
And just in case the emotional and sonic weight of the music’s dire moods proves to be too hopeless, the high, rippling gleam of the guitar and the ethereal shine of ambient keys lifts you up, sends you flying. Even then, it’s not really a joyful sound, more like a glimpse of mystical, spiritual forces that are either waiting to embrace you after your fall, or simply observing your insignificant turmoil from a cool and radiant distance.
Reverb and distortion play a big role in the music, too. And Hegemone have an obvious attraction to both black metal and post-metal in almost equal measure, but you’ll find that the range of their interests isn’t confined to those genres.
There are indeed well-marked tendencies in Hegemone’s sonic strategies throughout We Disappear, but there are surprises, too: the acoustic strumming and quasi-gothic clean vocals that provide a digression in “Fracture”; the rapid picking and quavering tones (almost like an amplified violin) at the start of “Raising Barrows”; the post-punk stylings that switch off with the blackened ravaging in the hugely infectious “Π”; the completely unexpected guest appearance by Karolina Sawicka, whose soulful, bluesy vocals help bring “Хан Тәңірі” to a close; the deep throat-singing that’s intwined with the low droning electronic pulses in the album’s closing track “Тәңірi”.
(By the way, Ms. Sawicka’s band Body Package, a Polish group who mix post-rock, trip-hop, ambient and electronic music, sounds like a kindred spirit to Hegemone, though not as extreme in their sound; curiously, BP’s 2016 EP was titled Just Don’t Disappear In Silence.)
That closing track, “Тәңірi”, is a massive undertaking. Even though it includes a sequence featuring widely spaced piano chords that sounds like the opening of a vast vista to the mind’s eye, it’s also a harrowing experience that for almost 16 minutes never really grants a reprieve, even at the very end when all you hear is a shroud of shimmering distortion. In retrospect, the track’s desolating intensity and immense power, event at such an extravagant length, seems a fitting finale to this album, rather than an overreaching indulgence. Because in different ways, the whole album is intense, and one that won’t soon be forgotten.
And with that wordy prelude, we present the premiere of We Disappear on the day of its release by Debemur Morti Productions. For maximum impact, play it really loud.