AN NCS ALBUM PREMIERE (AND A REVIEW): HORNWOOD FELL — “DAMNO LUMINA NOCTE”
Every song on Hornwood Fell‘s new album Damno Lumina Nocte is named “Vulnera” — the Latin word for “wound” (accompanied by Roman numerals I – VII) — every one of them a projection of “dark landscapes, discomforts, and open wounds of the society we live in”. Every one of them is a cavalcade of disturbances, a mind-warping amalgam of dissonance and derangement that seems to embody mental fracturing and emotional splintering. It is as if the band found Pandora’s Box, and without hesitation opened it, recording the sounds of all the evils within as they escaped in a mad rush of freakish abandon.
This is not easy listening. The music is persistently abrasive and frequently cacophonous. There are twisted melodic motifs and rhythmic patterns that appear often enough to stitch the songs together, often in physically compulsive ways, but things change unpredictably, and veer so sharply and so often that it’s hard for a listener to maintain any balance — like trying to walk a high tightrope that’s being plucked (rapidly) by giant fingers.
It is also, perhaps perversely, an utterly fascinating experience. There is a mad genius at work within these tracks (two of them, actually), and the songs are so weirdly transfixing that the minutes speed by like starlings in flight. Looking away from these deep, festering wounds turns out to be very difficult.
Hornwood Fell began their career with the objective of playing second-wave, Norwegian-inspired black metal. That’s not what they’re doing any more. Their avant-garde music does continue to include elements of black metal, but they’ve gone far off that road and into uncharted territories. It’s as if these two twin brothers, Marco and Andrea Basili, put themselves into a state of possession and became the instruments of something other than themselves. It’s no surprise to read that they wrote and recorded the album in two days — “the perfect time for us at that stage to gather energies, catalyze them, then release them, without contamination”. The experience, they say, was “hard and pure, like some kind of shock therapy where we drained ourselves of all emotions, letting them flow with sincerity, then exploding, not holding back.”
The drumming is excellent, and as much as anything it gives you something to hold onto as these riots of dire (and delightful) sound flourish around them. But, to be clear, the drum patterns themselves constantly change, ranging from manic to metronomic, as does almost everything else. What goes on around these flexing rhythmic drives is a juxtaposition of deep, sludgy bass tones, shrill, shrieking guitars, and a cornucopia of other tonalities. You’ll encounter quavering organ chords, meandering note reverberations, bleating and moaning harmonies, and wisps of what might be cello and upright bass matched with tinkling guitar emanations.
The music combines sensations of brutish destructiveness and the revelation of hallucinatory visions. The sounds channel dismal moodiness and psychotic frenzy. The music roars, and is speckled with fleeting ethereal melodies that ring like ghostly bells. One minute you’re choking in a miasma of corrosive symphonic strings, and the next you’re caught in a strafing run of blasting drums and boiling riffage. It is a richly layered tapestry of arcane possession and cataclysmic obliteration — like being caught in an earthquake while receiving garbled transmissions from a celestial sphere.
The vocals are themselves a riot of sound — veering from red-throated yells to cold-blooded roars, from wretched wails to dictatorial howls and livid screams. At one point swirling choral voices rise up in an aria of pain.
The music would challenge the ability of a better wordsmith than this writer to communicate the experience of this album, but fortunately we have a full stream of it below. It is recommended that you take it all in at once, because the combined effect is greater than the sum of the parts. And yes, as dissonant, destructive, and disturbing as the music is, it is also a delight, simply to be in the presence of people who have so thoroughly surrendered themselves to whatever muses may have possessed them as they made this.
Damno Lumina Nocte features artwork by Matteo Valentini. It was mixed and mastered by Emiliano Natali at Fear No One Studio. It will be released by Third I Rex on May 31st — and you can pre-order it now.
This isn’t aimed at this or anything in particular, but whenever I discover a band I like whose record release is a week away, or however long after the moment of discovery, I am more likely to forget about it rather than add it on Spotify, listen to it, and then if I like it enough, to buy it. There’s so much piling in each week, that moment of discovery might be the only moment I’d dedicate to listening to a new band, and if I can’t save it for later, then it gets buried under and lost. There’s too much good, and if I can’t access it when I find it, well there’s always something else I can listen to on the train.
Anyway, this sounds decent. But, like mentioned..
Yeah, i feel you.
I usually add an album i’m interested in on my bandcamp wishlist or i’ll save the link of the review/album stream for later. Got a shitload of notepad files just lying around full of albums i’ve been meaning to check out. It never ends!
if I was you, I would do a favour to myself by stopping to listening to extreme metal music.
Your message for this article shows the total lack of sympathy for the band, the label, and moreover the website who is, under your same point of view, wasting time by promoting underground bands.
I don’t want to bother you with any sermon about underground music or underground black metal music as by what you’re saying in your comment, you simply would not understand.
You’re likely to forget because you keep listening to Spotify rather than spending some good money to own a physical copy of whichever band. This is something you should not be ashamed of but that potentially is damaging your chances of remembering the music you are listening.
Taken off the usual “my collection is bigger than yours” attitude, I completely disrespect your behaviour and your total lack of consideration.
It is true, the sea is full of fish, and it would take quite a lot of money to support all bands you like, yet you are nobody to say or judge an artistic output by the visibility of it on a platform which is selling smoke to people with no real love for music.
You waste your time by listening to music, you really don’t understand the joy of accessing those hidden gems the underground/scene is offering us well off the social media globalised spectrum.
The fact you comment as “Anyway, this sounds decent..” talks for yourself and your attitude to music.
Not because of the band itself, but because this would be your attitude with most of the bands out there unless of course, you can remember them.
I despise people like you and I truly hope you won’t be wasting time supporting this release.
I would rather live 100 times like Mr/Ms Suter below you, checking out bands slowly but steadily, than live in your little bubble of carelessness.
Hence, I wish you a shiton of joy listening to bands on Spotify, set on such platform by labels sucking blood on the same or promotion agencies feeding on acts trying to reach out to people like you.
If your purchases are based on what you see on Spotify, then good luck with that and keep your commentary well closed to your persona. We don’t pretend to conquer the world with only 400 copies pressed so to be fairly honest with you, we actually could clean our asses with your point of view.
Thats a bit harsh. Youre certainly entitled to your opinion, but.. while I agree that Spotify is entirely worthless to someone like me, clearly there are extreme metal acts a plenty on there. I don’t think having to own vinyl or physical releases means anything at all. I say this as a guy who’s collected records since 1990. I frankly cant afford the cost or the space of these things any more so my library has gone mostly digital the past few years. I use Bandcamp exclusively for this endeavor as I dont care for the metrics of all the other sites that exist out there, but its “to each their own” and its a viable way to “listen” to music, even if its not a viable way to support music.
In fact, I think that should seriously be more of a discussion. If you love independent artists and you love music and supporting artists… DONT use Spotify. Just dont. Buy less albums and use Bandcamp or order direct from labels.
Back to the topic though, I am a dad… I hardly have time to listen to things the way I used to, yet my only musical pursuits for many years now are to find metal music and generally the most extreme forms. Its a fever and its hard to keep up with. I can understand the sentiment that there is an insane amount of quality metal bands coming out every year lately. Its very exciting and it has certainly made me pass over things too quickly or just outright leave them on the list of things to listen to, never looked upon again. Id hardly say that i lack respect for metal music in the slightest. And frankly, a band needs to earn mew fans. No one deserves their ass kissed just because they picked up a guitar and made a metal album. If the guys not a Hornwood Fell fan to begin, I think whats hes really trying to say is “Ugh. this seems interesting, but I have a feeling it will slide through the cracks like so many others”
So… Thats my two cents.
That said… Stop using Spotify. Support artists in the most direct ways you can find. Order their merchandise, support their label, go to their shows, thats how these bands survive to make more music.
Last, but not least…. I really liked Hornwood Fells last album. Almost nothing like it has been heard since. This one… I, myself, will have to find time in my busy schedule to see if I can catch up with this one. I already respect this band, and yet, even still, its possible that I won’t get to this. Batushka just came out. Mysthyrming, Tanith, Spirit Adrift. Im still obsessed with a ton of other records that need my ears as much as possible. Its just a lot to expect someone like me to shove other aspects of my life out of the way to make space to listen to my 110th album of the year,