Okay, a new band from Gothenburg Sweden playing modern Melodic Death Metal. This has to be good, right?
Well, Hour of Anguish have just dropped their debut album ‘Solace of Sorrow’ and are ready to unleash their “intensely brilliant”, “brutal”, yet “beautiful soundscape” that “transcends the status quo of Melodic Death Metal” upon the masses, giving the people “a little of what they know and a ton of what they never expected”. In an age where it’s increasingly difficult to create a truly fresh sound to that of what’s expected, this is certainly an ambitious goal to set.
Whilst this album is a solid, heavy slab of Melodic Death Metal, it’s not exactly groundbreaking. To its credit, the album features plenty of trademark shreds, chugs and an evenly balanced mix of both harsh and clean vocals, very much in the vein of earlier In Flames and Soilwork and of course this is a great comparison to make, but as much as the music is enjoyable, I don’t see much evidence of pushing boundaries on this album.
The first couple of songs, ‘The Silence’ and ‘Ouroboros’, are mostly very well performed, but I have to be honest I cannot help but feel the clean vocals let them down. The melodies are a little too high for the singer’s range, leaving the vocals very strained and struggling to hit the higher legato notes.
Fortunately, giving these first two songs the benefit of the doubt and sticking with the songs that follow, ‘Throne of the Gods’ and ‘Farewell to the Flesh’ prove that, with a key that suits the vocal range, a comfort zone has been found, vastly overshadowing the earlier vocal delivery. Both of these songs are true stand-outs and are definitely my highlight picks from this album.
‘Blisters’ is heavy, grinding and bass-heavy. It’s not the most technically proficient of songs, relying on a steady percussive rhythm, chugging guitar patterns and a simplistic melody. Not bad, but nothing memorable either, however the following track ‘The Road To Hell’ is hooky and features some signature Swedish Death Metal riffage, that many of the pioneering bands in the genre would be proud of.
The first few bars of ‘Hateful, Hollow’ provide a fantastic instrumental intro. They’re sharp, hooky and full of energy, leading in to some decent modern Melodic Death riffs accompanied by a solid extreme and clean vocal performance.
‘Countdown to the End’ continues the trend, featuring tons of energy whilst further upping the ante with a faster tempo, blistering blast-beats and more emphasis on an aggressive harsh vocal. The clean vocal passages are equally impressive, offering an emotional, uplifting performance to offset against the intensity of the heavy, aggressive tone.
Seventh track ‘Rise’ is a more straightforward chugging Death Metal track. There is melody, but it doesn’t dominate, instead allowing for more emphasis on rhythmic shredding.
‘Sepia’ offers something a little different to the rest of the album. Yes, it has all the signature riffs, shreds and driving tempo, but it takes a melancholic turn mid-way through. The contrasting styles work very effectively together and the extra dimension this brings to the song is much welcomed.
Final track ‘Sleep Eternal’ provides a fitting lyrical swan song for this album. Unfortunately, much like the opening songs, the straining vocals return here as if to remind me that this album is far from without its flaws. It’s a shame that a different vocal arrangement or simple key change wasn’t implemented on these songs to help shift the vocals into a more suitable, comfortable range, as it’s clear that when in this comfort zone, the vocals excel.
Official Lyric Video:
Hour of Anguish – Ouroboros