Full of pain and resentment, Winter on the Hill Cumorah is inspired by the experiences growing up in the Church of the Latter Day Saints. It is a fluid album that sticks to simple rhythms indicative of spiritual and tribal music. There are samples, field recordings of religious songs and preaching that are hazy, sometimes lo-fi, and then distorted and looped.
“A Pillar of Light” opens with a religious song and gives way to deep ambiance and sounds of trinkets and reverbant pounding. This transitions into “The Orchard” which consists high eerie strings, low pounding bass, and tortured vocals. The reverbed vocal loops evolve into singing that can take the listener out of the darkness of the track. Still the instrumentation develops in an almost evil folk manner that is interpreted through an electronic lens. These high strings gradually become consistent and melodic. The composition of this piece is very well-made. Although it stays on the same beat for the duration, it is hypnotic, understated.
A distorted wind instrument opens “Haun’s Mill” and gives way to screeching feedback. Sometimes Winter on the Hill Cumorah’s intentionally dirty production allows it remain punk in ethos while managing to be auteur. The sample and instrumentation in Seer & Revelator is reminiscent of Godspeed! You Black Emperor and early A Silver Mount Zion, though the filtered spoken word could be clearer. The words seem important here.
There are more rhythmic synths and banging metal sounds in Hymn No. 2 (A Fire is Burning). Again the listener wants to hear the criticism of the vocals, but they are tough to discern. The words should be the focal point instead of the vocal delivery.
After this track, long synths that give the listener to breathe. This develops well, and the Michael Gira-esque vocals work here for a while but sometimes they doesn’t feel as dark as the subject matter.Winter on the Hill Cumorah by Hasufel
Another sampled spiritual song is fuzzed out and the embrace of the rustling sound around it, probably a contact mic, really works. A synth bass creeps up from behind perfectly. After Hymn No. 246, the track “In the Mountain Shadow” goes into spooky, breathy vocals, which work well with the oscillating winds that sound like the Arabic A# scale. This composition is well-written and the performances match up to it. There are a nice mix of genres—industrial, dark ambient, and elements of improvisation and traditional music. Like Utah, the land of Mormonism, it embodies the desert.
The last track, Deseret, is named after the proposed Mormon State. A sample of many people repeating a prayer is particularly frightening. The people say, “O God hear the words from my mouth.” The intervals between them get a little shorter until a verbed-out bass knocks them down. It’s like the symbolic embrace of the duality of spirituality, light and dark.
Winter on the Hill Cumorah is a well-rounded album. With great flow and transitions, it feels like a singular piece of work. Some of the vocals are dissatisfying, the rhythms could vary, and more could happen, but the album accomplishes what it sets out to do with the down-beaten religious sounds and themes and in that way it is very cathartic.