Metal and horror have been BFFs longer than most of us have been alive, but too many groups tend to limit themselves on horror’s most absurd aspects: love of gore, excess, and shock factor. Very few emphasize the wider, grander attributes of terror: suspense, existentialism, and artistic beauty. Over the course of their career, Finland’s Hooded Menace have shared an explicit love of the grotesque, and their death/doom sound has been morphing over time into something truly sublime: a sound that captures the wide array of horror darkness and light.
“Dripping” is an adjective that’s often been attributed to Hooded Menace – their last album was even called Darkness Drips Forth – but never has the doomier side of their formula felt more essential. The best songs on this astoundingly great record harness that melodic, grand feel to create long passages of musical suspense. You know the turn can occur at any moment, and these Finns are masterful songwriters. Even in the album’s slowest weakest moment, the opening half of “Cathedral of Labyrinthine Darkness”, the dread is ratcheted up to skin-crawling dimensions, progressively slowing the dirge to chilling levels. That gorgeous lead guitar is like a siren in the distance signaling the punishment that’s about to come; however, Hooded Menace are just as skilled in the art of death metal as they are in melodic funeral doom. The song’s mammoth second half is just as melodic and haunting, if only at thrice the speed.
So while Hooded Menace’s latest sonic horror film is every bit as dripping as their past works, Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed is also the band at their most wistful and beautiful. It finds the band coming into their own and also finding a fairly unique take on a death/doom style that has exploded of late. Hooded Menace are masters at the mixture of grotesque and gorgeous, and this record may go down as one of 2018’s best because of that.