Once consumed by the vortex, sound is twisted into ungodly shapes reflecting the existence of heavenly beauty and fiery hell simultaneously. Voices shriek, roar and babble incoherently, yet still possess an emotion that suggests eternal conflict. Time moves sporadically; occasionally matching light itself in a head to head, sometimes apparently in stasis. Nothing, it seems, is beyond the realms of possibility. Such unfathomable delights can be found throughout Manégarmr, although using the term ‘delights’ to describe this album is not unlike the Cenobites in Hellraiser offering their “pleasures”.
Hessian’s appearance on Southern Lord is not a surprise. Of late, the label has made a habit of releasing albums by bands that straddle genres and defy outright definition. Throw words like crust, punk and black at them and they get sucked into a violent melee and spat back out in a peculiar bloody mess. What can be ascertained over the course of Mánégarmr is that it is stupendously heavy, brutal and precision crafted. Approach the album cold, and every expectation about it will be challenged and picked apart in a seething mass of riotous riffing and searing solos. If that doesn’t do the trick then a light pounding via d-beat or low-geared seagues should just about do it. The album even opens with a nifty sleight of hand by morphing the none-more-black introductory fizz of Ascension into a far meatier, violent beast. The d-beat apocalypse of Plague Monger is a frantic high point as it slams punk into the floor repeatedly and elects to celebrate victory with a short, but effective guitar solo.
Swallowing Nails ups the ante somewhat by throwing an increasing sense of discordance into the mix. The chorus finds vocalist Colin Van Eeckhout growling in such a tortured manner that it is not unreasonable to consider that he may have been at least gargling ironmongery whilst delivering his lines. The band slows down in to a lurching groove for the chorus and in doing so becomes a sonic hammer with which to pound each and every nail down the gullet. Eeckhout’s chant somehow twists into a unifying moment of anthemic propulsion amongst the chaos that surrounds it.
Elsewhere, the shadow of Scandinavian death metal looms large. The filthy guitar tone, and thunderous bottom end of Serpent’s Whisper, or the almost chucked away solos that pepper the album could quite happily reside on any of Entombed‘s earlier albums. However, it’s in the band’s more introspective, mantra-like moments that they really impress. The signs are there on the droning rest stop of Vamacara, which seethes with a barely contained sense of anger and foreboding. It’s the closing track of Mother Of Light where everything comes together perfectly. From the hardcore crush of its opening moments via a fevered guitar adding a panic attack squall and its chanted invocations, this isn’t so much a song as an exercise in terrifying ambience. It shows a different side to the band but finds them finding their balance in perfect equilibrium as the album comes to a close. If this is the sound of the void then, as Hessian’s labelmates Enabler so loudly proclaim, “all hail the void”.