Himsa - Hail Horror Review
by Mark Hensch
Back in early 2004, I stumbled across
a band that blew me out of my chair. The band was a tiny Seattle quintet
known as Himsa, and their newest album, Courting Tragedy and Disaster,
came across as a modern metal masterpiece. What impressed me so much (both
at the time, and still to this day two years later) was the ferocity of
the album. There is only one other band in existence that conveys the sense
of immediate evisceration and destruction that Courting gave me,
and that other band is the almighty Slayer. Just like 1986's Reign in
Blood, Courting was brutal, frantic, and cruel. Never once was it a
merciful or kind piece of work, and the band's live show was no different.
Seeing them that summer, they blew away cream of the crop acts like As
I Lay Dying and Shadows Fall, having the best part of the lineup. That
was the Strhess tour, and after that Himsa never stopped moving; MTV2 enlisted
them to lay waste alongside various other up-and-comers on the Headbangers
Ball tour, and after that Danzig recruited them for his "Blackest of the
Black" tour alongside Evil Elvis himself and Eastern-Bloc death metal demigods
Behemoth, to name a few. When I heard Hail Horror would be released
with the same line-up as Courting in late 2005, I rejoiced. Himsa
has suffered an almost insane amount of line-up revampings, and it seemed
like the band had at last found some stability. Not so. Some internal politics
within the band would cause Horror to be pushed back to early 2006.
2006 is here, and so is Hail Horror.
Does Horror finally silence the Himsa critics, and prove beyond a reasonable
doubt that few traces of metalcore exist in the band's sound? Would this
album mark the ascendancy of Himsa to the modern American metal podium,
alongside Lamb of God, Trivium, Mastodon, and Shadows Fall? And most importantly,
(for me at least) would Hail Horror sound even more evil than Courting
Tragedy and Disaster?
The answers (in order of the questions
asked) are in my opinion yes, probably, and no. Himsa are definitely moving
very far from their hardcore roots; many have mentioned the Cro-Mags when
it comes to their sound, but those influences are lessening with each and
every release. Himsa however sounds much less intense, brutal, or evil
when Hail Horror is concerned. This is where that probably came
from; after spinning Hail Horror several times, I've come to the
conclusion Himsa are slowing themselves and tempering their aggression
with more melody simply to attract new fans. Thus, Himsa very well could
be the next band to become massive darlings of the American metal scene,
but only by lightening their attack first. Horror feels less like
a Himsa pummeling and more like Black Dahlia Murder playing a show with
As I Lay Dying. It's mildly punishing metal worship frequently laced with
sleek, shiny hooks to lure in less adventuresome heavy music fans, and
it doesn't always feel right.
That doesn't make Hail Horror a
bad CD by any means; I just wouldn't call it a masterpiece. The underwhelming
"Anathema" starts things off with a mid-paced slither and a chugging groove
that sounds a bit too "by-the-numbers" for my taste. There's some sweet
guitar work here, but again, an almost insane amount of ambient melody.
Followup "Sleezevil" is better, mixing
galloping riffage and frantic drumming with a strong riff breakdown that
sounds odd the first listen or two, but fits pretty well in the context
of the song. "The Destroyer" is the first track that really got my blood
pumping, and I knew this was going to be a killer. When I saw Himsa in
concert last summer, they previewed this track and laid waste to everything.
Horror captures this holocaust of a song on tape, mixing wicked, headbanging
charges with some Slayer-ish arrangements and a beatdown by song's end
that would incite some massive pit action.
"Pestilence" is another superb cut, mixing
hooky palm-mutes, straight-ahead chug, and a fantastic guitar leads here
and there. The strange "Wither" is probably the best song in the 'new'
Himsa cannon. Opening with (*gasp*) a passage of clean, echoing guitar
plucks, the song soon swells into rising power metal harmonics and kicks
the listener's teeth in with a long, passionate, and convicted rocker.
"Wolfchild" reeks of Gothenburg style,
and in my mind is a few teeth short of a maw seething with rabies if you
get my drift. "Seminal" is a basic exercise in rote metalcore, and doesn't
leave too lasting of an impression....at least until the song's soaring
grand finale of blazing guitar.
"They Speak in Swarms" is some frantic
quasi-thrash; this strong track swings between razor-sharp riffs, a fiery
guitar solo, and meaty stop-start breaks. The hectic "Calling In Silent"
is anything but quiet. Lashing out in furious melodic metalcore, the song
pummels, pounds, grinds, and soars. Good stuff.
Closer "Send Down Your Reign" is an ass-kicking
finish to a mixed bag of music. The song hits the perfect mix of crisp
melody, chaotic turmoil, and brute destruction that originally drew me
to Himsa in the first place.
If I had to pick one word to describe Hail
Horror, it would be conflicted. Himsa derive their name from the Sanskrit
language, and mean roughly "One who cause pain or hurt." On Hail Horror,
it seems Himsa do little hurting or inflicting of pain. As a longtime fan,
I was expecting things to be a little more vicious; no matter. The guitar
work of Derek Harn is consistently strong and is worth the purchase of
an album itself. Beyond that, though a few of the songs are mediocre at
best, Himsa still know how to really lay a hurting on listeners and tracks
like "Pestilence," "The Destroyer," and "Send Down Your Reign" hurt really
good. Scratch that, really REALLY good. In closing, I'd recommend this
album, but it's not essential. In the Himsa cannon, Courting Tragedy and
Disaster already has that spot reserved.
3. The Destroyer
8. They Speak in Swarms
9. Calling in Silent
10. Send Down Your Reign
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