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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. Hail 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 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.

Track Listing
1. Anathema
2. Sleezevil
3. The Destroyer
4. Pestilence
5. Wither
6. Wolfchild
7. Seminal
8. They Speak in Swarms
9. Calling in Silent
10. Send Down Your Reign

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Himsa - Hail Horror


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