Few bands in the realm of black metal are as ambitious or daring as Hail Spirit Noir. The Greek band’s work throughout their debut, “Pneuma,” includes a bizarre anthology of odd black metal given a weird tint of obscure influences ranging from progressive rock to nonsensical avant-garde, but this is hardly their forefront gimmick. Instead, the group is able to produce a stellar collection of strangeness not limited to Hail Spirit Noir’s roots or their array of influences. The essence of “Pneuma” is primarily led by outstanding performances on the instrumental end which are accompanied by some of the boldest songwriting demonstrations the Greek black metal scene has ever witnessed. “Pneuma” ends up sounding like a nightmarish rollercoaster of dissected souls clawing against one another in some desperate attempt to escape whatever twisted damnation the stoners and sinners of this psychedelic hell call home.
Hail Spirit Noir is just weird. Right off the bat they heave an oddball rocker called "Mountain of Horror" which interestingly includes soft, feathery guitar work layered over shrieking vocals with piping keyboards coating the whole shebang and the occasional burst of ravenous black metal, as if the mixture of these items was a natural occurrence by some Bizarro standard. It sounds terrible on paper, I know, but there's a lot of creative energy here, and it's actually really amazing comparing the different tunes and how each is completely independent in some way or form. For instance, the sprawling epic “Into the Gates of Time” introduces a plethora of unique ideas such as esoteric clean vocals and a keyboard solo near the song's conclusion that would make Yes fans piss themselves, yet these specific characteristics are often untouched throughout the remainder of the album.
With the amount of individualism portrayed in each tune, it's no wonder Hail Spirit Noir's bag of tricks never stops surprising. At one point they'll be heaving sarcastically upbeat rock notes like "When All is Black" or imitating 70s rock icons Blue Öyster Cult as if they were thrown in a blackened filter during "Haire Pneuma Skoteino"; never a dull moment in the world of "Pneuma," that's for sure. "Against the Curse, We Dream" acts as the record's 'blackest' anthem, but again the traits of black metal are spliced into some dimension outside of our understanding through unpredictable rhythms and developments on the musical structure. Excellent riffs, excellent postulates, excellent clean vocals, excellent shrieks, and, generally speaking, excellent progressive black metal.
What first was an uncalculated, abnormal experience quickly became something mysteriously idiosyncratic and uniquely diabolical, a true triumph of Hail Spirit Noir’s disregard of musical law and acceptance of disobedient behavior. There seems to be something incredibly special about the band that most of their blood brothers seem to lack despite the initial unpredictability of their core, yet Hail Spirit Noir consequently produced an album so addictive and perplexing that I can only imagine just what substances these crazy Greeks were taking that influenced them to write such bold material. The journey is dark and fulfilling, a promising testament of unparalleled dominance crashing against the unconscious droning of evil souls producing evil music with the craziest of intentions. “Pneuma” is an essential voyage for the oddballs of black metal and similar addicts that desire such peculiar blasphemies.