With its first full length, Mordrake, Hollow sets foot on the metal landscape with a head start. With members of Your Last Wish, Karkaos and Hands of Despair, one can expect a professional attitude and a strong inclination for melodic metal and complex instrumentation.
Hollow’s attitude is displayed in many ways throughout this record; band members are theatrical yet serious in what they’re doing; their music is very dark while exhibiting rich textures; and their musicianship is both excellent and accessible. While they dress up and use corpse paint, band members stay away from Dungeons & Dragons or Beetlejuice costumes. The use of professional hands for the airbrush make-up and costumes, but also for the stunning photography, layout and graphic design visually enhance any message the music can offer – for these reasons I would not be surprised if Mordrake is a contender for one of the nicest Canadian metal CD of the year. Luckily, a great deal of efforts was also put into the recording of Mandrake: it was co-produced by Dan Lauzon (of Entropy) and engineered by Kevin Jardine at Uplift Studio (Slaves On Dope, Fallstaf, Dissension), with very convincing results. On Mordrake, all instruments are loud, deep and clear, making it easy to enjoy by any fan of metal.
Hollow is tagged as a symphonic black metal act, but I’d be tempted to describe Mordrake as a melodic death metal album painted in black. “Symphonic” and “orchestral” are terms not often found in my album reviews, and the reason for this is that in most cases I see it as an arrangement process rather than a genre per se. Bands like Hollow add vocals and rich keyboards to create additional layers, but its structure remains thrash or metal in a conventional way, rather than being composed for a symphonic orchestra.
Thematically, I find many baroque attributes to describe Mordrake. In art, the Baroque period (17th and 18th Century) is thematically characterized by the spiritual anguish associated with Salvation. We can see this theme materialized through multiple layers of details, and the strategic use of light and darkness to create both tension and drama. In the baroque artistic language, more is richer, nicer, and better. This is how I see Hollow in comparison to gothic metal bands like Cradle of Filth, who aesthetically speaking would probably be closer to England’s 19th Century Romanticism. While gothic and black metal have something nostalgic, catchy and sometimes hygienic (especially in gothic metal), the blackened melodic metal of Hollow is more dusty, more ancient and closer to the death and thrash metal roots. Similarly, it doesn’t abuse female vocals (Maude Théberge of Sanguine Glacialis is guest vocals on “Birth”, but that’s about it), or the overpowering keyboard orchestration. With Hollow, songs are metal from start to finish (with a focus on the guitars and drums) and without the keyboards and vocals it would probably be melodic metal with accents of death and power-folk metal (for example, “Sunriser” and “Vlad”). Across the album, the melodic elements are mostly brought by CaDaver’s lead guitar and Mott’s (and other guest vocalists) different styles of vocals (black, death and clean).
Aside from the look and the vocal delivery, the black metal influences can be found in the lyrics. Themes of horror, history, violence and ancient evil bring the album closer to the Scandinavian countries rather than England’s tales of sexy vampires – with maybe the exception of “Vlad” (although this song’s focus is more on the soulless ruler than the folk character). The quality of the texts and their construction are above the average metal band, and their richness, complementarity, and format variety make Mordrake’s lyrics enjoyable: for example, “Snow” seems to have been inspired by Lovecraft’s iconic “At the Mountains of Madness”; “Anomie” was composed in French; and we find the Mordrake trilogy (“Birth”, “Hate”, and “Death”) at the end of the album.
In conclusion, Hollow is a welcome addition to Quebec’s and Canada’s metal scenes and Mandrake is a refreshing take on the so-called “symphonic black metal” genre: while it has strong ties to thrash and melodic death metal, the black metal atmosphere of the album takes shape when approached as a whole, with its lyrics, musical and visual layers.
Recommended for fans of Old Man’s Child.
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