Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hemlock - Funeral Mask (1997)

Last week I did a post that consisted of a "mix-tape" of sorts for y'all. Actually it was more of a "digital-mix" but nonetheless the premise remains the same. The mix featured USBM bands and within it I had a song from the obscure and occult band, HEMLOCK. Not much info is out there on the band and their material isn't exactly easy to acquire, so I thought it would be appropriate to feature the band.

HEMLOCK hailed from New York, NY and surfaced in 1992 as the "second wave of Black Metal" that emerged from Norway began to make headlines. Funeral Mask was released in the year 1997. HEMLOCK split up shortly after their second full-length release in 1999 titled Lust for Fire. Supposedly, they had ties with the Norwegian scene. I'm not sure to what extent their ties were but I remember reading that one of the members in the band's earlier days was in contact with Euronymous. They subsequently landed a deal with Head Not Found Records which was owned by Metalion of Slayer Magazine fame. So the connection was significant enough apparently.

Now I'm not a usually a huge fan of noisy, incoherent, under-produced metal, especially when it comes to black metal. It took me a few listens to really get into this album. The production is rough, true, but not entirely shit. The vocals are grating and often indecipherable at times; upon introduction, they were just annoying enough to almost quit listening all together, however I found myself getting used to them. The guitar work and drumming are what kept my attention though. I can't begin to describe this album as it is all over the place in parts and where some of the songs would normally be an immediate turnoff for me due to the vocals, they throw in a riff or drum fill or change in the rhythm that kept me interested. This album carries with it all the early hallmarks of black metal but elements of punk and thrash are also heard, and even doom if I dare say (check out the title track).

All of this makes for a highly volatile, rough, misanthropic sound. Just when you have come to terms with what this band is trying to convey or conjure up and are beginning to enjoy it, they take it from you, chew it up, and spit it back in your face all the while smashing your head in.

While it took some listening to - after many, many beers of course - I came to appreciate Funeral Mask and it's raw, dirty production. I feel the reviews for this album by others are somewhat inaccurate. In my opinion, this is a highly underrated album and a worthy listen for anyone remotely into black metal that came from the United States. If anything, this is truly a worthy listen. If this caught the interest of Norway's best back in the early '90s, this surely will appeal to those interested in a sound and a time that has since passed.

Tracks that stand out: Way Of The Wolf, Necrofuck, Loyal To Evil, and Funeral Mask.

Listen first
Purchase here

Metallum / Last.FM

ADDENDUM: As DoomUnicorn pointed out, which I apparently forgot to mention, this band features members that are/were/have been in other more prominent bands such as Nuclear Assault, Brutal Truth, Exumer, Dim Mak, and Incantation to name a few.


Aegipan said...

^Agreed! I left out the members' names and their affiliations with other more prominent bands figuring I'd let people do their own exploration hopefully. It's true, many of the reviews on Metal Archives I question but its still a good website to use as reference.

Fucking Lilker... How many bands has he been in now?? Shit, he's up there with Hoglan, DiGiorgio, et al.

Clint B said...