Hail Spirit Noir
Pneuma

Oh man, what a weird little album this is. Hail Spirit Noir are two guys from Greece, playing a kooky mix of black metal and late ’60s psychedelic folk. I wish Pneuma were actually 40 years old, and that I’d found it on vinyl in the back of some musty old secondhand store, all covered in dust and mildew. It just has that authentic, whimsical charm and queerness about it, and it’s one of the most entertaining albums I’ve heard in a long while.

That’s largely because Pneuma isn’t a black metal album with psychedelia bleeding in around the edges – it’s a psychedelic album that’s gone black and rotten at its core. Every song here is a colorful kaleidoscope of heaving organs, tumbling bass and goblin-esque vocals that scrape, slither and cavort. Trippy, yes, but it might also send you scrambling for the Thorazine. Tracks like opener “Mountain of Horror” and the 12-minute epic “In the Gates of Time” are structured as heavy, psychedelic dirges, equal parts of The Doors or The Moody Blues crossed with Sigh or Solefald. These two songs mostly lope and lurch along at a mid-paced tempo, but also crank to a thrashy gallop or blackened scramble before going all prog-wackadoo. Best of all, they’re always cogent and listenable even as they morph and expand. Every minute offers some new twist or quirk, but it all rumbles along in the same direction, rather than the Frankenstein-mishmash ADD approach that defines some other avant-garde acts.

Hail Spirit Noir also has a wicked sense of humor, as you’ll hear in Pneuma’s two gauzy folk-ballads. “Let the Devil Come Inside” starts as a cooing lullaby, then quickly goes all wrong with its out-of-nowhere growled chorus, “Kill your mother, while you’re still in her womb.” The song wanders off from there into a dreamlike interlude of xylophone and strings, then dives into a nightmare of burbling bass, spidery dissonant solos and muffled blastbeats. “When All is Black” is even weirder, with soothing flutes and a sonorous clean vocal that turns the lyric “Smells like dry sores” into a haunting and lovely refrain. Then it too takes off on a gallop through psychedelic hinterlands, where time drips backwards and the flowers unfurl grey petals and the goats nestle in tight by the banks of a poison river… I can’t help but compare a song like “When All is Black” to one of the psychedelic odysseys off of Opeth’s Heritage; they both tread the same twisty path that leads back to the hazy fractal bloom of the late ’60s, but somehow this comes off as more authentic and creepy than many of that album’s tracks.

And then there’s “Against the Curse We Dream,” the album’s groovy, shambling highlight. It’s basically black metal surf-rock with horror movie keyboards, like a Scooby Doo chase sequence except the ghostly sea captain isn’t some guy in a shabby costume and phosphorescent dust – he’s a kelp-strangled corpse with water in his lungs and rape in his eyes. “Against the Curse” is the album’s most straightforward track, but it’s also super-catchy and odd and entertaining as hell.

Mixing retro ’60s/’70s psychedelia or occult rock with blacker influences isn’t radically novel these days, given similar sounds from Opeth, Sigh and Ghost. If you missed the death influence from Heritage though, you’ll definitely want to check this out, even if the rougher sections of Pneuma are still not terribly ferocious. Still, this is an awesome, authentic and weird little treasure, and well worth seeking out if you like your metal weird, melodic and memorable. Pneuma will be occupying a special place in my collection along with other delicious little oddities like Phantasmagory’s Anamorphosis of Dreams, Ved Buens Ende’s Written in Waters, Frantic Bleep’s The Sense Apparatus and Korovakill’s Waterhells.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
May 16th, 2012

Comments

  1. Commented by: bodaboo

    Member from transcending bizzarre.and you’re wrong,its meant to sound like.black metal tells the 60’s/70’s which is what it does.lose the lame.prog tag.


  2. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    this band is fucking weird.


  3. Commented by: Guilliame

    This album is interesting on first and second listen. After that, it recedes. It’s not as good as i intially thought. Afetr repeated listening, it’s a quite the mess.


  4. Commented by: gabaghoul

    i’m about a dozen listens in and still enjoying it, to each his own I guess


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