Hands of Orlac
Figli del Crepuscolo

The Hands of Orlac by Maurice Renard is a tale I’m very familiar with having seen numerous film adaptations of it including the 1960 version with Christopher Lee, The Beast with Five Fingers and The Hand.  What is it about that ol’ genre staple involving disembodied limbs running amuck that is so appealing?  I couldn’t tell you, but I’m a fan.  In truth I always thought the story would make for a good band name, and here comes a raging lot of Italian/Swedish heavy metal stormtroopers who obviously share my decapitated sense of enthusiasm.

A quintet, Hands of Orlac are all about a bloody, horror-soaked atmosphere on their second full-length recording Figli de Crepuscolo.  Initial pre-listen impressions told me this was going to be some sort of female fronted occult doom affair, and although the enigmatic Sorceress (no names, only aliases on this one) delivers the vocals in a powerful, gothic wail; these cats don’t only use trace elements of sloth riffs, instead opting for a sound that’s classic metal with plenty of doom overtones if such a vague description makes any sense.  I.e. there’s plenty of doom on hand, but with enough straightforward heavy metal to keep it interesting.  Intro track, “I Figli del Crepuscolo” could have been culled from any Goblin soundtrack and nobody would have known any better.  It’s a wavy, warbling drone of distinctly 80s slasher synths played on Satan’s Korg.

Twin riffs and old school metal thunder is the order of the day on “Last Fatal Drop,” which provides some nice call and response between the snare fills and the Judas Priest-ly groove surgery.  The Sorceress adds flute to the mix, and slight neoclassical flourishes wash over the instrumentation leaning a progressive, ethereal element without getting too progg-y.  The Templar’s limber, well-recorded bass lines are a consistent highlight of the mix, and his groove plays well off The Clairvoyant’s snare-centered percussion, driving the guitarists into some brief albeit brimstone-laced soloing.  Vocally, the croons are rich with drama, passion and malice, just right for a sound that makes you think of racks, stockades and the cat o’ nine tails whipping at your back.  If you need comparisons I’d say think Sabbath, Priest, Christian Mistress, Jex Thoth and the original occult-folk rockers Black Widow dissected and desecrated in a Vatican temple.

A brute force, English metal bludgeon is thrashed into the ground during the opening of “Burning,” where the heft and tense, dynamic playing is way more Priest than the Sab 4, but it’s not long before begotten doom chords both acoustic and electric mingle with Pagan flute, halting the pace to a dead stop.  One guitarist erects a powerhouse sludgy riff out of the muck, allowing a lead workout from the other to play overtop, the darkness giving way to skyward, light bearing vocals.  Spiteful solos drag the song back into blackness, and the slumbering doom grooves pick up the pace into some ghostly jazz drumming, and a valiant, old school riff gallop.  The tempo switches are welcome, seeing as a lot of bands in a similar musical mindset don’t seem to offer much variety in the pacing, but here that issue is nowhere to be found.

“A Coin in the Heart” is probably the most direct, and aggressive shredder on the record, overflowing with horror movie samples and banshee screams in the background.  The approach is a polar reverse of the preceding tune with rough doom bending the edges of a jam that grinds away in a mid-tempo, pissed-off thrash mode.  Trippy breaks punctuated by plummeting sludge drops and elven flute madness again bring back the Wicker Man insanity for another chase around the Mulberry bush as the vocals touch on some strong, memorable melodies.  In fact the rustic image of Ian Anderson’s flute leading Iommi’s guitar into battle is the image created on the initial heavy doom reckoning of Noctua,” Tull and Sabbath duking it out again just like the days of yore.  Soon the guitars rise into a riff-y, chunky staccato befitting of the greatest early 80s thrash bands only slowed down and sluggard with swipes of pure doom riffage and NWOBHM lead/solos in hot pursuit of the crunching abandon.

Melodic lead notes are melted across gargantuan Sabbath dirge in “A Ghost Story,” where the classical vibes and primitive poundings reek of Candlemass’ Tales of Creation taking Cathedral’s Forest of Equilibrium out to dinner.  The bass lines got a good sense of Geezer Butler happening, and the combined sonic ballast of guitarists The Puritan and Alex Moraitis (wait, there is a real name on here!) harmonize on some stellar licks.  Most of the action takes place as a pillaging plod until the 5:10 mark where bluesy, classic rockin’ comes into full focus, eventually leading to bloodshot soloing and regal guitar harmonies.  Without a doubt this is the best cut on the record.  Closer, “Mill of the Stone Woman” ends the album on an abyssal, hellbound doom note.

This is a good, solid doom-y metal record right here.  The playing is diverse enough to keep the music cooking, I’m digging the switches in style that occur throughout and also enjoy the generally vintage atmosphere the band conjures up.  Good stuff all around and they’ve got their own identity in a crowded pack of players.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
March 6th, 2015

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