With Vilest of Worms to Dwell

Former Pungent Stench frontman Martin Shirenc stormed back into the scene with 1999’s Hollenthon debut, Domus Mundi, an eclectic, hard-hitting foray into a wide variety of metal stylings. The sophomore effort With Vilest of Worms to Dwell takes that catalystic impetus into the 21st century with another inspired album that is practically overflowing with originality and conviction. I can think of no band currently incorporating such an array of influences into their music as effectively as Hollenthon – and I would be hard pressed to compare their sound to any band, past or present.

Neither death nor black, not gothic or atmospheric metal, not thrash, folk, or doom, Hollenthon are all of these and yet none of them, and can really only be described by their moniker itself. Mainly, heavy crunching guitars are set against a symphonic backdrop of dramatic strings and choirs, with occasional tangents of soft singing and ethnic instrumentation. Once again recorded in Shirenc’s own Vata Loco studio in Austria, the production is deep and lush, a real treat for the audiophile. My only real complaint with the album lies in the drum sound, which is much more canned and fake sounding than that of the debut. It’s not to the extreme of the latest trigger-happy affairs by Mayhem and Morbid Angel, but it’s just enough to sound almost more machine than man.

Martin is again joined by Mike Groeger on drums, and his wife Elena provides lyrics, a brief vocal line in “The Calm Before the Storm,” and sparse backing vocals elsewhere. Creative riffing and orchestrations abound, this is some of the most original and moving stuff happening in the scene at the moment. Martin’s vocals are generally a bit lower in pitch than on Domus Mundi, perhaps in part to distance himself from the black metal tag some slapped on that album. “Lords of Bedlam” features a little violin/lead guitar doubled melody line that with its contemplative classical feel sounds like it could be on a Devil Doll album. The only other part of the album that really reminds me of any other band is the opening riff of “Conquest Demise,” which coincidentally is quite similar to the main riff of Carcass’ “This Mortal Coil.” (“Twisted and warped…”) One of Hollenthon’s many strengths lies in its ability to cover a variety of moods, happy and sad, laid back and aggressive, never sounding forced, always genuine. They can sound sinister and symphonic, triumphant and sad, angry and contemplative, sometimes all of these simultaneously. Album closer “Conspirator” is momentarily launched into yet another sphere with the briefly appearing dread-inducing horror soundtrack keyboards over the chorus.

Despite all the eclecticism and variety, the overall feel is of a very heavy, aggressive metal album. Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys metal albums that push the envelope, With Vilest of Worms to Dwell is a triumph for Shirenc and the entire metal movement. Amazing.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Aaron J. Klamer
June 11th, 2001


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