Katahdin/In Human Form/Aoi
The Blackhours

The Pacific Northwest gets a lot of USBM love – all those towering primeval forests, rugged coastlines and deep, billowing fog banks conjure the same fascination and mysticism as the old country (i.e. Norway). But what about the Great Northeast? There’s more up there than just Martha’s Vineyard, dropped r’s and lobster rolls. They’ve got deep primeval forests too, plus Revolutionary War-era ghosts, creepy Native American burial grounds and forgotten, Lovecraftian towns full of queer, fish-faced people. Oh and Stephen King lives up there.

Three northeastern acts – In Human Form, Katahdin and Aoi – have banded together for this unique 3-way split called The Blackhours, and while it’s not thematically consistent, it is a very respectable attempt to put down some stakes for USBM in the region.

In Human Form is up first (actually they’re the second track, but we’ll get back to Aoi later). If you recognize the band name (track 2 on Death‘s Individual Thought Patterns), then it’s no surprise that this black metal act has a heavy progressive bent. Except it’s not progressive in the noodly, technical way you’d expect – this is more like early-era Enslaved or Borknagar. Very raw and shaggy, and evolving through a variety of passages over the course of each 9 minute track.

“Intrepid Reverberations Unheard through Sympathy’s Dust” is loud and clattery, switching between an off-kilter, trollish stomp, full-out blasting attacks and heroic, epic/doom melodies. Vocals mix black shrieks and shouted folkish vocals (there’s that Borknagar again). The follow-up, “Myopic Configurations,” throws even more elements into the mix – there’s a spoken word exhortation reminiscent of Emperor‘s classic “With Strength I Burn,” and some wild soloing over heaving, epic crawls that reminded me of Nile or Mithras. There’s plenty here to keep you occupied and listening. Recording quality is pretty poor – adds to that mid ’90s authenticity I suppose, but I’d love to hear these guys with a beefy and balanced production, because the songwriting has a lot to offer.

Katahdin occupies the second half of The Blackhours with three tracks: “The Frozen Grey Night,” “Gizos” and “Shadow of Sorrow.” These guys are a much more straight-ahead black metal outfit than In Human Form – speedy and crisp, somewhere between Immortal and Absu, but with a busy, rollicking low end. The drums all but dominate here – another victim of the mediocre production – but luckily the drummer is relentless and precise, and there’s enough going on with the raw, discordant and folkish melodies to keep you hooked.

Katahdin’s bio states that they seek to capture the myths and legends of the Northeast, and their logo is even adorned by some Native American feathers. However, there’s nothing here, via atmospherics or other instrumentation, that really delivers on that promise. Maybe it’s in the lyrics, I dunno. “The Frozen Grey Night” sounds like any other black metal title from the past 20 years. They have a full-length though, so perhaps I’ll check that.

Finally, there’s Aoi, and they serve as the glue that holds The Blackhours together, with three medieval folk tunes that act as intro, outro and the bridge between the two black metal bands. The three songs offered are okay – airy and largely choral, with pleasing melodies and accomplished instrumentation, but they don’t contain enough melancholy to mesh with the discordant aggression from Katahdin and In Human Form (neither of which have even a touch of this kind of lightness).

So while I can’t say that this split establishes a real sound or identity for the Northeastern states the way that Agalloch and Wolves in the Throne Room are now synonymous with the Pacific Northwest, there’s still some very solid material here. I’ll be returning to the In Human Form tracks in particular, but overall all of The Blackhours turned out to be a pleasant surprise and is well worth the 6 dollar download from the Bandcamp site. Go and support.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
February 10th, 2012

Comments

  1. Commented by: Longdeadgod

    some other quality new england blackish metal: Shabti, Vaettir, Falls of Rauros, Infera Bruo


  2. Commented by: in5human5form5

    IN HUMAN FORM has made their first EP Chapters I-IV available for free download on their bandcamp to prepare their debut album via NHR records! inhumanformlowell.bandcamp.com


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