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Hiems - "Worship or Die" (CD)

Hiems - "Worship or Die" CD cover image

"Worship or Die" track listing:

1. Worship or Die (1:37)
2. I (7:00)
3. Scum Destroyer (5:48)
4. W.O.F. (8:04)
5. Adventum (1:04)
6. Bringer of Light (7:26)
7. Wounds Just Death Can Heal (6:46)
8. Hiems (10:55)
9. 2909979 (2:00)
10. Race With the Devil (3:39)

Reviewed by on January 29, 2010

"The album is a lofty experiment into the depths of black metal, and one that definitely could be considered a success, even if it does come up shy of masterpiece status."

One-man metal bands are a perfect fit for the rebellion and strong themes of individualism that instigated black metal and have continued to pervade its every move. Hiems was birthed by Algol of Italian act Forgotten Tomb, and his second album, “Worship or Die,” has an eclectic and professional feel that flies in the face of what can usually be expected from unknown solo bands. The album is a lofty experiment into the depths of black metal, and one that definitely could be considered a success, even if it does come up shy of masterpiece status.

The foundation of the album is laid in late ‘90s style black metal in the vein of Old Man’s Child, and the similarities really come into the forefront when harsh filters are applied to the vocals. Lyrically and thematically “Worship or Die” follows the standard themes of misanthropy and refusing to succumb to conformity and religion. That basic foundation is only the beginning though, as the songs build up into something completely different.

For the most part, the disc hovers just outside the boundaries of melodic metal. The music keeps up a heavy barrage that is tempered by stylistic symphonic touches, leading bass lines, and an incredibly focused production. Each song is generally multi-faceted and goes deeper than the customary freezing cold black metal battering. Small touches like the cymbal-heavy drumming make the songs flow instead of assault the senses.

One of the album’s highlights occurs in “W.O.F.,” which uses a series of clean and low chants that shift quickly back into the black metal growl. The simple variation creates a menacing sound that isn’t often heard. As soon as the growls die down the track combines a repeating and building guitar riff with some synth effects to create an impression of rotation and movement.

“Worship or Die” makes a sudden turn on “Wounds Just Death Can Heal” towards black ‘n roll, throwing less extreme forms of rock into the mix. “Hiems” follows suit, using heavy guitars and gargled vocals in a completely rock and doom oriented way. The song switches back to black metal atmosphere part way through with a raining sound effect, and then shifts again into doom and slightly more melodic territory before returning full circle. For his final trick, Algol channels some Opeth and adds in some ‘70s prog rock style organ sounds towards the end of the track. The sound is amazing and actually fits the song in a completely unexpected way, but it also leaves the impression that the entire album could have been much better if that sort of sound was worked into other songs as well.

Even though the music avoids the low end production and repetitive guitar work common to many black metal bands, there is still a vague sense of repetition throughout the album. The problem is mainly fostered by the long track lengths. Although there are noticeable changes in pace, there just simply isn’t enough variation present to warrant songs that pass the eight and ten minute marks. The melodic interludes of the title track and “Adventum” also fall into the mediocre category, and could have been left out without actually losing anything.

“Worship or Die” doesn’t destroy any musical boundaries, but it puts up a remarkably valiant effort and even comes close to success. It must also be given credit for making the bass a focal point in a genre that is actively antagonist towards its bassist population. Unfortunately there are just enough cast off leftovers from the dredges of recycled black metal to make the album fall slightly short of a title like “progressive.” The excellent production and interesting take on a tired genre is impressive, however, and worth hearing by anyone who likes doom, rock, or black metal.

Highs: Cool black 'n roll feel, great production, interesting twists towards the end.

Lows: Has an overall feel of repetition as the songs are just slightly too long, the organ towards the end would have been great in other songs as well.

Bottom line: High end solo black metal that takes a few interesting turns into black 'n roll territory.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)