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Hivelords - "Cavern Apothecary " (CD)

Hivelords - "Cavern Apothecary " CD cover image

"Cavern Apothecary " track listing:

1. Atavus Lich (6:32)
2. Antennae Manifest (6:30)
3. Cavern Apothecary (8:13)
4. The Growing Overwhelm (11:03)
5. The Auraglyph (7:08)

Reviewed by on September 4, 2013

"Crushing. Barren. Unpleasant. Vile. This whole review could just be a collection of one-word thoughts to put into perspective the rancid joy of 'Cavern Apothecary,' the debut album from Philadelphia’s Hivelords."

Crushing. Barren. Unpleasant. Vile. This whole review could just be a collection of one-word thoughts to put into perspective the rancid joy of “Cavern Apothecary,” the debut album from Philadelphia’s Hivelords. Roaring black metal and lifeless doom are the factors that Hivelords builds their songs from, and it’s much more versatile than it may seem on the surface. The band isn’t just one thing or the other; there isn’t a precise mechanic for how they go about their lengthy endeavors. “Cavern Apothecary” is a dark album, fueled by red-hot torment, but there are means taken to not fall victim to its expansive nature.

Hivelords speaks of harsh realities, truths that nobody likes to hear. It might be easier to get that through with softer tones and light-hearted melodies, but Hivelords will have none of that. “Cavern Apothecary” looks in all the dark corners to expose the bleakest of fates, and the music is equally as hopeless. That word “crushing” is not just the first one of the review by accident; it’s the precise feeling that comes across when the rigid guitar, sterile bass, and uproarious drums all come together as one unsettling entity.

The doom metal and black metal are split across the five tracks, as the band transitions from each style with relative grace. “Atavus Lich” sticks with the latter, though the rhythm work is more associated with black metal than the guitar. It’s an odd pairing, hearing blast beats along with extended notes reverberating through the beats, but it plays well. The track is also a good introduction to the vocals, which aren’t just of the brutal raspy kind. The vocalist plays with cleaner tones when appropriate in the context of the song, and his voice has more range than plenty of other metal vocalists.

The band has not abandoned all hope in their music. Though there aren't any folksy breaks or sing-along choruses, they use the doom metal avenues to open up the atmosphere with slowly-picked guitar notes. “Antennae Manifest” does this with ease, as the vocals take a backseat to the rest of the band. At over 11 minutes, “The Growing Overwhelm” has the time behind it to pack in some slowly-played melodies haunting the eventual collapse of reason that comes a few minutes in.

Crushing. Barren. Unpleasant. Vile. A couple hundred words later, and these four still feel like the most valuable descriptions of “Cavern Apothecary.” It’s amazing how swept-up a person can get into Hivelords and their brash music, to the point that 40 minutes goes by with little warning. “Cavern Apothecary” is a strong contender for debut album of the year, and Hivelords gets props for finding a method in mingling black, doom, and a hint of sludge metal without it sounding forced or misplaced.

Highs: Crushing, barren, unpleasant, and vile in the best ways possible, long songs that don't feel stretched out, glorious blackened doom/sludge

Lows: Nothing outright, unless you are offended by vocals that have some range to them

Bottom line: Hivelords has emerged with one of the best debut albums of the year in “Cavern Apothecary.”

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

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)