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Hegemon - "Contemptus Mundi" (CD)

Hegemon - "Contemptus Mundi" CD cover image

"Contemptus Mundi" track listing:

1. Itenou Pedjet (5:52)
2. Because of War, because of Men (4:33)
3. Asakku (5:58)
4. Felix qui potuit Rerum cognoscere Causas (4:24)
5. Eli, Eli, Lamma Sabacthani (5:00)
6. Proskynese (5:21)
7. Aî Abur Shapû (6:06)
8. Contemptus Mundi (5:56)

Reviewed by on November 19, 2008

"The disc offers a heaping dosage of the most extreme characteristics of black metal along with a refreshing amount of originality."

Out of the frigid blackness of France’s darkest night comes Hegemon to unleash a storm of chaos and madness upon the music world in the form of “Contemptus Mundi,” which is the third release from the metal quartet and the first since their recent signing with Season of Mist. The disc offers a heaping dosage of the most extreme characteristics of black metal along with a refreshing amount of originality.

Hegemon take a rather different approach to black metal than most other bands in the genre, and it shows in almost everything they do. There are plenty of little changes, like the fact that the band name is completely legible on the album cover and that the members refer to themselves by single letter designations rather than by over the top fantasy pseudonyms, as well as several much larger ones that have a bigger impact on the music itself. In a nod to the early days of the scene, the overall production is just slightly muted down enough that they can claim to have that raw necro sound, but still good enough that all the instruments can be easily heard and very little of the nuance is lost. Unsurprisingly, the bass remains the lowest item on the totem pole, getting dropped to the bottom of the mix, but it still makes itself heard the vast majority of the time. The freezing cold feel created by repeating blast beats and lightning fast guitar riffs also get tempered frequently by fully acoustic guitar segments.

Even with all the changes to the formula, Hegemon is still solidly within the boundaries of crushingly heavy and fast black metal. From the harsh and rasping growl to the tortured screams used in the background, everything about this album exudes all those unpleasant feelings of evil and malice along with occasional references to the darker aspects of religion. The track “Eli, Eli, Lamma Sabacthani” starts off with a sample from a movie with Jesus uttering those famous Greek words for “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” just before succumbing to the pull of death. The song combines bagpipes with the guitars to give a very old world feel without moving all the way into the territory of symphonic metal. “Asakku” is another track that uses spiritual concepts to invoke dread by referencing evil Mesopotamian spirits that desire to kill the living. It also ends up being one of the best songs on the album, as it combines all of Hegemon’s greatest qualities, using the layering of melodic soft guitar parts with heavier and distorted versions of the same riff, as well as throwing in a very well placed sample from the film “Event Horizon” of people crying out their agony as they suffer the torments of hell. Those short creepy moments that show up without warning in the midst of all the heaviness give “Contemptus Mundi” a real edge over similar albums.

There are many minute elements to the album that can get lost in the fury of sound the first or even second time around. As all of the various aspects come together and start to sink in over time it becomes clear that “Contemptus Mundi” has a lot more to offer than just straight forward black metal. The entirely acoustic parts, distorted electric parts played quietly, and use of movie samples that perfectly match the tone of the song are what really distinguishes Hegemon from other bands. The combination of the biting and bitter cold of Norwegian style black metal with the polish and melodic elements of melodeath makes this album one to check out for anyone whose tastes fall anywhere within that spectrum of music.

Highs: Heavy, fast, but with frequent acoustic interludes for strong contrast

Lows: Slightly low end production and takes a few listens through for the full effect

Bottom line: A solid French black metal release with a good deal of refreshing originality

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)