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Hooded Menace – The Tritonus Bell

hooded menace – the tritonus bell

At this point in their career, it’s safe to say that Finland’s Hooded Menace are a crowd favorite. Their specific brand of melancholic Death/Doom has garnered them a deceptively large fanbase while firmly establishing themselves as a pillar in their respective community. In fact, they’re a prime example of the IYKYK acronym: if you’re into Death/Doom, odds are you know their name. And if you know their name, chances are you’re already a convert. Needless to say, when a new Hooded Menace album drops, people get excited. But after five full-length albums and more than a handful of splits and EPs to their name, one must wonder if these Finnish Death/Doomers can keep the excitement going. Is “The Tritonus Bell” a worthy addition to an already stellar discography? Or is it just treading water and delivering more of the same?

It’s no secret that Death/Doom’s popularity has exploded in recent years. The subgenre has been seeing a steady influx of newer bands, though it’s not nearly as overcrowded as, say, the OSDM arena currently is. But, as with any sudden surge in popularity, the inevitable imitations start to proliferate the playing field and any semblance of originality becomes much harder to identify. Despite this information, Hooded Menace could have continued where they left off with “Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed,” an album that many consider to be a modern-day Death/Doom classic.  They’re established enough that they could have put out another album’s worth of decrepit funeral hymns that’s more inline with their most recent offerings. They could choose to play it safe, as it would certainly please their dedicated fanbase and most likely be a sure bet. You know the old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And let’s be honest here: a lot of bands choose not to fix it.

Which makes it all the more interesting that Hooded Menace’s main man, Lasse Pyykkö, decided to take the opportunity to tool around with their surefire formula. Sure, the usual staples are seemingly present throughout their sixth album, “The Tritonus Bell.” Tales of horror are still spun through the plodding melancholy one expects from such music, but the bloodletting seems more imminent this time around. There’s less plod and more gallop, as the music has a much more aggressive mid-tempo feel to it, a sound that has been more or less dormant since 2012’s “Effigies of Evil.” Pyykkö has gone on record to state that this relation isn’t necessarily intentional, but instead that it’s a byproduct of the influences he brought to the writing table. 80’s Heavy Metal bands, such as Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, Iron Maiden, or W.A.S.P. are key here (in fact, the CD version even includes a bonus track that’s a cover of W.A.S.P.’s “The Torture Never Stops”). The songs found on “The Tritonus Bell” are quite catchy, with plenty of hooks and choruses and enough bounce to make even the most curmudgeonly Death/Doomer smile. But fear not, even though the music might be “faster,” it’s still firmly rooted in the Death/Doom style that Hooded Menace do best.

Is it a step in the right direction, though? It’s certainly an interesting one, and will surely be remembered as a curiosity piece for many for years to come. Personally, as a longtime Hooded Menace fan, I think it’s quite good. Sure, some songs are better than others, and some are certainly quite uneven, but overall I’d say the risk was well worth it. There’s a burst of creative energy here that can be felt deep within the music and it seems like this is the most fun these Death/Doomers have had in years. “The Tritonus Bell” might not be the modern-day Death/Doom classic that many were hoping for, but it certainly is a breath of fresh air in a tomb that ran the risk of becoming quite stagnant. The Blind Dead have continued their solemn march once again, and if you look close enough, you might even notice the one in back skipping a little. (Sam Cooper)