Label: Via Nocturna
There’s only one thing I’d hope for from a band called Killing For Company who have released an album called House Of Hades: death fucking metal. Much to my delight, that’s exactly what the band have served up, with House Of Hades consisting of just over forty minutes of no-bullshit, gloriously old-school death. Despite hailing from Norway, there is a heavy Swedish influence to their sound, but who cares about geography with results like this? Nor are bands such as Dismember the only influences at play here, with the album recalling a host of early 90’s classics at various points. Full of old-school power and charm, House Of Hades is a solid, immensely satisfying example of death metal done right. It might not be the most original album you hear any time soon, but it sure as hell is likely to be one of the more powerful ones.
There really is a lot that House of Hades gets right. Crunchy, heavy riffs abound, built upon a foundation of powerful drumming, topped off with vicious, commanding vocals. As should be the case with death metal of this nature, there are plenty of leads and solos scattered liberally throughout the record; you’re never far away from a movement that’s designed to inspire fresh bouts of head-banging and raised fists. And whilst that all-important old-school feel is present throughout, it’s also the case that Killing For Company aren’t content to simply imitate their inspirations, and there are moments where they take the music in unexpected directions. The title track is the best example of this, where the crushing death metal of the first half gives way to a later section highly reminiscent of My Dying Bride, complete with mournful violin. It’s a very surprising shift, but is incredibly effective, and whilst it doesn’t deviate too far from the key inspirations of the rest of the album, it’s enough of a shift to help the album stay interesting, minimising the risk of old-school death metal burn-out.
In a lot of ways, House Of Hades is the kind of album that sounds like it could have been recorded at any point between 1991 and now. The production is absolutely perfect for this sort of music, possessing a dirty rawness whilst also allowing melody and the more subtle aspects of Killing For Company’s sound to shine through, keeping the music interesting without ever risking losing any power. Subtle keyboards on tracks such as “Iron Coffin” add an extra element to their sound, adding to the deathly atmosphere without ever being overpowering. They’re handled very tastefully, and there’s never any risk of them overshadowing the more traditional metal elements.
It can be hard to shake the feeling that the strengths of House Of Hades are also its weaknesses, though. The old-school death metal sound and feel is so convincing and authentic that it’s hard to deny its charms and power; but it’s also perfectly valid to ask what it does that other albums haven’t done before it. The honest answer is “not much”, but how big a criticism that is depends on your point of view. If you’re the kind of person who has well-worn copies of Like An Everflowing Stream and Left Hand Path and want more of the same without it being, y’know, the same, then House Of Hades has a lot to offer you. But if you’re wanting something that looks outside of its scene, you might feel disappointed. Personally, I don’t know if I’ll still be giving House of Hades regular spins in a few months time; but what I do know is that for the past few weeks it’s been inspiring head-banging at my desk, reminding me of all that is good about old-school death metal. And sometimes, no higher praise can be given to an album than that. After all, originality can be so very over-rated, whilst a session of head-banging is always welcome.
House Of Hades can be purchased on CD at the Via Nocturna webstore.