Monday, September 15, 2008

Hollow Corp. - Cloister of Radiance

Somewhere between the next generation of metal mongers, Mastodon, and the drony deftness of Isis, Hollow Corp. lie . . . washing themselves in the dirt and grime of human existence, poised to carry the mantle of the undergrounds next big thing.

Hailing from France, the music reflects the polar opposite of all that we, as Americans, know or think we know about the country. This isn’t music that depicts the Eiffel Tower, the picturesque countryside with rows upon rows of vineyards, or the dreamy seaside resorts of the Riviera. Basically, there’s nothing Nice about it (sorry, I couldn’t resist a little pun.) This is music that depicts the gritty nastiness of humanity, the darkest times of despair, and the blackness of an eternity wallowing in self misery. I’m curious how hard France’s Minister of Tourism fought to keep Cloister of Radiance from seeing the light of day. This is a snapshot of the France that you won’t see in any of the tour guides.

My first thoughts as I pushed play on my CD player and got a face full of “Elevation” were, ‘Dear God. I’m gonna’ hurt after this’ and, ‘I wonder if my insurance will cover this.’ Fortunately for me, I didn’t need to resort to an insurance claim, but I was pretty damn sore. The waves of distorted and feedback drenched guitars bathed me as I tried to focus my eyes on the weaving road to the freeway. Once those waves dissipated, a tsunami of palm muted guitar riffage took its place. Initially, I expected Hollow Corp. to take this tune down the path of the discordant and drony ways of Isis, and though there are those moments, Hollow Corp. refrain from being so dense that the songs lose all musicality. There’s enough mid range in the tunes to allow the songs to breath, and the added textures make Cloister of Radiance a music fans wet dream. And there, my friends, is what makes this band interesting. Taking the doom fueled dirge ditties and adding some groove and musical flourishes to keep things fresh.

“Code” is masterpiece in groundbreaking technicality while remaining dark and menacing throughout. Drum rolls introduce the song for a lot longer than one would typically anticipate, and then the band kick in with an all out aural attack. The vocals, though gruff and aggressive, aren’t of the death metal variety and convey the perfect amount of gut fire menace. The key to this song sticking in my brain is the psychedelic jazzy break just about three minutes in. I mean . . . where the hell did this passage come from? Absolutely amazing and thrilling to hear the band take such a left turn rather than go down the same road others have gone before. The bass line is great as it weaves and wanders amidst the meandering of the guitars. Before you know it, the whole band is back in together and riffing away. And, it only gets better the more I listen to it! That’s some hot shit, guys!

The beginning build up of “Peripherals” makes me think back to Panopticon from Isis, with its droning, dense wall of sound effect. The distorted bass rumblings add such an incredible amount of weight to this tune while the vocals of Stephane Azam add the airiness that the song needs to keep from being buried under the weight of the instruments. Suddenly, as if a whole new band magically appeared, Hollow Corp. kick into a riff for the ages. Simplistic in structure, which makes it all the more intense, the band bring a world of torment to every note pulled screaming from their amplifiers. The vocals shed all of that earlier airiness and spit venom into the ears of all brave enough to listen. Tortured and full of misery, Hollow Corp. have an epic tune in “Peripherals.”

“Sabbat” is a straight forward thrash about. Great opening riff that somewhat melts away at the verse. The vocals fill the voids that the sustained guitars have created. This is a more “standard” or formulaic approach to the bands songwriting, but no less intense. Towards the end of the tune, Hollow Corp. throw out one of the most fantastic and dynamic riffs that I’ve heard since the glory days of the thrashing late 80’s. Holy crap . . . what a riff! The bass completely drops out of the mix while the guitar in the left speaker carries the riff along. The guitar coming in from the right speaker has one of the grittiest tones I’ve heard and acts a great compliment to the cleaner toned left side instrument. The key point of this break, though, is when the drums abruptly disappear and we’re left listening to this tandem of six strings riffing away. Brilliantly executed! Hang on . . . I gotta’ go back and play that again.

Yeah. That rocks.

Cloister of Radiance is about as unexpected a find as I’ve had in my music collecting life. This album is technically brilliant and emotionally brutal. Though there are those wonderful musical passages mixed throughout the album, Cloister of Radiance is an extreme metal album and shouldn’t be approached as anything but that. But, it’s an extreme metal album that has so much damn character to it. So many nuances. So much flavor. So different than the tired extreme metal that follows the same path as those who came before. Hollow Corp. is a visionary band in that they’ve approached their music from a different place and show no fear in pushing the boundaries of the creativeness. They’ve stared into the dark places and took the right amount of what they needed from the abyss to convey their fears and frustrations. I’ve never had any interest in visiting France before, but I may be changing my thoughts on that real soon. Viva la France!

-- Pope JTE

Buy here: Cloister of Radiance

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