Himsa Hail Horror
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02. Sleezevil MP3
03. The Destroyer
08. They Speak In Swarms
09. Calling In Silent
10. Send Down Your Reign
The year is 2001 and a newly-rejuvenated (and re-tooled) Himsa have just released their first EP of straight-up metal, Death Is Infinite. Myspace.com does not yet exist, and metalcore has not yet become the new nu-metal. The band fails to create even a ripple in a hardcore scene that, while having harbored metal influences for years, still fails to come clean about it. Guitarist Kirby Johnson's love for classic thrash and especially Slayer was responsible for the newfound ferocity Himsa displayed on that EP, and had the band stayed their course, Hail Horror would have followed a year or so later. Instead, it strangely arrived five years later. Much like the EP was, Hail Horror is a hodgepodge of sturdy thrash metal and hardcore ingredients that will probably broaden their fan base as the once-common labels of "In Flames ripoffs" begin to recede.
However, those spoiled by and thus accustomed to Himsa's exceptionally harmonious and remarkably cohesive 2003 album Courting Tragedy and Disaster, will be somewhat lost on Hail Horror's merits, of which there are definitely some. Little are many of Himsa's Courting... fans aware, then, of the band's wildly-varied past, when they were more an experimental (and even somewhat political) rock group on Groundbreaking Ceremony than anything remotely close to what people now know them as. They already completed 180 degree overnight shifts in style in the past, so tweaking their sound while remaining decidedly metal would be child's play these days. The question raised by Hail Horror is: Has this child gone too far for his previous fans to recognize him
Deep down though, just like many of Himsa's newer crop of fans, I was eager for Hail Horror to keep the Courting... principle of melody intact. But the guitarist who joined Himsa in time to almost single-handedly compose the superb guitars on Courting..., Nicke Anderson ala-Hellacopters look-alike Sami Curr, departed from the band's ranks soon after its recording, and oddly enough, returned only recently to commence what is sure to be a grueling cycle of touring. During his lengthy absence, Hail Horror was primarily written by Kirby Johnson with some help from Curr's replacement Matt Wicklund, who has since left the band. This almost single-handedly explains why Hail Horror sits much more comfortably next to the Death Is Infinite EP than Courting...
After two relatively unceremonious yet punchy tracks to kick off Hail Horror, the real guitar work gets going on "The Destroyer," with a Tempo Of The Damned-styled Exodus riff controlling the verses; however the rest of the song is filled with low-note, mid-paced riffs and hardcore breakdowns. The bulk of Himsa's fans will perk up once "Pestilence" hits the speakers, with a Sami Curr Gothenburg riff opening it up, followed by some off-beat thrashing like on "Kiss Or Kill" from Courting..., and a newer Shadows Fall-type chorus providing its peaks. Probably the only tracks that could have fit on Courting... are "Wolfchild" and "Seminal" with their constant melody and succinct arrangements. And with admired producer Tue Madsen at the helm this time, it makes one wonder how impressive Hail Horror would have sounded if it were as uniform as Courting... was.
Bottom Line: There is much more breathing room on Hail Horror than on Courting Tragedy and Disaster, which will probably split fans down the middle. From the tedious chorus of "Anathema," to the lengthy intros and drawn-out notes of "Wither," Himsa either set out to or ended up writing an album that hangs together more loosely than the critically-acclaimed album that put them where they are today. Due to guitarist Sami Curr's relative absence from Himsa during the writing process of Hail Horror, it would strike me that they did the best they could under the circumstances. Perhaps they will again skip an album before giving Courting... a proper follow-up, which would be noble, but I won't hold this change in style against them. Hail Horror is a decent album that will likely keep them rising in the competitive American metalcore scene.
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