So as we approach the end of August, I think it’s safe to say that the first 8 months of 2020 have been great for doom (if nothing else). And not just your bog-standard doom metal either, the subgenre has seen a variety of great releases. Just check out new records by Lesser Glow, Elephant Tree, Mountaineer, Vile Creature, Primitive Man… you see where I’m going with this, feel free to add your own! However, today I’d like to add another band that more than deserves a spot the list. Enter Norwegian duo Hymn and their second album Breach Us.
Not only does Hymn stake their claim to that list of bands, but with Breach Us they raise their flag near the very top of the pack. To put it another way: this album totally rips! It’s only 4 tracks and 38 minutes, so the duo doesn’t waste much time fucking around. The album features corrosive fuzz guitars and pummeling drums, which may read like the formula for any good sludge/doom album, but the band extracts a lot from this sound.
The track “Exit Through Fire” sees Hymn experiment with a ton of different grooves, eventually exiting on an off-kilter but hypnotic chug. Maybe it’s just the drop-G tuning, but some of the riffing here gives me early-Baroness vibes. Oh, but with the vocals turned up to 11. Singer/guitarist Ole Ulvik Rokseth never really lets up as he matches the song’s intensity and dissonance.
Rokseth’s variation in vocal styles also matches the variation within the album’s short tracklist. On “Crimson” he sounds like a cross between YOB’s Mike Scheidt and Mastodon’s Brent Hinds. On parts of title track “Breach Us”, it sounds like Rokseth would be right home in a hardcore band. I’m not sure if the verse vocals of “Can I Carry You” are him, maybe with some pitching effects, but they sound truly demented. They sound like the spawn of satan, or like something you hear in a post-apocalyptic video game.
With Breach Us being a doom record, the charge sometimes falls on drummer Markus Støle to keep the slower parts engaging. He definitely rises to the task with suspenseful snare hits and tom fills straight out of left field. In the middle of “Can I Carry You” he lays down an intricate tribal tom pattern, which only enhances the trance brought on by the single-note guitar drone. And obviously he’s there as needed when the tempo picks up on the groovier tracks “Breach Us” and “Exit Through Fire”.
There aren’t many flaws to point out on Breach Us. The only one worth mentioning is the anticlimactic ending to “Can I Carry You”. I do enjoy the bass and drum groove in the song’s outro, but it sort of feels like the band just drops us off here. But man other than that, I’m really scraping the bottom of the barrel for critiques.
Hymn’s new album Breach Us is a shining example of how great sludgy doom metal can be. Every riff is hard-hitting and oppressively bleak. Every trance-like moment is fully hypnotic. Every thrust into atmospherics works so well. Hymn are an impressive duo, and I fully expect Breach Us to be one of my highest ranked doom albums come year-end!
Hymn’s new album Breach Us is out on August 28th via Fysisk Format.
Best Tracks: there’s only 4 and they’re all really good!
Weakest Tracks: n/a
FFO: Neurosis, YOB, Cough, early Baroness
Overall Score: A