Imagine waking up from a deep sleep. You don’t know where you are, there is no one around. You walk outside and the streets are empty, not a soul in sight. Nature has already started taking over the abandoned city. You can hear wild animals but you can’t see them. I know this sounds like the opening of a post-apocalyptic movie or game but they ripped the concept off from a short story written in 1886, which incidentally is also the inspiration for Modern Death Metal aficionados Hackneyed’s new album ‘Inhabitants of Carcosa’
Hackneyed is a German Death Metal band founded in 2006. These guys started out young with the average age of the band being 16 when their first stable line-up was formed. Their earlier albums were more along the lines of balls-to-the-wall death metal but played from a modern point of view; I’m talking about all aspects here, from production to musicianship. With their fourth album ‘Inhabitants of Carcosa’ I feel the band has taken a step in a slightly different direction, focusing on a concept album and the music having a quality that I can only describe as listening to melting butter.
‘Inhabitants of Carcosa’ is based on a short story, ‘An Inhabitant of Carcosa’ by Ambrose Bierce, and its related works. The story describes the experiences of a man who is awakened from sleep into what was once the city of Carcosa but is now a harsh wilderness. How these guys got a hold of a story from 1886 is a mystery but it is at least some non-conformant and high concept subject matter for a band which has had song names like ‘Deatholution’.
The album has a lot of groovy and sludgy death metal in it. But do not be misled by the mention of sludge here, the songs are not slow at all. The stand out feature in this album is the guitar tone and texture. They coat every song with some smooth buttery goodness that makes each listen so much better; it’s a wall of sound that engulfs you rather than knocks you down. I could make out a lot of Morbid Angel and Gojira influences on this record, the songs have very groovy riffs and the damp and crystal clear double bass just kicks ass. Even the vocals are quite reminiscent of Joe Duplantier: being harsh yet enunciated so that you can understand what the vocalist is saying. The music has quite a lot of melodic influences too. Reminds me of what I am hearing from the bands like Soilwork and Dark Tranquility in their newer albums. Being true to their style of Modern Death Metal, Hackneyed are able to mix a little bit of industrial in it too but not to such an extent that it takes away from the Death metal side of the music, it’s mainly used as tool to create atmosphere since the lyrics pertain to post-industrial/post-civilization subject matter. They are one of the few bands I’ve heard that have struck the balance between the old and new schools of metal.
The album production is so good that at times it almost sounds over produced. I’ve already mentioned the guitar tones and the drums. The bass guitar on this album is also very prominent, one of the clearest basses I have heard in a long time. How can you achieve such a balanced mix you may ask? Well, just like the Pineapple-Jalapeno pizza you love, you can’t have it all; you know it’s delicious but you also know that you are not normal for liking it. There is almost no bottom end on this album. The whole mix is so high that at times I felt like the music was playing on top of my head. As a result of this, the heaviness is lost from the songs; this album is mixed like a Power Metal album, ideal for DragonForce or Stratovarius but not for a Death Metal band. This is the main area where this album suffers. Just goes to show you can’t have your cake and eat it too.
Coming to individual performances: Devin Cox and Philipp Fink on guitars are awesome. The riffs are quite fresh and they seal the deal with the guitar tones. Fabian Fink’s thundering bass can be heard clearly thanks to the high mix and he complements the guitars and drums well. Tim Cox on drums excels in each song. His style of playing is similar to their music, a mix of classic and modern death metal. I just love the sound of his double bass and that snare which cuts through the guitars like a samurai sword. Longtime member Philipp Mazal has done well on vocals, his vocal style on this album having a more Joe Duplantier tinge to them.
‘Inhabitants of Carcosa’ is a strong album by a band which has some really catchy music. Even though the songs have no punch to them, you can still enjoy them for their content. It’s is actually quite an interesting auditory experience. Hackneyed is a band that is evolving fast and by the looks of it they know what they are doing. I like where this band is going and I hope they stay on this track.
Rating – 8/10
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