I did not know the band with the unpronounceable name H, even-though they were already formed in 2015 or so. But that can be, for they did not release anything official yet until now. This Italian act was ‘born with the idea to create something extreme that fits both their musical inspiration and tradition’. The main intention was to establish a concept based on John’s The Apocalypse - the biblical epos, if you want to - written by one of the ‘legendary’ evangelists. The nucleus of the band consists of Christian C. (guitars and song-writing) and Riccardo ‘Lord Ergot’ D.P. (vocals and guitars, song-writing), who have been joined, for this specific recording, by two session-musicians, bass-player Guido and drummer Riccardo B.
During different sessions in 2020 and 2021, this quartet entered the Trieste-based Orange Studio in order to finish their debut full-length album. In the vein of their lyrical source of inspiration, the texts used (and ‘sung’) are based on the Book Of Revelation, combining the original tongue with reinterpreted adaptations, focusing on the everlasting war in between light and darkness, good and evil, life and death.
The album lasts for thirty-four minutes, divided into seven chapters. All of them refer to a specific fragment or chapter from that aforementioned Book Of Revelation. An interesting thing is the band’s diversified approach. Every single hymn has another, distinctive perspective, yet then again the whole does sound very coherent too. The equilibrium between the manifold song-writing and execution at the one hand, and the cohesive totality is a first point of interest.
I do not have the intention to analyze, or dissect, each single piece from beginning to end; birth and death (or resurrection, if you want to) have a whole existence in between, but it would bring me too far. But a concise description of each single composition would fit just fine, I guess. Thank you, dear audience… No, seriously, I think, seen the varied identity of each single track, that a small ‘gift of direction’ might bring you an idea of what is next to come.
Dominus Draconis opens with XVI, II - Mors Omnia Solvit (chapter and paragraph, followed by the Latin title; this goes for each song on this album), which combines the occult atmosphere of Blackened Death Metal with the timelessness of orthodox, Scandinavian-inspired Black Metal. It’s rhythmic, it’s melodic, it’s intense and obscure, and above all, it’s recognizable yet ‘more’. I mean, the performance skills are of a high level: raw voices (holding the middle in between shouting grunts and grim screams), a lot of variation in speed (with quite some cool tempo-changes), intriguing intermezzos and technically high-skilled techniques, additional choir-like chants, marvelous drum-patterns, and deep-droning rhythm strings (bass and six-strings). …a very nice opener! Next comes the title track (the link for the promotional video has been added below), which initially starts within a night-drenched ambience, with mesmerizing and gloomy riffs. The addition of semi-acoustics and harmonious choirs adds something, well, à la Behemoth-meet-Belphegor, with that occult and ritualistic attitude covering the whole experience. Il Sesto Siglio (or better: VI, XII - Il Sesto Siglio) comes with a Thrash-edged playing method when talking about the string-oriented and drum-like part of the game; even the vocals sort of bend over towards a thrashier output. The rhythm rumbles and vibrates, although it’s not fast like the Teutonic colleagues; but at least, it’s as intense and technically played. With Bruciata Dal Fuoco, H totally slows down, trespassing the borders with the Funeral Doom / Sludge scenes. This piece is a mesmerizing soundtrack for some occult ceremony, referring to the megalomania and grotesquery, and the demise and havoc of Babylon. Voice-wise, Bruciata Dal Fuoco contains dark-whispered vocals, besides some low-grunted screams; instrument-wise, alternating drum-patterns, hypnotic leads and down-tuned strings are canalized into a mysterious soundscape at first, with a second part towards the end that opens all registers of victorious persuasion and epic conviction. Quite the opposite of the integrity behind the former track, the next piece, Locuste Dall’Abisso (the sole composition that lasts less than four minutes) immediately smashes and thrashes. This violent epic finds inspiration within the Thrash-scene once again, yet from a vicious, vehement perspective. Almost punkish in execution, this attack of locusts overwhelms and devastates, yet the magnificent outro, with solemn yet unfathomable sigh-like murmur, ruffling percussions and semi-acoustic strings, acts as a mind-twisting contrast. Fine… Returning once again to the core of Second Wave-styled Black / Blackened Death Metal, Il Silenzio Nel Cielo offers energy, intensity and craftsmanship, with quite some changes in tempo and structure. The whole gets injected, once again, by orchestral chants and harmonious leads, occult string-melodies and heavily-pounding drum-patterns. Especially guitar-wise, the glorious times of the Nordic scene come to mind when this track thunders and roars within its most intense moments. Eventually (sadly), Dominus Draconis comes to an end through the longest symphony on the album, La Seconda Morte. Almost seven minutes in play, La Seconda Morte sort of ‘gathers’ what did happen throughout the rest of the album; still with its own face, however. Everything opens quite introvert, with acoustic guitars and somewhat jazzy drum patterns and bass-lines, soon joined by a floating, effervescent guitar solo at first, and hoarse, raspy voices in the second place. Yet as from (almost) half of the track, things suddenly explode in an avalanche of pounding, rhythmic and dogmatic vigor. Damn, what an apotheosis, what an ecstatic climax, what a…
For the release of this debut, H joined forces with the small yet open-minded Flemish label Sounds Of Hell, part of the Hell Diest family, run by ‘grandpa’ Erik. The physical result is a digipack compact-disc, which comes with an eight-page booklet. The latter consists of those partly readapted evangelical lyrics. An extremely interesting fact, I think (and since these are my thoughts, one must accept it as the One and Only Truth, since we’re talking in a biblical terminology, hehe…), is the visual art. The cover and backside drawing is taken from a work by Italian painter Lucia D’Asta, especially known for her portraits, as well as her Hironimus Bosch inspired works. It’s the inspiration of the latter (Bosch) that represents the visuals right here. Each page of the booklet, and therefor each track, does also come with specific and individual artwork, reminding to medieval miniatures (also created by Lucia). Very nice, both visuals and aurals…