First off, I’d like to say that I don’t normally listen to black metal. It has never been a genre that I have found much affinity with. It has always been too extreme for my liking. Most black metal bands, in my personal experience, go for over-the-top theatrics within their music or just border on the absolutely terrifying. I felt this way until I discovered a band that most metalheads should be familiar with as they dominated last year and received much critical acclaim: Deafheaven. Their blackened version of post-rock meets black metal crawled its way into my heart and made me fall in love with it. So Hideous does a similar style with what can be described as the blackened heart of post-hardcore meets symphonic black metal with a hint of shoegaze fuzz. There is also the delicate sound of classical music in the background of this emotionally driven cacophony of beautiful noise.
Last Poem/First Light is So Hideous’ debut full length and their debut with Prosthetic Records. The opening track “Rising” greets you with a collision of blistering post-hardcore riffs and brutal black metal guitar riffs. All this is supported by a brutal drum line which manages to throw out blast beats and maintains the crashing post-hardcore snare drum. Chris Cruz’s vocals are blistering to say the least. This brutal collision is delicately tied together by the underlying sound of a classical orchestra, courtesy of The First Light Orchestra. (See anything interesting regarding the name?) Without this backing orchestra, the band would sound like the equivalent of a multiple car pileup. Instead, they sound like the musical personification of somebody pouring out their deepest darkest secrets and then confronting them head-on.
“Stabat Matter” begins with a haunting orchestral introduction, a soaring guitar melody and a slow-paced kick drum, then breaks down into complete madness without any warning. This is no tense buildup to the breakdown. One moment you can hear the mournful cry of a violin and the next, the blackened heart of post-hardcore-infused black metal is pouring out of your speakers. Cruz’s voice punches through this sonic wall to deliver blistering emotion-laden screams. The track ends in a delicate piano piece that immediately progress into the next track “My Light”. “My Light” uses the outro of “Stabat Matter” as its intro and launches straight into the brutal wall of sound that So Hideous has now staked its claim too. The classical influences are noticeable throughout the album, with an orchestra and choir accompanying each song. These influences add a sense of theatrics to the tracks yet not in an overbearing way. It merely adds to the weighty sense of emotion that accompanies each song. They always allow for brilliant bridging pieces as seen in “My Light”. “Rhapsody” follows in a similar vein.
“Last Poem” incorporates the orchestral sound a lot more. The orchestra provides the introduction to the song and even during the breakdown, it plays a heavy role in adding a sense of drama and emotion to the track. The instrumentals also take a turn for the less brutal.
“Glory” is one of those seven-minute tracks. Usually I hate tracks like these unless they find a way to hook me – which they usually don’t. So Hideous, however, hook me with a lofty choir and orchestra piece that can be heard in the closing minutes of “Last Poem”. This progresses straight into “Glory”, which is an orchestra-infused slab of symphonic black metal tinged with the blackened heart of post-hardcore. The track features a large amount of progression as it shifts from a symphonic sound to a more brutal post-hardcore sound when Cruz’s blistering vocals kick in. All this is done while maintaining an uplifting orchestral sound in the background. The track climaxes in an almighty cacophony of sound that somehow manages to be painfully beautiful.
So Hideous is one of those unique bands that manage to take multiple genres, mash them together and make them work. Normally, I’d write off a band like this yet there is just something about the way the songs are put together that makes me love them. I don’t know if it is the lofty orchestra, Cruz’s blistering vocals, or the collision between the black metal and post-hardcore sounds. Last Poem/First Light just leaves me wanting to hear so much more so I go ahead and hit the repeat button. This is a band that is bound to make waves within in the metal community.