HAIL SPIRIT NOIR — Eden in Reverse (review)

HAIL SPIRIT NOIR — Eden in Reverse album cover Album · 2020 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
adg211288
After three well received albums mixing black metal with retro psychedelic rock, Greek trio Hail Spirit Noir has entered into a period of change. The most noticeable of these before you hear even a note of their fourth album Eden in Reverse (2020) is that the band line-up has been expanded greatly, with seven musicians now credited as full band members. The changes are not just in extension. Primary vocalist Theoharis has given up that role to regular collaborator Dimitris Dimitrakopoulos and newcomer Cons Marg. Although the former has always been with Hail Spirit Noir providing clean vocals to Theoharis' growls Eden in Reverse marks the first release where he is credited as a full band member. Cons Marg also sings cleanly, which is a good indicator that Eden in Reverse is taking the band in a new path. Vocals are not the only thing the band has doubled up on with this release with synth duties now shared between long time member Haris and newcomer Sakis Bandis. For the first time the band also has a drummer in the main line-up with the addition of Foivos Chatzis. The album features an additional guest vocal appearance by Lars 'Lazare' Nedland of Borknagar, who joins the band for the track Crossroads.

Hail Spirit Noir has since 2012 and their debut album Pneuma been one of the more unique acts on the black metal scene. There have been other bands that get described as psychedelic black metal but no one else ever really captured the fusion like that did, not even Oranssi Pazuzu. Hail Spirit Noir delivered three excellent albums in this style, most recently being Mayhem in Blue (2016), which for my money was their best one yet. It was the one that it was going to be really difficult for them to top. So in that respect it makes a lot of sense for them not to mark sure that too much of a good thing didn't become flogging a dead horse and reinvent themselves. Eden in Reverse in the result of this attempt.

Reinventing yourself as a band must be a tricky business. On the one hand change is the point, but you also surely don't want to alienate too much of your fan base in the process. My personal belief is that most music fans are open to change, when done for the right reasons (meaning anything but selling out), but generally we want a new work to still be recognisable as the same artist, especially when that artist is a rather unique and special one like Hail Spirit Noir.

So here we have Eden in a Reverse, a record which features absolutely none of the black metal sound of Hail Spirit Noir's first three albums. How much does this still seem like the same band then? Actually, pretty damn well, because as far as black metal bands go, Hail Spirit Noir was never afraid to use lots of clean vocals and use lighter sections of music that drew on retro progressive rock and psychedelic rock. And although the black metal and the growling vocals with it are now gone, this other side of Hail Spirit Noir remains intact, still integrated with metal, and has been dialled up to the max. The psychedelic element is also notable for sounding a lot more spacey than on previous records. The term 'retro-futuristic' has been used by the band to describe the new sound and that's pretty accurate I think.

The album is very synth driven and that's to be expected with two guys going at them in the band now. The guitars are still pretty metal when they get going, but Hail Spirit Noir has never been a pure metal band even when they were black metal orientated, so variations in more from metal to rock should be expected by listeners. The main thing that's really changed is that they are now perhaps better described as psychedelic progressive metal opposed to psychedelic black metal. One might even call this a legitimate attempt at the creation of a space metal genre. At least it certainly manages to conjure up vibes of future space exploration (albeit space exploration as it may have been envisioned in the 1980s) with both it's sound and sound titles, which include Alien Lip Reading, The First Ape on New Earth and Automata 1980. I dare say that with Eden in Reverse Hail Spirit Noir have gone from performing one unique take on metal straight into another one. I cannot honestly say I have ever heard another album that sounds quite like this.

But is it any good? Well, it might actually be the band's best album yet and that's not a claim I want to make lightly, because I bloody love their prior work, especially Mayhem in Blue and Pneuma is really not far behind. But this one has knocked me for six and that's just from hearing a single song, that being The First Ape on New Earth, the first released track from the album. Let me assure you, it didn't take long to get over the surprise that they'd dropped the black metal! It's been a while since a song really infected me like that one did so that I was helpless but to keep playing it while waiting for the whole album to be released. Then they also released Crossroads ahead of the full release and then that did the same thing. Perhaps a little more of a grower than The First Ape on New Earth, something that's true of a lot of the songs here, but it doesn't take many listens for the album to have really opened up. Then it's repeat plays of the whole thing on the menu. Any expectations of being served up more black metal get quickly forgotten.

I was already confident in my belief that Hail Spirit Noir was one of the most important black metal bands of the 2010s. Now with Eden in Reverse they're one of the most important progressive metal bands for the 2020s. If people are ignoring this album, then they do so at their own loss, because here we have a special band who in some ways might be accused of wearing certain influences on their sleeves, yet makes everything they do their own, finding a balance between respectful homage to the old school and the expectations of the modern era they exist in. The result is a record that is uniquely the sound of Hail Spirit Noir. The extreme side of the band may have been laid to rest, yet the album still manages to feel like a logical progression from what came before, leaving no doubt in my mind that we can answer the earlier question in the affirmative: Eden in Reverse most certainly still feels like the same band. A evolved band, but with the same soul. And I for one will be using the album as the benchmark for others in beat in 2020.
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Nightfly wrote:
4 days ago
Been dipping into this album but just had my first full listen. I love it!
27 days ago
Just received this today. Sure is different but I'm already in love with it.
siLLy puPPy wrote:
31 days ago
This album is the perfect reason we need a psychedelic metal tag already. We should be pioneers and start it here! The black / progressive metal tags just don't do this band's works justice :)

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