Sometimes you encounter records that just stop you dead in your tracks. A jumble of sounds that somehow interacts with your blackened metal soul just hit ye. And spooked, you turn around to check who’s knocking. But nobody’s there.
That’s the somewhat haunting atmosphere Death of a Dryad‘s newest record Hameln immediately generates. With the powerful legend of the Pied Piper as your guide, courtesy of Robert Browning.
You know, the infamous tale of this multi-colored dude who marched all of them rats out of town in 1284 and sent them to drown. And when the misers of the council didn’t want to pay up, he had a pretty fatal go at the kids of the place. It’s the often-told, age-old story of the deal with the devil gone awry. And often used as a metaphor for – whatever you want it to be.
And we did it again, this is yet another duo at work. The fearsome year of 2020 already sported them in droves, and now in the new year we continue. On top of all that crazy shit going on, these tag teams seem to airdrop on us by the score. But hey, usually the fare is excellent, so why the hell not.
Hailing from France, Death of a Dryad‘s tune sounds like Sojourner in crazy Post Black Metal mode. But only after the latter lost their way in the wilderness one time too many on their quest to find a new location for a clip.1) But joking apart, Hameln sports a truly startling mix of Gothic and Black Metal with some strange hints of industrial mixed with atmospherics, ambients, and acoustics.
And as the tale plays somewhere within the darkest stretches of human misery and tribulation, the band garnished their tune with a pretty cool medieval tinge. Just for sports, like. And to drive that one home for good measure, Moths to a Flame turned out to be a Medieval Folk piece that is on par with established bands in that genre, no contest there.
Death of a Dryad masterfully mix the ethereal with a fair amount of slightly epic bombast. To drive that one home, Carol‘s fairy and truly ethereal flute2) surely serves as this fil-rouge that will get you through the record without drowning in that proverbial river. Then, Nogh‘s somewhat strange and often Moonspell-esque monologues just add to this dark and ominous atmosphere Hameln projects.
And it is fascinating just how the record manages to hook you. Already the somewhat baroque start on Enter the Piper with its subtle symphonics and the audio delivered by Robert Hardy. A somewhat dronish and almost hypnotic piece that blackgazes around the scenery, and leaves you hungering for more.
Yet, once we get into the story, Hameln shows its medieval colors. The title track starts with an offshoot of known medieval ditties. Just to disintegrate into those hardy vocals that always force ye back into a listening pose.
And indeed, once the going gets tougher, that’s when the band smashes that Black Metal hammer somewhat fierce on the hard place where your earphones dwell. Mixed with those artful atmospherics and scarce rasps, we get an idea of how these plastic drum machine adepts of the game lore would sound. If only they’d put some real instruments in place.
Left to Die – for instance – steps right into this dark and sorrow place where the Pied Piper takes revenge. They do that with a dirge of sorts, coupled with Black Metal at the levels of wrath Myrkur used to muster3). Oh, and just hang in there until the very end of the track. The funeral march to a heartbeat rhythm is just too alluring.
But then they stack one on top of everything else.
In the past, I often found that covers are just an embarrassment to our metallic brethren. A waste of space on records with severely limited capacity. And not something you should pour your life energy into. Like the folks from Krokus – for instance – who thought that atrociously croaking about stuff that other people did would garner them some real brownie points.
Yet here, Death of a Dryad stamped a new vision of Project Pitchfork’s song Requiem into vinyl. Okay, the original track itself is already atrociously bad, so anything should be an improvement. But here, the version on Hameln really kicks this ball out into the blue yonder. One of the best tracks on the record.
So, let’s wrap this up some, lest we keep on heaping praise on an already pretty stellar record. It does get to people’s heads else. And we don’t want that, right?
Atmospheric Dark Metal Death of a Dryad call their tune. And Hameln truly sports all those accouterments that would make up that cross-section of genres the album depicts. Moreover, I am not surprised that it takes the band a lot of time to get such a record to fruition. Theirs is indeed complex fare and nothing goes to chance. This is an artful mix of a dark, doomy, and deliciously chilling selection of sounds, melodies, and a host of different instruments. A thing that hints at calamitous portents in a storyline evolving in front of your ears.
This is what made this musical traveler stop and rewind a few times. Because a pretty extraordinary piece of perfectly arranged stellar metal just crossed my path. And that does not happen often, I can tell you that.
Ed’s note: And – ‘noblesse oblige’, as we say in French – the record now sports an entry in the RMR Hall of fame. Go check it out, once you have a second.
Get dat tune: