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Hail Spirit Noir - Oi Magoi

Hail Spirit Noir
Oi Magoi
by H. P. Buttcraft at 24 January 2014, 1:00 AM

First and foremost, before I get into “Oi Magoi”, the recently released album from Greece’s blackened psychonauts HAIL SPIRIT NOIR, I must make a promise to you, my readers. I promise to not make any jokes in this review about the album title or the way it sounds, especially jokes comparing it to something you would expect a Yiddish grandmother to exclaim when she gets scared. OY, MY GOI!

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s begin talking about “Oi Magoi” seriously!

When HAIL SPIRIT NOIR released their first album “Pneuma” in 2012, I was very impressed with HAIL SPIRIT NOIR’s mixture of melodramatic Black Metal elements you would expect from a band like GORGOROTH or TAAKE with psychedelic, theatrical songwriting and arrangement provided by the keyboards and bass player. The boutique amp tones and techniques of the lead axe man Theoharis are the biggest reasons that lead people to describe HAIL SPIRIT NOIR’s sound as “retro” or “vintage”, even though the keyboards contribute to this style as well. The drumming was quick and furious but a softer, gentler version of Black Metal drumming, focused towards lower-mid range frequencies of the percussion. “Pneuma” was an awesome record so I have to admit I had high expectations for “Oi Magoi”.

I thought about the record for quite some time and I found myself quite perplexed at how much I didn’t like it as much as I expected I would. Perhaps I expected a Psychedelic Black Metal record among the likes of ORANSSI PAZUZU or DARKSPACE but HAIL SPIRIT NOIR made this new album with a paler shade of Black. Once I started listening to the opening track “Blood Guru”, I could already tell that comparing this album to bands like that would be completely unfair.

The record comes jam-packed with dark Progressive Rock passages and hypnotic Psychedelic interludes that were to be expected but a lot of the Black Metal aggression and raw attitude have been heavily sapped from this album.

If it weren’t for Theoharis’ exceptional Black Metal vocal shrieks that you would expect from a true Black Metal band, this kind of music wouldn’t even be classified as Black or Metal. His raspy growls and hollers are truly what make “Oi Magoi” so special to hear on a recording. I could imagine that if I were to see HAIL SPIRIT NOIR in a live setting, all of the other instruments leveled in a way as to undermine the passion from the vocals and therefore not being nearly as exceptional to hear as they are on the album.

Continuing on Theoharis, his guitar playing is really bizarre in a good way that is equal parts Bobby Krieger of THE DOORS & Tony Iommi of BLACK SABBATH with the finesse of a classical guitar player like Manuel Barrueco. The warm overdrive of the way his guitars come through are not as extreme as one would expect them to be. Rather, this effect only marginally galvanizes the “punch” of riffs allowing the way the strings are being played to represent the heavier elements of songs like the into to “Satyriko Orgio (Satyrs’ Orgy)”, which is my overall favorite track from “Oi Magoi”.

“Demon for a Day” is admittedly the catchiest song on the record but it is also my nominee for worst track on the album. The chorus sounds too much like the theme song to a children’s cartoon show and completely removes you from the blackened songwriting arranged in between these choruses. Parts like this and the repetitive chanting of the song title in “Satan is Time” become a big turn off when listening to this album all the way through.

And whose idea was it to place these songs so early in the album? Typically with any CD, regardless of genre, the first two tracks are where you want the album’s strongest songs to be. The only thing strong about a song like “Demon for a Day” & “Satan is Time” would be the over-abundance of sounds that I would expect to hear on my least favorite OPETH album, “Watershed”. It’s funny that I can clumsily draw a connection from “Oi Magoi” to “Watershed” before realizing that Sound Engineer Jens Bogren mastered both of these albums. You can also credit him for mastering recent albums from JAMES LABRIE, THE OCEAN, ISHAHN & EXTOL.

So the big question that everyone wants to know is whether or not “Oi Magoi” is better than “Pneuma”. I think I have given enough of an explanation by now to support the opinion that no, it is not. Their first album, which picked up the pieces of where TRANSCENDING BIZARRE? Left off with “The Misanthrope’s Fable” from 2010 (FYI HAIL SPIRIT NOIR is 3/5’s of TRANSCENDING BIZZARE? if you hadn’t picked up on that by now). Granted that TRANSCENDING BIZARRE? are denser in its heaviness and more of a straight-forward Black Metal band, HAIL SPIRIT NOIR is the more intellectually and artistically more mature group. So “Oi Magoi” is an album that some may say has a higher maturity level than “Pneuma” therefore making it the better record. Mature or not, HAIL SPIRIT NOIR’s faded connection to Black Metal roots is what makes this record not nearly as memorable or interesting as “Pneuma” for me.

I can see some people not seeing it this way and believing that sacrificing the rawness of the Black Metal style in exchange for a more lucid Prog Rock atmosphere was a noble and worthy step towards HAIL SPIRIT NOIR making more creative music. I only contest that this “Oi Magoi”, while not being bad at all, is certainly forgettable and doesn’t leave an impression of one of the best metal albums of 2014. 

3 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Blood Guru
2. Demon for a Day
3. Satan is Time
4. Satyriko Orgio (Satyrs' Orgy)
5. The Mermaid
6. Hunters
7. Oi Magoi
Lineup:
Haris – Synthesizers
Theoharis – Guitars / Vocals
Dim – Bass, Acoustic Guitars

Guests:
Ioannis Glahouis – Drums
Dimitris Dimtrakopoulos – Vocals
Record Label: Code666 Records
     


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