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Hnagash – Ritual Over the Grave

Ritual Over the Grave
by Justin Joseph at 18 July 2021, 10:29 PM

“To me heavy music is a passion, it’s a fire and if you play a mistake…so fuck it!”
                                                 Tom G. Warrior (The goal of heavy music)

Allot of times you will hear several opinions expressed upon  the matter of the extreme side of metal, be it black, death even grind , usually its folks who claim that there aren’t new bands who are raising the standards, the well of creativity has become dry or simply it’s not like the ‘glory days’. Maybe…just maybe, their cup may hold some water of truth to it, or maybe they may find that all they would have to do is dig deeper to find that which gives more. In the context of extreme music, I don’t think its days have past nor do I believe its flesh has rotted and withered away. In most cases, you may find that those odd gems thrive best within the underground…

Enter HNAGASH, a band who describes their style as ‘dark death metal’ originating from Chile. Breaking onto the scene with their first promo in 2016 followed by their most recent release, “Ritual Over The Grave” (2020). This succinct EP clocking in around 35 minutes contains 6 tracks, 2 of which are full on dark ambient. So the question is “Should this EP remain underground? Or should it be unearthed from the crypt and granted to us, the listeners?” Before we dissect this creation, do me favor, head on over to HNAGASH’s Facebook (link would be in this review) and give these necromancers some support just by liking their page, as of writing this review they have amassed 158 likes, I am most certain the readers here can make a difference in those numbers.

The first thing I would like to address is the sound, as mentioned the band has branded their melody as ‘dark death metal’. The statement is factual, as the bones of this creature is rooted in death metal, think early DEATH (“Scream Bloody Gore”) sharing some connective tissue with MORBID ANGEL (“Blessed are the Sick”) but with veins of such bands like ANGELCORPSE.The flesh which cloaks the beast is composed of both Doom and Black Metal elements, think early PARADISE LOST (“Lost Paradise”) with a tinge of older ROTTING CHRIST.

This mixture thrown together may sound convoluted on paper, but the tones are spread across evenly throughout the album that HNAGASH twists it into their own spell. Now onto the actual album! The first track, “UrushDaur Ritual” takes a darker ambient approach, its length is 3:22 minutes. This may seem a tad bit long for an intro track, but in the context of the album as a whole, it works splendidly. It entertains your imagination and paints an eerie setting for the listener, as though you are trekking through a forest painted in the ink of night with little moonlight. You hear the rustling of the wind as well as the electrifying crackling of lightning which elevates the spirit of the track. It almost feels as though this is the soundtrack for the beginning of an unholy ritual as the only instrument that can be heard is the alluring melody of a flute (I could be wrong here, but it sounds like that). The lightning sounds as though it’s either striking the earth with ferocity or striking something else that should not be named (no…not Voldemort), either way, the sound effects breathes life into this track.

As the last crackle of lightning is heard, the second track begins, “Spiritual death”. The first twenty (20) seconds sets the aura with a slow, creeping death-doom riff complimented by a raw sounding bass tone. There is some semblance of MORBID ANGEL riffing as well, very fast paced and frantic, it exudes the vibe as though a ritualistic incantation is taking place. The vocals …. It’s not your standard death growl or black metal shrieks, but feels like an amalgamation of both. The track overall breathes an atmosphere where the sound takes shape, for me I imagined it as a decrepit corpse hooded in black preaching a sermon in an inhuman speech surrounded by other cloaked figures behind him. A highlight on this track is the bass and drum work, in unison they produce a certain live quality to the recording, as though the listener is right in the forefront. The drumming displayed here is your standard death metal patterns mixed with some black and doom rhythms, but the sound has a powerful, raw kick to it, especially where the bass drum is utilized. What I particularly enjoy in this track as well as the others after is the audible bass tone, a thick, ‘punchy’ sound in which it generates, it’s almost used rather atmospherically here, as it oozes a ceremonial flavor. From the 3:24 minute mark portrays this, where the bass performance is jazzy and hypnotic, then around 3:40 that MORBID ANGEL riffing is injected into the mix once again.

The third track, “Black Arts” starts off reminiscent of DEATH’s “Scream Bloody Gore” material, quickly followed by a slow, droning riff that is only amplified by the bass tone (commence slow head bang…..), then the double bass launches in and chaos ensues with a mid-paced galloping style riff. The vocal hooks are quite effective, it doesn’t change registers but for the haunting, raspy tone it serves the purpose well. Like I stated before, it’s not exactly theatrical (the vocals) but it's more of a raw, primal voice, and for the spirit of the song and album, it fits the mold. Again, I can’t state enough how good the bass sounds on this album, as in some portions of the track it sounds as though it is riffing along to the guitars. The bass adds that other layer of a cult like theme with the thick sounds. “Black Arts” contain many rhythmic sections that can be deconstructed, one in particular is around the 4:08 mark of the song where the guitar riff and bass dabble with a slight progressive element and then fuses back into the main sludgy riff with the kick drums joining the mix. “Souls With No Rest”, the fourth track uses the same formula as “Black Arts” but still continues building upon that cult like feeling, especially with the 1:33 mark, the doom like slow riff evokes a mystic feeling layered with the bass and vocals. The solo at 2:28 feels like a tribute to early MORBID ANGEL, with that Trey Azagthoth style of playing. What I do enjoy about the architecture in the songs as whole is that it does not take a straight forward approach with regards to its style, it’s broken up within different patterns but flow seamlessly together. Meaning, the different influences, while they are definitely heard and do stand out, it doesn’t sound fragmented, rather it sounds organic. One most also make note of the groovy outro utilized in the 4:59 minute mark which is basically the ceremonial dagger to end this ritual.

Clocking in at 9:27 minutes, is the longest track, “Eternal wondering”. The same blood from the previous songs flows in this vessel as well, not much is different, but the merits to be gained is the same excellent musicianship displayed previously. But a few standout moments in this song that make it a memorable track is the solo that starts at 1:50 mark at a mid-paced length, which emits a demoniac tone to its playing, then it bursts forth into a frantic, chaotic riff that carries through until the vocals are summoned once again. In my opinion, the 4:20 mark is the pinnacle of the song, as it eases into an ambient sound, almost rather ominous in nature. It gives this lengthy track a chance to breathe, as well as more substance. The 5:40 mark breaks into a doom like riff together with the bass crafting that haunting mood which slowly picks up in speed with the addition of the kick drums. The last track on the EP, “Into The Adimensional Dark Abyss” is another dark ambient track, even though its 6:45 minutes, it still doesn’t feel forced, as it gives a fitting closure to album, the end of a blackened ritual.

Overall I quite enjoyed this album, maybe the last track could have been a tad shorter, but that’s just a slight nitpick. Earlier on this review, I used a quote by the legendary, Tom G. Warrior, the reason for that is in regards to the soul of this EP. Even though the production may be a bit rough and unpolished it's not necessarily a negative, for it works in the favor of the EP. It emulates a live atmospherically feeling for the listener, a rather desolate, cold tone. What I particularly love is the visceral nature of this beast, it feels … alive, if that makes sense to the reader. HNAGASH, may not be the breakthrough band you are looking for, but hey, that’s alright, but they do sure contribute in keeping the black flame alive, and I think that’s the beauty of it.

Eternal hails HNAGASH!

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 7

4 Star Rating

1. UrushDaur Ritual
2. Spiritual Death
3. Black Arts
4. Souls with No Rest
5. Eternal Wandering
6. Into the A Dimensional Dark Abyss
Record Label: Personal Records


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Edited 31 January 2023

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