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Hornwood Fell – Cursed Thoughts

Hornwood Fell
Cursed Thoughts
by Santiago Puyol at 18 July 2020, 6:16 PM

Italian Experimental Black Metal band HORNWOOD FELL have released their fifth (of fifth and sixth, depending on how you count) album with "Cursed Thoughts," the follow-up to last year’s "Damno Lumina Nocte." A two-part record inspired by the works of Charles Baudelaire and Edgar Allan Poe. The band mixes elements from Black Metal, Death Metal, Post-Metal, Shoegaze and Prog, influsing an Experimental feel.

The album has been released in two different presentations, as a whole record and divided into two halves, the first one dedicated to six tracks with lyrics extracted from Les Fleurs du mal by Baudelaire, and the second one comprised of musicalizations of Poe’s poems. The division makes sense and, in a way, the album works better when taken into halves instead of one long record.

The first half opens with "The Joyous Defunct," a lengthy track filled with layered melodic guitars underneath chaotic Black Metal riffing and drumming. Marco Basili’s vocals are harsh but discernible, allowing for them to be actually appreciated. HORNWOOD FELL adds some nasty proggy bits here and there, building towards a powerful outro.

"Magnetic Horror" goes for chuggy riffing and Gothic keyboards, adding a nice atmospheric and cinematic touch. The band incorporates some psychedelic textures on this track, slightly ethereal, although they stay quite buried in the mix. There is also a bit of a groove when it comes to drumming, at least when Andrea Basili is not going at a manic speed, which is most of the time on "Cursed Thoughts."

Three-part minisuite "Obsession" begins with a full-on blast beat assault that goes on for a couple of minutes. It abruptly transitions into a melodic, clean guitar and keyboard-led section, before exploding back into heavy mayhem. The songwriting of the track falters a little, considering the three distinct sections of the track do not gel that well together.

"The Possessed One" adds little in comparison to previous tracks, though it feels a bit more streamlined and focus. There are interesting elements still, such as the playful stereo tricks in the mixing, some nice dual guitar harmonies and a nasty breakdown midpoint through.

More fun Gothic organ bits and proggy, clean guitar harmonization appear on "The Spiritual Dawn," as well as some subtle BLACK SABBATH influences and bluesy riffs. Weird random growls keep popping up in the background, in a way that resembles MR. BUNGLE’s odd, seemingly random vocal additions. It also features a symphonic interlude with operatic chorus, an interesting layer to the track and album. Transitions are well written here, the songwriting seems to "correct" the mistakes the band made on "Obsession."

Closing the first part is Doom-tingled and noise-packed "The Giantess," featuring some chuggy, slower sections with noisy outbursts. It goes into another symphonic-tingled section as a coda, clearly separating both halves if you are listening to "Cursed Thoughts" as a whole. Subtle electronic elements make it quite an interesting track.

We more into the second half with "Dream-Land", a track slightly similar in sound to "The Joyous Defunct" but showing the clear differences these seven songs have in comparison to the first six. The Edgar Allan Poe half has a rawer production, and more of a Hardcore-inspired, Death Metal-tingled sound overall. Vocals are a little more high-pitched and screamed rather than growled. It fits the music perfectly, sounding a little bit rougher and more direct.

After the abrasive yet melodic "The Spirits Of The Dead", comes the lengthiest track on the record: "Alone." The track includes a very minimalistic, orchestrated synth intro, and flows between softer, more melodic sections, and heavy passages. As a whole, it’s quite atmospheric, taking a couple of pages from Blackgaze and Post-Metal bands like ALCEST, DEAFHEAVEN, JESU or ROSETTA.

"The Divine Right Of Kings" repeats the formula of previous tracks, but sets a really unsettling mood, almost like the soundtrack of a horror movie on its soft, synth-heavy breakdown. Meanwhile, "The Lake" takes off quickly with a really nasty main riff. It is a dynamic and atmospheric song, not as strident as other tracks, with a subtler approach to transitions, but it feels interesting enough. A bit of a late album-highlight. "The Sleeper" builds its melody from "The Lake’s" outro, almost as a second half of the track.

Closer "The Valley of Unrest" has a real groove to it. A nostalgic final song that encompasses the tragedy and relentless sadness contained into Poe’s work. Marco Basili lays down some lovely melodic guitar work, with great use of tremolo. A memorable closer. It ends with a beautifully haunting piano coda.

Overall, "Cursed Thoughts" is a record that features some interesting ideas and solid songwriting, even if through the course of thirteen tracks sometimes it feels a bit uneven. The musicianship is not particularly flashy, but it works as does the adequate production. It lacks a bit of memorability, but it is not surprising considering the length of the record.

It might be a matter of taste, but the second half feels a bit stronger than the first one, as the songwriting is a bit more polished and the experimental nature of HORNWOOD FELL seems less restrained. Still, there is plenty to like and love in this record, and for most of it, the idea of setting the poems of these two writers to music surely works.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 7
Memorability: 6
Production: 7

3 Star Rating

Part I
1. The Joyous Defunct
2. Magnetic Horror
3. Obsession
4. The Possessed One
5. The Spiritual Dawn
6. The Giantess

Part II
7. Dream-Land
8. The Spirits Of The Dead
9. Alone
10. The Divine Right Of Kings
11. The Lake
12. The Sleeper
13. The Valley of Unrest
Andrea Basili – Drums
Marco Basili – Guitars, Vocals, Bass
Record Label: Kadabra Music


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