Album Review: Hierophant - Death Siege
Reviewed by Sam Jones
For this album, we’re going to take a trip across Continental Europe and into Italy, where our next band lies. Hierophant, formed in 2009 and hailing from the region of Emilia-Romagna, are a blackened death metal or black/death metal band who, since their earliest days, have been remarkably active. It didn’t take long for their first self-titled album to be released in 2010, which soon began a pretty regular occurrence for studio releases by the band: 2013’s Great Mother: Holy Monster, 2014’s Peste and 2016’s Mass Grave. Granted, we got an EP in 2018 but in terms of studio releases the band have released nothing in six years; that was the case however until now. 2022 sees Hierophant return with bombastic triumph in the form of Death Siege, a 40 minute nightmare that looks set to be their most daunting yet. Let’s take a look at Hierophant and wonder whether this record has been the worth the wait.
I like the way this album opens up for us. It may be an introductory piece but it’s full of distorted white noise in the background that is slowly rising throughout its duration. The vocals add to the immersion as they eventually give way to the first real song on the record, from this small piece we are quickly given an idea as to what form of sound we are about to receive; Hierophant did not come here to play nice with us. That sense of devastation is quickly unleashed upon us as the band hurl viciously distorted riffs our way. It’s one of the dirtiest and most savage guitar attacks I’ve heard all year. Considering this is along the lines of blackened death metal, it’s a curious decision to render this record with a heavily distorted sound when riffs are usually a little cleaner. However, I loved how evil and nasty the riffs were brought across as. Hierophant are not here to hold your hand, you’re not merely their guest; you’re their prisoner.
As well as the guitar work, which is commendable in its own right, the drumming is easily just as fierce here. The mix on the whole has this loose feel to it, in the sense that the band didn’t want their instrumentation to feel too well held together. As a result, the band only continue to further this sense of chaos. The band’s sound isn’t one that feels clenched in order to bind elements together, rather it’s been thrown in and balanced just acutely enough to provide the semblance of order whilst still dishing out hideous levels of pulverisation. The drums come off like they’re about to lunge at you straight through the album cover, they’re simply animalistic. Blast beats, bass drums etc are absolutely abused here and I couldn’t be happier for it. This is a performance that came here with zero prerogatives for subtlety; the cymbal crashing and resonance from Tom-toms ring out against the walls of the record, all the while riffs bludgeon us with nightmarish intent. It’s a true wall of sound.
But what does help this record in keeping everything somewhat together, is the bass. Listening to a track like “Devil Incarnate”, you soon realise the band aren’t just concerned with sheer violence. There’s a massive, underlying fist of bass coming for your throat at all times and when the band bring all their elements together into a collective assault, the bass they project is utterly imposing. But I don’t think it’s the mix itself, it’s not like this record feels outlined in bass throughout its duration; it boils down to the individual instruments. The riffs are powerful and ferocious yet still have this definition that allows them to feel well-rounded and thought out instead of just being slapped against a canvas and then declaring a job done. There’s just enough injection of bass here and there during our experience of this record before the band remind us of their true intentions for this album. They’re here to deafen our senses and reduce us to paste, not to engorge their mass with unnecessary vitriol. But it does certainly help.
There’s no escape. There is absolutely no reprieve or moment of relief from this record. Even the minute long interlude doesn’t help to return breath back into our lungs owing to how heavy and charged with horror the atmosphere is. With the immersion being what it is, and the band’s assault being as total as it is, it’s incredible we’re able to even last throughout the duration of this record without suffering some form of asphyxiation. From start to finish, Hierophant have their boots on your throat to remind you precisely who is driving and who can crash it at will. Death Siege is a record that would purposely drive you into a crevasse just to see how red you bleed. The distortion doesn’t fluctuate either depending on the song you’re listening to therefore the album has a great consistency going along with its onslaught. Each track feels tonally in line with all the rest, heightening the believability of the band’s performance. They’re truly here to deliver the nastiest stuff they can possibly throw at you and there’s little here to suggest they’d ever propose lessening their assault. This is Hierophant’s sound and it’s one that isn’t to be lightly trifled with.
In conclusion, Death Siege is a record that roars point blank into your face not merely because it’s a deranged beast that’s never known captivity, but because it knows what you’re here for. Hierophant understand what their sound is and what their fans are expecting and eager for, and so they don’t hold anything back in order to see their fans satisfied; it’s their first full length release in six years so I imagine long term fans are deeply intrigued by what the band may deliver after such a long wait. The sheer relentless pace at which this record sprints at you with is startling; there is not a single track or significant moment anywhere here to give us room to recover and prepare for the next piece. Death Siege is an experience that’ll see you come out of it with blackened eyes and dark bruises, because it effectively beats you to a pulp and only continues to do so as limp body lies flat on the ground. If Hierophant came here only to achieve one job, and that job being devastation, then I’d argue the band succeeded dramatically. It’s going to be hard finding another death or blackened death metal album this savage and merciless; if that doesn’t showcase Heirophant’s prowess then I don’t know what does. Highly recommended for fans of blistering immersion.