Despite the differences in locale, both Empires and Hellas Mounds share more in common than one might think. Both young bands, the former from Minneapolis and the latter from Phoenix, play a definitively American style of post-metal, taking elements from the heavier works of Isis and adding a sense of hardcore immediacy that comes across in the intensity of the material. With two songs from Empires and one from Hellas Mounds, this unnamed split CD (released last year via Saw Her Ghost Records) hits the marks for post-metal in its current developmental stage. There are pieces culled from outside genres, heavy/ambient switches, and rising and falling tension throughout.
Empires start their segment of the split with “Unease from up North.” If it sounds like a black metal parody track, it might be, but since three out of the four players in Empires are also involved with Minneapolis black metal outfit Manetheren, the execution of the track comes off less tongue-in-cheek than it otherwise might. At 6:55, it is the shortest song on the split, and puts its blackened influence to work offsetting post-metal rhythms in a manner similar to Prosthetic Records’ Withered, if rawer. Their 10:16 “Perpetual Downpour” is less of a genre bender, but boasts an insistent rhythm line and enough spacey guitar work to make it an interesting listen.
There is very little in the traditional musical sense of the desert coming from Hellas Mounds, whose sole contribution is the 17:53 “How Shall Thy Kingdom Stand?” The track works in movements, starting heavy and morphing into ambient guitar lines and female vocals before a few more explosive moments. The cycle repeats — heavy, soft, heavy, soft, heavy, soft — and includes a superfluous appearance from an acoustic guitar, until the end’s more satisfying payoff and subdued conclusion, but even then, the song feels longer than it necessarily needs to be. It’s not bad, but there are a plethora of young, swoopy-haired post-metal kids out there doing the same thing. Hellas Mounds could easily have cut this track into two parts, even if they wanted to have them flow into each other.
Neither Empires nor Hellas Mounds are lacking for cool parts, but in terms of structuring their songs and pulling off the most powerful sound possible, neither are particularly inspiring. There’s a balance to be struck between the emotional and intellectual sides of songcraft, and to me, both bands seem for the most part to be erring on the side of too much thinky thinky. I’d be interested to hear both acts strip down their sound somewhat and see what they come up with then. For now, the youngins aren’t doing too terrible, but have a little ways to go.
Tags: Empires, Hellas Mounds, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Saw Her Ghost Records