[Please note: Pekka Koskelo plays drums and Lasse Pyykkö plays bass, guitar and sings on Never Cross the Dead. This information was not included with the album promo I received. Sorry for any inconvenience this mistake caused.]
Fuck me, this is heavy. One has certain expectations when one hears the words “Finland” and “death/doom” in the same sentence, given that the land of a thousand lakes is the same one that gave us Thergothon and Skepticism (funny how that nickname never caught on), and relative newcomers Hooded Menace, who hail from Joensuu, pick up the ceremonial death/doom mace and drive it right into any and all unsuspecting would-be worthy eardrums on their sophomore full-length, Never Cross the Dead (Profound Lore). Play slow, play loud, play horrific; they’ve pretty much got the formula nailed down.
The four-piece Hooded Menace made their debut in 2008 with Fulfill the Curse, which I haven’t yet heard, but listening to Never Cross the Dead makes me want to go back and find it, whether it’s the surprise sample scream on “Terror Castle” (spoiler alert) or the cement-drying pace of “From Their Coffined Slumber.” Vocalist Oula Kerkelä has a growl that could crack the earth, and it sits well on the thick metallic riffage of guitarist Lasse “Leper Messiah” Pyykkö (formerly of Acid Witch), and Hooded Menace find some of their most effective moments when the balance tips more toward the death metal side of death/doom. Don’t get me wrong, the plod works. Drummer Jori Sara-aho pulls off the ultra-slow crash/ride hits on “Night of the Deathcult” perfectly with bassist Antti Salminen rumbling beneath, and the droning riffs are flat-out killer, but Hooded Menace pick up the pace for a part here and there, and it sounds like Immolation on downers, which, as I’m sure you can imagine, rules.
They revel in horror imagery, in case the songs titles weren’t clue enough. “The House of Hammer” is a clear reference to Hammer Film Productions, which produced cult hits like Dracula ’72 and took to television in the ‘80s when the movie market for horror changed. Hooded Menace also dedicate “From Their Coffined Clumber” to “Marianne Morris and Anulka Dziubinska and all the Women of Euro-Horror Cinema,” and a viewing of 1974’s Vampyres will go a long way toward explaining lyrics like “Lesbian daughters of the hunger for hot blood/Into their lusting mouths your life shall flood.” Their penchant for the darker, obscure and occasionally erotic side of popular culture doesn’t exactly set them apart in either the death or doom metal realms, but Hooded Menace do what they do well, and if you so choose, Never Cross the Dead doesn’t necessitate engagement on that level. It rocks even when you don’t know the song is about two vampire chicks making out.
Never Cross the Dead might require a certain mood to really have its full effect, at least for most listeners, but the album is monstrously heavy and positively consuming when played at high volumes. Hooded Menace make the most of the different aspects of the death/doom genre, and for this being only their second album since forming in 2007, they sound remarkably established and cohesive in their mission, which too is made clear via the songs. It is a dark and unholy ritualism the band professes and as the outro “Theme from the Return of the Evil Dead” (Spain, 1973, written and directed by Amando de Ossorio) plays out, with Pyykkö’s guitar mournfully ringing out notes for what seems like a lot longer than the three-minute runtime, Never Cross the Dead finds its ultimate satisfaction neck deep in a brand of terror that can only be referred to as “classic.”
Tags: Finland, Hooded Menace, Profound Lore