Depending on who you ask, The Hallow Mass can be considered a heavy metal album with black metal trimmings, or a black metal album in the original sense of the term, where extra-musical theme and imagery override actual musical technique. Denial of God are an old band, with intentions palpably in right order, but this album fails to do justice to either interpretation. Admittedly, there is such a thing as drawing all the potential there is to be had from a singular idea; doom metal thrives on just such an approach and by the same token no one can accuse Denial of God of failing on account of thematic inconsistencies. The Hallow Mass, however, feels anachronistic and not in a good way; an uncluttered agenda is more than welcome in times such as these, but it is a poor cloak for imagination that never takes wing. Like Deceased but with less lyrical eloquence, Denial of God parcel the album into neat little tales of winter creepiness. The intent is to develop each song at leisure into a sort of soundtrack, part-giallo, part-Ye Olde New England of Lovecraftian lore, but a deficient tonal palette means that motific development is minimal and therefore incapable of shifting listener consciousness through a series of emotional states. What we are left with then is one long meditation in a minor key, interrupted by a few limp-wristed stabs at aggression, an effect that on the whole is depressingly standard-order and evocative of nothing so much as drunkenly stumbling around a cemetery on Halloween night in search of poetic inspiration.
The Spirit‘s Cosmic Terror is the album Dissection would have released somewhere in between Storm of the Light’s Bane and Reinkaos. Harmonically self-conscious to a fault, with instantly resolvable riffs that don’t insult the intelligence, yet with none of the atmosphere of black swirling magic cold and beautiful that made Dissection so special, Cosmic Terror is a palatable gateway album for the newcomer to metal oblivious of its history. To everyone else, however, the only discussions of note around an album like this are meta-cultural and peripheral to the actual music : (1) that a label releases a blatant clone of a unique and highly-regarded original confirms that nostalgia is a lucrative cottage industry in metal; even more damning, that metal listeners have embraced the label of “consumer” and the cynical exploitation that goes hand in glove with it, and (2) granted that it is no crime to sing the song inside one’s heart, derivative as it may be, as long as it is sung with conviction, still, what sleight of mind, what hubris, what internal compromise makes an individual think such a work worthy of public consumption? What is that impulse to continue undeterred when one is reminded with every beat struck and every note trilled that they have nothing remotely new to offer to the world? It would be cruel to single out The Spirit on this front; an overwhelming chunk of metal released over the last twenty years would cease to exist if the world was the ideal us fools wish it to be, but would that be such a great loss?