Hallowed Butchery - Deathsongs From The Hymnal Of The Church Of The Fi [Aesthetic Death Records/ Death Scream Recordings - 2021]
I’ve always seen Doom-metal as one of the most versatile and creative forms of metal, and a recent example of this is Deathsongs From The Hymnal Of The Church Of The Final Pilgrimage. It's an album that blends Doom / Death riffing with regular acoustic moments, and a good selection of psychedelic effects/ textures- which nod towards the industrial, drone, and Noise tropes.
Hallowed Butchery is an American project formed by one Ryan Scott Fairfield. The projects debut EP A Canticle Of The Beast appeared in 2008. Then, in 2009, their first full-length came out Funeral Rites For The Living. In 2010, the project released a few splits and, then went on a ten-year hiatus, returning in 2020 with Deathsongs From The Hymnal Of The Church Of The Final Pilgrimage, as a self-released cassette album. A year later, in 2021, British label Aesthetic Death Records released a re-mastered version of this album as a CD, while German label Death Scream Recordings took over the responsibility for releasing a new cassette version of the album.
The album cover features a deep red background, in the middle is a thin white frame, in which is a photo of a man's face with a beard resembling the face of Christ. Eyes closed, mouth slightly open, blood dripping down his face. At the top of the cover is the word 'Deathsongs' in large white letters reminiscent of Izhitsa fount. At the bottom of the cover, in the same font, but in a smaller size, the second part of the album's title is written - "From The Hymnal Of The Church Of The Final Pilgrimage". Slightly below, in simple small dark print, it says “As Performed by Hallowed Butchery”. To the right and left of the photo of the face are two black crosses with a yellow shadow, one of which is inverted. The entire cover is covered with a light layer of white grunge texture- it reminded me of movie posters from the seventies and eighties, as well as several covers of rock albums from the same period. In general, this cover looks like a soundtrack to some kind of movie, which sets the listener in a certain mood. I think this type of cover fits very well the music within.
The album is built around slow and heavy Doom / Death riffs- these are edged with a fair few moments of acoustic guitar, and effective psychedelic effects/ textures. The tracks do not have the formal divisions verse, chorus, and so on. Each part of the composition is self-sufficient, but continues the previous part and flows smoothly into the next. The interplay of Doom pieces, acoustic moments and experimental electronics create a complex mixture, perhaps close to progressive rock. I say the closest comparisons in terms of sound and mood would be Esoteric, with touches of My Dying Bride and Type O Negative, and, may be some, Pink Floyd too. As for the overall sound, it is best to describe it in parts. For example, in Doom fragments of compositions, I really liked the guitar sound. These are heavy and fat riffs, backed up by drums in a slightly old school sound. The acoustic parts are pretty simple and are essentially an acoustic version of funeral doom riffs. The only exception is the final composition "On The Altar", in which the acoustic guitar comes close to Apocalyptic Folk. The electronic elements are not just limited to the background, sometimes being full-fledged experimental fragments, combining industrial, drone, a little Noise and even a small number of rhythmic parts. Ryan Scott Fairfield proved himself not only as an excellent composer and musician, but also as a vocalist with rich vocal abilities. He goes from low growling and screaming to clean and calm vocals. It is worth mentioning again that this album is a re-master version- which was has been remastered by none other than Greg Chandler the Vocalist and guitarist of Esoteric - which could not but affect the overall sound.
In finishing, I’d say that this album is a very decent return from Hallowed Butchery after a long break. I’d recommend this album not only to funeral doom fans, but also to those who love experimental music in general. I really hope that Hallowed Butchery will not disappear for another ten years and will regularly delight us with new works.Sergey Pakhomov