Hollow Psalms

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Hollow Psalms breathes some new life into the old straightforward, guitar-based black metal style à la Gorgoroth, Darkthrone, or earlier Dodheimsgard. It combines a punk rock type of directness with the mysterious feel of that type of black metal (i.e., lots of ambiguous guitar harmonies and cold, repetitive minor-key guitar melodies), while also adding some other twists. The dual lead vocals of Laurie Sue Shanaman and Christy Cather consist mainly of intense shrieks and growls and sound pretty scary at times, bucking the trend of female vocals in black metal being gothy and pretty. Meanwhile, the bass and drums, without being slick or over-produced, are still actually well recorded, as opposed to the old black metal cliché of distant, barely audible bass and drums that sound like paper bags. Most of the songs hover in the five- or six-minute range, the main exceptions being the brief, semi-ambient interlude "Tragedia" (which has some nice flute playing by guest performer Lorraine Rath) and the 16-minute closer "Awake to Gray," which ends with a slow, doomy section that makes a fitting conclusion to this emotional, often sad and despairing album. All told, Hollow Psalms is artful without being pretentious, and it actually adds something to this fairly well-worn genre rather than merely imitating other bands' past glories.