Review – Hagl: Irminsul

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Review – Hagl: Irminsul
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Hagl: Irminsul
Black Metal, Pagan Black Metal
Casus Belli Musica
2011
Release length: 39:49
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Hagl is a Russian Black Metal band that formed back in 2002, but was originally known as Darkomen dating back to 1999. This group seemed to tackle the idea of releasing music a little differently then most. With one demo under the Darkomen monicker, and a self-titled Hagl demo shortly after, the group issued their first live DVD recording, which was shot back in 2004, and released five years after their demo. Since then, the group has issued a split release in that same year, then signed to Casus Belli Musica in 2010 to finally release their debut full-length offering, Nearer to Victory. The release did not receive much press sadly, and the band seemed to remain hidden in the underground Black Metal world. But, with their 2011 follow-up full-length Irminsul, if fans of Black Metal have their way, this band won’t be too deeply hidden any longer.

Irminsul is a rich Black Metal experience. The atmosphere is grim and somewhat cold, but overall sounds punishing with intense and full-sounding music. The guitars are often quite fast paced with matching blazing drum work, and the bass typically performs to back up the guitars, but is at a loud enough level that it’s deeper sound really adds an additional edge to the recording. The band also sticks to writing traditional lengthed songs, sticking mostlyu to a time of around or between three to four minutes each, though some tracks do push things a bit further, but there in lies one of the biggest positive elements of Hagl. The music found on Irminsul is so well done and offers up enough changes that these longer songs sound great, and even leave the listener wondering what the band would sound like had they made the songs upwards of seven or more minutes each, especially given some of the more epic sounds that some tracks hold, such as “Драккар”, especially when mixed with the solid rhaspy wails of the vocalist that are full of the same furious, frostbitten energy the music carries.

“Интро” marks the start of the album, and it’s a rather intense opening introduction to the following track, “Драккар”, which has that really energy-driven epic sound to it and, between it’s bleed in intro and the song itself, it perfectly introduces the listener to the grim Black Metal goodness that awaits him or her on this recording. From there, all that can be done is continue to ride the aggressive, modern sounding Black Metal performances until the very end. While some of the longer tracks show off the skill of the group, some of the short songs really just pack that extra kick to them and jump out to the listener. Aside “Драккар”, “Глубины сознания” is another song that will get the blood of any listener pumping immediately with it’s commanding and highly intense performace. The addition of a ringing bell during the song adds to the atmosphere and sets up the small build up to the short but sweet guitar solo well by restraining the music slightly to get the listener on the edge of their seat, only to launch an attack through the rhaspier Black Metal vocals that actually are behind a very inhuman-sounding gutteral performance. It’s sad that the gutteral approach is so short lived here, but it nicely shows the band is capable of doing more, but has a strong focus on what they are performing that they don’t need to really cross ideas from other genres or styles to help push their more epic sounding music that just continues to build throughout the album with each track that hits. Even “Cults of the Ancient Ones”, the only English-titled track and actual song that barely breaks that two minute mark, has enough intensity and speed behind it to give it that truly epic sense, giving off the sense of things like ancient deities or even more of a pagan or viking inspired Black Metal approach.

There’s never a break on Irminsul, and that’s just fantastic given how well and diverse each song on this recording is. The band utilizes some blast beats throughout the recording, but never sits down and just focuses on writing a whole song with them. There’s a great deal of furious, yet somewhat melodic music that really pushes this release over the top to make that more modern approach to this style completely pointless, as well as the perfect example of how they should be used with Black Metal in the first place. “Инструментал” is just an intense instrumental, and from the moment it starts, there’s so much going on as far as intensity goes, and the mixture between catchy melancholic melodies and intense blast beats really makes this song feel as epic, if not moreso then any track before or after it.

To honestly sit down and point out each track that stands out is impossible. Every song on here is just fantastic from start to finish, and is full of rich, energetic Black Metal that feels melancholic and brings enough diversity to the table to keep each song sounding fresh. However, of them all, the instrumental track “Инструментал” feels the most epic of all songs, and really just hammers away at creating a jaw-dropping yet grim vibe to the fast paced fury of that track. “Молот”, however, is perhaps the most diverse of all the songs. While the album never lets the listener have a moment to breathe besides the stormy introduction on “Ворон” of waves crashing against soft music, “Молот” has a well segwayed into slower passage that brings in the bands geographical roots with some more Russian folk-like music going on against an even more melancholic atmosphere. But out of all this gloriously cold and epic Black Metal, there is one issue to be found. The only thing on here that doesn’t work out is the ending of “Ирминсула высь”, and that’s only because it feels like the song cuts out a second or two too early and feels like there a little more that didn’t make it to the final mix. But, even then, it’s just a slight moment of wonder and confusion as the next song blasts right back into the madness.

Hagl simply should be at the forefront of today’s Black Metal bands. Period. Irminsul shows a band that is full of energy and able to take some of the more modern Black Metal sound and weave catchy, grim, and yet inspiringly epic material yet, and brings their own hint of originality to the Black Metal formula. The album just hammers away at the listener from start to finish for a damn near flawless album, having only a very minor early cut to a song that can easily be overlooked given the quality of the music on this release. If you have the nerve to call yourself a Black Metal fan and have yet to hear Hagl, then you need to pick up Irminsul immediately and become wrapped up in what could be one of the most important underground Black Metal releases of this current age.


01. Интро – 0:55
02. Драккар – 3:15
03. Глубины сознания – 3:10
04. Cults of the Ancient Ones – 2:11
05. Инструментал – 3:05
06. Ирминсула высь – 4:42
07. Молот – 3:44
08. Ворон – 4:16
09. В шёпоте ветров – 5:31
Initial Pressing Score: 10/10

Hagl

Physical review copy of this release provided by Casus Belli Musica.