CD | INIT-43
"Høst is the rather fucking stunning debut full-length from Minnesota's Hennes Siste Høst on Init Records, and I have to say that I was really quite shocked to see this material coming from a label that I'd never have expected to delve into the black metal realm. Of course, I was initially unsure of what to expect, as the visual aesthetic (impossible to read logo and all) certainly suggests black metal, but three-and-a-half-minute opener "Jevndoegnet" consists solely of sparse piano and whispered vocals with subtle little glitches of distortion and such, so I thought for a second there that this might be one of those experimental noise artists that simply flirts with black metal imagery. But thankfully (though the introductory piece is quite nice) the remaining six tracks explore some truly creative, atmospheric, and above all moving (though honestly I find the lyrics to be incredibly lacking considering how impressive everything else is) black metal in about an hour's time.
The work is the vision of primary member Zander Ness, who handles basically all of the writing duties, as well as the vast majority of the performances on record (live he does the bass and vocals), and should appeal to fans of Weakling, early Ulver, early Agalloch (And those are loose reference points, okay? I'm trying to make the point that this is melodic, has a lot of emphasis, and is fucking awesome, got it?), and any brand of cold, furious, Scandinavian-influenced black metal that explores a lot of spacious, textured riffing and fiercely screamed vocals - with a good balance of moderate tempos and even some unexpected time signatures and almost jazzy/progressive riffs that remind me of bands like Clockhammer or something!? That may sound completely strange, but trust me when I assure you that it all sounds fully logical and cohesive within the confines (or lack thereof) of these compositions. The variety never strays too far, and the quality of the riffs is just fuckin' insane. I can't speak highly enough of the guitar work or how surprised I am by the general nature of the effectiveness of the songwriting here.
But now the part where I have to be brutally honest, which I haven't had to do in awhile. Lyrically there's a theme, and certain passages aren't bad, but then there's shit like this, which just totally obliterates any potential the lyrics might have had for me: "I draw the shades, and pull my switchblade. We fucked on manes, the floor, their graves. We went all the way. She sucked me dry under the stars… She sells sex by the sea. She sells sex straight to me…" I mean, I can't really understand a damn word of the actual vocal performance on the album anyway, so it doesn't disrupt the listen in the least, but I mean… what the fuck!? That shit's cheesier and more irritating than a lot of the usual satanic junk that comes along with this genre. Certainly a letdown considering how fucking top-notch the riffs, performances, songwriting, and musical feeling of the album are as a whole. I was really hoping for some lyrics that had a more personal touch, something that I might be able to identify with in any way, since the music is so far beyond what the vast majority of black metal has to offer.
But that's what really matters at the end of the day anyway, and from a musical standpoint this an absolutely outstanding album that's definitely one of the best black metal records I've heard in several months. I think it was released in 2007, though, otherwise I'd have speculated that it'd easily be among the best black metal releases of 2008 - even this early in the year. So, overall: Superb. Most recommended."- Andrew
"This completely came out of left field; yet another completely unheralded USBM act that is absolutely stunning. A recommendation from a blog I frequent, I could not have hoped for a better find. These guys are a criminally unheard act, seriously; NO ONE knows about them. The most likely reason for this is their home on the very not black metal Init Records, and partially also because people are stupid. Had I heard this earlier, it would have easily been in my top 3 or so albums of 2007, easily. This is some of the most unique, well-written and flat out amazing black metal I have ever heard. This is black metal that has not forgotten about the METAL part of the equation here, folks. While the lyrics at times are sophomoric and cringe-inducing, that cannot take away from the sheer power of this album.
Describing the actual sound is actually very difficult, because these guys really do have their own sound. I've heard "Avant-garde black metal" thrown about a bit too much, but there's nothing really avant-garde about this at all, aside from avoiding the amateurishness of many black metal projects and some of the song structures. There's a ready influence of black and death (of the more melodic type, but not Gothenburg-y) metal fairly equally, along with a triumphant, epic feel throughout. I hear everything from Arkthos (the emphasis on melodic, triumphant riffs), to Weakling (the murky, mysterious vibe throughout the album), to Dissection (the sublime fusion of black and death metal) to Agalloch (some of the riff styling) in the sound, but Hennes Siste Høst (which, by the way, means "Her Final Autumn") have a sound all their own. In actuality, though a black metal band, there is a lot about this album that is decidedly non-black metal: the wondrous, full production, the emphasis on headbanging riffs over tremolo, the creative and inventive drumming, it's superb.
While the piano and whispering vocal-only intro might lead one to groan in agony at the thought of yet another goth-y, "experimental" black metal album, "Høsten" immediately bursts forth with a super-catchy, head-bobbing riff. Zander is a master of riffcraft, and for once, the drums show that they play an integral part of the music, rather than just providing a solid rhythm. The drumming on this album is varied, with a good use of fills to maintain individuality. And, every now and then, especially in stand-out track "Jera," the bass emerges from the low-end depths into audibility, and it makes the songs all the better because of it. Zander's vocals are pretty uniformly a scathing black metal rasp, with only the intro and the occasional glorious chant (e.g. towards the end of "Jera") straying from the norm, but his vocals fit the music so well it doesn't really matter. His voice is an instrument, and given the rather poor quality of the lyrics, it is probably best this way.
This albums stands out by being one of the catchiest albums I have ever heard; it's ear candy through and through. Some of the riffs have that melancholy yet inspiring vibe that Arkthos is also so good at, and we all know (or should know) that that is a damn good thing to have. However, despite being immediately catchy, the album is not in the least shallow; in fact, the more I listen to it, the more subtleties in the music come to light, particularly in the rhythm section. Hennes Siste Høste are masters of being atmospheric without resorting to keys; indeed, apart from the intro, I don't recall hearing any synths at all. The interplay between guitar and bass does it all, with drums providing tasteful accents all over. It works beautifully.
Apart from "Jevndøgnet," all the songs here are of epic length, with "Oktober" being the shortest at about 7 minutes, and stand-out track "Jera" being the longest, topping the 10-minute mark. There are enough shifts in tempo and mood to keep the listener interested throughout each song, and perhaps the avant-garde tag comes more from their skillful use of tempo and time changes rather than mindless electronic experimentation. "Jera" stands above the rest of the pack ever so slightly due to the majesty of the riffs and also the very welcome appearance of the bass. Alongside yet another headbang-inducing riff, the bass plucks along, accenting the riff rather than mindlessly being pushed to the rear for added heaviness like 97.68% of other metal bands do. Although more bass would be welcome (even on this album it more often than not gets lost in the mix), the mere presence of it alone is a welcome change. While not every black metal band can have bass-work as integrated into the songs as the mighty Sear Bliss, Hennes Siste Høste quite easily have the potential to do so.
There is only one real downside to this album, and that is the lyrics. While mere listening to the album will get you absolutely zero comprehension from the vocals, reading along with the lyric sheet will make you wonder what the hell they were thinking. The lyrics at their worst devolve into mindless erotica down there with some of Cradle of Filth's stupidity, and it detracts from the experience. In that respect, they are also similar to Weakling, in that it's better to not know what the lyrics are all about and just experience the music and come to one's own conclusions.
"Høst" is, hands down, the best kept secret in the underground along with Pagan Hammer. While both play entirely different variations on black metal, both are similar in being criminally underheard and among the best this genre has ever seen. The fact that these guys play live is also a plus; hopefully somewhere down the line I can catch a show, as I can all but guarantee this material translates well live. If you have ANY sort of taste as far as intelligent black metal goes, pick this up. Hennes Siste Høst have demonstrated one can be forward-thinking and unique while still maintaining the spirit of the genre. I have nothing but praise for this. The pantheon of great US Black Metal acts just got a new member.(This is fucking AWESOME - 97%)
"Sometimes the coolest, most interesting extreme music comes from small places far removed from any notable scenes, by ambitious artists in small, middle-of-nowhere centers who dare to cross the kind of boundaries that more self-aware scenesters would be reluctant to approach. Voivod's 'War And Pain' ranks as one of the most inimitable debuts in metal history, simply because the boys from Northern Quebec didn't know any better. And who could forget WOLD, whose ongoing series of highly disturbing opuses accurately reflect the devastating cold of the Canadian prairie winter? Well, you can now count the audacious debut album from Moorhead, MN's Hennes Siste Høst as another brave, hidden gem from an unlikely source.
Although firmly entrenched in traditional Norwegian black metal (right down to the odd verse or two in Norwegian), songwriter/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Zander Ness is willing to draw from influences outside that somewhat limited palette, and whether subtly emulating the primitive, atmospheric sounds of Weakling or ggoth-infused post punk and darkwave, 'Høst' holds us captive from the get-go. More preoccupied with mid-tempo groove than cacophonous blasting, Ness's more restrained approach opens things up, his guitar melodies simple yet memorable, the lengthy tracks never meandering. The second half especially kicks inti high gear, "November" climaxing with a jaw-dropping outro that borders on southern rock, "Desember" employing some shocking palm-muted thrash riffs, and upbeat closer "Solhvervet" hinting at huge things to come, following the examples of Enslaved and Nachtmystium, doggedly refusing to remain confined within the boundaries of one genre." (8)