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Album Review: Hoth – Astral Necromancy

Hoth’s third full-length album has seemingly left the Star Wars gimmick behind (it’s rumored to be about Darth Plagueis, but I’m skeptical), but their penchant for melodic black metal remains firmly intact. Considering the dramatic jump between 2012’s Infinite Darkness and 2014’s irrefutably classic Oathbreaker, it’ll be interesting to see how the Seattle group has evolved in four years’ time. After all, as Count Dooku once boasted, there is a chance that with “twice the pride, double the fall.”

For the most part, Astral Necromancy have more in common with Infinite Darkness’s more straightforward style than the often atmospheric Oathbreaker. The extended acoustic breaks that defined the latter have largely been done away with, and the folk influence isn’t quite as prominent. Thankfully the album finds plenty of ways to retain an epic tone, and the songwriting is still largely driven by a constant array of Dissection-style guitar acrobatics.

Going along with that, Hoth returning to a more straightforward style does showcase how much tighter they’ve become in the time since their debut. In addition to the production feeling less processed, the musicianship is much more confident. The drums keep to steady blasts, the vocals retain that harsh but legible sweet spot shared with groups like classic Skeletonwitch and Amon Amarth, and the mix of clean leads and filthy rhythms does show that the guitars aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.

The dynamic songwriting also ensures a share of memorable tracks. “Journey into the Eternal Winter” is the best track of the lot thanks to its subtly building tempo being countered by its infectiously clean sung chorus while “Passage into Entropy” and “Citadel of the Necromancer” could stand toe to toe with early 2000s Immortal. “The Void Between the Stars” also stands out for its catchy guitar sweeps and there’s something to be said for the chanted shouts on the opening “Vengeance.”

Astral Necromancy’s commonality with Hoth’s first album makes it seem like it should’ve been the band’s second rather than their third. It could be viewed as a step down from Oathbreaker, but considering how pretty much anything would be, it’s nice to see them apply their tighter approach to a more scaled back style. Hoth will likely find more ways to mix up their melodic extreme style in the future. Oathbreaker remains their best output so far, but this is a pretty good place to start too.

Highlights:
“Passage into Entropy”
“Citadel of the Necromancer”
“The Gathering of the Accursed Artifacts”
“Journey into the Eternal Winter”
“The Void Between the Stars”

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