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Album Review: Hermóðr – Midnight Eclipse

As expected from a project releasing multiple efforts on a yearly basis, Hermóðr’s seventh full-length Midnight Eclipse is right in line with everything before it. The project’s wintery black metal style is at full force as rhythms trudge like weighted boots through snow, guitars are a layered buzz, vocals are kept at a distance, and minimalist keyboards sprinkle through tracks like frozen rain. This formulaic repetition would imply stagnancy, but Hermóðr seems to improve with every release.

Midnight Eclipse is rooted in that raw lo-fi goodness, but it may be the project’s tightest presentation yet. It’s a very balanced album as a clean production job and more prominent guitar leads allow tracks to venture into softer territory without losing the brittle tone. It may also be among the project’s more emotional outings, as the keyboards’ chant-like drones really bring out the underlying somberness.

The songwriting is also surprisingly varied for an album that seems content to stick to one tempo. Most notably, the female vocals that were introduced on 2017’s Hädanfärd return to make “A Full Moon Night” an astounding highlight. I also enjoy the almost medieval touches on “It Was Written” and the title track’s persistent lead tremolos give it a watery aesthetic that recalls classic Burzum. It clashes with the snowy trek set by the rhythms and keyboards, resulting in a “slushier” sound compared to the other tracks.

Like Hermóðr’s other full-lengths, it takes a certain mood to really get a feel for this album. There’s enough variety to placate a patient listener and the slowness in combination with the tone does achieve a hypnotic effect, but longer songs like “A Frozen Paradise” and “The Lonely Old Man” come dangerously close to getting monotonous. It’s a front-loaded album but it’s tricky to tell if it’s due to the first four songs being better written or if one just gets tired out by the time the last couple songs roll in.

Overall, Hermóðr’s seventh full-length album may be the most ideal representation of the group’s formula. While the drawn-out pacing and bleak template remain an acquired taste, the more developed soundscapes and emotional core may be the most accessible entry point to the project’s prolific discography. I might have to put these guys on in place of Immortal when the first snow of the season comes down.

Highlights:
“A Frozen Paradise”
“It Was Written”
“Midnight Eclipse”
“A Full Moon Night”

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