Review by Seth Wood
It is a shame that the term “atmospheric metal” is reserved for bands who create these so called atmospheres using complex synthesizer sounds. I would much rather use the term for bands like Hombre Malo, whose noisy, grungy sound shakes the listener into visions of a cold, black night, muddy fields suffocating what little grass there is about, blinding lightning splitting open the sky and revealing the hundreds of decrepit shadows lurking about. This is much more on par with what I would call atmospheric.
I had many choices of upcoming albums I could cover, but I was drawn into Hombre Malo rather quickly. Initially, I saw the artwork for their album Ecstasy of Devastation and felt as if I had been struck in the chest. There was a gritty darkness in it that I could not shake, yet what was interesting was the simplicity of it. So many bands put out these intricate covers that always seem to me to be over-the-top and devoid of any real artistic meaning. This cover was just a simple drawing, and one that I am still unable to make total sense of, but there is so much feeling and purpose in all of its aspects. From there, I heard the band’s sound which complemented their art so well, and I was dead set on diving into this band.
Right away, the listener notices that the sounds on this record are muddy, which is a bit of a hurdle at first, considering that recording equipment these days offers the clearest and fullest sounds imaginable. After a few minutes of uncertainty as to the quality of this album, the listener discovers the smart choice that the band and producer have made concerning the sound, as what at first sounds like a band recording on an iphone in their garage begins to appear a lot more like a twisted version of Black Sabbath or Queens of the Stone Age. The result of the noisy sound is that everything, even the drums and vocals, sound overly distorted, which is not a bad thing, as the noise allows for all sorts of eerie overtones and an overall nastiness to the album. The screams in particular are haunting. They make all other metal screams sound like they are coming from children. As for the music itself, the phrase I found myself clinging to is “simple, but rarely predictable.” The bands I could compare them to would be Black Sabbath, The Sword and Zao. I was also impressed with the range of styles used in the album. The band showed influences from various genres of punk, death metal, black metal and even a little bit of hardcore.
The only complaint I have about this album is that it drags a little after the first two songs. There is just more energy in the first two, and less repetition, although I will say that the very gradual progression in the final song, “Deathbed Conversion,” was very interesting and kept me petrified in my chair. Instead of the usual screaming vocals over this part, there was instead a very gritty, tired-sounding voice who greeted visitors in to witness the final moments of his life. This moment was bone-chilling, as the final moments of the album coincided with the waning moments of this character’s life. It gave the album an added weight and intensity that was very powerful. Still, Hombre Malo sets this energetic tone in the first two songs and then sort of lets the momentum of the album let up with the latter songs. I would have much rather heard the entire album match the intensity of “L’etranger” and “Crosses and Marching Feet.” Still, I was very entertained and interested by the album, and I believe that any metal fan should hear the record if for no other reason than to hear what it really means to create an atmosphere in an album.
Listen to "L’Etranger"