#Hulder Verses In Oath

4 min read

Band: Hulder
Album: Verses in Oath
Label: 20 Buck Spin
Release date: 09 February 2024
Country: USA
Format reviewed: High-quality digital recording

Dark, melodic, majestic even. USBM sensation Hulder delivers their second full-length effort, a guaranteed musical landmark upholding the standards of their debut masterpiece, Hymns of a Forlorn Peasantry. This album undoubtedly deserves a careful listen, as many of the elements that make it stand out can get lost to the detached ear. The music has a strong feeling of power attached to it, that even at a superficial listen it is noticeable in every note. The amount of general attention to detail and skill present in the music is fascinating. The songs are all complex, well structured, featuring a variety of musical elements that blend together to form what can be called an incredibly atmosphere oriented black metal opus.

Both thematically and sound-wise, Verses in Oath bares resemblance to acts like Ungfell. The main difference, however, is that compared to Ungfell, it is much softer, not so sharp sounding, and the music itself feels more deep, like a fog, something peculiar, that you can’t particularly put your finger on. This may make it seem like an easy listen, but, although accessible, it may not be as easy to get into as it may seem. The multitude of musical elements have the capacity of making it seem overwhelming, exceedingly tenebrous, with an almost cave like, echo induced background. Speaking of echo, it is everywhere in this album, in the guitars, the synth, even the vocals have a certain echo to them, leaving behind an uncanny, ghostly feeling at times, accentuated by the multiple layers of the music itself.

Like I just mentioned, the music contains multiple layers, that build up upon one another to create the final product. The way I see it, these layers are as follows: The background layer, consisting of the synth and other decorative instrumentals that are used throughout the album, along with the sound effects that accompany the full fledged songs; The “standard” layer, consisting of the guitars, drums, and, to sum it up, the trademark black metal elements; Finally, the leading layer, as I would call it, consists of the vocals and the foreground synth use.

The background layer is used to form both the musical base and the atmosphere of Verses in Oath. Compared to Hulder’s previous full length effort, the emphasis on this particular musical layer is much stronger, as it can be considered at times, the main driving force of the music, not just the background setting of it. Like I mentioned previously, it includes a great variety of synth passages, both simple and intricate, that help bring out that feeling of depth and fullness characteristic to the album, along with creating melodic patters that are followed and built upon by the guitars. Another important part of this layer are the acoustic and various other instrumental passages that are not tied to the main black metal instrumentation. They also serve as atmosphere vessels and decorative musical patterns that enrich the music, giving it a feeling of diversity.

The standard layer is just as intricate as the background layer. Being the main force of darkness of the album, it is meant to build upon the atmosphere and patterns of the previous layer, pushing it to its extremes and emphasizing the dark, dramatic elements, along with the more epic, melodic ones. The guitar riffs as well as the drumming feature well thought riffs and a wide variety of tempos, that are a perfect fit for the songs and the mood. Another interesting aspect of this layer is the way it is balanced. As previously stated, the emphasis is put both on the dark and more epic elements of the music. However, I find that the way in which this is done is almost perfect. The contrast between these two sides of the music is exceptional, and the blending of the two is seamless. This may just be my favorite element of the album, if it weren’t for the ridiculously catchy riffs.

The final layer I will be discussing is the lead layer, the one containing the vocals and the foreground synth effects. Compared to the background layer, the foreground layer synth is used much more sparingly, and merely to highlight certain passages or song fragments, mainly during the verse and chorus. The main part of this layer consists of the vocals. They are also particularly unique. They include a lot of echo and reverb, which gives them an ominous overwhelming quality. The vocal technique itself is also peculiar. It is a far cry from standard black metal high screeches, going for more controlled, lower type vocals that work perfectly in sync with the ominous effects mentioned previously.

All in all, Verses in Oath is nothing to miss out on. It proved to be an exceptionally ambitious record, and it also brings out the question of what the future has in store for Hulder’s music. Go listen to it, you will not regret it. 9/10 Ioana

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