ALBUM REVIEW: Hymn – ‘Breach Us’

Words by Ezra La VinThe Wretched Creatures

Hymn is a Norwegian duo that creates music in the sludge/doom/stoner metal realm. While their debut release ‘Perish’ in 2017 pushed somewhat into drone/doom territory, their latest album ‘Breach Us’ has much more aggression, sludge and melody to offer resulting in a much richer feast for the senses.

With thirteen years of collaboration in other bands such as BuckaduzzTombstones and Sâver, it is undeniable that singer/guitarist Ole Ulvik Rokseth and drummer Markus Støle have creative chemistry and integrity. Since 2013 Hymn has been delving into their own style of sonically distorted darkness and have toured small clubs and festivals in Europe such as the Øya festival, Stick & Stone fest and Freak Valley Festival. Recorded and mixed by Kim Lillestøl at Amper Tone Studios in Oslo and mastered by George Tanderø, ‘Breach Us’ is described by the band as “a testament to man’s will to exert discipline and human direction to the universal powers of chaos.” It is well produced, yet it sounds just raw enough to avoid that sour aftertaste that an over-produced album can create.

“Our goal at Amper Tone Studio was to set things up basically as we do on live shows” says the band. “Facing each other, Marshall JCM 800 and Simms Watts 120 in stereo and a Ampeg 810 stack on full blast. Gibson Les Paul with 74 gauge strings and a couple of fun effect pedals and we are ready to go. We don’t want to record anything that we can’t perform live, but of course, we always get inspired during the recording process and “shit happens”. That is what makes this band special to us; with only two people there is always room for quick turn-arounds and improvisation. We ended up recording the whole thing in about 48 hours.”  

Harmonious distortion greets the listener as opening track Breach Us sets the tone with a thunderous riff that is oozing with black sludge and dark intentions. Upper-register, hardcore style screaming by Rokseth remeniscent of Neurosis and Burst sits perfectly in the mix. The riffing sometimes takes unpredictable directions yet is always precise and impactful, while Støle’s percussion has a great primal urgency while being just as precise as the guitar. 

Exit Through The Fire opens intensely with relentless, mostly monotone, guttural guitar work that may be anxiety inducing for any uninitiated listener; while the outro explores more spacious landscapes before finishing with a head banging riff that I would describe as ‘Sludge Djent’, or maybe ‘Meshuggah on ketamine’. Staccato drumming and riffing in Crimson morphs into slow, dark doom. This time Rokseth uses clean vocals reminding me of Alice in Chains and perhaps Cough. The result is haunting and atmospheric.

The last track Can I Carry You shows that Hymn are willing to experiment and take risks for their art. Twisted female vocals by guest singer Guro Moe are featured early on in this fourteen minute song, with corpse dragging, doom-laden riffs invoking a beautiful sense of despair. Rokseth’s screams pull the song out of this thick muck in the second act before letting a churning, cyclical bass line lead the way to an ethereal conclusion.

Bands without a dedicated bassist run the risk of not having enough melodic variation in their work, especially in this genre of music which is often criticized for being too repetitive. Hymn manages to pull it off though, with masterful manipulation of dynamics and interesting song structures. Fans of NeurosisCrowbar and Yob will most likely enjoy this album and will no doubt look forward to what they produce next! 

‘Breach Us’ will be released on August 28th through the Norwegian label Fysisk Format.

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