Perhaps the most glaring aspect of The Curse is its ambition. Doom metal revels in long, slow, plodding riffs that allow the space between them to punctuate the intensity. As a two-piece band, one might think that Hellhookah would seize upon this minimalist feature to assist them in the creation of their long doomy soundscapes, but that’s not the case.
This doesn’t mean that The Curse is a long-form, riff-driven, rapid-fire display of gut punches. Not by a long shot. It’s better described as the long ever-present background you’d be reluctant to admit you got used to after spending quality time in a post-apocalyptic world. Great riffs are used efficiently, pushing the listener along through a gorgeous sonic hellscape. If traditional “doom metal” is your thing, then this is a big chunk of gloomy fun from beginning to end. You know exactly what you’re getting within the first 30 seconds of listening.
And it all sounds huge! Big, sprawling undertones saturate and push sonic spaces with nods to great influences. And while it might seem like they possibly crib a vibe from others, they’ve certainly done enough with it to make it feel like their own. It all feels familiar and foreign, like a journey you’d taken before and forgot that you knew how to get there….musically, of course. All the while, the vocals sit gently above it all, switching between confident and competent narrator to this nightmare, and voice of hopeless despondent manic pleading to come to grips with reality. It’s definitely a treat.
The drumming gives a wonderful lo-fi nod to artists of the past, while providing a moving backbone to the big doomy riffs. While the performance is OK, it somehow feels stiff at times. The looseness you associate with classics of the genre isn’t there. Regardless of whether this is by design or necessity, it feels like a missing element. As great as everything is, I find myself longing to see it all played live in hopes that the extra energy and spontaneity will be there.
The Curse is big ,ambitious, doomy, fuzzy, and rife with sounds you’re likely to miss until you let it pass your ears a few times. It’s worth getting to know this in advance, so that when you see it live, you’ll get the full experience.