ALBUM REVIEW: HELLISH FORM - DEATHLESS
US PILOTS OF DRONE TAKE YOUR BRAIN TO ANOTHER DIMENSION
You haven’t seen Hellish Form on the music magazine front covers. They are an obscure underground duo (Willow Ryan and Jacob Lee) from the US who create hazy otherworldly synth-drenched blackgaze doom. Deathless is their second album and is an inscrutable and unfathomable cathedral of drone.
Hellish Form are bleak connoisseurs of slow-build song structures where spectral, light introductions serve as false dawns that usher crushing, tortured doom pan-fried in reverb. A case study might be Texas is Sinking where sensual, ethereal synths layer up with warmth and luminous hues before concussing into a funeral procession of devastating fuzzed hanging chords and plaintive hooks. Likewise, the title track is a shimmering, sprawling, shapeshifting introduction of retro-synthesizers that begins all brooding and sepulchral before ascending into a vibrant and airy space odyssey. After three minutes, however, Hellish Form reveal their, well, hellish form when the portals of the netherworld open to billow trembling, crawling doom riffs. This is gradualist heavy music where lingering, unfolding sorrowful hooks warble and suspend through foggy and gaseous atmospheres.
The embittered black metal vocals scream away indecipherably low in the mix as if through a miasma. They are used almost as another layer of instrumentation giving this a ghostly, textured trans-dimensional aesthetic. It’s a tactic not unknown to this type of cerebral, atmospherics-driven sound and the blood-curdling shrieks offset the wistful, high-altitude keys.
At times the crackling, cataclysmic drone chords are reminiscent of the warped nightmarish wide-screen vistas of Thou or The Body. When it is heavy it is crushingly so and formidably timbral like the pained eeriness of Transfigure, but the perennial presence of synths give this unrelenting dream-state quality. The retro poppy beats on Pink Tears that sign out the album ought to be incongruous but they work surprisingly well and offer a titbit of how the band could potentially explore further in the future. Moreover, the hushed passages of reflection are among the band’s strongest hand where they flex some hidden subtleties.
This style could be sympathetically described as patient, designed for deep listening or immersive experiences. Billy Elish it ain’t. Ambient doom of this sort requires a certain listing commitment to appreciate the overwhelming meditative assault on the being. The cavernous and meandering scope could blot out the sun for those unprepared listeners. It’s a dark encounter between portentous gravity, untreatable sorrow and soothing luminosity. Incidentally, hard as it is to decipher from the music alone, some of the tracks are also based on issues of social conscience which makes a change for a genre usually stuck on tropes of cod 1960/70s occult psychedelia.
Check out Hellish Form on their bandcamp: https://hellishform.bandcamp.com/album/deathless