So Hideous is a black metal band with a compositional twist: the band writes songs with orchestral leanings first, traditional metal and post-hardcore elements second. Last Poem/First Light explores familiar dimensions of these alternative genres, but beyond that, the album is a unique and highly successful sonic experiment.
With its classical components, Last Poem/First Light could have become a mess of undeserved string sections; on the contrary, in the hands of these skillful composers — with assistance from New York-based ensemble First Light Orchestra — stylistic deviations are arranged thoughtfully. Much like the masterful Deafheaven, So Hideous knows precisely how, for example, to embed an appropriate piano part.
So Hideous keeps its embellishments grounded. The album’s brief interludes are attached to four-minute metal songs, but they never eclipse the more substantial segments. They accentuate those segments instead of becoming tacked-on filler. The album doesn’t linger for more than a minute or two without returning to meaty, angry post-hardcore.
Partial title track “Last Poem” features a swelling, string-led finale that resolves like a stirring, cinematic scene. The song is further improved by its Envy-emulating introduction, complete with dynamic guitar parts that crescendo in the most explosive fashion. And “Rising” is a pummeling song that settles with a minute of quiet ambience that continues into the next track, which then morphs into the record’s heaviest display. Each track does something musically different — by way of orchestral additions — without putting showy emphasis on those differences.
Chris Cruz’s vocals have a blackened flair to them, with equal amounts of shoegaze and hardcore fury. The minimalist imagery in the lyrics, meanwhile, is very season-oriented and hopeless, to an extent. Final track “Glory” — played in a major key to a choral backdrop — is immense and crushing, but its themes of time and permanence show more transcendental fascinations.
Last Poem/First Light is an unusually-composed record that benefits from its classical sensibilities as much as it does its black metal ones. So Hideous has crafted an experience that should stand tall in the crowded world of post-hardcore.
Last Poem/First Light is available April 29 via Prosthetic Records.
Review by Anthony Glaser