Gleefully delivering on the macabre promise made by their "The Shapeless Mass" EP earlier this year, DENIAL OF GOD's third full-length album provides yet another reason for fans of heavy metal and horror to get excited. For those unfamiliar with the Danish band, they've been around since the early '90s, releasing countless EP's and splits along the way. Seven years have passed since their last album, "Death And The Beyond", and although little has changed in terms of the band's sound, "The Hallow Mass" is very obviously the best conceived and most fully realised of their long-form efforts to date. This is scything, belligerent black metal at its core, but DENIAL OF GOD's devotion to a horrified and horrifying aesthetic ensures that everything exhibits a widescreen touch, from the subtle atmospherics that slither between riffs and screams, to the unfussy, accessible melodies that dominate the likes of "Hallowmas" and "Undead Hunger". Vocalist Ustumallagam veers from pained screech to unholy roar; a sinister narrator-cum-conductor, presiding over nightmarish visions, while the band's stripped down, three-piece format ensures that everything rips and tears with venomous, primitive intent.
You can hear a huge amount of old-school influences festering away amid these songs, but it's the Danes' evident delight at conjuring evil spirits via whispered threats and moments of stately menace that lifts this above the average vampiric hoedown. "The Lake In The Woods" is a mini-movie in itself, as "children walk through the woods," presumably to meet some despicable fate at the hands of, and I'm only guessing here, some slavering, demonic beast. The most succinct thing here, "Hour Of The Worm", declares its love for second wave Norwegian black metal, blizzard blasts and all, while closer "The Transylvanian Dream" lives up to its title across 11 minutes of haunted brutality and folk-tinged hooks.
Like the blackened, European flipside to the much-missed NECROPHAGIA's world of the grotesque, DENIAL OF GOD have witnessed horror and would very much like to drag everyone else down with them. Metal has no shortage of ideal soundtracks for an inebriated Halloween, but few of them are so meticulously designed and executed. No tricks, just an evil treat.