Hauntologist - Hollow
No Solace
Progressive Black Metal
8 songs (44:15)
Release year: 2024
Official Bandcamp, No Solace
Reviewed by Goat

It may not be most people's idea of how to kick off the new year in style, but this side project from two members of modern Polish black metal royalty is something of a supergroup to those necronauts in the know. Featuring Maciej "Darkside" Kowalski (Mgła, Kriegsmaschine) on drums and Michał "The Fall" Stępień (Ashes, ex-Medico Peste, live for Mgła) on everything else, initial listens to Hollow make it sound very much like a new album from Mgła! Obviously, this is not a bad thing, the Polish nihilists being one of the most celebrated bands in the modern scene for a reason, yet they do tend to dwell on a similar sound rather than trying to push it ever onwards. So the first couple of songs here, first single (!) Ozymandian and the near-eight-minute Golem seeming like repetitions of past glories doesn't immediately inspire or impress so much as comfort. Sure, that heady mix of undeniably excellent drumming from Darkside beneath snarled, misanthropic vocals and churning blackened riffage hits as hard as ever, and you can see why the band chose to open their first (and only?) album with it to bring in existing fans.

Melodic interlude Waves of Concrete with its sampled talking atop ear-bothering whistling and the following Deathdreamer herald a real change, however, the latter especially taking on a much greater post-punk influence in drums and riffs to truly show off a more progressive and experimental take on the Mgła style. Those who have been anxiously awaiting more from the band since 2019's Age of Excuse will love this; a genuinely interesting and divergent take on the existing formula that is excellent to listen to in its own right and not just as a reference to something else. If nothing else, Hollow deserves to exist for this alone. That things continue to improve thereafter is icing on the cake, the following title track taking a more melodic and restrained approach - even with the vocals. It continues the superb drumming of course, making it feel like a particularly excellent neofolk expression rather than anything else and just as befitting for the moody urban alienation of that depressing cover art. And by the end, when it has built up doomily into a post-metal (and almost post-rock) exploration of melody punctuated by drum beats, it sounds like something entirely different from the members' pasts.

And from then on, everything just works. Autonomy feels like a blend of recent Deathspell Omega with Mgła, dense and atmospheric without being overwhelming, and somehow manages to be one of the lesser tracks on the album as a result, especially when compared with what else is here. The following particularly gothic Gardemoen is a dark wonder, dominated by percussion and post-punk experimentation to the point where it's hard to describe as black or extreme metal at all, and finale Car Kruków with its Polish spoken word and saxophone will only be understandable to some but atmospherically it more than works as an outro to the album, again in consideration with the artwork. The sole criticism that comes to mind is that these experiments feel very much like experiments rather than a cohesive sound, but do they need to? Isn't it enough that members of a band that (assumedly) most of those reading this love wanted to explore other elements in their sound without overwhelming it (Old Silver Key fans, whoever you were, feel free to speak up!). Having Hauntologist as an expression of urban misanthropy alongside Mgła as a main, undeniably black metal project will allow offshoots of experimental weirdness while the main band proceeds (hopefully with new material soon) pure and flawless. In the meantime, Hollow is certainly worthy of your ears.

Killing Songs :
Deathdreamer, Hollow, Autonomy, Gardemoen
Goat quoted 82 / 100
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