I fear for HULL.
Not that I find any particular fault with the heavy, driving monolith of sound that is Sole Lord; but rather, because the band already seems to have fallen victim to various misrepresentations via buzz-word and nu-genre classification. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at the point where terms like “post-metal” and Neurosis and/or Isis comparisons caused hesitation, or that I didn’t laugh whenever the phrase, “three-guitar assault” was copied-and-pasted in a review, press kit, or conveniently-placed jewel case sticker. Yet, despite the fact that pretty much all of these signifiers have been attached to HULL and Sole Lord, actual word of mouth about the band and their live show kept me interested in hearing their full-length debut.
Thankfully, Sole Lord isn’t a post-metal genre exercise the likes of which every group of bearded dudes with access to recording equipment and Oceanic .mp3s seems to be churning out as of late. The reason I find myself listening to – and further, respecting – HULL’s output on Sole Lord is that their only concern is to actually be a band, fleshed out with a unique sound, rather than a veiled tribute act looking to outdo their predecessors. Sure, HULL is loud, dynamic, and meditative, but it’s much more difficult to accurately compare their sound to any one band (influence or otherwise) than the “hype” is currently indicating. For that matter, I wouldn’t peg HULL as post- anything – Sole Lord doesn’t establish itself by hiding inside of well-worn comfort zones, and the band’s focus is placed directly upon delivering what plain old metal fans should want – rock-out moments worthy of banging your head to.
That’s where Sole Lord really shines; while vocally the album walks on some very shakey ground (I can’t help but hear flashes of both early Godflesh and Linkin Park on “Transition” and “Healer”), musically it’s as dense as it is fluidly beautiful. There are enough solid, lumbering riffs to cause the aforementioned headbanging, as well as progressive passages that don’t smack of misplaced effort or embarrassment. It’s this cohesive integrity present when HULL’s three guitarists play together that displays not only chemistry, but bravado as well. The instrumentation on the tracks “Deliverance”, “Aesthetic”, and “Architect” doesn’t do so much to create atmosphere, as it does a sense of excitement – a trait I would ascribe more to Seattle indie rock juggernauts Juno than any band currently attempting to fill the gap between Neurot releases.
Sole Lord honestly isn’t what I was expecting. Based upon early buzz, I believed that HULL had abandoned elements of their earlier sound to either create an album of rote post-metal pieces or the second-coming of some crushing high-quality sludge. However, being wrong on both counts is something I can live with; HULL has made a far-more respectable turn by delivering an album that, while showing some limitations, actually presents the music the band wants to make. Whether listeners like it or not, it’s a far more rewarding release than one by a band playing to a pattern already perfected by its influences. And for HULL’s willingness to venture somewhere unexpected, they’re a lot more memorable and credible than the current masses.