For dedicated headbangers only
Like any doom band worth its salt, Hazemaze brings wicked riffs and fuzz-soaked textures to Blinded By The Wicked. But tragically, they don’t bring much else.
The latest release from the Strängnäs, Sweden-based metal band was recorded under lockdown in the early days of the pandemic. It goes without saying that COVID induced depression and despair in many over the past three years— but lucky for these three Sabbath-worshiping Swedes, depression and despair is how they thrive.
Ludvig Andersson’s palm-muted power chords, stoned slides and bloodletting bends sound like fat slabs of concrete to the head, while Estefan Carrillo’s mucky basslines lurch like a dope fiend— together, they form a throbbing, primordial goop. The first couple tracks boast the best riffage on the entire record, making for a solid one-two punch. Thick chords ring out like lauded church bells on both cuts, and the second one, “Devil’s Spawn,” features a synth line straight out of a Giallo flick. As you’d predict, these reek of Black Sabbath.
The band’s signature combination of doom metal and hard rock (“Rock ‘n’ Doom, to be precise!”) is largely reflected in Andersson’s soloing. In the grand cock rock tradition, these solos are often showy, juiced-up and laced with testosterone. On “Luciferian Rite” he shreds on the higher strings of the guitar, piercing through the sludge and recalling the operatic, flashy sound of early heavy metal. Elsewhere he gets nastier, like on “Ethereal Disillusion” and “Divine Harlotry,” both of which feature what are sure to be some of the scuzziest bends of the year.
The lyrics ooze with horror movie shlock— once again, much like their beloved Sabbath. “The lord of darkness/sentenced to death for all his crimes,” Andersson sings on the opening cut, “The lord of darkness/Hell’s opened up for you.” The band calls such themes “sinister and complex,” but really, they’re as kitschy and lurid as a 10 cent pulp comic. That’s not to say they aren’t likable. In fact, this keeps things from becoming gratingly self-serious, injecting a healthy dose of camp into the macabre dirges.
There’s a lot to like here, but the novelty quickly wears off as the band employs the same pace, texture and mood on each track, switching them up only on occasion. They’ve certainly mastered the doom formula, but eventually, it becomes all too clear that it’s just that— a formula. And since they rarely stray from it, none of the tracks feel particularly distinct. Much of the album is samey, bogged down in its own muck. Thus, it gets tedious, especially by the last three tracks.
Every once in a while the band will toss in an extra trick or two to keep things interesting, be it a dungeon synth interlude (“Sectatores Et Principes”) or an instrumental passage flavored with open-string harmonics and a smokey synth solo (“Ceremonial Aspersion.”) Details like these are appreciated, but they’re just not enough to keep this from sounding like a by-the-numbers doom record.
Blinded By The Wicked is a good effort— the riffs are gnarly, the songwriting is tight and the textures are grimy and resinous. But with a lack of variety and little to no creative risk, it lacks replay value. It will likely satiate the average listener for one or two spins, but after that, there’s just not much more to hear. Only those deeply attuned to the doom metal aesthetic will appreciate it beyond that— this one’s for dedicated headbangers only.