Hivelords- Tapered Limbs of a Human Star

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Saturday, August 8, 2015

Hivelords released an impressive debut back in 2013 that merged psychotic, unsettling black metal with a healthy dose of sludge and doom. The Philadelphia band has gone through some changes since then, with their guitarist moving over to drums and two new guitarists joining the fold last year. With this new lineup in place, the group has released their sophomore effort Tapered Limbs of a Human Star and the emphasis this time seems to be on adding more to every element that made their debut so appealing. It’s one of those records that makes an immediate impression but has plenty lurking beneath the surface for those who want to truly explore in depth, and it’s clear that Hivelords has taken their unique stylistic elements and pushed them to a whole other level.

Cavern Apothecary was able to deliver plenty of twists and turns with one guitarist, but Tapered Limbs of a Human Star makes it clear from the very beginning that the instrumentals can reach even greater heights with two. For this recording Hivelords has fewer songs to offer but each individual piece is a bit longer on average and this allows the sprawling melodies and abrasive elements to really take hold. There are still just as many unsettling moments and leads that do their best to hit the listener with as many jagged edges as they can, but the way that each of these tracks unfolds comes off in a more psychedelic fashion this time around. But I don’t mean this in the same way that a stoner/doom band might let their spacey vibes pull a listener in, as Hivelords psychedelic elements are much darker and drearier in nature and often suck you into a warm and inviting trancelike state that has a very unsettling undertone. This is the biggest difference between the band’s debut and this record, as they seemed to be going full speed ahead previously at providing an ominous and creepy atmosphere but this time around this happens with more subtle nuances. It’s likely going to take a few listens to fully sink in, as while there are some louder, in your face leads that have that instant hook the majority of what has kept me coming back to Tapered Limbs of a Human Star’s expansive, hazy black metal/doom didn’t fully reveal itself that first time through.

In my recent live review from the record release show, I noted that Kevin North seemed to be doing more clean singing than previously. I had forgotten in the years that had passed that Cavern Apothecary had its fair share of clean sections throughout the songs, but they seem to play a much larger role in these songs. One of the main reasons that this stood out to me is the increased amount of reverb and the way that North stretches out each and every word, which gives it an almost ritualistic feel that stretches out over the instrumentation and adds to the overall haziness of the recording. There are still plenty of harsh shrieks and screams though, so don’t think that Hivelords has forgotten some of the spine chilling vocal ranges that were present throughout their previous body of work. But there’s a greater variation between the two elements that gives the band a very different overall tone than most U.S. black metal, pushing them further towards a unique path. North’s performance plays a large role in helping the group to achieve that, and no matter whether he’s screaming at the top of his lungs or taking on a more subdued chant his vocals always seem to tower over the instrumentals.

Hivelords’ sophomore effort is more of a natural progression rather than a truly radical departure from their debut, but they’ve taken major steps forward in every aspect of their music. Tapered Limbs of a Human Star is a denser effort that adds in even more layers of psychedelic influences and darker, tense melodies that draw you in with warmer textures before completely shifting over to something much more dreadful and unsettling. Like any other black metal record that’s oriented towards exploration and pushing beyond the traditional genre boundaries, this one’s likely to need some time to fully absorb but those who choose to do so will find a band that’s further pushed into a space of their own.

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