Pneuma Hagion- Trinity I

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Saturday, October 10, 2015

Pneuma Hagion’s demo Trinity I came out as a digital release at the beginning of the year, but Nuclear War Now! recently reissued the effort on cassette. The project is the latest from R, who is also responsible for The Howling Void, Intestinal Disgorge, and Hordes of the Morning Star (to name a few). Each of his groups has gone off in fairly different directions, with Pneuma Hagion focused on creating murky and oppressive black/death metal that threatens to completely drown the listener within its thick atmosphere. While Trinity I may only be a little over seven minutes in length, it accomplishes quite a bit in that short span of time and hints at even bigger things to come.

There’s no time wasted on this demo, as rather than starting things off with an intro of some sort the instrumentals launch right into blasting. Pneuma Hagion doesn’t give the listener any time to breathe, hitting suffocating levels of atmosphere through layers of murky tonality from the get go, and the only reprieve comes in the form of slower, plodding sections that still keep the heaviness at its maximum possible level. Stylistically it falls somewhere between the most bestial black/death metal bands of old and cavernous death metal a la Incantation, with just a little bit of doom seeping in during some of the slower sections. It’s a mixture that works quite well, and while Trinity I flies by so quickly within its seven minutes you can already hear that R is switching things up a bit more than is sometimes typical for this type of metal. The regular changeup between chaotic blasting and slower riffing that brings in just a little bit of keyboards showcases this projects ability to maintain a bleak and murky atmosphere while having substance to back it up. This is also bolstered by production values that are stronger than one might typically associate with a demo, as the sound is incredibly dense but the nuances aren’t lost in the mix.

R’s vocals come through at such a deep and distorted growl that they sometimes blend completely in with the thick atmosphere and add even more layers to the material. At key moments the growling breaks free and reaches an almost overwhelming level that pushes the songs towards their most intense sections and this works to the band’s advantage, as your attention shifts from instrumentals to vocals naturally instead of being overwhelmed by a vocalist that dominates the entire recording. Compared to some of the other black/death acts out there I do feel like the dense growling/screaming from Pneuma Hagion comes off as a secondary element rather than being the focus, as the entire performance is oriented towards blending in with the dense instrumentation and having the two function as a whole. I’m a big fan of using death metal vocals in a way that allows them to become an extension of the hellish soundscapes rather than stealing the focus away from the riffing, which played a large part in why this demo was so appealing to me.

Trinity I may be short, but there’s plenty of substance within its three tracks that will appeal to anyone that likes the denser, murkier branches of black and death metal. Pneuma Hagion offers up the familiar blasting and suffocating layers of sound, but there are also slower breaks that have a bit more of a funeral doom vibe and that makes the project feel different enough to catch my interest. I’m interested in seeing how R can keep up this same level of variation and substance on a longer effort, but if this first demo is an indication it seems likely he’ll be able to get there.

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