Released: 2014, Prosthetic Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Revamped, renamed and now boasting a shiny new deal with Prosthetic, the New York quartet formerly known as So Hideous, My Love have now relaunched the rather stunning debut full-length they originally issued on their own last fall. With two new members (guitarist Etienne Vazquez and bassist/vocalist Chris Cruz, brother of guitarist/keyboardist Brandon Cruz) and two less words in their name since 2011’s To Clasp A Fallen Wish With Broken Fingers EP, the terser, tougher sounding So Hideous dole out a real gem in Last Poem/First Light – though the band still seem to have thing for pretentious titles, their debut EP being the eye-rolling I Balance A Daydream On An Edge Of A Knife. Egads.
Anyway, Last Poem/First Light is an oddball but intriguing mix of black metal, post-hardcore/alt-metal and classical music that may seem from a conceptual standpoint as pretentious as the EP titles. But for a newish and obviously ambitious band who have already dealt with lineup turmoil, these guys show remarkable focus, a keen sense of dynamism and a flair for the dramatic that makes Last Poem anything but overblown, ostentatious twaddle.
The strings, horns and choral voices, provided by the First Light Orchestra, for one thing, are largely kept to the background and used as accompaniment instead of embellishment. The title track, for example, nicely fuses the orchestration with a cascading wall of shrill guitar and Cruz's banshee-like vocals. The monumental closer “Glory” offers more of the same, but follows the ebb and flow of Danny Moncada almost jazz-like drumming. It makes for an overall sound that is simply huge, but not festooned with frilly accessories.
When the classical elements do stand on their own, it's as the fading strings that conclude the bracing opener “Rising” or the mournful piano that transitions the otherwise thunderous “Stabat Mater” and “My Light,” never the full ensemble merely taking up space. By contrast, Greek labelmates Septicflesh took the exact opposite approach with their new album Titan and buried their already grandiose blackened death metal under so much strings and choirs and operatic nonsense that they ended with a bloated mess. Bummer.
And with its alt-metal/post-hardcore structuring that relies on big, booming chords and a more deliberate pace than the usual black metal hyperdrive, Last Poem/First Light sinks its hooks in deep instead of flying past in a swarm of blast beats. The only real complaint here is the album's relative brevity – at six songs and just over a half-hour, Last Poem is more like a third EP than a genuine first “full length.” But it's a stellar half-hour, and that's what counts the most anyway.