Sound — 8
Recently making waves in the extreme metal world, Italy's Hierophant turned heads with a sound sitting at an intersection of different extreme metal pathways. After signing to Bridge Nine Records to release their sophomore album, 2013's "Great Mother: Holy Monster," one could categorize their style just as much as death metal for its thick, crunchy and low-tuned guitar sound as much as one could categorize it as grindcore for its upbeat rhythms - the band dubbed it as "blackened hardcore," which sums it up well enough.
Come their third album, 2014's "Peste," Hierophant took a turn from that intersection towards the fast-paced side, showing a more definitive grindcore effort of brief flurries of instrumental energy. Now exploring the other half of that division, the band's fourth album, "Mass Grave," shows Hierophant pivoting to a black/death metal sound. With the blastbeat/tremolo riffs coming off much more blackened than before in "Forever Crucified" and "Crematorium," the terse songwriting heard in their previous album continues here, where short tracks whip past the listener in complementary segments, like the noise-play intro of "Hymn Of Perdition" simmering into the boiling rage of "Execution Of Mankind," or the one-two punch of "The Great Hoax" and "Trauma" that settles into the slow closer of "Eternal Void."
That slow gear is one that Hierophant start using more in "Mass Grave," and with those moments biding more time, Hierophant use it to accentuate the atmospheric desolation of the album, heard in the weighty "Sentenced To Death" and the trudging 12/8 movement of "Eternal Void," though they still manage to cram in energetic aspects into those lower tempos, like in the galloping tuplet rhythms of "In Decay," and the midtempo eponymous song that avalanches into instrumental madness at its last phase.
Lyrics — 6
Hierophant's lyrics in their previous albums have revolved around a central theme, like that of biological and divine perspectives of life and death in "Great Mother: Holy Monster," or the Italian gothic aesthetic of "Peste." They continue that thematic lyricism in "Mass Grave," but with the central subject being extermination and execution, it's a boilerplate output for black/death metal lyrics. From the grotesque, genocidal imagery in "Execution of Mankind" ("Endless suffering / Execution of mankind") and "Crematorium," and the heretical scenes portrayed in the torturous "Forever Crucified" and the dissentious "The Great Hoax" ("End this violation / Exterminate), to the language of depravity coming off blunt and vague ("Forsaken / Forever... Sentenced to death" in "Sentenced to Death"; "Dystopia... Faith is terror" in the eponymous song), Hierophant's lyrics are par for the course for the genre, and not as captivating compared to their previous albums.
Overall Impression — 8
Hierophant's arc in their budding discography is an interesting reversal of the usual direction most bands take when moving forward. As opposed to making attempts to hybridize a base style with influences from other genres, Hierophant came up with the hybrid first and are now breaking down and covering the different genre aspects of it, and after doing a fine job working in the high grindcore gear of "Peste," Hierophant now prove that they can swim in the death metal current quite well in "Mass Grave."