Hollow Haze – Poison In Black
Poison In Black
Being a reviewer is obviously a privilege, but if you ask me, the best thing about it is not the obvious advantage of getting to hear anticipated albums early. No, it’s the satisfaction of knowing you’ve done your part in helping to bring attention to a lesser known band who clearly have the potential to be something special. So I was excited when I had the chance to review the latest by Italy’s Hollow Haze, a band not too many people seem to know about despite the fact that this is already their fourth album. I discovered them last year with their third album, End Of A Dark Era, which was good, but I could tell the band still had some room to improve, so I was hoping they’d made some forward progress with their latest, Poison In Black. It took very little time for me to realize this album was indeed the big step up I was hoping for, and it would certainly be a great introduction to the band for any listener.
There’s quite a bit of variety to the songs here. A few different styles are present throughout, but for the most part what we have here is some slightly progressive heavy metal, with a few twists thrown in on some of the songs. Surprisingly, I find the best parts of the album are when the band concentrates less on the heavy riffs, and instead dials back on the intensity to focus on melody. This isn’t to say the heavier parts are either bad or uncommon, neither of which is true at all. I guess part of being a power metal fan means I put melody before anything else.
One side of the band that was far from perfect on the last album was the vocals, provided by Ramon Sonato. Well, he does have some spots where he attempts generic sounding heavy metal wails, which take some getting used to, but aside from that, he sounds much more comfortable on this album, and fits in very well. When he stays in the middle of his register, he sounds great, but occasionally is a bit strained when reaching for the higher notes.
The first track plays things safe. That is to say: it’s your typical orchestral intro track, though I would say it’s at least better than average as far as those are concerned. More importantly, it doesn’t end up feeling out of place, as after a bit of a rough start with those aforementioned wails, “Tears Of Pain” quickly introduces some symphonic elements that continue to show up on and off throughout the album. “Never Turn Back” follows, and while it’s the kind of mid-tempo heavy metal song I typically find boring, both the heavier sections and the ultra epic and ultra catchy chorus manage to hook me every time. What follows next is what I consider the highlight of the album. It’s no secret most of us at BWM (myself included), are big power metal fans, and “Haunting The Sinner” is pretty much pure power metal the whole way through, with a chorus that won’t come out of my head any time soon. And yeah, in case you haven’t caught on yet, the majority of the album is like that.
I do think the album is a little bit front-loaded, but that doesn’t mean the second half is a disappointment. As far as the quality of the songwriting goes, there really isn’t a bad song here, though I find many of the songs in the second half are less surprising, less fresh, and maybe not quite as effective as they could have been. With that being said, “Pray For You” is an excellent progressive power metal song with a more controlled pace during the verses, before speeding up rapidly for the chorus. “Remorse” is just plain awesome. The closest thing to a bad song is the closer, “Headless Cross”, which is more in line with the kind of heavy metal I don’t particularly like: rather generic and boring.
As good a year as this has been for music so far, I haven’t heard too many heavy metal albums that have impressed me. For the most part, the genre has left me bored and sometimes shaking my head, left to wonder how it could get so bad. It’s always nice to have an exception, which Poison In Black most definitely is. With a nice amount of variety, solid vocals, and overall improved songwriting, Hollow Haze has delivered one fine album, which hopefully gains them some of the attention they deserve.
Travis’s Rating: 3.75 out of 5