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HIVELORDS “Cavern Apothecary”

Imagine, if you will, a deep hole that goes on for miles, with no end in sight. Imagine you are at the bottom of this hole, with no light to guide you, and the only way out is upward. This idea of complete nothingness, the blackness that suffocates is the soundscape that Philadelphia’s Hivelords create. It is atmospheric depression, a dystopia crafted through distorted vocals, funeral drumming, and bone-chilling riffs that grab hold of the listener and send them off into its murky depths.

 A followup to 2012’s self-released Grand Comlech, Cavern Apothecary is a more sludgier, more drone-infested album than its predecessor. The opening track, “Atavus Lich”, is an elegy that shakes the very foundation of the soul. It plunges the listener into the dark from the opening riff; the kind of riffing reminiscent of early black metal but with influences from Master of Reality for the sludgy overtones. “Ativus Lich” is the summoning of a monster — a demon which walks the planet in search of souls to harvest.


The title track starts as a slow paced, walking-in-the-mire doomy track — until it breaks that mold and sheds its skin into Hivelords-coined “black smoke acid nightmare”. The landscape painted by the intricate fretwork and fuzzy overtoned bass is one of utter despair; a crying out against the morbidity. The vocals, a harsh scream that overcasts the bleakness, crackles and packs a punch through heavy distortion. Hivelords allow themselves to be carried outstanding musical ability and the grittiness of their vocals. As the track breaks once again into a sort of psychedelia, the vocals change as well into a chant-like euphoria; a breaking out of the dark hole towards the light. However, Hivelords pushes the listener back down, throwing the dirt on top with one of the heaviest riffs to exist and some of the most intense drumming — a completely punishing aural attack.

“The Auraglyph”, the last track on the album, starts with a fantastic riff; an ostinato that follows all the way until the bitter end. It is a melody that is both dark and dreary, yet hauntingly beautiful. Building around this riff and utilizing overdriven guitars, the song soars to dizzying heights — a different type of vertigo that gives way to melancholic fogginess. A real sense of fear washes over, the kind of fear that the unknown brings. That sort of uncertainty looms over, and all the listeners greatest fears come to the forefront to give the track such an unearthly quality and tone. It is everything that nightmares are wrought from.

Hivelords have created something truly wonderful on Cavern Apothecary. The overall feel of the album brings a real sense of dread; something very evil is brewing in Philadelphia. The ability to know when to push the vocals or guitars forward lead to a frighteningly good sound, one steeped in sludge and doom and drone. They are able to press all the right buttons at the appropriate time to unleash something so very cathartic. Cavern Apothecary is downright menacing, wicked, and majestic. Blackened sludge as it should be.


The album is available from Anthropic Records.

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