HAEMOPHAGUS - Stream Of Shadows LP
HAEMOPHAGUS - Stream Of Shadows LP
Back in 2017, Italian Death/grind outfit Haemophagus surfaced from the underground to deliver the massively potent punch that is Stream of Shadows and prove themselves as a killer act worth following. I myself have been following the band since their second full-length, 2014's Atrocious, which was a very fun record that felt like a solid tribute to some of the greatest sounds of the Old School Death Metal era.
2017's Stream of Shadows sounds familiar to anyone who knew their previous work, but also shows them expanding their sound in a big way. In fact, with this record they have thrown in almost everything you can think of, perhaps the most out-there element being the awesome saxophone feature in the second half of the track "Meteor Mind," which does not sound out of place at all within the context of the song and record. While that is the most experimental instrumentation used on the album, there are plenty of musical ideas in the album that keep you on your toes throughout the entire ride.
Almost every song features at least one memorable metric modulation or tempo shift, and many songs feature more than one, flowing from one catchy and unique riff to another. The riffs are all over the place, ranging from frantic and atonal to bluesy and soulful in places. The opener, "Shadowline," has the more atonal riffing approach through its speedy Thrash riff sections. The later riffage on the song slows down and doubles down on heaviness in this semitone-alternating riff that always finishes with a bluesy, almost Stoner Metal-inspired touch, but only for a moment, before divulging into a darker, Autopsy-like sound. Tracks like "Deranger" and "Blastmaniacom!" feature some very bluesy riffs, the latter song using them in a more high-speed segment while "Deranger" does so in a slower section that reminds heavily of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs," with a similar drumming style as well.
The vocals are varied, but generally keep a level of clarity that the listener can pick out many words of the lyrics without a lyrics sheet to follow, which enhances the listening experience nicely. The lyrics here are very creative and out there, fitting well with the music. The drumming action is notable, being that there are so many different styles being used, including jazz-influenced techniques. Some of these qualities are most evident with the way drummer David uses the cymbals, which he uses with greater frequency than most drummers within this style of music, especially striking for the higher-pitched, shorter duration sounds most likely from striking near the core of the cymbal as opposed to closer to the rim. This adds a unique lightness to the music at times, allowing the music to breathe well and allow for more unique musical sensibilities to become more evident.
Who is this record for? If you love the true Old School Death Metal years, especially the thrashier stuff from the era, you'll really like this. At times, it shares much in common with Entombed's Left Hand Path, but without the famous guitar tone of Entombed. It also has the darker, more vile tone of Autopsy in places. There are extremely speedy bouts of energy that remind of the famous Reign in Blood-era Slayer, which are often met with mid-tempo stompers which could have come from completely different influences. And as mentioned before, the band even threw in some small doses of Black Sabbath for extra flavor in this variety-soaked album, perhaps in a way not so different from the bluesy moments used by Pungent Stench. While the album has a ton of influences and exploits them freely and seemingly sporadically, it never feels wrong or out of place.
Upon writing this review, I discovered the sad reality that Haemophagus have thrown in the towel as of 2020. Each member is part of a number of other projects, but none of those bands share much in common with Haemophagus. However, it's never too late to check out this brilliant album. It is also not the first time they've broken up, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for a reunion for more in the future. Do check out Stream of Shadows, an album filled with highlights, no skippable tracks, and a desirable length that will surely have many replaying the album again and again.