Hacksaw To The Throat – Wastelands

Hacksaw To The Throat suffered from possibly the worst choice of name this side of Semen Across Lips; unlike that band, though, they didn’t have time to change their moniker to something more suitable before breaking up. So, unfortunately, Hacksaw To The Throat will always be remembered as a band with a very unfortunate and unfitting name. Also similar to Semen Across Lips is the relative relationship of music to name; where one would expect brutal death or goregrind, you instead get a very melodic, progressive, multifaceted breed of death metal that’s not quite like anything you’ve heard before. It’s truly unfortunate that this project shut down before it was able to gain the momentum that it deserved.

But then again, perhaps it was for the best: Hacksaw To The Throat’s second (and final) LP, ‘Wastelands’, is a very strong LP, and I’m not sure that they would have been able to top it had they continued to release albums. The music here is wonderfully realized; like a combination of Anata, Unreal Overflows, and a bit of late Cephalic Carnage. It’s got Unreal Overflows’ sense of non-aggression; it almost resembles prog metal more than death in much of its riffing, with small, bright notes that create beautiful, introspective melodies not entirely unlike Lykathea Aflame. I would almost describe this as Pagan’s Mind meets Vehemence, and it uses the ‘progressive’ leanings of its style very effectively. ‘Progressive death metal’ is a pretty meaningless term, but here it makes some sense: a pure fusion of progressive metal and death metal, synthesized through a filter of melodeath.

Of course, one of the most notable features of this album is its length: it comes out at just barely under seventy minutes long, with not a single song under the five minute mark. This quite correctly indicates that this is not music for the impatient: while the music is fairly kinetic, with a good deal of speed and movement, the tracks still take a long time to unfold completely, and most of the songs do sound quite similar. The album is almost entirely riff-based; I haven’t heard a death metal album that has had such de-emphasized drums and vocals anywhere else. But I suppose it makes sense, as this isn’t really a death metal album per se. It uses the genre’s musical vocabulary, but its delivery, aesthetic, and seeming goal is entirely removed. There’s nothing particularly brutal or punishing here, even with the thrashiest of solos and riffs. It’s not quite purely introspective like Cynic either, though: it exists in a sort of conflicted emotional grey area.

The ‘progressive’ parts of this are pretty ballsy in actuality: ‘Obsidian Sun’ is a typical piano interlude, except that it’s eight minutes long and actually very well composed. It feels like Hacksaw To The Throat never had any particular allegiance to death metal, because these mellower moments on the album take their sweet time to unfurl, never feeling the need to rush in order to get to the ‘real’ music. In fact, one of the things that makes this album so unique is that, despite an unequal distribution as far as time goes, both metal and non-metal sections are treated with equal importance, instead of one or the other being included as some sort of obligation. And while this is ‘progressive’ music, it’s not especially technical: this is much more Black Aurora than Spiral Architect, and so it concentrates much more on employing non-metal elements in a metal framework than attempting to impress the audience. And most of all, this is an album that isn’t afraid to simply be beautiful, regardless of how fierce it may or may not be.

In the end, however, Hacksaw To The Throat’s music on this release is rather indescribable apart from playing it for someone. You can namedrop bands and refer to elements all day long, but it exists in rather the same realm that a band like Melancolia does: that is, music for the sake of music, with a definite concentration on developing its own standards of beauty. Each section of this, every instance of vicious blasting or acoustic break, is employed purely due to the need of the song, never simply to pad out a track or because of some perceived need to include these elements. ‘Wastelands’ is a stirringly ambitious work, and one which should be filed under the same general category as Melancolia’s ‘The Dark Reflections Of Your Soul’ or As Light Dies’ ‘A Step Through The Reflection’: beautiful, progressive heavy metal that should be appreciated much, much more than it currently is.

This band’s untimely demise will likely prevent it from getting the exposure it deserves. But even though one can feel a pang of sadness that such a great band will no longer be producing music, I can’t help but say that this is the perfect note to go on: an album that reaches for the stars and grasps them firmly. All metalheads seeking something truly progressive in nature should listen to ‘Wastelands’, and help give it the attention from the wider musical community that it is so richly entitled to. Truly beautiful music, with a depth and richness of thoughtfulness that lesser bands can only dream of. A new classic of progressive death metal.

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~ by noktorn on September 10, 2007.

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