Album: The Hell We Have Chosen
Release Date: January 18th, 2023
Location: Pennsylvania, USA
I came across Strixskog when the band reached out to me on Instagram and offered me a Bandcamp code to check out their album. All I can say is that I’m extremely glad that they did, because goddamn does this release slays.
The Pennsylvania based blackened death metal entity plays a style that’s hard to define simply and never remains static for long. In some ways its black metal, in others its death metal, then at other times its dungeon synth with tinges of neo-medieval influences. This complex mesh of varied influences gives the album a truly unique overall sound and a quality that somehow feels familiar yet alien. There’s also a constant balancing act between raw aggression, groove, technicality, and atmosphere throughout.
Normally I would say “the two main elements” or “what immediately hit me” when talking about what stood out to me about an album. Unfortunately, in this case I can’t express this so simply, as every element on the album is deserving of praise. So, I’ll start with the guitar work, which is an almost relentless barrage of killer, face melting riffage. Seriously, it just comes at you wave after wave, an ongoing assault of fast paced, technical death and black metal riffs. Guitar tone wise you’ll find a blend between a sort of melodic death metal offering and an atmospheric black metal and melodic black metal blend. There are even a few somewhat spacey post-metalesque elements thrown in here and there. However, it’s the groove elements subtly worked in throughout the album that are a large part of its overall appeal and replay value.
Next, we have the vocals which will immediately stand out to any listener as being unique in nature. They’re a semi screeched/shouted style that isn’t quite death or black metal (but leans far more towards black) in nature and fit just as well in this setting as they could on a thrash album. Whatever you want to define them as they have just enough raw emotion behind them to elevate the music emotionally, but not so much that it makes it overly depressive and takes away from the aggression and technicality of the album. They’re also clear enough that the album’s lyrics are fully understandable, which I always appreciate about extreme metal with a melodic base.
Then there are the drums, which are (if possible) even more unrelenting than the guitar work. Prepare your ear holes for nonstop blasting throughout the release. While being consistently fast paced they also offer quite a bit of variety, expertly backing up the shifts in guitar styles. Most importantly though we have the drum work to thank for a lot of the album’s drive and energy.
Lastly but definitely not least we have to thank dungeon synth master Wayfarer of Fen Walker ( who we just hosted an interview with HERE) for the fantastic engineering and recording work on the album. Their expertise in the realm of layering complex arrays of varied textures has translated effortlessly to the overall sound and complexity of the album.
As far as favourite tracks go I would have to go with I Betrayed Those Whom I Loved. While being the longest track on the album at 7:08 it also features some of the best energy and most memorable moments of the release. The segment from 1:30 to 2:00 is easily some of the catchiest and most memorable black metal of 2023 so far. The segment that this opens up to is fantastic in its own right, exploding out of a groove laden segment with an impressively pained shriek and transitioning into a stunning atmosphere focused part. The track is a back and forth between catchy groove driven parts, bursts of dissonance, raw pained vocals and haunting atmosphere.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this album and have already come back to it for additional listens several times. I think that anyone who enjoys black or death metal with underlying groove will appreciate this release. I honestly can’t wait to see what the band does next, but I seriously hope that it’s a continuation of this sound.
Listen to and order the album: