1999-2000, Black Beyonds Music
A 'hierophant', in the most literal definition, was an initiate or priest of the Eleusinian mysteries, those ancient rites of the Greeks where those lucky enough (or, depending on how you see it, those who unfortunate enough) to be ranked as members of a select class were introduced to the secrecy-cloaked ceremonies of Persephone, Hades, and Demeter, and were led through something of a cryptic pre-Masonic series of rituals where the uttermost 'truths' of nature were revealed to them. In these times, one of the most prestigious honors a visitor to the Greek isles (and Athens in particular) could be granted was an indoctrination into these mysteries, which were at the heart of the nation's culture and aristocratic fraternity. If one studies the Eleusinian mysteries closely, it becomes obvious that the only thing we can now gather from their import or ceremonial history is that they were fertility rites of the most 'blasphemous' sort, and that their procession was hidden for a very good reason: to protect them from the disgust, outrage, or misunderstanding of the 'ignorant' multitude. In less literal terms, a 'hierophant' is a devotee or initiate of the mystical or occult arts, and I wouldn't hesitate here in discussing this release to reference the 'original' motif of 'the occult', that is, its true meaning: the hidden, obscured parts of knowledge and nature.
There has always been something of a 'mystical' tradition in the doom-death genre, ever since Disembowelment's ground-breaking 'Transcendence into the Peripheral' and Thergothon's 'Stream from the Heavens', that marries the most disparate elements of metal melodicism into a grand tapestry of dark evocation, and Hierophant is no different. What I mean by this is: almost all of the doom-death bands that have come to my notice since Disembowelment have been influenced by that band's particular style of blending very slow rumbling muted chords with ethereal melodies - that is, an amalgam of light and dark, combining the crushing rhythms of downtuned, detuned distorted guitars with an angelic slow-picked clean guitar riding high above, seemingly calling the listener to rise above the suffocating miasma of the downtrodden Earth into the stratosphere of 'mystical', hypnotic contemplation. All the best doom-death bands have had this quality and have used this effect: they oppress the senses with claustrophobic walls of black sound, only to offer an escape through higher ringing progressions beneath, above, or outside the torturously slow main rhythms. The lower melodies exist as a turbid foundation for the incense-dreaming of the higher, and the higher tones are something of a diaphanous veil behind which lurk the despairing movements of the lower. Hierophant, it will easily be seen (or heard) have surely learned this technique by a close-listening to Disembowelment, and the two songs included here, 'Forever Dying' and 'Where No Light Hath Shone...(But For That Of The Moon)', take this style of pulverising doom-death to its logical extremes. This is surely the slowest and most agonizing doom I have heard in a long time: the black stench of death and decay lingers thickly throughout the crawling rhythm guitars while outside of these play hypnotizingly repetitive abstract melodies adding a Lunar, Purgatorial atmosphere to the proceedings. The drumming is a Tell-Tale Heart slowly, slowly winding its way down to nothingness. The deep vocals are inhuman roars of anguish or pain, and they glide through these soundscapes like winds of desolation, a pulsing earthquake far underground, or like the remorseless chantings of a prophet of armageddon. Perhaps the best part of all this, the combination of all its effects, is that this music becomes trance-inducing, much like early Evoken or the other bands I have mentioned above, and invites the mind to escape the boundaries or strictures of the prosaic in order to meditate on the direst subjects of the mysterious - this is the best effect that this style of music can offer. When it is at its best, doom-death proceeds like a call from beyond the grave, a mesmerizing symphony that displaces the personality and reduces the listener to a dreaming apostle of ruin. I can only hope that this band continues to experiment in the future, and sets their further descents into the abyss firmly on tape in order for the rest of us to follow. There need to be more bands like this - where is the doom revolution?