Hollow Breed - s/t 4/5

Reviewed: 10-1-10


1. Through fires
2. Shut up
3. Blinded by anger
4. Born to walk this road
5. Crawl
6. Feeder of lies
7. Ashes and fire
8. Something's dead
9. As I speak my lies

So my friend Datis at Farvahar Records has been talking up Swedish newcomers Hollow Breed quite a bit of late, and I finally got around to investigating their August 2009 self-released debut CD. My tastes usually overlap considerably with Datis's, so his recommendations carry substantial weight for me. I must admit, however, that I had some trepidation about this one at the outset. The band's Myspace page describes their style as "Classic Rock/Experimental/Metal", which does not bode well for this staunch (not to say narrow-minded?) true metal warrior's listening experience. Plus song titles like "Shut up" raised a yellow flag. Nonetheless, I gave Hollow Breed a fair chance, toting the CD around in the car and at home for the last week or so to allow time for the songs to seep under my skin. And they have, big-time.

To address any stylistic concerns from the outset, I would absolutely classify Hollow Breed in the metal genre; however, this isn't speedy raging power metal by any stretch of the imagination. Instead, what Hollow Breed bring to the table is a sort of slick, dark, but smooth brand of midtempo song-oriented metal with straightforward, compact writing and performances that, while never flashy, complement the songs beautifully. Many of the songs contrast powerful riffs with quiet (even melancholy) verses, before giving way to a gigantic hook in the chorus, laden with melodic guitar work and pleasing smooth vocals. Perhaps the best description I can offer would be a blend of recent Nocturnal Rites, Thunderstone, Masterplan, Burning Point, Evergrey, Southern Cross, Borealis, etc., streamlined and filtered through an overlay of modern rock radio sensibilities. Is it heresy to mix metal and modern rock? Maybe. The nods to today's commercial rock may be unpalatable for some, but I think the combination works here because it is executed so well. Another analogy might be taking a band like Poverty's No Crime, turning down the progressive elements, turning up the guitar crunch, but retaining those smooth vocal arrangements and big melodies that draw the listener in.

Not surprisingly, the heavier, more power metal songs are the ones that catch my ear the most. "Blinded by anger" sports a shimmering guitar theme that gives way to a sturdy riff and a beautiful AOR chorus. The main riff of "Crawl" sounds like something from the James Hetfield school of guitar playing, and features a slightly more aggressive chorus than most of the other tracks, albeit backed with huge guitar melodies. "Feeder of lies" could have been on one of the more commercial Megadeth CDs, albeit with more of a distinctive European flavor. "Ashes and fire" is easily my favorite cut, with a near-perfect balance of the various components of Hollow Breed's sound, some monster riffage and a potent chorus that sticks for miles. Overall, though, Hollow Breed's songs are quite consistent in style and quality (okay, maybe "Something's dead" isn't all that and a bag of chips), to the point where I can see how they might run together a bit.

Your mileage may vary on this one. I will confess, though, that Hollow Breed have well and truly won me over. From the strong songwriting core to the dynamic arrangements to the professional production, Hollow Breed are an extremely talented bunch with the potential to make serious waves in the metal world if they catch the right industry breaks here or there. It may not be my favorite style of metal per se, but this Swedish quartet execute it so skillfully that I can't help but be a fan. To be sure, it's not the kind of CD I'll grab when I'm fired up or looking to go raise some hell (or whatever it is I raise these days in my most rebellious moments), but for a quiet late night listen over one of my favorite pints, this Hollow Breed debut CD will fit the bill nicely.




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