HAH - Chimaera Monstrosa

HAH - Chimaera Monstrosa

9 songs
34:08 minutes
***** ****


It doesnít happen often that I have to fish an electronic press kit out of my spam folder, but when you used to call your band Hardcore Anal Hydrogen, thatís the stuff that can happen to you. Good thing I often check these possibly unwanted messages because I would have been sorry, had I missed out on the bandís fifth album.

Three years ago I was quite impressed by their album HyperCut which was released on Apathia Records which unfortunately stopped its activities shortly afterwards. Hardcore Anal Hydrogen, after two records on that label, decided to go back being independent, shortened their name to the more family-friendly HAH and must have worked hard on Chimaera Monstrosa, because it takes everything that made its predecessor so good, and added more focus to make it all sound more coherent. The duo from Monaco, one of the smallest countries in the world, invited some guests and recorded some songs, fewer than on the preceding album, that together make it to only thirty-four minutes. But in this case I can vouch that quality tops quantity.

HAH are Sacha Vanony on vocals, flute and synthesizers, and Martyn Clement on guitars, bass, backing vocals, Moog, sitar and mandoline. The guest musicians add drums, sitar, guitar, strings, tampura, mohan, bass and saxophone, so that you can expect quite a colourful mix of sounds.

The album begins with Inbreed For Thalassa, at two and a half minute a shorter piece, working somehow as an intro, beginning with guitar and a majestic sound somewhere between Mr. Bungle and Devin Townsend, before an electronic break adds element of French dance music ŗ la Justice. Quite intriguing, and then things start for good with Failure In Progress. Its beginning is a well done exercise in extreme metal with shrieked vocals and lots of electronic treatment, before the middle part of the song slows it all down for a piano part that has a certain soundtrack nature, before it all goes back to metal, and then ending with West African sounding chants and drums. Quatre-Quart au Thon is a little less extreme, even quite danceable with its more electronic orientation. The guitar has a surf sound, and its middle part even features some Middle Eastern folk sounds. Annuit Coeptis comes with a more oppressive atmosphere, and the orchestration and the strings bring it close to classical music, the kind you sometimes hear in the background of horror movies just before something truly scary happens. Venera is another more upbeat track with an uplifting chord sequence and impressive backing vocals. Narakas is at over six minutes the longest track on the album, and despite its many different parts, we come to learn that HAH are at their best on their now regular four-minute songs. Akrikhr is a not even twenty-second-long exercise in extreme metal, followed by Sax Crusher which juxtaposes breakbeats with free jazz saxophone parts: great stuff indeed! The album ends with LES-1, starting slowly, moodily, and then finding momentum in its last third with a strange mix of cartoonish grindcore with once again Middle Eastern scales.

If I have one point of criticism, itís that I would have liked Chimaera Monstrosa to go on a little longer. Itís HAHís most focused work to date, and their modus operandi off stuffing tons of ideas in every song makes you discover new elements with every repeated listening. Itís of course music that has been created entirely in the studio, and itís probably hard to reproduce this live in a faithful way. But considering that we have just ended the first year of the pandemic with no end in sight, I canít blame the band for their approach. It seems to me as if HAH have added more electronic sounds to their music, and it works in their favour. Their strange hybrid of extreme metal, danceable electro sounds with twisted breakbeats and the occasion input of ethnic melodies make Chimaera Monstrosa one of the weirdest but also most exciting albums of the year.

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