The newest record from Finnish powerhouse Hooded Menace is here, and it is quite an interesting record, in many ways.

Those unfamiliar with these giants should give a listen to their back catalog. Though it may partially sound like the obtuse doom you are expecting, give their earlier discs a chance. Two of the things that have always excited me about Hooded Menace are the guttural vocals and the raw, powerful guitar work. Traditional doom and sludge riffs are intertwined with grooves and headbanging parts, and the sheer catchiness of some of the songs carries you through the wall of gloom. There is a spark and immediacy that makes HM stand out from other bands. A tendency to write tangible riffs and brutal songs with a bit of style and attitude, and not just ride open chords.

I must report, with a bit of disappointment however, that the same cannot be said about Darkness Drips Forth. Older HM songs have been on the long side, often exceeding 5 or 6 minutes, though propelled by conscious songwriting. Here, with only 4 tracks, none of which are under 9 minutes long, the band seems to lose some steam, and lose the unique flavor they had been cultivating.

Featured here is meandering, somewhat aimless, and rather dull doom/death akin to several other bands of the same ilk. Whereas Hooded Menace would often eschew the hubris of the genre and insert grooving, headbanging riffs (see prior single Crumbling Insanity for instance), none of the songs here produce an excess of energy, nor do they stand out too far from other funeral/sludge/doom acts. It's not until the record is almost over that we see the band employ familiar upbeat creative riffing, in "Beyond Deserted Flesh", and even then it's a little few and far between a number of riffs that only seem to hang on extended sing-songy notes. It was hard for me to make it through all 4 tracks, as the repetitive riffing bored me some by the end of each track. Almost no actual riffs are memorable either, and I have little desire to listen again and again in hopes of picking them out.

Gone also is the raw production, in favor of a reverb heavy sound with a much less savage guitar tone than before. Vocalist Lasse is buried in the mix, way under the twin lead guitars, preventing the gut wrenching vocals the band has employed in the past from really delivering a solid punch. It's almost like the band deliberately gave up on much of what made them Hooded Menace in the first place.

For super doom heads, I guess I would still recommend this record. It is, after all, a band playing guttural doom music slowly and methodically over long time periods. But anyone used to the death tinged attack of their prior records should possibly proceed with caution.