By Dr. Abner Mality

"Mordrake" should finally drive a stake through the heart of the idea that independent bands cannot produce records equalling those backed by labels. This band from Montreal has come up with an album that in every way equals something coming from Nuclear Blast, Metal Blade or Season of Mist.  That goes for artistic packaging, musical quality and just overall professionalism.

As for Hollow itself? Well, this band is not going to be for everybody. They are incredibly ambitious...and also incredibly overblown and pompous. But their audacity works in their favor. There are not very many releases in the vein of "Mordrake" being released today. One look at these cadaverous ghouls brings black metal such as Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir to mind. And indeed, there is a huge influence of symphonic black metal here. Decadent keyboards, choirs and lavish synths are present by the bucketload, so I can tell any fan of raw death metal or gritty BM that this is not gonna be your cup of grue. But there's also a lot of extremely progressive death metal to be found on "Mordrake" as well. Not the super technical Origin/Decrepit Birth type of stuff, but death with tons of melody and lots of dizzying time changes. Plenty of guttural vocals, too.

On the whole, this will make your head swim. But there are plenty of both fierce and beautiful passages here. The piano playing is exqusite, particularly on cuts like "Landscape" and "Vlad". If that scares you away, then know the band can also blast like a cyclone...and they insist there are no triggers on the drums, which I will take them at their word. It's a very challenging listen and also very pretentious, but I found myself enjoying the journey. It doesn't hurt that the lyrics are all excellently based on fictional and real life horrors...there will never be a better song about Lovecraft's "At The Mountains of Madness" lyrically than "Snow". The title track is an epic three part story about the real-life case of Edward Mordrake, a man born with a second face on the back of his skull, a face which supposedly talked him into suicide. That's a hell of a creepy tale and Hollow bites into it with gusto.

This is not gonna be for people with short attention spans. But it's something a little different in today's musical landscape...yet familiar. The packaging of "Mordrake" is also outstanding and Dimmu Borgir themselves couldn't come up with better pics of band members than these guys. Mr. Cadaver in particular looks mighty gruesome.

Recommended if you like pompous, challenging black and death metal.