Hail Spirit Noir – Oi Magoi

Greece’s Hail Spirit Noir had a monstrous debut in 2012’s Pneuma. Its masterful blend of 70’s prog rock, psychedelia, and black metal really set it apart from the other more prominent, archetypical Satanic prog rock outfits like the The Devil’s Blood and Ghost. If you haven’t yet heard of Hail Spirit Noir, just imagine if The Doors worshiped Satan, Jim Morrison donned corpse paint, and the band decided to incorporate a few Norwegian black accents to their surrealist repertoire. That’s what Pneuma kinda, sorta sounds like.

And though this trio’s penchant for the dark arts made their debut a truly singular listening experience, it was their incredibly viral melodies and catchy lyrics that made it a compelling one. Songs like “The Mountain of Horror,” “Let The Devil Come Inside,” and “Haire Pneuma Skoteino” are just downright infectious, bewitching you for days on end with such wisdom like, “The goldenrod was made for you. Kill your mother while still in her womb.” or the more anthemic, “Rotten to the core, hungry for more. Hail Spirit, Spirit, Noir!!” Indeed.

So as you can imagine, when their soon to be released follow up, Oi Magoi (“The Magicians”), hit my desk, I was not only thrilled, but very anxious to see if these three Greeks could really capture the same level of black magic in their debut.

“Blood Guru” certainly starts off promising enough, with a catchy 70s mid-tempo riff amid warlike drums before Theoharis’ Gojira-ish rasp joins the fray. But about two minutes in, the band suddenly transforms into a three-piece jazz ensemble. Not only is the whole experience way too tame for my tastes, but it doesn’t really drill any kind of catchy refrain into your cerebral cortex either, lowering the tracks overall replay index.

“Demon for a Day” however, ups the ante considerably, with an insanely infectious chorus and a bit of jazzy improv that finally catapults this song (and album) out of mediocrity. The vocals are now more varied too, with a seamless transition between clean and rasp that help build tension and keep things involving.

The seven minute “Satan is Time” is psychedelic rock at its finest, but again, offers only a dash of blackish vocals and frenetic riffing. A pleasant tune no doubt, but it degenerates into 70s psychedelic rock fairly quickly, a style that has been done a thousand times and then some. “Satyriko Orgio’s (Satyrs’ Orgy)” is a return to form and easily debut quality, with a lot more front loaded heavy riffing before eventually spacing out again. The chanting and howls that make up a good part of this track’s midsection are downright hypnotizing, building an incredible amount of energy before returning back to more of those jazzy infused proggy bits for its finale.

“The Mermaid” at first seems like a lost track from an Ayreon record, with a spacey keyboard medley kicking off your adventure. It’s basically “Satan is Time” redux, but the band this time is firing on all three cylinders, with ominous whispers and a sumptuous guitar solo toward the end that punctuates this eleven minute escapade perfectly. “Hunters” is another well balanced meal with a healthy dose of blackened frenzy along side more psychedelic rock. Unfortunately, the self-titled closer is lackluster, with repeated chants and a somewhat dull progression that never really goes anywhere. Sure there are a few tiny breaks from the action for some keyboard noodling and blackened vocals to spice things up from time to time, but as a whole, the song is very repetitive and extremely anti-climatic, never really aspiring to be more than an exercise in sinister chant.

Just like their debut, Oi Magoi was mixed by Dim Douvras of Rotting Christ and mastered by Jens Bogren of Fascination Street Studios. Despite once again maintaining industry average compression levels, this records sounds damn good. Douvras’ mix is wonderfully balanced, with all members of this Greek trifecta accurately accounted for. Moreover, Bogren’s master has seriously restored some of my faith in this man’s ability to produce a loud but solid sounding release. Bass is especially prominent and always ever present throughout – a real treat. But what really had my ears perked up was Giahoudis’ drums, which sound out of this world given these volume levels. The cymbals and hats actually sparkle and fade naturally, and while the kick isn’t exactly booming, it’s thumpy enough to make the grade. If this record ever does make its way to vinyl, I suspect it will sound even better.

In the end, Oi Magoi sacrifices Pneuma‘s immediacy for dazed and confused rock, with a lot more emphasis on the proggy bits than the quasi-black ones. Consequently, not only does the band lose some of their occult charm, but also never quite reach the same euphoric heights of the debut. Nevertheless, it’s still a fun ride, and these guys are obviously immensely talented, so I still continue to expect big things from them going forward. Hail Spirit, Spirit, Noir!

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