“Feel our hatred for you in the form of art, you normal bastards!”, thus read the liner notes to Hail’s “Crimson Madrigal”. And indeed, this hatred does make itself felt, drowning the listener in some 70 minutes of desolate Gregorian chanting, reckless Black Metal howling, uber-minimalist drumming and long-form songwriting.
“Crimson Madrigal” is a terrific album, then? Well, even though I’m not really on the lookout for grim, lo-fi black metal at this point, this album revives my interest at least to a certain extent. And it doesn’t come out of nowhere, mind: “Crimson Madrigal” is a 1999 demo, and Hail feature Set Sothis Now Law (of L’Acephale fame), Carl Annala and Markus Wolff of Waldteufel. “Crimson Madrigal”, then, is the kind of outsider metal that’s typically released in lush vinyl editions by Aurora Borealis. Whereas this edition, on the reliably cheerless Faunasabbatha label, is limited to 93 cdrs. Given the current status of the people involved, this must be according to the band’s own wish. For the names, the bleakness, the forgettable 8-track sound, the stilted neo-Nietzschean conservatism, the quotes from Georges Bataille, the clichéd lyrics (“Kill the legions of the damned / All of nature is renewed by fire / Burn... Burn!”), the unabashed self-fashioning – it’s all here: “Our lighthouse was the black hole”, the band’s self-description used by the label claims. “And then we devolved...”.
Everyone familiar with Set Sothis’ frantically distorted vocals for his L’Acephale project will know what to expect in “INRI” and “Damn the Sun”. Here, “Crimson Madrigal” features the most out there vocals I’ve heard in quite a while. But even though this early demo resembles L’Acephale at times, Hail cover a much wider terrain. A track like “Meat Drunk” with the drooling of wolves and the chirping of birds is a sound installation rather than a metal track. And the Gregorian chants on “Kalevala Rune” add spiritual depth. As an album, “Crimson Madrigal” is almost too much to take in in one sitting. I’ve repeatedly found myself intrigued, then lost interest and caught myself peeping at the display of my cd player. Still, when it comes to small-run packages, it doesn’t get much better than this. 7/10 -- Jan-Arne Sohns (26 May, 2010)