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Potential is often wasted on obscure black metal demos—an EP’s worth of material cropping up from the depths and heralding its creators as the heir apparent to the throne of kings, only to disappear forever. Every good demo that never results in another quality release feels like a loss of some kind. This is the curse of the scavenger; my curse. That unfulfilled feeling shudders through my being with each re-discovery of these lost demos, often tucked deep within my collection.

Upon picking up Gloam’s Vanquished demo at a Hell show last Summer, the deep dread of future disappointment’s black cloud loomed over my head. That release was the highest height of potential for me for the rest of 2014. Gloam were utilizing the decidedly post-2010 "American" approach to black metal: lengthy, plodding, ominous, and with the right amount of melody to keep the listener going. As it is with most demos and "first EPs," there was always room for improvement, hence the aforementioned "potential." Gloam’s "next step," at least for me, was an exciting variable. In a scene where most bands just sort of, you know, sound like a mix of their favorite bands, Gloam was revitalizing, but I knew nothing about them. With the public closing of the Eternal Warfare label which released their tape, I was left with unanswered questions.

A brief post on the Nuclear War Now! forums (what a great resource) by Hansel Melchor, proprietor of Caligari Records, answered my dormant prayers - there was to be a Gloam album. Would it be good? The answer to my prayer was yes, that next step was taken and the end-result is glorious.

With Hex of Nine Heads, Gloam has matured in that perfect way everyone hopes a band does between the "demo/EP" phase and their first full-length album. The almost standard, albeit passionately and precisely executed performance found on Vanquished and the preceding demo has been violently thrust into a more atypical, progressive realm. Weaving between the alarming and disjointed, which is very new territory for Gloam, to much more heavily voiced, borderline contemporary classically-inclined melodiousness, Hex of Nine Heads’s calculated approach definitely deserves a good pair of headphones (or just headphones in general) to fully appreciate its nuances. With the immediacy of a young Opeth, we find Gloam plowing through near-constant variations on ideas, utilizing a much more linear, non-structured approach to songwriting, never fully re-iterating a riff so much as rebuilding Solomon’s Temple again and again. For an hour-long album, it can definitely get strenuous without any sort of reference other than your watch, but the dense creativity is evidence of exceedingly strong musicianship.

I’m only left with one question: is the utilization of Intro and Outro tracks titled "Intro" and "Outro" an homage to Bathory?

Man, I hope so.

—Jon Rosenthal

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Pre-order Hex of Nine Heads from Caligari Records here, which is slated for a July 25th release, and listen to a full album stream below.

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