Winter is upon us, and the end of 2020 is nearly in sight -- the final month of the year beckons. It holds a special potency whether or not you believe in any of the traditions that accompany it: the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year, falls in late December. For most of the month, our brief allotment of sunlight will dwindle even further -- making the dark month the perfect subject for doom metal, I'd say.

Italian melodic doom/death group Hadal have titled their upcoming album December in honor of the month and its dour character, and their monstrous, gloomy dirges are well-suited for the subject matter. We've got the title track streaming for you right now, ahead of its release and just a few days short of the month itself -- give ear:

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I sometimes bounce right off of melodic doom like this, especially if it feels pretentious or overdone. But "December," starting off the album, achieves an imposing presence without being pompous or ostentatious and drew me in -- frankly, it's some of the best doom metal I've heard this year. Simply put, it's despair most stately, with markedly somber vocals and austere guitars creating a visage of cold nights to come. The track builds from a slow, steady introduction that showcases the sheer immenseness of the drums to a roaring chorus where the full might of the band's riffs crash through with that unshakeable rhythmic backing to boost them. Formal and foreboding in equal measure, we're asked to enter the realm of winter -- and indeed, in the context of the full album, the track is a gateway to darker things to come: the explosive black and death metal elements that adorn the second half of "December" return like ghastly creatures in the night as the misery unfolds.

Whether or not next year will be better is anyone's guess, but I'm ever hopeful. In the meantime, we can take a certain delight in the cold, moonless nights that still remain -- especially with the right music to take on midnight strolls on such evenings.

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December releases December 5th via Planet K Records.


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