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It was back in 2012 when Hail Spirit Noir’s debut Pneuma came completely out of left field and floored me. The band’s peculiar method of infusing a retro progressive and psychedelic rock sound with black metal felt like something I had been in search of for a long time, but had never actually encountered until that very moment. In the years that followed, subsequent releases from Hail Spirit Noir saw the black metal elements toning down in lieu of a more immersive effect. It should come as little surprise that this year’s Eden In Reverse, the band’s fourth full-length, ditches the black metal dimension almost entirely in favor of a full embrace of a quirky new take on progressive metal.

I’ve never been too big a fan of contemporary progressive metal -- much of it has devolved over time into djent or absolute technical meandering, both of which lack emotive appeal. Hail Spirit Noir never had a problem with either of these two extremes, however, drinking ever deeper from the inspiration pool of 1970s progressive and psychedelic rock. Enjoy a full album premiere before tomorrow's release below.

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The outward manifestation of this creative link comes to its peak on Eden In Reverse -- the overarching synth presence is immediately noticeable, long a crucial element in Hail Spirit Noir’s songwriting but one that has now spiked considerably into a more pronounced role. The result is the creation of a feeling akin to being wrapped in a warm and otherworldly cocoon: pervasive synths create a spacious and heavenly atmosphere that enshrouds listeners. Into its second half as well, they also come to add a noticeably groovy, jam-oriented flair to the songwriting, especially on the phenomenal closer “Automata 1980.”

The abandonment of a black metal personality, notably in the vocal department, draws immediate attention. Eden In Reverse eschews the shrieks and snarls Hail Spirit Noir made use of before -- it’s all about the majestic cleans now. This is a welcome transition as older material had harsh vocals that would roar over top otherwise more mesmerizing or far-out passages. Eden In Reverse features no such distractions, and instead the gorgeous vocal harmonizing conjures a mood of being treated to some delirious, off-planet symphony, with the singing guiding the way through a psychedelic ether.

The absolutely magnificent “Incense Swirls” is perhaps the perfect example of the new Hail Spirit Noir sound: expansive, confident, and with a distinctly futuristic tinge.

Although Eden In Reverse is more relaxing and mellower than its predecessors, it is not without its heavier moments. On “Crossroads” or “The First Ape On New Earth”, black metal undercurrents can still be heard in the chord progressions and overall grit of the production. This is a minimal element that demands an attentive ear, and even the most energetic moments on Eden In Reverse still lean toward “heavy prog metal” than straight-up black metal.

Through all the various compositional wanderings featured on Eden In Reverse, the production must be applauded. Crisply welcoming and all-encompassing, the mixing here leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination -- each aspect of the instrumentation is allowed equal opportunity to shine in its own right. “Alien Lip Reading” may be the best example, bringing the guitars, synths, and vocals to the forefront in its first half before dialing down the knob on these three and giving more attention to the bass and drums in its second.

Eden In Reverse is, at its core, a dense journey that rewards multiple listens, and its production does more than enough to shed light on the various layers of its songwriting.

The album retains the distinct signature that made the band so uniquely captivating in the first place: Hail Spirit Noir continues to embrace a broader, more harmonic vocal approach and early synthwave influences while still subtly injecting some black metal techniques into the final recipe. Ambitious and imbued with an individualistic energy, if nothing else Eden In Reverse demonstrates Hail Spirit Noir’s ongoing commitment to the long term evolution of their songwriting.

Major deviations from sounds established on earlier releases can see bands falling flat on their asses. That's not possible here for Hail Spirit Noir, as they shift their technique just far enough to result in a distinctly new sound while at the same time edging close enough to their roots to not morph into an entirely different entity. Distinctly forward-thinking while staying true to some of their own conventions, ethereal ambiance combined with a charismatic heaviness makes Eden In Reverse an absolutely mouth-watering release.

-- Sahar Alzilu

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Eden In Reverse releases June 19th via Agonia Records.

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