A perfect example of an album that’s greater than the sum of its parts, Beyond the Lightless Sky by Hull is a musical saga loosely based on the adventures of the Mayan Hero Twins. Hull’s second effort showcases the contrast between light and dark, as if to call attention to one of the central pillars of Mayan belief: duality.

A concept album like this, with the artist’s intention so obviously laid out for the listener beforehand, is a tricky thing. Knowledge of a storyline can allow for a new level of intellectual engagement, but it can also be off-putting. Fortunately, Beyond the Lightless Sky does not feel limited by its grandiose concept; nor does it venture into gimmicky territory. The lengthy tracks are broken up by short, pensive interludes that help shape the story in a tasteful way.

The journey begins with “Earth from Water”, which feels like a collection of genre splices layered on top of one another. The problem is that the sounds are a little too telling of Hull's influences. Within the first five minutes alone, my brain involuntarily made connections to Baroness, Dark Castle, and Enslaved. However, the issue thankfully becomes somewhat less prominent after the first track.

As the band's own identity trickles in, so does the importance of the concept. Would Beyond the Lightless Sky be as powerful without knowledge of the story? Not nearly. Minimalist additions such as “Just a Trace of Early Dawn” and “Curling Winds” wouldn't hold much weight. As parts of a whole, they make sense. Album closer, “In Death, Truth”, tells the last bit of the tale; its authoritative riffs fade out slowly, like the dying breath of one of the protagonists, accepting the relief of final silence. “Lonely soul / In death, truth / Holy way out / Redeem."

The production on this record is colorless in a way that doesn’t fit with the lyrics of blood sacrifice and wrathful Mayan deities; but it does help us piece together images of ancient landscapes, devoid of all modern excesses.

Beyond the Lightless Sky feels like a glimpse of someone else’s saga, from the safety of a protected harbor. But the band is forging ahead in the right direction. When Hull writes a record that makes me feel like I’m being swept off my feet and catapulted into a canoe headed straight for Xibalba, then I’ll have no choice but to succumb to their greatness.

— Julia Neuman

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HEAR BEYOND THE LIGHTLESS SKY

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Hull - "Beyond the Lightless Sky"

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Hull - "Earth From Water"

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BUY BEYOND THE LIGHTLESS SKY

The End Records (CD)

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