Hollow Earth look to the sky and past Earth’s vast atmospheric layers to outer space for inspiration behind their second record, Dead Planet. In reaching towards the dark emptiness above us, the group slows their metallic hardcore down significantly. They’ve played around with less urgent tempos before, but not in as precise of a manner as they do on Dead Planet. It’s not a new band in control here, but one that have spent the two years since Silent Graves investing in an ambitious subject.
That ambition was hinted at with the Parting Remains EP released in early 2016. Those three songs on the EP were a prelude to Dead Planet, where the nothingness that stretches through space is expressed with ambient instrumentals and riffs that echo into unforeseen distances. While gravity may be nonexistent in space, Hollow Earth keep these songs grounded with a commanding heaviness that covers over every note played.
On Dead Planet, Hollow Earth are less “metallic hardcore” and more “metallic sludge” in a broader sense. They’ve never been speed freaks, save for select moments (“Black Blood Of The Earth” from Silent Graves a prime example), but there’s isn’t much fully charged momentum on this album. They are fine working within the confines of a claustrophobic sonic environment to match the fear of being stuck in an oxygen-deprived solar system.
Guest vocalists, including The Black Dahlia Murder’s Trevor Strnad on “From Empyrean to Damnation,” don’t get in the way or draw attention away from singer Steve Muczynski. They are mainly used in the middle tracks, leaving the band to their own devices for the final trio of songs that act as an appropriate denouncement. The distant vibes of “To An Earth Abandoned” draw back on the choking weight of earlier songs for something more profound and soul-searching. It’s a superb closer that sets up the next part of the story.
Well, at least, it appears that way. The “Part One” story tidbit on their Bandcamp page for Dead Planet is incomplete, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Hollow Earth have a trilogy in mind. There’s much more to be explored not only in the story, but the scope the band have added into their sound. They aren’t far off from achieving that goal, letting the infinity of space act as a motivator to push ahead as musicians.
(released December 2, 2016 on Good Fight Music)