Barons of Hiddenhausen, is a mysterious and hidden secret, with it’s origins in Vienna.  Although the project sounds like a full-fledged band, the mastermind behind the project is one person: Moritz Kofler.  Kofler is no stranger to the genre – after he recorded “World Withdrawal,”  he collaborated with Digital Noise Academy in L.A., a project by Ken Andrews (Failure, Beck, A.P.C. NIN), Jordon Zadorozny (Blinker The Star, Courtney Love, Melissa Auf Der Maur) and others. That experience shows in this record.

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World Withdrawal, Barons Of Hiddenhausen’s new album, begins with “The Sign Of The Baron,” a noisy opening track that introduces the variety of elements to come on the rest of the LP.  Things pick up with the following grinding rock track “Witherbitch,” which features gruff, grunge-ish vocals that give way to double-time drums and metal riffage.  That section transitions quickly — but smoothly rather than jarringly — to ambient jangling of guitar strings and melodic chanting.

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Kofler makes full use of the capabilities of the human voice throughout the album.  On “This Kiss Sic This,” the vocals descend into a barely-audible whisper, giving the track a decidedly creepy vibe before it transitions back into that signature gritty sound heard on earlier tracks.  “This Kiss Sic This” also features swirling synth noises and pulsing electronic drums, evoking the accessible industrial metal Trent Reznor, somewhere in between Nine Inch Nails and How To Destroy Angels.

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Elusive,” one of the album’s most unique tracks (but also one of its standout songs), begins with an extended, complex drum beat that builds in intensity as the beat drags on throughout the over 2 minute track length.  Vocal samples and layered, atmospheric sounds provide the backdrop, but its the drum work that’s at the forefront of the song.  The track ends with the brief onset of loud and distorted guitars, teasing what it could have sounded like if Barons of Hiddenhausen had gone in a heavier direction.  But it’s the heightening of tension with barely any satisfying release that makes “Elusive” so engaging.  If that heaviness of the final guitar riff were implemented throughout the track’s entirety, the song might have been more traditionally satisfying, but nowhere near as good.  “Elusive” is an intricate and incredibly well-placed interlude for World Withdrawal.

That song leads into “Realm Of The Edge,” a song reminiscent of the type of alt-metal popularized during the 90s-heydey of bands like Tool.  The vocals are softer — sung, more than screamed — and the music is lighter to match.  By the time the phrase “push me over the edge” is repeatedly sung towards the end of the track, the vocals are nasally and more melodic than heard previously on the album.  That’s not to say that the heavier elements are lost.  “Realm Of The Edge” achieves its harder style through the slow, deep bass and guitar sounds that drag the listener in.

World Withdrawal is an ambitious effort from Barons Of Hiddenhausen, with each song existing in it’s own musical universe. This is definitely one album to pick up – expect great things from Barons of Hiddenhausen.

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