The opening moments of "There is No Goodness Left in This World," the lead-off track to Charleston doom-metal band Hooded Eagle's 2014 debut LP Nightscapes from the Abyssal Plane, starts at a gallop, with a grim stoner-metal grind that seems unsure whether to lean toward a classic-metal surge or doom-metal denouement.
As it turns out, it doesn't quite do either, as Hooded Eagle isn't your standard-issue metal band. Around the four-minute mark the song slows to a crawl, sliding into something that approximates funeral metal for a few minutes and then begins to build back up with a slow-burning psychedelic lead that gradually releases into a highly melodic post-rock finish for the final 90 seconds, around the 7:30 mark.
At under nine minutes, it's also one of the shortest songs Hooded Eagle has under its belt.
"We kind of thrive on the originality of the project," says vocalist and lead guitarist Bobby Blackheart. "We like writing honestly and freely, doing whatever we want. If that means the song is over 10 minutes, and it usually is, we're gonna go for that. We don't have any reservations about how we're supposed to sound."
According to the guitarist, most of what the group does in the songwriting process is simply bounce ideas off each other, searching for moments of tension or places to break from the previous tempo or dynamics in a way that still fits the context of the song.
"That contrast is what we really like to do, more than anything," he says. "We can build into a crescendo, then bring it back down or change the dynamic or how the song sounds. It's a more classical approach than a standard rock songwriting approach. We don't really have too many refrains. We just like to build to a moment or release [and then move on]."
The band began in Charleston in 2009 with a different lineup and approach, gradually shifting its members and sound until it settled on a doom-metal core that allowed for easy digressions and less traditional compositions. In addition to Blackheart, the current, stable iteration of the group features Lynn Wise on bass and vocals, Matt Wolfe as a second guitarist, and Mark Appelt on drums and contributing vocals as well. Blackheart credits their unusual approach to metal to the entire group's wide listening and deep metal aptitude.
"We're all really big into extreme metal, and doom metal is on the more extreme side of things," he explains. "So many bands will play doom, but they'll play it with a rock 'n' roll vibe or there will be a stoner-metal thing going on with their sound. It's a little more accessible, a little more jam-out type of thing. But the whole thing is that's doom in America. There are a few bands like us here, but our sound is mostly pulled from European-style groups. European metal is a bit more melodic and a bit darker in general."
In some ways, the endless classification of the various threads of metal that the group pulls and tugs at is beside-the-point — these are sweeping, visceral songs that you are meant to wallow in, to spend time with as they take you from point A to point B to point C and back again.
"We are really trying to provide that cathartic experience that draws you in," says Blackheart of the band's appeal. "We want to create impassioned music that moves the listener. It's not the type of thing where it's a three or four-minute song you can just throw on. We want to make it a little more complex than that."
From hearing the guitarist talk about the band, it's clear that there's a certain creative purity that binds Hooded Eagle together. He's evidently proud of the success they've had, despite "sticking out like a sore thumb" in the Charleston metal community, citing opening gigs for heavy hitters like High on Fire, Jucifer, and Abigail Williams. But you get the sense that this a band most comfortable in the practice space, fervently crafting epic after epic.
"We're going to keep writing music, and whatever falls our way we'll try to make the best out of it," Blackheart says. "If we can achieve a little commercial success in this band, that's awesome. If not, that's fine too, honestly."