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Hefeystos really took me by surprise when I first heard their self-titled full-length debut. I wasn’t expecting much from a hidden and obscure Polish hybrid of black and gothic. I’ve come to realise, having extensively searched for bands in smaller countries across Europe in the black metal genre, that most are obscure for a reason. The music is usually very brash, quite unprofessional and although there may be some semblance of talent hidden in the depths of the atmospherics, there isn’t the experience or maturity to show the band how to properly project their themes. Hefeystos were one of the exceptions to the rule as their debut was extremely enjoyable and showcased a professionalism and maturity that I had not expected in such a young band. The enthusiasm was always bound to there, youth and inexperience supplies that in abundance, but the technicalities were bound to be off, right? That’s normally what I expect of Central and Eastern European bands who have laid unnoticed for many, many years.
The return of Hefeystos in the form of their sophomore, entitled ‘Psycho Cafe’, is more of what I was expecting, but given the nature of the line-up and the alterations in sound, Hefeystos were never going to keep up the same intensity, or levels of craftsmanship on their sophomore seeing as their line-up had significantly altered during the time frame between the first and second albums. Obviously, the changes to the line-up, the progression in sound and the seeming lack of attention were all too much for this Polish band as they collapsed and split-up some time after the year 2000. Not only had there been alterations to the line-up, but the sound has transformed somewhat, though not completely to the avant-gardé rock description up on Metal Archives. The bands label had changed for this recording, too. Though these may seem like minor details, they all contribute to the eventual downfall of the Polish band.
The opening song, in particular, showcases a number of faulty issues. The new male vocalist is sub par. His screams, growls and whatever else he supplies has little impact. The debut was projected by a soulful male vocalist and had a lot of imagination behind it, despite being restricted to black/gothic musings. The vocals on this effort run in similar paths, but with nowhere near the same quality or professionalism. The male vocals aren’t exactly terrible, but they lack prowess and don’t convey the same sorts of emotions as the previous vocalist, who mainly used clean vocals to project the themes of the band, which actually worked out better because of the softer style the band often opted for. When the band are alternating between soft and harsh styles, they also change vocalists, as shown on songs like ‘Credo/3 Is The Key’ whereby the female vocalist takes over from the male one, though they do seem to chant together at some point.
The female vocals feel lazy and lack emotion. They don’t inspire me in the slightest and feel like a cheap trick (as does implementing unusual keyboards into songs when they weren’t previously on any of the other songs, as shown on ‘U Gonna Bleed 4 Me?’) in trying to make the listener think the album is far more expansive and expressive than it actually is just because there is a “sultry” voice over the proceedings. Songs like ‘Away’ remind me of fellow gothic bands like America’s Brave, but in regards to Brave, they actually have a knack for song writing, integrating perfect suiting female vocals and a progressionist type of style that makes them feel adventurous. Also, in regards to Brave, their music incorporates instrumentation such as the piano, or violin that feels right at home with the progressive style of structure. Songs like ‘Away’ use a jazzier bass and the occasional female vocals to make the song feel more dynamic, but the female vocals are unflattering against the lacklustre atmospherics and the male vocals are terribly mediocre.
So, whilst the bass may be getting creative behind the scenes, the foreground is churning out mediocre moment after mediocre moment in the form of the vocal duets and the cheap feeling production which fails to support the solos of songs like ‘Away’. I also cannot help but feel agitated by the immature song titles, like ‘U Gonna Bleed 4 Me?’. Seriously, what are we? 12? Grow up and stop being moronic! The best elements of the debut, like the clean male vocals and emotive piano have been largely removed. The clean male vocals here, if you can call them clean, are disappointing and the piano which features on songs like ‘Everyone is a Star’ is so buried that it becomes detached from the direction of the awkward music. The lyrics also seem completely pathetic. So, in conclusion, do your best to avoid the sophomore where the line-up had been taken over by kids and stick with the debut.