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One of the best pagan metal records ever - 98%

nilgoun, July 3rd, 2012

It’s not a big secret, that it takes some time to produce products that are really qualatative and so it’s no big surprise either, that Hel always took their time to write and record their stuff. It took them five years to release their second record Falland Vörandi, after they made their debut with Orloeg in 1999. Another five years elapsed between the release of their third record Tristheim and Das Atmen der Erde. The waiting time was really worth it, as the tracks are brilliant and quite long: The twelve tracks fill over an hour of playing time, which is quite impressive.

The first song makes quite clear why the waiting time was this long, as the band found a quite new style without really missing the link to their roots. You could describe the new style as a mixture of Tristheim (which was fully acoustic) and Falland Vörandi (which featured some “classic” pagan/black metal), but that wouldn’t really hit the nail on the head either. It’s quite difficult to describe this new style entirely, as there are quite some elements involved. The majority of the tracks is defined through broad melodic passages, which remind me of classic heavy metal/rock stuff, really epic moments, some folklore stuff and clear vocals. It’s likely to be tempted to dream while listening to songs like Wo die Tannen thronen or Am Grunde der Unendlichkeit.

That doesn’t mean, that the band can’t play harder songs anymore, as there are some really fast, impelling and of course harsh passages as well, they just aren’t as frequent as the majestic and noble ones. Especially songs like Wagemut are standing out, as it features clear, spoken and even growled vocals. The main mood of the record is slightly melancholic, noble and somewhat yearning but nearly as difficult to describe as their new style in general. This mood is as present in the slow passages as it is in the faster and “darker” ones. It’s really difficult to find the right words to describe this record entirely, as it’s so multilayered but still focusing on a golden thread.

The complexity is featured by both, the songs itself and the record as a whole. The song structures are quite clear but still very varied and independent so that no song sounds like another, but there is still a certain link between them, so that you know that they belong together. Every song features another arc of suspense, they didn’t just used a standard formula to write their songs. Das Atmen der Erde isn’t just well written (I would say it’s the best written record of Hel so far!), it is really well played as well. Only the vocals are a bit strange from time to time, but that’s such a minimal flaw, that it isn’t really worth blabbing about. It’s impressive, that nearly every song advances to become an earworm and the few exceptions are still of a really high quality so that not a single song can be called “bad”.

Conclusion:

It’s quite easy to find the right rating for a record like Das Atmen der Erde, but it’s really difficult to find the right words to describe what’s happening as everything you write seems to be off place and badly written in comparison. Nearly every song is of such a high quality, that it easily advances to become an earworm and can be played over and over again without a pause inbetween. Hel manage to use elements of pagan metal without becoming citchy in such a light-footed way that it’s really impressive! Although they are so skilled at writing and performing songs, they still down to earth, which is really sympathic! You like well done, great music? This is it!
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Written for http://threnodies.com