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[NOTE: I am completely rewriting this review. Because my initial opinion of the EP is worlds apart from my current feeling, I felt it was best to do a complete rewrite.]
So, where to start? Well, this EP is short, so I'll keep the review from ranting too much. The long and the short of it is, however, that we have 2 original songs and 2 covers. Well, I'll be damned if the covers weren't the better songs present. That both songs were rather drek to my ears says a lot about the two original songs. Some bands grow on me after a while and their appeal increases with time. Not Holyhell. In the span of a few short years, this band went from being OK to being completely impossible to listen to. Why is this? To put it simply, this is average music (in every sense of the word) with purely atrocious singing. How I could have ever liked the singing is simply beyond me. Perhaps I was younger and more easily swain by the fairer sex. Perhaps I was going through my Manowar phase and gobbled up anything related to Manowar (two musicians here have worked with Manowar at some point, and this EP was made through Magic Circle, Manowar's label).
Whatever the reason, I have grown annoyed with this band these days. Front and center, Maria Breon's voice sticks out like wailing cat, and I don't mean that in a good way. Sure, she keeps a pitch (most of the time) but her range is questionable and her glottal is the ugliest thing to have come out of a woman's mouth since Udo's penis. Every time she starts her phrases, her tone warps heavily, becoming over-nasal and less able to carry a pitch. I guess she was going for a "rock"-ish style, but I fail to see how such a style would mesh with the more keyboard-heavy parts, and even the most "rough" sounding power metal singers (think David DeFeis, Sir Russell Allen, hell, even Manowar's Eric Adams) know how to produce a cleaner tone when the situation called for it. Breon doesn't. She just wails away in that powerless atonal yell. I can't describe well enough how grating her voice is. I'd rather listen to Dani Filth's horrid diarrhea while getting pins in my temples than hear Breon sing again. However, such singing is exacerbated by stupid lyrics. I said earlier that the two better songs were the covers, and part of that is that Holyhell's lyrics are stupid. Like 7th grade stupid. Angsty crap that deals with a subject (dark vs. light) that's been done to death, not only in the metal world, but EVERYWHERE. And the thing about bad vocals is that they make bad lyrics that much more obvious.
However, for me to truly condemn a piece of work, the music must be bad as well as the vocals. And this is the centerpiece: even if you took away Breon's singing and replaced her with a far more competent singer, the music would still be painfully average. I know Joe Stump is a great guitarist, and I know Rhino is a great drummer, so WHY DO WE NEVER SEE THEIR SKILLS? And furthermore, why are they playing such generic gothic metal? This really prevents Holyhell from taking off, and aside from the duet with Eric Adams, gives me no reason whatsoever to endure Breon's terrible singing. Most riffs seem to be just barre chord after barre chord with no end in sight, and even though the sound is keyboard-dominated at times, even the keyboards seem content playing just chords. Even the guitar solos, which should have been another key point, given Joe Stump's involvement, sound neutered and rushed, with a very linear style and lack of inspiration. I know Stump is capable of more, and for that matter, the drumming of Rhino could easily be faster and more technical. Everyone is simply taking the easy way out to make way for the horrendous singing, which only serves to highlight how embarrassing of a singer she is. I simply cannot throw my support behind a band who's main selling point makes me wanna destroy my stereo.
And since they gave us an EP full of generic gothic metal with mediocre performances from everyone except the singer, who gave us atrocious performances, I will not grace Holyhell with a longer review. I think I have spent as much time writing this review as they did writing and recording this album.
Symphonic power metal is definitely a hit or miss type subject with me, either it's really overly symphonic and not the good type of symphonic, trading less metal elements and becoming more of a Within Temptation type band instead of utilizing symphonic elements, being grandiose and epic all while still remaining a metal band. HolyHell is one such band that seems to understand this, although it's not quite as consistent as it should be, on their first single Apocalypse containing 4 choice songs displaying quite a professional approach to the genre, probably owing much debt to master shredder Joe Stump and his knowledge of the music business and such.
The first song, the title song, being the best here featuring awesome symphonic type orchestrations allowing for a very grandiose and majestic feel feeling like something from Luca Turilli's side projects meets neo-classical bliss in this fast number that creates quite the imagery. I can clearly see myself standing on the ramparts of a castle whilst arrows darken the sky and legions of foot soldiers clashing on the fields below, bloody and guts everywhere and maybe a fucking Nazgul flying at me, especially at the 1 minute mark; yeah... you know what I'm talking about.
What makes this a bit more unique is the lead vocals of Maria Breon and her Simone Simons like approach, but probably not quite in the same league as her. Breon's still very talented and knows how to sing, she's nowhere as operatic as her colleagues but still knows what she's doing. The drums are what you should expect to find here with double bass euphoria and guitar riffs mixed perfectly with keyboards that scream neo-classical symphonies, being very similar to that of Rhapsody.
Resurrection is more of your stereotypical symphonic power metal song with some gothic metal type riffing and drumming patterns. It's not as powerful and doesn't strike as well as the title track, but the lead guitar work is fantastic and being a slower ballad-esque type song, it highlights Breon's vocals very well, showcasing her range very well. Mixing lower type slow singing to rapid fast falsettoes almost, doing a very good job. Last Vision is similar in this aspect, though once again featuring very nice symphonic elements but lacking the powerful punch that Apocalypse had; this once again showcases a slower and more traditional symphonic power metal song approach.
Out of nowhere these is a live song from the Masters of Rock Festival in 2005 being a cover of the infamous Phantom of the Opera, which every symphonic metal band does, but being slightly more unique featuring the one and only legend himself, Eric Adams. I've always enjoyed this song, especially Nightwish's rendition of it and HolyHell's cover is quite decent getting the crowd into it and making it more energetic. Breon does a good job, as she should because she's quite talented and Eric Adams, being the metal vocalist god that he is does a very good job, but unfortunately it doesn't do as well because there are no orgasmic ridiculous falsettoes that I wish for every night... fortunately though the mighty Joe Stump makes up for it shredding and soloing all over the place making it much more. At the end though, when the crowd is going nuts as Stump shreds the fuck out of the guitar and Breon does her best Tarja impression, Adams should have been ripping out one of his infamous "Kingdom Come" ending falsettoes, oh well, I suppose he didn't want to steal HolyHell's thunder.
So HolyHell does a decent job with this first release/single and has quite the professional touch with this, with Joe Stump's help and influence in the band making it a lot better that it would be and more unique. It's absolutely nothing out of the ordinary, but it's quite unique in it's own right making it a decent offering. This is worth picking up just for the title track alone, it being such a fantastic symphonic power metal song that packs quite a punch and has such majestic orchestrations. Fans of Rhapsody, Luca Turilli, symphonic power metal as well as shredders take note and watch out for HolyHell's upcoming full-length.