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A Conglomeration of Styles - 80%

Derigin, May 24th, 2008

There is a wide-open space, and beyond it, something akin to a proverbial message echoes off in the distance. A wailing, commanding voice is drowned by a rhythm and a melody that, in time, becomes hypnotic in nature. Hypnotic until, broken by a change in tempo, there alone remains a mixture of ruthless emotion and abrasive empathy. Now it should not be ignored that the quality of the recording is a cause of this interpretation; the echoing, drowned out vocals are the result of a not-so-perfect mix. Nor is the execution without flaws; how the instrumentation was used, and what is conveyed can be described more as a 'conglomeration of styles' than of a clear, concise and structured meaning. Beyond these weaknesses, what Ha Lela's "Pabudimas" offers is a satisfying portrayal of Lithuanian folklore in the style of pagan folk metal. It is an emotional whirlwind on, what can best be assumed, is a culture long removed.

Through a technical perspective, "Pabudimas" is decent, yet lacking. Throughout nearly all songs, it uses a combination of folk instruments and more traditional metal ones; not unlike others of its style and genre, instrumental folk intros usually precede the use of electric guitars and drums. The folk instruments provide momentary subordination through the rest of each song, in order to provide necessary support to what would otherwise be mediocre instrumentation. Even though there is talent in the more unusual instruments - especially with regards to the harpsichord and the flutes - the guitars and drums provide merely a background to the vocals. Nothing particularly spectacular in their use, except in the hypnotically constant rhythm they produce.

The vocals equally contain their own problems. Throughout most songs, and more evident in the middle compositions ("Ishjojo Bernelis," "Prakeiktas Troshkimas," "Pabudimas"), a single female mezzo-soprano as well as a chorus of female voices highlight various instrumental selections in a style of mourning. The male voice used - the more commanding of them all - orates in both clean and harsh vocals. His voice is an addition that is consistently distant and drowned out. Neither the female nor male vocals seem as well trained as is expected for the ranges attempted; the male vocalist, for example, has a tendency to break awkwardly while using harsh vocals.

When it comes down to their execution and the meaning conveyed, the constant need to change between styles, vocals and instruments is chaotic in purpose (which may or may not be on purpose). Right when it seems a style is nearing its apex, the tempo changes, the melody changes, the meaning changes, and it leads to the point where what is conveyed is forgotten for a moment. It's as though, and this seems convoluted in saying, there was too much available and too much used by the artists. The implementation of guitars, drums, flutes, chirping, church bells, a female chorus, clean vocals and harsh vocals can - in this album - only go so far that it inhibits the value of the performance. If there is one recommendation that could've been made prior to the break-up of "Ha Lela," and which certainly can be made to contemporary artists, it is to apply only what can work without diminishing the integrity of the work itself.