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Helengard > Skiringssal > Reviews
Helengard - Skiringssal

Where's the Beef? - 65%

severzhavnost, December 7th, 2014

Helengard make some breathtakingly beautiful synth melodies. Many different sounds and moods are produced, from a light ethereal piano, to an upbeat modern synth sound, to an ornate and convincing simulation of bagpipes. Vocals range from Mira's clear pretty tone, to Hvar's death growl to the occasional supporting black metal shriek of Morgoth. All three show a high level of melodic awareness, and are able to keep along with the synth's intricate folkish ambience.

Sounds like truly excellent stuff right? Well yes, except that Helengard barely fits the bill as their described atmospheric folk/black metal. They have the ambient side down pat, but the metal... well, it's lacking. The synths are so far and away the lead instrument that the metal staples of drums and electric guitar are nearly always at the back of the bus. 
The drums get in some brief, quite capably done blasting, with the first verse of "Into the War"; and again alongside the cool rhythm guitar verse toward the end of "Kepea Mist".The stately rolling pattern of the synth-bagpipe led closer "Vanha Voima" is also very effective. Other than that, drums do very little for Skiringssal. Likewise, the guitars rarely do anything more than lazy trollish chugging (see "Into the War") or indistinct fuzzy haze ("Each Dawn" and most of "Kepea Mist"). Notable exceptions include "Kuun Suru"'s fair shot at a melodic riff, and the artful but overly short solos in "Kepea Mist" and "Into the War".

The strength of this demo is undoubtedly the synths. "Metsakansa" fuses a soft, dreamy piano twinkle with a very fine replica of the proud skirl of bagpipes. These return, in a related tune, for the closer, which I found a lovely way to tie the album together. Elsewhere, a modern, i.e. clearly electronic, synth sound prevails. And this is no less gorgeous than the more traditional sounds Helengard coaxes out of the keys. This short little demo had long emotional resonance, owing to the delicate wistfulness of the keyboard melodies.

Basically, this is a marvelous little tape of ambient folk. But seeing as Helengard claim it for a metal album, the overall judgment must take the metal aspects' contributions into account. At this point, the band hadn't figured out how to make that side of their sound hold up its end of the bargain.