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Helgardh > The Black Flame Descent > Reviews
Helgardh - The Black Flame Descent

West Virginia, Mountain Mama, Take Me Home... - 77%

TheStormIRide, April 15th, 2014

Bluefield, West Virginia is in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, at the very southern end of West Virginia. Bluefield was once a thriving community supported by the thriving coal industry, but like all coal towns and railroad cities, the proverbial ages have not favored Bluefield. Coming from a similar boom town turned cesspool, I can certainly relate to the general feelings of the populace. It’s not surprising to me that a small city like Bluefield, with a rather quaint population around 10,000, could produce a band like Helgardh, a rather pissed off sounding black metal with touches of death metal.

Helgardh was formed in 2009 and released their first EP in 2011, Ad Obscurus Aeternam. In 2014, the band released their debut full length, The Black Flame Descent, through the Philadelphia based label Horror Pain Gore Death Productions. Churning out ten tracks of miasmic and chaotic black metal, Helgardh offer a convincing debut album full of riff-laden black metal. The band’s base style is full of chaotic double kick drum patterns and the heavy-handed riffing approach of early Gorgoroth and Tsjuder, like the headbanging thrashery on “Ethereal Dawn”. The majority of the tracks here showcase fast paced riffing with a hooky edge to it, like the previously mentioned bands, but with a slightly more technical approach than the second wave bands. I say more technical, because the drumming seems to have more in common with progressive death metal rather than a constant wave of blastbeats, although those are there too. The guitars also showcase some technical flair, like the artificial harmonics during “The Trance of Empyrean”, and the progressively tinged time changes and near-shred styled soloing during “Crown of Fire”. Most of the music, though, is pretty much no frills black metal with a varied approach to the drums.

Alas, though, as it’s not all caustic black metal riffing for the entire play-through. “Blessings From the Funeral Pyre” shows the band’s softer side with a somewhat melodic, slightly out of key guitar pattern that is, honestly, a little wonky and wanky, sounding completely out of place. “Angel Cruciatus (May Angels Come” showcases a mid-paced track with some rather bland riffing, but then the band throws in some generic female vocals into the mix, turning a middle of the road track into an atrocity. Not all of the band’s forays into the realm of the melodic are duds though, as the minor key atmospherics during “Exorcism” and breathy whispered vocals give provide a chilling sound and the album’s closing track “nemA” is full of acoustic strumming and raspy whispers, ending the album in a rather somber vein. Although I really like these more melodic moments, they seem to be thrown into the mix in arbitrarily and result in a rather uneven flow throughout the recording.

The Black Flame Descent is a varied work that shows the band playing black metal with some slight experimentation. The more technical aspects of the band’s music give them a razor sharp edge and somewhat mechanical feel. The band’s ventures into atmospherics and acoustic melodies, while not fundamentally bad, give the band a generic feel at times. The Black Flame Descent is a solid album, but perhaps it’s a little too full and varied for its own good. I feel that the band would be better suited trimming the fat and focusing their efforts on playing an intense black metal album. With stronger cohesion between tracks and, perhaps, a less varied approach, Helgardh could unleash a beast of an album, so I’ll keep my eyes on this band.

Written for The Metal Observer: