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The Best - 98%

necrowizrdacolyte74, December 21st, 2013

There are albums that you hear good riffs on, and that you listen to only half-hearted, then there are albums that you rewind about ten times before you’re even into the second song. This is the latter. This album is in my opinion, cream of the crop for its genre.

The first track “Degraded To Mortals” is the centerpiece of the album, being the best track I’d say. Opening it’s got a classic black metal intro; fast, harsh and loud. It fades into the signature Hellige tone though, big spacey and evil riffs. The song is full of evil dissonant noodeling, but is all to the steady toll of the sludgy bell like droning riffs in the background. After a quiet bridge of pretty chorus and a crunchy buildup, a heart wrenching solo comes out. 10/10 track.

“The Rotten Waste” is the hallmark of the tone of the album; the big spacey riffs mentioned earlier dominate the track with plenty of headroom for melodies. Drums are excellent on this track coupled perfectly with the “large” atmosphere; little sections of technical drum breaks from the main rhythm are prevalent. 9/10 track.

“Philosophers Crown” is a good mix of the two tracks prior. Its got the big sound with the massive riffs, but its also tight and sharp. This track features more interludes of buildup with big sound for those dissonant mini-solos that pepper the track throughout. The track loses favor with me in the third quarter of the song going into a very stereotypical black metal sequence, followed by a drum ending wind-down. 7/10 track.

“Obnubilum” is the longest track on the album, featuring big dragged out riffs. The song is the atmosphere setter, giving the album a mystic tone than the blackened-sludge tracks found previously, but it still has fast black metal blast beats coupled to steady riffs. It’s got the fore-mentioned dissonance of the tracks to, but it features a more sludge model than the other songs some parts, were as in other it goes back to a more traditional black metal structure. 7/10 track.

The bottom line on this album is that although the theme of the album is the same, the sound is unique to each song; no two are even close to alike. The tone of the album is very mystic, very evil and very big. It features very fresh sludge riffs, which are becoming harder to find in today’s recycled songs and original black metal, also a very cool thing to hear done with originality. Hellige nails blackened-sludge spot on, and I recommend this album highly, it’s an easy favorite with plenty plays in it. It’s an album that ages well, only becoming better as you listen to it more

Insane - 98%

jacobinmountain, August 28th, 2012

Holy shit. This is a demo? This is not music for a sunny day. Or even slightly overcast. This album from Argentina’s Hellige is possibly the dreariest and deepest music I’ve heard in a long time. The band mixes doom and black metal perfectly, borrowing the best aspects from each. The guitar is rhythmic and deep throughout, pulling out doom riffs that sound like they were made just for black metal. They have that black metal hook, but with the slow drawl of doom, kind of like what Indian would play. There is a twinge of tinny-ness in the tone but only just a twinge, being the guitars are mostly too deep for it to be too noticeable. The vocals alternate between that of black metal classics like Bathory or early Taake and deep doom that draws on and on. Every so often there’ll be that crazy man voice crack that bands like Armagedda would use. Those are just so satisfying to me. That just says he’s putting all his aggressive emotions into these songs and not half-assing it. Average style is thrown to the wind for raw emotion, and I fucking love it! I can’t see how you wouldn’t kill your voice laying those vocals down. The production quality is perfect for this kind of music. It has a little bit of rust around the edges, but not enough to make you check if your headphones came a little unplugged. It’s not hifi, but not distractingly bad. A perfect medium. There’s also a large and empty quality to it, like it was recorded in a huge underground cave. This adds to the aesthetic immensely.

The thing that really got me about this album, hell the whole band in general, is the fact the it sounds like it was written by a bona fide madman and it’s written well. Very well! The best part of the whole album is about two-thirds of the way through the second song “The Rotten Waste,” it backs down from the blackened pummeling into a slow and very creepy melody that lulls you into a state of musical unease. It’s kind of like something you’d hear walking into an abandoned psychiatric ward where everyone had been murdered (or I don’t know, something pretty morbid.) Then just as you start to develop a false sense of musical security the vocalist lets out a scream that came from the crazy guy I mentioned earlier. I don’t mean to sound clichéd but it truly was bloodcurdling. There’s really no better way to put it. The first time I listened to it I just stared into space for a second and had to listen to it again. What the fuck was that!? It kind of scared me. It then leads off into the best, blackest riff on the whole album. It’s also one of the few tremolo riffs which are usually so common to this style of metal. If anything else, the last half of this song just satisfies.

For a demo, this just blows me away. In a world of half-assed black metal, this really takes the cake for me. There’s a powerful legitimacy behind this dark music.

Hellige - Demo - 93%

Apteronotus, March 25th, 2012

Cavernous and murky, Hellige’s 2012 Demo is a fantastic march right down the line between black and doom metal, combining the best aspects of both genres. The first thing you may notice is how the deep rhythm guitar acts out the music tectonically, slowly shifting but with massive movements that parallel the bass line. This makes the core of the music incredibly heavy. On the production side, this demo is full of low end frequencies so the deeper parts come out fully and with rich timbre. All of the music’s subparts are drenched in reverb, which helps give the demo its cavernous sound. However, the key to the atmosphere is how the band melds all of the composition’s parts together.

The often slow and plodding rhythm shows a clear influence from the more radical fringes of doom. While some of the black metal influences include the usual tremolo picking, the overall lineage to that genre often comes through with crafty subtly. Tremolo picking is used either sparingly such as on “A Philosopher’s Crown” or in a way where it is not immediately obvious such as on “Obnubilum.” This lets the band put black metal’s wall of sound atmosphere to better use than most black metal bands do. Rather than an assault of repeated notes, the tremolo picking colors the overall music and is almost hidden by the reverb and massive bass end. Another subtle black metal influence on the guitars can be heard in the dark (tritone) oriented lead riffs throughout the album. As the doomier riffs march along in low notes, the odd almost dissonant black metalish melodies tactfully ring out to add more memorable character to the riffs.

All of this makes the music almost overbearing, and it can leave you fatigued. Long songs work to amplify this effect, yet the band avoids creating a repetitive atmosphere like we see all too often in both doom and DSBM. “Degraded to Mortals” is an excellent example of Hellige doing this, and the obvious interlude in the middle clearly shows how the song develops from point A to B. This great songwriting ability keeps the long songs interesting yet still entirely coherent. In fact, the demo provides several moments for the weary to rest, some of the songs include both intro and outro sections which offer momentary relief from the crushingly heavy atmosphere. However, no particular part of the album jumps out from the murky atmosphere as marvelously perfect.

Vocally, Hellige uses a variety of styles but the predominant ones alternate between resembling Nocturno Culto’s work on “Soulside Journey” and “A Blaze in the Northern Sky” but with deeper and doomier death metal vocals. Other vocal styles include the profoundly ominous and quiet choir-type vocals in the later part of “Obnubilum” and the howling rasps toward the end of “A Philosopher’s Crown.” Overall, the vocals serve much in the way as the lead guitar, adding color and texture to the song rather than carrying the all of the melody as is seen in other bands. What is refreshing is how restrained the band is in this respect. Hellige lets you mull over each part of the music without feeling the need to fill every last second of their songs with vocals.

Oddly enough, it is the drumming that usually forces the band’s energy forward. One can imagine what this demo would sound like with constant run of the mill blast beats or constantly slow and boring doom type drumming and either situation would be detrimental. Instead the drumming is fantastically dynamic and creative. The way that rhythm and apparent speed are connected is nothing less than artful. What makes it odd is that the drums are the best ingredient on this excellent demo because most metal is really guitar oriented. Keep in mind that the drums are not carrying dead weight but merely forcing fantastic music forward. While Hellige is far from drum music, if you listen to “The Rotten Waste” the fantastic drum work should become readily apparent, particularly at around four minutes in. Killer beats and monstrous fills.

Given that this is a demo, it may seem petty to point out minor flaws. But there is nothing major for which the band could be faulted aside from a lack of any truly awe inspiring riffs. Therefore the demo is great, but could be better. A minor reason this demo is not closer to perfection is how the tone of the bass and rhythm guitars comes off as a bit weak. While the sound is rich, it still lacks a little bit of that kind of distorted tone that makes music like this all the more overbearing and powerful. While it can be hard to strike the right balance between a cavernous reverb saturated sound and an aggressive guitar tone, Hellige only barely missed the mark. I would prefer something closer to Mournful Congregation’s distortion along with all of Hellige’s reverb. In other words, everything on the low rhythm and on the bass just comes off as slightly too soupy. Aside from that, the band might be able to get a slightly better sound with spiffier production but this demo is so good that we are really talking about marginal improvements.

The fact that the band was able to provide over forty minutes of such high quality music on this demo shows that Hellige’s excellence is not merely fleeting. As this is their third demo in as many years that point should be clear. It stands to reason that as they keep making music that the minor imperfections will be ironed out and the band will release stuff that is damn near perfection. With Hellige, everything just works.

Originally written for: http://theoakconclave.blogspot.com/