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Epic heavy metal monument. - 80%

Diamhea, December 17th, 2016

Helll yeah, power metal with balls and a charismatic, throaty tenor of a frontman! Without a doubt, Helllander (three Ls) have nailed down the basic genre tropes and allowed this to carry them as far as feasibly possible. The number of tracks that either directly or indirectly cite metal/iron/steel is on a level bordering Majesty. Riffs are laced with speed metal gusto, at least enough to keep the flames burning bright while the anthem-tailored, stolid and driving drum performance keeps biting at the band's ankles and inciting violence across the board. Vocals are a cleaner take on the Lonewolf-esque deeper bellow, which works better with this band since the vocal melodies have a rugged charisma no matter how they are employed in context. The entire album has that sandpaper-hewn grit to it, with trad-inflected riffs not wholly unlike Grave Digger, although the voluminous swells elicited by the powerchords feels like a more traditional power metal act. Either way, Helllander have most of what I am pining for when in need for a heavy/power metal fix: restrained, but fleshed-out melodic aptitude, classy performances across the board and thick, virile riffage worthy of raising the horns.

For example, the main riff of "La Dame Blanche" reeks of Grave Digger's self titled, or perhaps The Last Supper. Upper mid-paced chugging dominates much of the record, replete with enough momentum to mitigate stagnation. The entirety of In the Battle brings monster fucking riffage and venerable performances across the board. Van Raiser has one of the best throaty inflections I've ever come across for the style, a deep, overacted intonation perfect for the storytelling narrative and flecked with occasional gang shouts like on the brickhouse title track. Incendiary, exciting and stuffed to the gills with epic flair without the need for suffocating synths or technical excess, In the Battle is a monochrome exercise in relentless punishment. That said, the crisp acoustic opening of "Bleed by Steel" proves that the band can emote effectively if called for, but these sections are piecemeal and add the required corporeal window dressing to the roiling war machine that makes up the remainder. Plus, it isn't like the song is without its fair share of driving muscle either, quickly opening into ascending dual leads and supple pinch harmonics. I dig it!

This one is going to be short, but the truth is that there is very little to complain about with this one. I'm a sucker for riff-centric power metal like this, and although the style is traditionally struck from German steel, it's nice to see Switzerland get some representation with Helllander. Rib spreading volatility abounds from track to track, with a riff assault on par with Sacred Steel and other acts that never eschew bloodletting in favor of opulent obfuscation. Some might find Raiser's vocals a modicum monotone, but I think he fits the style just fine. Starcase's drums are arena-ready and just monstrous despite sticking to beats as basic as Holland-era Judas Priest. In the Battle simply works, and one look at the track titles and cover art tell you what you are getting into. And that is one memorable experience redolent of the genre's best, even with one of the most spartan templates I've come across. The spurious, striking leads fly dexterously above the battlefield of crass riffage, resulting in focused mayhem of the highest order. Now I'm off to track down the more obscure followup Survivor...