Monday, June 20, 2016

Helleborus (review by MMB)

The Carnal Sabbath
Satanath Records (Russia)/ Black Plague Records (USA)
Release: 17 June 2016
Helleborus is a black metal entity by Jerred Houseman and Wyatt Houseman, brothers from Colorado, U.S. who also have another musical project named Akhenaten which is uptempo atmospheric metal with Middle Eastern elements. This publication has previously stated about Akhenaten:
Akhenaten (Colorado, U.S.) is the work of two metal blood brothers, Wyatt Houseman (vocals, lyrics) and Jerred Houseman (guitars, drums, bass), who have two projects that I am a bit familiar with: Akhenaten and Helleborus. I guess it was last year, 2015, that I heard the black metal of Helleborus and I immediately liked the vocals. I liked the music, too, but I noticed the vocals, which, in my opinion, are possibly the best new extreme metal vocals that I heard in 2015. For me, the vocals stood out a lot and I remember thinking that they were especially good. Thus, I was looking forward to getting to know this Akhenaten album on account of the vocals of Wyatt Houseman.
Akhenaten is an entity that is something like “exotic” extreme metal with major Middle Eastern/Arabian elements: "Middle Eastern ethno dark industrial black metal." There is a symphonic vibe and the Middle Eastern/Arabian components are upfront, an indispensable part of the music, not just low-volume background sounds. In this music, despite the “world music” sounds, the black metal does not disappear completely. The guitar is present, even if it’s not raging all the time, obviously. I like the fact that the percussion is present throughout, too. If there is a beat, then that keeps my interest. I am not looking for long periods of ambience or yoga music, you understand. Anyway, like I was saying, I like the vocals, but I knew that coming in. That was part of the deal. I expected those vocals to be present because if they were not, then I was probably going to go find the exit door. I usually see the word “industrial” and I’m out the door. Mr. Houseman screams/growls similar to prime-time Chuck Schuldiner/ Mikael Åkerfeldt/David Vincent. There is a thickness to Mr. Houseman’s voice. I hope that he can actually do the vocals for real, and not just studio magic. The vocals are closer to black metal in feel, but they do not sound annoying like screechy vocals do for some people. There is a certain smoothness to them. There is definitely an expressiveness to them, too, that’s for sure.
The “exotic” elements are upbeat, like belly-dancing music, in a similar way that Nile or Melechesh is belly-dancing music. Akhenaten sounds very melodic due to these elements. Given that this is supposedly just two people, there are several issues that you might be pondering. It sounds like the drumming is drum programming and not real drums. What about all that Middle Eastern instrumentation? Is it real instruments? I cannot find anywhere where it says that Mr. Jerred Houseman plays other instruments besides guitar and bass. Don’t trust what I say, though. Hear the album for yourself at the Bandcamp link below.
Now, on to Helleborus.
This is very interesting black metal music. Atmosphere and black metal have been incorporated into surprisingly memorable songs of dark extreme metal. Moreover, atmosphere here does not mean ambient or doom or postrock, styles that have severe problems with song-centered music. Instead, these are memorable songs.
I continue to find the vocals to be a very attractive proposition: quite a bit of the words are intelligible, which if you think about it, it's curious because that is usually not the case in extreme metal. I can think of a couple of exceptions besides this band, but not too many.
In addition, it is important to recognize that Helleborus has very good guitar work and the guitar shows a focus on dark, catchy and melodic songs. The riffs do make these songs: in every song there are riffs or hooks or melodies that make the songs easy to remember and encourage repeated plays. It's also a nice change of pace to hear melodies in a way that fits the dark and heavy vibe of the music.
The album has programmed drumming, unfortunately. It's easy to see why musicians do this. It's easier than to deal with another human being; it's cheaper than going through the process of recording drums, which can be difficult if there's little experience; it's more efficient than to explain to a drummer what beats one is hearing in one's own imagination for the songs. Sometimes one lives in a small town and there are no drummers that can handle this music. There are plenty more reasons to use drum programming, but all those reasons have to be rejected. In metal music the audience wants to see a human playing drums in concert, for instance. If a band is asking for money for its album or wants to be taken seriously, it's necessary to be serious about the music, too. This calls out for an adventurous and skilled drummer to bring it to life. Support this band, listen to the music and show Helleborus that you appreciate quality metal like this. Greatness awaits Helleborus, and only real, live drums on the albums will do.

No comments:

Post a Comment