Melencolia Estatica – Hel

Few bands find the x-factor that enables them to be both boundary-pushing and relevant within a given genre. Typically, ‘too much’ innovation can push a group outside of the subjective boundaries of what some may consider to be black metal, but not enough individuality can keep a band in the shadows.

Melencolia Estatica, whether by design or instinct, have side-stepped the problem altogether. A project of Italian black metallist Climaxia (guitarist of Absentia Lunae, guitarist and bassist of Lintver, guitarist, bassist, and principal songwriter of Melencolia Estatica, etc, etc…I don’t think this woman ever sleeps), ME somehow manages to remain raw in overall sound yet still be able to carve a niche all their own.

Greeting you coldly on your way toward Hel, an intriguing amalgam of buzzing guitars and a ringing bell vie for space in your ear canal, and one immediately gets the sense that something powerful and unique has manifest itself in your player of choice. Taking inspiration from the 1927 German expressionstic film ‘Metropolis’, Hel drags the listener behind a vehicle of warbling woe, pulled by its proletarian inhabitants through an aural dystopia devoid of hope. When the black metal torrents abate for the sake of dynamics, truly dreamy passages appear, permeated by Climaxia’s atmospheric female vocals that make an excellent counterpoint to the rage-packed passages accompanying the roars of Afthenktos, which I find to be pleasingly reminiscent of Jan-Chris de Koeijer(!). Climaxia’s wails of discontent sit better with me than those I hear in more well known groups (WITTR); with Melencolia Estatica, they are simply more memorable. The quiet moments do have the expected gothicisms, but without whimpers, and with intentionally mixed-down synth work meant to create dark clouds of ash, as opposed to beating you over the head with aristocratic classicisms. Satisfactory surprises are always just around the corner, as evidenced on ‘Hel III’ by a nicely flanged guitar that quickly explodes into a barbarous dissonance that fans of Krallice and/or Weakling would certainly enjoy. And drummer Thorns deftly keeps it all together by not only brutalizing when necessary, but also by knowing when to lay back to create space for sullen contemplation (and obliterating said sullenness with the occasional “big” Metal back-beat).

The production of Hel is stunningly bleak, but thick, and creates an appropriately dense fog in which all the instruments find their place. The plodding march of the closing track is a fitting end to a record that does its job of bringing you on its makers’ journey to and from Metropolis, and, even without a servile concept, the understated execution of this magnum opus will leave its mark on your auditory senses. -Jim

-Temple of Torturous

~ by cliftonium on October 16, 2012.

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