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Helevorn : Aamamata

Helevorn's latest full-length is something of a mixed bag, which doesn't maintain solid momentum between its flashes of brilliance.

It would be interesting to see how different music fans would describe the foundations of their taste. I think it would surprise many how much personal events have an influence over our tastes. Certain albums can transform each of us returning us to highly impactful moments. Somehow along the way, each of us forms, in effect, a musical comfort zone just by living life. If you are reading this on this web site, then it is likely you share many of the same familiar musical moments. Helevorn is a Spanish band that formed back in 1999. After listening to their latest, 'Aamamata', it becomes clear they intend to create a form of Gothic Doom that indulges the musical comfort zones established through the proliferation of the genre in the latter years of the last century and the initial few of this one by a swarm of bands intent to capitalize on the success of bands like Paradise Lost, Theatre Of Tragedy, and most of all, Type O Negative. The question comes down to whether Helevorn succeeds in evoking those fertile years, and in some ways, they do, though establishing a solid momentum is a problem plaguing the band throughout.

The first track, 'A Sail To Sanity', contains one huge, edgy hook that sets it apart. That big anthemic Rock sound comes straight from the Amorphis play book, particularly the material released after Tomi Joutsen joined the band. One highlight is the monster bass tone achieved, one with tons of presence that truly makes a statement. By the end of the track, the vision is realized, though. There was a hesitancy throughout most of the track but when placed before such a triumphant climax, it somehow works. The following track, 'Goodbye Hope', is much more introspective in nature which seems to conflict with its position as the second track. It becomes clear that the penultimate dimension of this band's sound is atmosphere. They employ heavy amounts of determined, focused instrumentation to decorate the overall product. As someone not already introduced to the idiosyncrasies of the band, it is difficult not to get bogged down a bit by the emotional outbursts. Perhaps outburst is a harsh word, but the point is that there is a self-indulgent element that does not translate well to newcomers. It is very produced, layered, beautifully arranged, yet there lacks substance, be it truly memorable hooks or concise, definable ideas.

In terms of production, it is difficult to find a single flaw in this recording. It has a huge sound where no instrument dominates the shared space. The guitar tone is modern yet sufficiently heavy for the genre and the harmonies created by the guitars are convincingly somber. The bass, when it is given the chance to be in the spotlight, sounds monolithic, full of presence and that zing on the top end that makes it sizzle. The keyboards provide a full, orchestrated symphonic dimension while the drums hit viscerally hard despite the super slick production. Speaking to the production, the vocals sound perfectly fine; however, personal taste relegates them to be the epitome of hit and miss.

The instrumental beginning to 'Blackened Waves,' the third track was an intriguing next step particularly in relation to the song preceding it. When the vocals come in, though, there is a very later-Moonspell vibe which is fine if you like that kind of thing (yikes!). The melodic chorus owes a bit to Swallow The Sun as well (especially their later material). Like the songs before, there are parts that entertain but they become lost in the mire of strange turns of melody and cadence. When Helevorn is being Helevorn, they sound promising such as the mesmerizing main riff, but the overabundance of the effects of the post-Depeche Mode mass indoctrination of European Metal leaves much to be desired.

'Aurora', the following track, is a hypnotic change of pace opening with an eerie Middle Eastern female vocal line coupled with acoustic instrumentation and a tribal type of beat. As the bass plods in with its grungy dirge, bits of guitar drop in with snappy staccato and heavily synthesized keyboard parts swirl in the air to create a haze of musical wonder. Simply put, the first two minutes of the song are incredible. The verse section is decent, but the chorus is disappointing compared to the greatness achieved at the beginning. Yet again, they prove that there is a fertile ether from which they draw inspiration yet some of the transitions seem to lack truly judicious forethought. At 4:23, they return to the brilliant opening section though it only slightly redeems things when it heads straight back to that less than satisfactory chorus.

'Aamamata' is the quintessence of a mixed bag and not the easiest of albums to review. There are moments in the latter part of the album that truly impress such as the middle section of the seventh track, 'Once Upon A War', where the solo harmonizes in such a way as to emotively stress an alternate vibe. Sections as such coupled with others throughout like the David Gilmour-esque solo in the middle of the eighth track, 'The Path To Puya', prove that Helevorn could exist as a favorite band in some universe. That would also be the universe where they made some different decisions regarding how to put the songs together. It could be all boiled down to taste, but after witnessing many legends over the years, when Helevorn does something truly great, it stands out. This is a band with a tremendous amount of potential for if they were to simply tweak some things here and there, their sound could be triumphantly prolific. As of now, though, Helevorn is a solid second tier band that will appeal to many fans, one that has the potential to make a legendary, killer album in the future.

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Reviewer's rating: 6/10


Tracklist :
1. A Sail To Sanity
2. Goodbye Hope
3. Blackened Waves
4. Aurora
5. Forgotten Fields
6. Nostrum Mare
7. Once Upon A War
8. The Path To Puya
9. La Sibil-La

Duration : Approx. 57 minutes

Visit the Helevorn bandpage.

Reviewed on 2020-08-20 by Chris Hawkins
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