Melencolia Estatica – Hel

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Review by Jason Guest

Temple of Tortorous

Fritz Lang’s masterpiece Metropolis is an incredible movie. Its searing indictment of modernity’s capacity for remorseless dehumanisation and consumption of the human spirit is so powerful that its relevance rings true to this day, perhaps more so than it did when first released in 1927. In taking that film as the inspiration for her third album, from concept through to execution, Melencolia Estatica’s Hel is vast not just in its musical grandeur, but in its portrayal of the human spirit’s slow annihilation at the hands of a mechanised society.

Minimalist melodies are contrasted with sharp, chromatic up-tempo riffs. The dense atmospheric passages swirl with echoing effects to produce a shimmering dream-like vista punctuated with hypnotic rhythms, melodic bass patterns and doom-laden codas. Over strummed sullen chords and thumping, primitive drums, harmonised guitars sing their lamentations. Swathed in avant-garde disorientation and disconcertion, the mysterious and the mystical merge into the dream-like, blossoming into the nightmarish before they gallop, nostrils flared with desire and dread, into the fires of eternal destruction. The vocals, whether Afthenktos’s tortuous and pained lyrics, the disembodied anguished screams, or the haunting female choral patterns, are breath-taking when taken against the harrowing soundscapes that Climaxia draws around us. Banshee-like cries reverberate through the resonating structures as the militant mantras and voiceless recitals of crashing crescendos and crushing collapses befall. Closing the piece with a mass of imploring spoken word echoes, fragments of sound and music that float in the ether, the vacancy torn into existence between the body, the mind and the spirit is spread out before the listener in all its degenerating glory. What is usually portrayed as a scorched landscape is instead a towering metropolis of fiery indifference, apathetic to the demise of its preserver inhabitants. The horizon obscured by colossal edifices of power, plumes of smoke rising from the myriad factory graveyards to pollute the already dead air, hope is nothing more than a waning silhouette on the penumbra of our dreams. Beautiful.

The concept behind Hel, in representing the evolution of modernity’s grasp over mankind’s diminishing capacity for freedom and creativity, is one of mourning, a dark lament to autonomy and self-determinism. Every nuance of the album has been carefully crafted and woven together to form a piece that is so much grander than its component parts. Everything from the dynamics of reverb, the machine-like drums, and the raging riffs to the sombre strums, otherworldly vocals, and angelic airs transforms what the individual perceives as absolute reality into a shimmering, frail fantasy. Climaxia understands music as both art and endeavour; as her canvas grows ever blacker, so much the richer it becomes. Hel is death, the timeless experience of the sublime.

9.5 out of 10

Track listing:

  1. Hel I
  2. Hel II
  3. Hel III
  4. Hel IV
  5. Hel V
  6. Hel VI