Hollenthon – Opus Magnum

Hollenthon – Opus Magnum – 5/5

I’ve always stated that in order for a band to attain a perfect 5 out of 5, they need to create a perfect album, being both unique and original, whilst remaining flawless in its conception, production, and finish. It’s no wonder so few bands attain it from me, but if anyone deserves it, these guys do. Ive literally been listening to it for two weeks now, looking for something I don’t like, and every time I think a particular section has been going on too long, it changes. Every time I think it needs a more kick, or bite to it, heavily distorted guitars will come in with a killer riff. Its like they're inside my head, responding to my wishes, and doing a far better job of it than my mind could.

The sound is a fairly unusual sounding blend of Folk, Melodic Death Metal and Orchestral work. Folk/Melodeath is becoming more common with the likes of Ensiferum and Finntroll, but this is a whole different breed from all that, with orchestral chanting, deep deathly growls, and quick addictive riffs transitioning into a superb orchestral symphonic piece, affirming the mood of the track. The closest I can come to comparing this band is Disillusion meets Opeth meets Eluveitie meets Wagner, and even that makes it sound far more awkward than the reality. In truth, it’s so wonderfully worked together that at no point does anything feel out of place, or unusual. It retains a sense of familiarity whilst being unique enough to stand out of any crowd someone tries to place them with.

The first track opens with a combination of carefully orchestrated violins, double bass (?) and blast beating drums, before swiftly changing into a satanic sounding chant and the first addictive riff of the album. And right before it gets old, it stops suddenly, fading into the main verse, where more demonic sounding spitting-at-you aggressive deathly growls with superb elocution (you can hear every word said with ease) over the main riff. Half way through, we get more orchestral symphonies over choral singing before ending with the lead vocals. This track was based upon the concept of nuclear war, beyond that im unsure as to the full meaning, but this doesn’t detract from the lyrics themselves. They’re graphic and detailed, and serve as good imagery. In fact, I like the mystery to them.

The guitars are atmospheric and fitting, remaining interesting whilst not focussing on a virtuosic style of playing (with the exception of the guitar solo in ‘Dying Embers’). The drums do an excellent job of providing an interesting beat without overpowering the overall sound of the track, the orchestral work adds a layer of atmosphere beyond anything a keyboard can do alone, and the vocals retain a clarity of expression whilst sounding demonic and aggressive. Often raw (e.g. Son of Perdition), sometimes catchy, almost poweresque in that sense (e.g. Once we were kings), mixed with choral chanting (e.g. On the Wings of a Dove), even using female power vocals in one track (Son of Perdition). Every song sounding different from the last retaining the same core sound, with so many options and influences working together in each track the amount of ground they can explore is impressive.

This album is quite simply phenomenal, and I don’t expect to tire of it any time soon.

Highlights: Son of Perdition, Once we were kinds, Misterium Babel

By T. Bawden