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Eternal Helcaraxe – ‘Against All Odds’

Eternal Helcaraxe Against All OddsWhen this black metal crew issued their sophomore EP, ‘To Whatever End’, in 2009, it was hailed as one of the best examples of the genre to emerge from the island of Ireland at the time. It was praise which was well-deserved, as it was an excellent slab of Celtic-tinged BM, filled to overflowing with atmospherics, crushing riffs and tight musical performances, and the release quickly established Eternal Helcaraxe established them alongside the likes of the longer established Waylander as one of the prime forces in the movement.

Now, almost three years later, their first full length album has finally dropped, via the US-based Abyss Records – and it truly ups the ante in terms of establishing the ‘fair’ island of Erin as a place to be reckoned with in terms of the quality of darkened, extreme metal which it is currently unleashing on the rest of the unsuspecting world.

After the calm before the storm that is the atmospheric ‘Claim Your Place With The Gods’, ‘One Still Stands Here’ launches the assault proper: driven by the punishing drumming of Eyrith and the pummelling bass of Thule, it develops into a truly brutal, evil riff from Maulgrim and Praetorian, before the latter’s vocals kick in with ferocity of a wolf unleashed in a pit of menstruating virgins after having been starved for a month.

‘Invictus’ is as brilliantly dark slice of pure evil BM as you are going to hear this year, with Praetorian’s vocals guaranteed to send a shiver down the spine of even the coldest corpses. ‘We Assist Death’ hits like an army of Celtic warriors in full berserker mode, before easing off on the pedals (at least in relation to the melodic guitar line) in the second half, to allow the battering rams of Eyrith’s drumming to continue working on your few remaining defences. ‘Shadow Of The Wolf’ is another blitzkrieg of punishment, characterised once again by the full-on, unrelenting drumming and Praetorian’s dark, menacing growling and shrieking.

The majestic ‘As The Snow Gathers’ tells the story of a warrior waiting for his death, and sees Praetorian’s vocal at the height of its powers, as he combines just the right amounts of power and restraint to tell his tale, complete with a beautifully contrasting clean male voice in the middle section and the soaring orchestral section echoing the departure of the warrior’s soul to the next world. The theme is repeated on ‘Echoes Through Our Blood’, this time the story of a chieftain challenging his life of bloodshed, which is delivered with a fiercesome brutality to match that which the subject has meted out to his foes, while closer ‘Against All Odds’ sees the warrior return home to his beloved wife (with just the hint that it as his spirit self…) and is a fittingly epic end to proceeds, combining all of the elements of what has gone before into one huge masterpiece.

Despite the violence, and the themes of battle and bloodshed (it’s not a concept album as such, but certainly the songs are inextricably interlinked in their subject matter), there is a very introspective feel to the album, especially on the melodic, verging on morose, musical interludes which are interjected into many of the songs. It’s not a black metal album in terms of the subjects which it addresses, but in the way in which it addresses them and in its delivery… but, then that is a trend many BM bands have been following of late, using the medium to deliver a more meaningful message.

[9/10]

Track list:Eternal Helcaraxe
1. Claim Your Place With The Gods
2. One Still Stands Here
3. Invictus
4. We Assist Death
5. Shadow Of The Wolf
6. As The Snow Gathers
7. Echoes Through Our Blood
8. Against All Odds (All The Battles To Come Pt II)

‘Against All Odds’ is available now from http://www.officialabyssrecords.com/product_info.php?products_id=12209

For more information, visit Eternal Helcaraxe’s official website, www.eternalhelcaraxe.net, or follow them at www.facebook.com/eternalhelcaraxe

Eternal Helcaraxe play The Vault Bar in Cavan on September 15th, along with Celtachor, Legion Of Wolves, Dark Matter, Wound Upon Wound, Grinned and Sliocht (http://www.facebook.com/events/403058046407078/?ref=ts#!/events/395215467207319/)

About Mark Ashby

no longer planetmosh staff
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