There's a few things that we universally appreciate here at the Metal Abyss headquarters. It's a short list, consisting of the following:
1. New metal
2. Pizza Combos
3. Physical copies of new metal.
And as you might have guessed, the editor has yet to fix the non-existent vending machine. So instead of yummy cheese filled pretzel bites, we've had to settle for BSN (That's Brand Spankin' New) compact discs. It's for the best, actually.
All the way from New Jersey comes blackened, melodic death quintet Helcaraxë, and the first physical pressing of their 2016 LP 'The Last Battle,' now available on Sunshine Ward Recordings. Helcaraxë's vocalist, Jesse Traynor, reached out to your humble man-in-the-pit correspondent a few weeks back to let me know that this CD was on its way to casa de JPR. In return I assured him that I'd eviscerate it for him and let our loyal Abyss community know what a cold turd buffet this album is. I'm the only person who thinks I'm funny, as it turns out.
As it also turns out, the Last Battle is an addictive amalgamation; one that layers elements of progressive, power and even black metal and hardcore over a thunderous foundation of modern death metal. 'The Old Blood Sings' takes the barked vocal attack of hardcore/metalcore in the verses and marries it up to singalong, melodic death metal in the chorus'. If you're not paying attention you'll miss some inspired bass work on tracks like 'World of Nightmares' or 'I Ride to my Death' as it operates just underneath the winding lead guitar and omni-present, precision time keeping. 'The Lion Throne' opens on a blackened, folk metal rhythm guitar and a wistful flute before Jesse's potent growl and a downtrodden lead are added to yield a mid-tempo, progressive piece fans of Shylmagoghnar will groove to.
What's done best on The Last Battle is how well these tracks, especially in the 2nd half of the album, are tied to one another. 'I Ride to my Death,' with it's positively inspired and whiplash inducing middle riff, feels very much like the opening movement in a metallic sonata cycle. The acoustic and foreboding 'Omens' is dovetailed between this track and the groove heavy and addictive 'The Gathering Storm.' The cycle is then completed with 'An Eye For An Eye,' arguably the most dynamic (and thus rewarding track) on The Last Battle. Though The Gathering Storm is my personal favorite track here, it's best experienced within the context of the tracks surrounding it. As I've pointed out before, it's one of several marks of a well-constructed album.
Not sold yet? No worries, I think The Last Battle will do that without my praise anyway. Digital copies of this and all of Helcaraxë's releases can be found on Bandcamp, but for the freshly minted physical copies of The Last Battle you're going to want to visit the Sunshine Ward Records website. They're running some sick package deals over there at last check and I STRONGLY recommend you give their Tolkien-inspired LP 'Red Dragon' a spin (it's been playing while I typed this, actually). You can peep Helcaraxë's video for The Old Blood Sings here and keep tabs on the band via their Facebook page. You can also tell me to stop hounding you about buying physical copies of albums and that you'll do whatever the heck you want with your own money, thank you very much, on our Facebook page. I promise, I'll be totally offended if you do and go stomp off like a spoiled toddler whose mom wouldn't but him a Power Ranger.
Helcaraxë- "The Old Blood Sings" Video