"Triumph and Revenge" is the impressive debut full-length from New Jersey's Helcaraxë, which was recorded back in 2005 before finally being released earlier this year on Regimental Records. Formerly known as Minas Tirith, the duo (which has since added a third member) had only released a prior two-song demo in 2003, which makes the force of this album all the more admirable. Inspired by common influences such as Tolkien (their new name was lifted from "The Silmarillion") and Norse mythology, the band has referred to themselves as both "heathen metal" and "viking death metal", but call it whatever the hell you want, because it's pretty damn good! To be honest with you, I actually enjoy this material far more than any of the albums I've ever heard from Amon Amarth, Unleashed, and other such (rather overrated) acts often associated with such tags. There are a scarce few passages where the playing's a touch raw, but for the most part this is an absolutlely massive slab of death metal that's both churning and guttural as well as melodic or even "epic" to some degree—thanks in large part to some gorgeous acoustic passages and borderline doomy clean runs. Burly growls, thick power chords, and brighter dual guitar harmonies are all present, but the end result is so much more than that. For one thing, there are loads of fucking raging bass work—in addition to tons of tempo changes and "atmospheric" elements within the diversity of the riffing—but it's still a completely consistent and coherent listening experience. And the really weird thing is that most of the songs are less than two minutes apiece!? Of the 16 tracks only five of them top three minutes, among them one at a "normal" five minutes, and just a single 10-minute epic, so... I mean, that's just shockingly rare for death metal. Beyond that the recording is perfectly dense and textured, which highlights some of the subtler dynamic interactions between the instruments. And yes, the bass tone is completely awesome, which certainly helps bring attention to the extremely active role that the basslines play within these compositions. There's still room for improvement there overall, but fuck it. Beautiful packaging, too: Printed entirely in metallic bronze ink with a matte finish on a marbled sort of tan stock. What can I say? I don't know what the hell they've done exactly, but there's definitely something a little different and "special" about this album, and that's a great, great level of achievement within this genre. I'm impressed.
You will not beat the label's own price on this disc, as they sell their shit for insanely cheap (this one's on sale for just $5.55 right now, I shit you not), so there's no fucking reason not to pick one up if you like what you hear:
In unrelated metal news (or "opportunities", if you will), it has apparently come to light that Decibel magazine's review of Dawnbringer's "In Sickness and In Dreams" contains no less than eight factual errors—quite a feat considering it's a mere 271 words. So, the ever-pesky Lamentations of the Flame Princess is co-sponsoring a contest along with Dawnbringer's Chris Black: Correctly cite five or more of the eight errors and win yourself a copy of the CD. Not too shabby, eh? Here are the full details, so take a shot... and shit, I hope my write-up on that disc didn't fare so badly!