Death May Die by HelaRelease date: October 21, 2017
Label: Lay Bare Recordings
It seems fitting that the Spanish group Hela is releasing this album on Lay Bare Recordings. The sound of this group hailing from the south-east of the country is a remarkable oddity and their second album is a mixture of heavy, sullen doom with an elegant touch to it, which makes them quite appealing. Lay Bare likes to release bands that sound a little different like that it seems.
For Hela it’s been awhile since their first album Broken Cross came out, back in 2013. The group had formed a little earlier out of the ashes of The Sand Collector. The line-up has been steady with three members sticking around since the start (Tano Giménez, Miguel A. Fernández and Julián Velasco). A big switch has been the addition of Mireia Porto of Rosy Finch to the line-up on guitar and vocals. The vocalist replaced Isabel Sierras on the mic, giving a new impulse to the band. The result is a strong, cohesive record that should appeal to the more melancholic and melodic doom lovers.
Opener ‘The Getaway’ goes deep immediately with abyssal, heavy riffing. Guttural growls accompany the streaming sound that forms an intro for the album. When the first proper song hits, there’s something remarkably catchy and enticing to the opening riff. A big, full sound spreads out, giving room to the singing of Porto, which sticks to the traditional doomy, looming promise of more things to come. As the big riffs close in, you’re in a tight hold by the band.
At times the vocals are clouded in hazy distortion. It feels a bit like the way Chelsea Wolfe delivers songs live, though less ethereal and more grounded. Porto likes to switch the timbre of her singing from wailing and wide-eyed imposing passages to an almost seductive caress at times. Her contributions are central to the songs and the subtleties often woven into them. One can’t help to zoom in on the words. Languid passages remind the listener of bands like Warning or My Dying Bride (Hela has covered those in the past, check that out). Densely atmospheric and full of emotion the instruments do their part in the overall feel of this album.
But then again, that was the point. Though not explicitly stated, the album revolves around a story of a girl. A girl born for misery, a story of abuse and rape (a finger pointed at practices in the church actually). As the themes become more heavy, like on ‘Touched by Evil’, so does the music. Crushing, heavy riffs and bluesy guitar lines are characteristic for the intensity of this song. On ‘Dark Passenger’ the riffs have a slight dissonance, evoking an unheimlich feeling for the listener. As climactic ending of the album, the song ‘Bodies in Hell’ is a looming, cavernous descent with an intense urgency. The vocals are enhanced with an effect to let them cling on and linger with more force. The song builds to a crescendo that simply oozes pain and sorrow.
Death May Die is a cathartic experience, with a theme fitting in these times. Its harrowing story telling should appeal to most doom and gloom listeners. Full of emotion and raw intensity, while not straying far from a traditional sound. Still the band sounds fresh in their second lease of life and offers promises for more amazing music in the future.