Örvény by PerihelionRelease date: November 10, 2017
Label: Apathia Records
Hungary’s Perihelion shouldn’t be confused with Baltimore’s Perihelion (Bandcampers take note). The latter make eye-wateringly technical death metal. The former make rather beautiful soundscapes described in the press release as “eerie post-metal”, which I guess is as close as we need to get, although it doesn’t feel very accurate. The PM term conjures monoliths of the scene like Isis and Cult of Luna, but that ain’t close. Perihelion have a softer edge. Let’s park it in post-rock territory for now and focus on the music.
Perihelion sing all of their songs in Hungarian, giving Örvény an other-worldly edge that one gets when listening to Icelandic pioneers Sólstafir. The first track, ‘Kihalt égi Folyosók’ is a thunderously melodic affair that certainly gets your attention, but which I think is misleading as to the treasures that lie further on. ‘Kihalt…’ is melodic, majestic, pulsating, very catchy and also slightly cheesy, having as it does a slightly post-power-metal feel, as if Europe or the Scorpions decided to change direction and really give this prog stuff a real go. The vocals are Hungarian, as I say, and all clean (no shouting here), leaving the listener to focus on the feel and emotion that comes across in the music. And it comes across in spades.
The first track is misleading because the true glory of this album only becomes apparent on subsequent tracks. The complexity develops, and there are no more cheesy hooks. Second track ‘Bolyongó’ starts in tumbling guitar mode, reminiscent of The Incident-era Porcupine Tree, with jangling guitars and driving drums, leading up to a delicate refrain that slowly becomes more earnest. As with Sólstafir the timbre of the singer’s voice is all you have to go when it comes to subject matter, and it reminded me of songs on that band’s album Ótta. Fans of intelligent modern progressive rock like Karnivool will feel very at home here.
The end of ‘Bolyongó’ descends into a grating dirge that transforms into an ominous bass riff at the start of ‘Fényt!’. This builds with pounding drums and has a darker feel altogether. Passages of post-rock-esque picking give way to bigger riffs as the song builds into a crescendo of frenzied guitar, the catchy melody keeping pace all the way.
Perihelion have crafted their songs and this album beautifully: one flows seamlessly into the next, and there are interludes of ambience and atmosphere at the end of most tracks. ‘Fényt!’ segues in this way into the title track ‘Örvény’ (Hungarian for ‘maelstrom’), which is where Perihelion reach for the stars. ‘Örvény’ builds with a pulsing background ambience that complements the quiet and plaintive vocals perfectly. The ebb of this incredible song brings to mind Fields of Nephilim at their most introspective (as on Elizium) and lets the listener drift with the music. A deep bass riff takes over partway through, and then breaks into a soaring guitar passage that makes this my track of the year. This is why I listen to music – to get the feeling I get when listening to ‘Örvény’.
The quiet interlude at the end of the title track merges with ‘Romokon’, which again is a perfectly paced piece of emotional, soaring rock. ‘Ébredő Táj’ and ‘Bardó’ finish the album in similar style. ‘Ébredő Táj’ is bigger in its sound, more bombastic, with its sections of thrashing guitars, and the jangling closer ‘Bardó’ brings the listener down to earth again.
The sheer majesty and thrilling emotional undercurrent of this complex album have been with me for weeks now, and I have come back to it again and again, and there is still more to discover. It is ond a level with Sólstafir’s Ótta in terms of its depth, sophistication and near brilliance. The melding of tracks with the atmospheric interludes between songs helps to conjure up the maelstrom of the title, creating a musical journey. Örvény will definitely feature high in my list of albums of 2017. The first track is not a indicator of what the rest of the album sounds like: opener ‘Kihalt égi Folyosók’ is good, but the rest is much better. Get on Bandcamp, get yourself a copy and immerse yourself.