Beyond North Star by HengetRelease date: May 19, 2023
Label: Season of Mist
Black metal and experimentalism are no strangers. In fact, as many bands have proven, they naturally belong together. Black metal works its best magic when it’s a synthesis of styles, an explosive collision of thoughts, ideas, expression and sound forming something unexpected but cohesive.
Enter Finland’s Henget, here to transform, bend and warp your reality through a blackened lens. Henget is primarily the project of former Saturnal Records owner King Aleijster de Satan (vocals, also of King Satan and Saturnian Mist) and Jesse Heikkinen (guitars and keyboards, also of Iterum Nata).
One look at the cover and you’ll think you’re hallucinating yourself. Anything that features a hammerhead shark has to be good, right? Lucky for you an awesome shark is only scratching the surface of this essential listen. Debut album Beyond North Star is an esoteric voyage of avant-garde black metal, exploring the psychedelic side of progression and channelling the occult through eight tracks of blackened experimentation, that according to the press release is largely improvised. I’ve no idea how improvised this album truly is but I’m assuming that means more figured out through some trial and error from fresh ideas on the day.
‘Dive’ leads the trip with a head first splash into hallucinatory heaviness, battering your senses with an overload of primal drums and dissonant guitars, scraping and grating off-kilter riffs and dizzying time changes. Waves of tremolos take us into the second half as even more progressive elements creep through solemn riffing shaping Henget‘s warped black vision. ‘I Am Them’ bruises off the bat with early Behemoth brutality and bellowing, Nergal-esque gutterals. The midsection serves as an interlude of smokey, jazzed-up tinkling that explodes into a spasm of blackened rage and icy, symphonic grandeur before concluding with cascading arpeggios.
‘Henkivallat’ marches into a carnival-esque creation of playful theramin squeaks that soon churn into an infernal whirlwind of deafening metal. Proggy chugs and the aforementioned playfulness add a continuous frenetic energy to the track that’s bolstered by the sporodic outbursts. It’s an unhinged ride that borders on eccentric but uses its oddities to such great effect it makes for a stunning listen. It’s evident by the time ‘Beyond North Star’ comes around that this is quite a special album. The title track unleashes its spectacle with immediate effect, throwing up an aural maelstrom of tremolos and epic drum lashes. A third of the way in and otherworldly vocals creep in under seething, angular strings and jarring chimes, which transitions into a staccato prelude to an absolutely riotous fist-pounding stomp through buzzsaw-tremolo death metal. And that outro… is so cute!
‘The Chalice of Life and Death’ concludes the album with a devastating and blissful cacophony of monstrous, swirling black riffs sent through rasping distortion. The track features an undercurrent of symphonic grimness and a gleeful swagger to certain riffs, which take you on a thrilling journey until an ethereal choir sings sweet, vicious blastbeats in your ears to finish the debut.
Beyond North Star is an absolute thrill to listen to and is bolstered by an interesting premise that gains respect for its on-the-spot boldness. The album is full of dark, headbanging energy that’s not only in parts brutal but thoroughly fun and distinctively bizarre. Henget are in the realm of unorthodox extremity, peering over the edge but not diving so far into its blackness that it’s consumed.
The album is remarkably cohesive, blending extreme metal with unconventional sounds that verge on absurdity but are pulled together so flawlessly they play like dulcet tones to your soul. The cover may be colourfully crazy and induce thoughts of psychedelia and the music may be an off-kilter tour through destructive delirium, but there’s no obstruction of the senses when it comes to judging this release. Beyond North Star is dripping-black, 100% killer and inventive black metal.