Sunday, June 30, 2013

Hela - Broken Cross


Spain probably has one of the most under rated metal scenes of all times. Though its early grind and thrash scenes have legendary status in metal circles and the quality of modern death metal is laudatory, exports of other genres from this country have for some reason never garnered much attention. It’s one of those stories when failure of recognition was not because of dearth of quality or exiguousness of originality but quite probably lack of support or distribution channels which contributed to the ignorance towards this country’s metal exports. Like modern day Germany and Sweden, Spain too has developed a thriving, dynamic and competent stoner scene because of the paramount importance given towards quality and ingenuity, traits that are oft missing in the stagnant and redundant metal scene today, and thus more often than not getting efficacious results. From the country which has produced bands like Arenna, Horn of the Rhino and Great Coven which have appealed to our senses comes the new band on the block, Hela.

Formed after splitting up of the band ‘The Sand Collector’, Hela contains members of the aforesaid band and another band Nahrayan, which concocted a unique sound by mixing doom, death and sludge metal. They released their debut album entitled ‘Broken Cross’ earlier this year. Seeing that the band’s repertoire consisted of such musicians who showed a proclivity towards innovation rather than blindly setting on paths paved by the grandfathers of the genres it was no surprise to me that Hela have a sound that they can call their own. Hela’s music can be described as an assimilation of a sound that was created by Subrosa on their debut album, the quixotic yet riff driven take on the psychedelic infused meanderings of Ufomammut, riddled with melodic sections and a penchant for female fronted occult themed doom bands and have the sound which Hela can call their own.

In Norse mythology Hela was the daughter of Loki the Trickster, who was half rotted, and though very compassionate and caring also exuded an aura of dreariness and anxiousness and this is the reason why this collective foursome work under this name. The music of Hela though of onerous girth never really batters your eardrums enough so as to provide a tempestuous listening experience though it is extremely capable of doing so. The artwork is very reflective of this unique trait as well. The artwork which shows a mortified and depraved figure is drawn in cool colours, which reiterates my earlier point, that though this band is very capable of doing serious damage, they choose not to by taking a laid back approach and instead of choosing to batter the listeners into pulp with their inordinately corpulent riffs choose to create a wall of sound that is more benevolent than malevolent.

Extremely guitar driven, these six songs which last 46 minutes are testament of the originality of the band who have chosen to create their own path instead of following generally accepted trends. The song structures are masterfully created as well. The band keeps thing fresh by constantly reinventing itself and instead of sticking to a preconceived template introduce a lot of variation. Though there are extremely riff driven sections there are also sections which transfer the listener right to the psychedelia influenced expanses of the unknown. If there is catchy verse there is the long instrumental section as well. What is worth mentioning here is the prodigious amount of a variation present here not only on each track but on the album as a whole. While tracks like ‘Horns Of God’ or ‘Slave Of The Witch’ are all about the copious riffs wherein the drums bash forth the colossal riffs which are well bolstered by the bass which seems to strung by string strong and thick enough to hold up bridges, there is also ‘The Wicked King’ which produces memorable choruses and tracks like ‘March Of the Minotaurs’ and ‘Black Eagle’ which gyrate more towards the firmly driven roots of traditional stoner metal only for the band to subjugate you to music therapy with the album closer ‘Flesh Ceremony’.

Though there exists such amount of dissimilitude everything seems to flow which crystal clear clarity and fluidity and seems to be part of a greater picture. Be it the operatic vocals of extremely powerful lead singer Isabel Sierras whose voice slightly reminds me of Alunah lead singer Sophie Day, or the furious drum fills of Miguel who knows when to up the tempo so as create maximum impact, or the intertwining goodness the bass and guitar played by Julian and Tano respectively, everything seems a perfect fit and ultimately ends up creating a sound and an experience that Hela can claim their own. This album here is the dark horse of the best stoner album of the year, and with half the year already gone remains my favourite in this category. If you want stoner music with is approachable, does not quickly fall into a boring self parody and different you need not look further. Hela has arrived.

SCORE - 85/100


  1. Nice review, great band!