REVIEWED: Helfró (Self-titled)
Iceland may not be as prolific as some of its frostbitten neighbours in the north when it comes to black metal but that’s not to say it's devoid of quality. Svartidauði and the utterly incendiary Misþyrming are figureheads in what is starting to develop into a very interesting scene. This debut from Helfró adds another savage weapon to the country's razor-sharp arsenal.
Whilst undoubtedly a black metal release to its very core, there is a lot more to this album that makes you stand up and take notice. There is a very strong death metal tone to this release, on the second track ‘Ávöxtur Af Rotnu Tré’ in particular. The lead riff is more than a passing nod to Morbid Angel and the ‘Formulas Fatal to The Flesh’ era, delivered with a ruthless precision Trey Azagthoth himself would be proud of. In fact, the musicianship displayed here definitely deserves noting; the performances are clinical and delivered with the kind of polish that brings to mind Behemoth. Stephen Lockhart's production and engineering job here is slick and balanced whilst not sacrificing any of the edge the genre is famed for, although it may be a little too polished for some of the purists.
Alas it doesn’t come without its warts, as is the case with a lot of debuts. There’s a definite mid-album slump where songs like ‘Þrátt Fyrir Brennandi Vilja’ kill the breakneck pace a little. That’s not to say there aren’t some great moments in amongst them but generally there a few songs that seem to lack the same identity and vigour.
All is not lost however, ‘Katrín’ and ‘Musteri Agans’ close the album off in fine style and regain that early momentum. This leaves us with what is a very promising debut from a band that we will hopefully hear a lot more from in the future.