Hell’s Headbangers (2011), Under the Sign of Garazel
November 13th, 2008 / May 25th, 2011
Release length: 55:17
Of course, in typical underground fasgion, the production quality of HÃ¤xan is rather raw, but nowhere near as raw as many releases out there. The album sounds pretty clear, but, the best way to explain it is by saying it’s kind of like the quality was a low-end approach due to lack of funding. The music is muddy, and the bass is actually really obvious in the mix, being a stable higher volume level against the guitar to ensure you pick up on it, but there are times where it can seem like it’s drowning out the guitars completely, especially with the cymbols crashing. The drums are where the problems in production lie, as the bass kicks and snares sound muffled, though the cymbols sound rather loud. If you happen to pay attention to the drumming though, especially at the start of “Baptised by Barron”, you’ll pick up on what sounds like a digital conversion from a worn cassette, which is one method this album was made available as, thanks to a washed out sound on the cymbols, and nowhere else really. The vocals are your typical rhaspy wailing style and are clear, and at a proper volume level. The additional range in some of the tracks, which includes utilizing some sickly gutterals at times, helps to solidify some diversity to some of the already diverse music. However, it becomes pretty obvious in “The Impure Wedding” that there wasn’t a guard used on the mic, and some of the words that start with letters that take a good amount of effort to get out, such as letters with “f” or “p”, especially the latter, really pick up and create a loud burst on the recording that sounds like someone tapping the mic, which is just really annoying to hear.
The obvious main focus of Cultes des Ghoules is to be a strong Black Metal act. However, the group does seem to dabble in other areas, which helps these five very long tracks to keep the music fresh throughout the entire fifty five minutes of time they occupy. “Baptised by Barron” is the first to do so by utilizing gutteral vocals when the music slows down later on in the song to a more Doom Metal approach with the established Black Metal foundation. This comes later on after the baby screams that are meant to build up the concept of baptism laid out in the lyrics and title of the recording. Surprisingly, these screams aren’t too obnoxious, and can be a little humorous with how closely they resemble a dog whining instead, but with a human voice. But, while the song itself has a decent amount of varying music to keep the listener attentive, and in general isn’t that bad, the lower production does find the instruments to feel a little muffled, which holds back the bite of the music that feels a little aggressive, but more a traditional sound and performance.
While the additional Doom Metal approach to the music does become a bit of a welcomed addition to the longer track, for this group and how their more generic Black Metal compositions and performances on this recording, it can become a drag when that style is the main focus of the song. “Stregoica Dance” isn’t that bad of a song, but it’s heavy Doom focus starts to take a toll on the listener, and overall just feels a little drawn out after a while. Around the half way mark of the track, the music does pick up in speed a little bit, and it becomes a dramatic shift in the sound of the song, essentially saving it. The music continues to shift through the recording, and manages to pick up some intensity, but then goes right back into the Doom Metal idea to take on a more ritualistic sound with the traditional second wave vocal approach of ritualistic rhaspy spoken word vocalss that bands like Inquisition and Immortal have popularized. They aren’t bad, but there are times where they sound a little more energetic then they should be, like at the end of “Strogoica Dance”, where they tread more towards sounding like a drugged up Beavis from the animated series Beavis & Butt-head. “The Impure Wedding” finds that same kind of rhaspy spoken word ritualistic vocal approach in the music again, and it’s not the only other time it happens on the album, but it becomes one of the first to really do it with some energy and sound right, even though it then technically isn’t the same approach. Either way, it matches the second wave input to the music, and even works well with the slower Doom Metal aspects of the music. The final nail in coffin of this recording is the last track that closes with a woman screaming her head off, then cutting out in the middle of a blood curdeling scream.
As far as the Hell’s Headbangers reissue for 2011 goes, there’s not much of a difference. There’s nothing added to the recording, no new artwork, and musically it sounds pretty much the same. This is more a piece for the die hard collector, or those who missed out on it’s earlier initial pressing and many reissues that follow. For the wash out aspect though, going with the original source material is perhaps the best way to go, but given the rarity of the previous editions, this is the next best thing.
HÃ¤xan brings a decent amount of variety to the music, going between faster traditional Black Metal to slower, almost Doom Metal-like paces. It’s a promising effort from the group, but the production quality of this CD ultimately hinders the recording. It doesn’t necessary much new to the world of Black Metal outside those slower parts. Aside some elements that seem to drag on forever and the cassette-to-compact-disc sound of the music does become a little annoying after a while, there’s really not a bad song to be found, just bad aspects. If Cultes des Ghoules had a better recording quality for the album, or had the music not been as muffled as it was to capture the bite of the drums and higher volume level bass properly, it could have been a rather sinister sounding Black Metal effort. But, instead, HÃ¤xan comes off an alright generic Black Metal effort with a good idea in place.
01. Baptised by Barron – 12:50
02. The Covenant and the Sacrifice – 7:39
03. Stregoica Dance – 10:09
04. Scholomance – 8:28
05. The Impure Wedding – 16:11
|Overall Score: 7/10
Digital review copy of this release provided by Hell’s Headbangers.