But as I sat through the first five tracks, I found that my excitement was both justified, and crushed. “Prologue” was nothing more than a spoken word introduction to the album with some wind sound effects, and it wasn’t anything too special but still set things up nice. It bled into “Helvetios” thanks to some Folk instruments that started the last few seconds of “Prologue” and continued on. This track found more Dark Tranquillity worship, but it was regulated nicely with some more unique and epic passages that left me banging my head along the entire time. “Luxtos” was a more unique composition, though it stuck closer to a traditional Folk Metal song than anything else. The mid-tempo had some pretty catchy riffs that I really got behind, and had just enough of a heaviness to convey a light hearted sound with a bit of an edge.
But sure enough, “Home” shifted right back into obvious Dark Tranquillity riffs, though the chorus didn’t quite go in the direction I expected, having a bit of a foundation similar to “Focus Shift.” With that said I still found myself banging my head along to the song and it’s constantly shifting pace. Some bridges had slower sections, while the verses were faster against a mid-tempo chorus. “Santonian Shores” was a little less energetic, but felt like the band was trying to be a little more precise with the melodic riffs. While the guitar had some catchy chords, the bass kind of felt wasted and didn’t really get me into the swing of things, finding only certain parts of the song really standing out, such as the chorus which, again, felt a little more on the grand side for the melody, and where the Folk instruments really made a bigger impact. The song clearly pushed for a more Folk sound than a staple idol worship track, and it did the job well enough to say it was an enjoyable song none the less.
“Scorched Earth” becomes an interlude similar to the introductory “Prologue,” except it’s not a spoken word track, but a tribal chanting-style vocal performance against ambience of wind and rain for over four minutes. It ends up not really being anything special like “Prologue,” but at the same time doesn’t feel out of place or forced, being a song I could deal with on another playthrough or two. This goes into “Meet the Enemy” which is a more energetic track. It isn’t bled into like “Helvetios,” but it felt kind of mirrored in concept to the first two tracks. More familiar riffs can be found here with what sounds like a breakdown behind a bagpipe solo. Again it varies between mid-tempo and faster paces, but much of the song did find more head banging occuring as well. There are more female spoken vocals again that seem to go into screaming towards the closing of the song, as if a declaration of war that sounds nice, but just comes out of nowhere.
Helvetios didn’t really offer much of a unique sound once more, and it shouldn’t have shocked me at all. But what did surprise me was how many songs I managed to get into. Despite obvious idol worship still being performed here, the lack of copy and past from the source group isn’t quite as bad, and the songs that had more energy really had me banging my head along pretty hard. In fact, my neck hurt from this album after a moderately long car ride. Overall, on a personal level it wound up being an enjoyable experience I could see throwing back in once in a while, but still prefering any Dark Tranquillity record over. The Folk elements are a lot stronger, and though some of the songs that focus more on that than the Melodic Death Metal seem to play by the book, they still felt more unique and wound up being catchier in their own right. So while on a critical level I’m still cringing to review it, I can see Helvetios still being in my car for a little while longer.
Article based on digital review material provided by Nuclear Blast Records.