Metal Review – Hell Spirit: Dawn Under Curse

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Metal Review – Hell Spirit: Dawn Under Curse
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Hellspirit: Dawn Under Curse
Black Metal, Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal
Saturnal Records
May 26th, 2014
Release length: 38:41
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Finland’s Hell Spirit is a bit of an obscure entry into the Black Metal world. They’re an active four-piece that formed back in 2004, but only has one remaining founding member: Vocalist and guitarist Baron Dethrone. The rest of the group is currently comprised of bass and backing vocalist Heinrich Von Heretik, who joined back in 2008, and 2011’s recent additions of Eld on drums and MSA on guitar. Of course not much of this matters unless you have been a long time fan or reside in or around Kuopio, Finland, as Hell Spirit hasn’t really made much available other than two demos in 2005 and 2006 respectively, and a split in 2010 titled The Gravespirit Sessions with Nocturnal Graves. Dawn Under Curse marks the band’s 2014 debut full-length album and is available through Saturnal Records. With ten years since the original formation to hone their sound, one can only expect this long overdue venture to be of the highest quality. But does Dawn Under Curse make up for all that lost time, or is it an absolute waste of yours?

While Dawn Under Curse does carry a bit of a high budget nineties analog sound to it, there’s no denying it was recorded in a digital studio thanks to how crisp everything sounds. What little rawness exists does help accentuate the dark, warm, and robust setting that sometimes can be a bit intimate. “Call to Arms” kicks off with a marching audio sample that gives way to mournful guitars, growing to grander keyboards and drums which offer a glimmer of hope, perfectly setting up the expectations of the album before bleeding into “Weak Flesh – Filthy Blood.” This kicks off with an epic slower paced minute long opening similar to something Manowar would perform. What follows jumps between speeds, but its the chugging Black Metal approach that really sticks out with the twang of the bass guitar popping out here and there. Unfortunately the cymbals are the loudest part of the release, and it’s impossible to ignore or even look past the washout they carry, even during the moving guitar solo just past the five minute mark.

“Total Holocaust” bridges the second generation Black Metal approach and grand Heavy Metal influences seamlessly. From the moment it all starts you cannot help but notice the epic foundation immediately that even carries into the grim passages with a hint of melody starting at about two minutes. Sadly this is dropped towards the very end of the song, giving way to standard sharp distortions at an increased speed until the song just ends without warning. But then there’s the over eleven minute “Eternal Night (Millennia of Might)” and it’s eerie b-movie synths against an ominous Ride the Lightning era Metallica introduction that is carried into the grand passages that follow, but in more of a minimal haunting fashion when not buried by short bursts of aggressive drums and the sound of rain against an empty half way mark that leads to similar ritualistic drumming as what is found on “Total Holocaust” before exploding into creepy blackened riffs and catchy hooks that follow.

There are two tracks on this release that actually break from the rest of the material in ways that shouldn’t even cause them to. The first is “Unholy Redemption,” and it’s simply because this is more your standard Melodic Black Metal offering without much influence from outside styles other than the solo about five and a half minutes in. Other than that it’s an enthusiastic cut full of tight guitars and haunting atmospheres that sometimes slowdown to pay homage to the icy, haunting early second wave of Black Metal sound like around six minutes in. It’s absolutely impossible not to get as wrapped up in it in the same way as you would listening to “Total Holocaust” and even “Eternal Night (Millennia of Might),” which speaks volumes of the band’s skill of just focusing on one specific genre and simply crushing it. Meanwhile there’s “Blood and Metal,” and it sounds like an early first wave of Black Metal cover that only fits the entire experience by throwing back to the marching audio found on “Call to Arms.” In fact it sounds more like a cover of an early Venom recording. Other than being out of place, it’s a solid track set to rip your face off, but just doesn’t quite manage to hit that level, even when caving towards some common early Black Metal riffs towards the end.

But if the only problems end up being washout on the cymbals and an old-school track that feels out of place, Dawn Under Curse fairs pretty well. It’s unfortunate that after ten years without a full-length we only get five songs and an extensive introduction, but there is absolutely no argument in the quality of the performances. Rarely does a debut outing sound so mature or anywhere near as tight and smooth flowing as this one does, especially with the band dabbling in the Heavy Metal and even Thrash Metal territories. You can tell a great deal of time and effort went into these six tracks, and the damage to the cymbals is simply depressing. Dawn Under Curse is one hell of a Black Metal album, debut or otherwise, and fans of the style that wouldn’t mind a little melody or epic foundations be included are going to immediately fall in love with Hell Spirit‘s debut album. Hopefully it won’t take another ten years for a follow-up of equal or greater quality to emerge…

01. Call to Arms – 3:48
02. Weak Flesh – Filthy Blood – 7:22
03. Total Holocaust – 5:32
04. Unholy Redemption – 6:59
05. Eternal Night (Millennia of Might( – 11:25
06. Blood and Metal – 3:36
Initial Pressing Score: 9/10

Hellspirit
Hellspirit

Digital review copy of this release provided by Saturnal Records via Suspicious Activities PR.