Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Eternal Helcaraxe - Against All Odds 
One cursory glance at the artwork of Eternal Helcaraxe’s debut album, “Against All Odds”, and the contents of the album can be easily surmised, if not right on the money. These Irish black metallers have been around since the early 2000’s, yet they didn’t release anything until 2008 with their “Palest Kingdom" demo. Tightly-knit songwriting with lots of modern elements, as well as perhaps the trademark sound for which Ireland keeps seeming to be associated (folk), raspy vocals, and you’ve pretty much got the entire album in a nutshell. “Against All Odds” definitely has its quite large pagan/folk elements, not only in the distorted guitars’ riffs but also in occasional acoustic sightings, which are done reasonably well, although probably a little too much; and it can be said that this record is typically partial to melodic tremolos that incite poignant emotions in the listener, serving its purpose dutifully and making up for that which the album lacked.
While I’m not generally fond of melodic riffing, that is probably the highlight that Eternal Helcaraxe harbor. Otherwise, their music could easily be waved off as stagnant and uninteresting, but fortunately they do put those melodic elements well into place. On top of this, the usual pagan/folk traits can easily be picked out from the polished chaos, augmented even further by the occasional use of synthesizers and acoustic guitar. Images of mighty Vikings and sailing ships are conjured from the style that Eternal Helcaraxe have, and it’s no doubt that that’s probably a snippet of what the lyrics deal with, judging by the album artwork. Several different modern characteristics can be spotted, primarily in the clean production, but also in some of the more progressive sequences that are heard here and there. These are fairly well executed, and provide more for their music so that it doesn’t stay at one place the entire time, but it’s honestly nothing knew and that hasn’t been done before. The vocals are predictable enough, akin to pretty much any other pagan black metal band you’ll hear these days; high, scraping rasps with no real substance nor special value to them, but they do their job well.
Eternal Helcaraxe’s debut full-length was probably a little too predictable, from my first glance at the artwork to some of the more predictable chords that can be heard quite often. That’s not to say that this was an overly bad effort, despite the lack of shining qualities that would improve the album, and there is an admitted variation throughout the 50-minute record. This is mostly in regards to the switching of paces, from either fast to less energetic and more progressive, but the variation is not exactly enough to salvage the album from mediocrity; there's also some orchestra arrangements, as in the end of "As The Snow Gathers". Fans of pagan black metal will duly find pleasure in this record, as will most fans of modern metal (there's some clean vocals in there too), and I recommend it to those who do not have a problem with hearing that which has already been done before, and better; not terrible, but not that good either.