Melencolia Estatica - Hel (Temple of Torturous)

Let yourself be dragged down...
Release Date: 
12 Nov 2012 - 12:30am

Melencolia Estatica are hard to pin down - information is scant and constantly changing; is it a one woman outfit from Italy? Is it a rapidly evolving entity with no permanent members? I don't know but when you slip on their album Hel, you will find you get more questions than answers.

This is one fine and fruity album of black metal; perhaps depressing, perhaps symphonic. For me, it's just beautiful. Consisting of six tracks (Hel I to VI), I'm reminded of movements in classical music. Hel I opens as an apparently obvious black metal number with the drums and cymbals getting battered to shit (in a good way) but then the very effective vocals kick in; they whisper and shriek and caress and stab the ear. Haunting yet highly effective. Suddenly it all slows down and the most gorgeous ethereal female vocals come in (I believe this may well be Afthenkos?) like a mermaid singing through a storm. Incredible! You think the song's going to end on this note but there's another three minutes of this mixed with all manner of howling and choking screams then it's back to some more traditional black metal. Is it finishing here? No! We get some strange psychedelic tremulous vocals just to freak the hell out of you. I don't know what the hell is going on but I like it.

Again Hel II opens as typical black metal but then you get these little flourishes and unexpected vocal surprises; a sigh here and groan there. It's haunting and claustrophobic and beautiful all at once and that's pretty much how the entire album runs for the remaining tracks. Each one has its own unique sound and the production on here is brilliant - the band drowns you in layers of gradually increasing chaos but they also know when to ease off to stop the listener from becoming fatigued from too much arty nonsense. Hel III is a fine example of this - it's symphonic without being ridiculous and it's powerful stuff.

This is a bloody good album and I'd liken it to a lake of sighing water nymphs; it's all sexy and sensual but as soon as you're in the water, they turn into minky rotten corpses, bloated from their own debauched lusts. And you get dragged down to a horrible (yet sexy) death...

A truly delightful album.