Hela - Broken Cross
Marchalenta Records
Stoner/Psychedelic Doom Metal
6 songs (46' 27")
Release year: 2013
Reviewed by Andy
Surprise of the month

I haven't seen a whole lot of doom metal out of Spain, but doom newcomers Hela (the name comes from the Norse goddess of the underworld) give some good reasons to look for more if they're any representation of that scene. Their new album, Broken Cross, considering that it's their first offering and could still use some improvements, is a very mature-sounding album, doom with some psychedelic elements, that deserves some listening.

Fronting this one is the metallic-voiced Isabel Sierras, supported by a chugging guitar/bass combo, with a rubbery distortion that has a low growl to it; the drums are slightly further back in the mix. Their first song, Horns of God, starts out with a dreamlike and lonely intro, sounding almost like something from The Wounded Kings, and the clips from the final denouement from "The Wicker Man" at the begnning are a nice touch. The Wicked King is a prime example of their sound, with big riffs and lots of deep crunching, the bass providing it extra heaviness. Slave of the Witch also, has a deep and pounding, yet melodic, attack from guitarist Julian Velasco. On this track, especially, one can start to see some common stylistic devices of the band -- Velasco and bassist Tano Gimenez combining their riffs together grittily and without much Sabbath-style basswork underneath the same melody, and Sierras doing a dubbed-over duet to the heavy chorus.

One downside of their heavy riff approach is that the solos seem to get ignored -- they aren't particularly strong or interesting. Velasco puts most of his work into the riffs, which are excellent, but even though this is doom metal and no one is expecting anything face-melting, something that doesn't sound like it was just tacked on would be great. March of the Minotaurs partially makes up for this lack of soloing creativity (present in this track as well) with sheer heaviness coupled with speed -- it starts at a reasonable mid-tempo pace and manages to speed up with riffs that are just as crushing. Black Eagle is also very enjoyable -- this one's probably the most melodic of all of the tracks, with a nice singalong chorus and a distinct demarcation in rhythms between the verse and chorus. Flesh Ceremony is both slower and softer, a parting lamentation where even the guitars sound different, with a key-shifting melody and a 70s-style tube distortion making its way into the forefront.

For a first try, this is very good indeed. Better solos would be great and some of the songs drag a bit (even for doom metal), but really there is little that is a major problem in this album. This is a very promising start for Hela and I expect that future work from them will only improve.

Reviewer's Note: I should note that right now, due to some production problems they're having, it might be hard to get a CD, but you can listen to their stream right now on their Bandcamp page.

Killing Songs :
The Wicked King, Black Eagle, Flesh Ceremony
Andy quoted 80 / 100
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