Hellveto – Zemsta

Hellveto as a whole is best described as being almost uncomfortably good.  There’s not many bands I can name that put out multiple full-length albums per year, each of which are of stunning quality.  Even fewer are one-man projects.  And even fewer of those create the unbelievably layered and multifaceted compositions that Hellveto has mastered over his career.  Hellveto isn’t just one of the best artists in metal today; it should be mandatory listening for anyone who dares to call themselves a metalhead.  And for most of us, it begins at this early album.

As Hellveto’s first album ‘Autumnal Night’ is only widely available on a reissued compilation disc, ‘Zemsta’ is effectively where his career starts for most Hellveto fans.  It lacks none of the maturity or exquisite artistry of his later releases.  I could almost leave this review at that; Hellveto is simply amazing from the earliest to the latest parts of his catalog.  It wants for absolutely nothing.  While ‘Zemsta’ isn’t my favorite Hellveto release, the difference in quality between this and any other Hellveto release (or any versus any, really) is so infinitesimal as to be completely unimportant.

For those who don’t know, Hellveto’s music is a combination of pagan metal and full-fledged (though synthesized) orchestral compositions.  An average Hellveto song has about thirty songs from a lesser band in creativity.  Apart from some simple intros, Hellveto’s music is enormously complex.  Were it purely metal, Hellveto’s music would be in the upper echelon as far as genuinely complex compositions go, with unusual rhythms on guitar, intricate drumwork, and melodic depth.  However, adding the orchestral section takes the music to an entirely new level, resulting in what are effectively two full songs played over each other, each equally complex yet harmonizing and intertwining perfectly with the other.  To say that Hellveto’s music is ambitious is a grave understatement; it’s some of the most complex and truly progressive music in the metal scene today.

Hellveto’s albums are all roughly similar in style; it’s the subtle differences in atmosphere and composition which differentiate them from each other.  ‘Zemsta’, being from earlier in the endeavor’s career, is a bit more abrasive and ‘black metal’ than his later material.  The slightly low production quality creates a sort of flattening effect across the soundscape that seems to work in the music’s benefit, forcing the listener to pick elements out from a mix where everything is on almost exactly the same level, demanding that the listener either pick out elements individually and recompose them mentally or actually listen to the full brunt of the music all at once.

Hellveto is difficult listening; this is hard to deny.  The pure volume of melodies and rhythms borders on the ludicrous at times, and Hellveto staunchly refuses to simplify his music for the listener.  While the melodies are listenable and memorable, they are not ‘catchy’ in the conventional sense, as there’s little repetition, and what repetition there is comes in the form of lengthy themes that reappear in a neoclassical motif.  This is music structured much, much more like classical music than metal, and that alone might cause some difficulty; even the metal instruments are employed like classical ones, exploring vast swaths of musical territory.  It’s not particularly ‘riffy’ music at all, and that alone might trouble those who prefer a more rockish style of music.

‘Zemsta’, like all Hellveto albums, has a slightly different atmosphere from the others.  There’s something of a folk feel early in Hellveto’s career which isn’t replicated as heavily later on, and of his material that I’ve heard, ‘Zemsta’ has the most definite folk sound to it.  The epic, theatrical nature of his work is of course present, but on a smaller scale, as though the vast battles described through dueling guitars and synths are relegated to a simple village on this release.  It’s no less compelling due to the smaller scope; in fact, it has a wildly different feel from many of his works due to this simple change.  The instrumental shifts aren’t as sweeping as those found on his later releases; tonal shifts are smaller and more gradual, with the end of a track leaving you in a very different place from the beginning.

Like all his albums, ‘Zemsta’ is essentially essential for any metalhead who enjoys well composed, magnificently crafted music.  While there are Hellveto releases I like more, this is an absolute necessity and a great place for a prospective fan to begin.  Stunning from beginning to end, and just one of the first steps on the road of one of metal’s true modern geniuses.

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~ by noktorn on September 13, 2008.

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