Review Summary: Hollenthon offer up an excellent display of symphonic death metal.
The incorporation of symphonic elements into music is an increasingly common practice to be found within metal these days, especially when it comes to the Gothic and power subgenres. Generally speaking, the quality of the resulting combination of guitar distortion and orchestrated theatrics typically depends on how well the band blends and mixes the elements beforehand. Whether they invoke the desired emotional response and add a pleasing element to the overall sound, or do the opposite and invoke negativity or even repulsion from a listener, is merely a matter of if wise and skilled production choices are made during the recording process.
The mood and general feel that Gothic and power metal bands have associated themselves with tend to allow for such experimentation-- given that the stringed instruments are able to instill sadness, urgency, or even a cheesy aspect to the music. However, on the other hand, death metal and metalcore bands typically try to shy away from the mixture as many of these respective bands have failed when attempting to incorporate symphonic elements in the past. Suffice it to say, there have been a few bands that were actually quite successful in the practice--such as Therion and Haggard--proving that the union of the symphonic and death subgenres is quite possible.
Hollenthon is a band out of Austria that wishes to join the ranks of these successful bands with a unique blend of instruments, melodies, and voices that come together for their sophomore effort With Vilest of Worms to Dwell
. The band doesn’t settle for a consistent sound throughout, opting instead for a varied roller coaster of an album that features varying tempos and instrumental dynamics. For example, opener “Y Draig Goch” introduces the album with an orchestrated piece that almost sounds akin to the old 1960s Batman television show theme song. The track is then immediately followed by a vocal choir and stellar guitar solo that is presented within second track “Woe to the Defeated”. While there’s nothing too extreme at this point, listeners will certainly scratch their heads at the incorporation of Sergei Prokofiev's “Romeo and Juliet (Dance of the Knights)” into “Lords of Bedlam” that immediately follows.
This change of pace might have proven to be detrimental to many death metal bands, but here it works quite effectively as the album quickly gains the characteristic of being one song with many pieces. Any fear of a boring and brooding direction quickly subsides when the album is brought back into action with the choir-led “To Kingdom Come”. From here, the album continues on in a varied direction, particular areas of interest also to be found on the driving “Fire Upon the Blade” and the guitar solo that’s featured in ”The Calm Before the Storm” that twirls and spins around the melodic background singers near the track's end.
Typical death metal elements such as growls and loud guitars are scaled back slightly to make room for the other instruments and singers throughout the course of With Vilest of Worms to Dwell
--though that certainly doesn't mean these elements are lacking in emotion or technical prowess in the least. Lead vocalist Martin Schirenc is an extremely competent musician whose presence is felt in both voice and instrument throughout the album. In addition to vocal duties, Martin plays bass, guitar, and even keyboards on many of the track, quickly calling into question how the band must perform live. Be it as it may, recording his numerous tasks does seem to sound just fine on record. As mentioned above, those wanting a heavily dense-sounding guitar element may be disappointed with Hollentho;. as while the riffs and guitar solos are certainly engaging, the production has scaled back their volume within the mix. Still, this leaves the remaining vocalists and symphonic instruments sufficient room to work with, and I am happy to report that the end product is quite dense and certainly not disappointing in the least.
In summary, Hollenthon’s With Vilest of Worms to Dwell
summarizes to be one song that is divided into many movements, spinning a tale of mythological and abstract proportions in the process. The songs are varied, the choirs melodic, and the instruments well-played; in turn, this all works together to create an album that would be well-suited for Therion or Haggard fans. Death metal fans wishing to find something new to listen to are greatly encouraged to give the band a try as well, given that the death metal aspects are not under-played in the least but are instead co-equal with the symphonic elements. In essence, Hollenthon didn't fail in their endeavors and goals with this album, which assures that they can now join the ranks of their relatively small number of peers.