Review Summary: A unique melodeath album whose relatively weak songwriting is balanced completely by the execution and the sheer emotional value of the songs it contains.
Satariel is a band that's never grown too big and has been having serious label difficulties, as evidenced by the continuous delay in the release of their next CD, White Ink. But the works that they have indeed released are all unique, Hydra being no exception. I have grown really attached to this album throughout the years, I don't really know why. Maybe it's because it's fun to play Might and Magic to it, or maybe because it's fun to play Doom to it, or maybe because it's just so fun to listen to.
The band since their inception has been all about creating a unique ambience of religious spirituality where the good conflicts with the evil, with no side ever taking the advantage. Even the name of the band suggests this, it being a portmanteau of Satan and Uriel, God's arch nemesis and an archangel. It's all about learning about yourself, as good and evil as you are - and it's as evident in the music as the lyrics. This image is most likely the creation of the prodigious artist Pär Johansson, whom you may know from projects such as Torchbearer or The Few Against Many.
"Hydra" is an album full of flaws, imperfections and it essentially collapses unto itself from all the potential it fails to deliver on, but it also contains an undefined quality that simply makes you not care and enjoy it anyway. Maybe it's Pär's vocal work, maybe it's the tasteful use of female backing choirs, maybe either. But the effect is accomplished anyway. The perfect example is track two, "Be you angel, be you beast", which may not seem impressive at all, but after repeated listens the chorus just captivates you, never to release you again. And it's not even remotely the best track on the record, that title would have to fall to the opener, "The Freedom Fall", which is indeed the most smoothly written track on the album and containing the best guitar solo. "Claw the Clouds" is also a relatively flawless track, as is "Scattering the Timeweb". Other tracks, while good, all suffer of some kind of flaw, be it bad chorus vocal melodies, compositional repetitiveness, or both. "For Galaxies to Clash" and "The Springrise" are good (but not the only) examples of failed choruses, while "300 Years Old" would be perfect if it were a minute shorter - its composing process involved helluva lot too much copypasta.
For those unfamiliar with the band, their sound is the softer end of the melodeath spectrum (although not remotely in a Sonic Syndicate way), that makes use of black metal and clean vocals and female backing choirs. Quite a successful blend, that would ripen on the band's following EP, "Chifra", which was pretty much perfect. On "Hydra", it still works for the most part, creating a highly captivating album. This shouldn't be approached as the album of the year, or you're probably in for a huge disappointment. It's only pleasant to listen to once you settle for expecting something mediocre and only after repeated listens will you begin to uncover its weird, sublime charms.
- an uncanny atmosphere
- good vocal work
- underwhelming chorus melodies
- lazily structured songs
"The Freedom Fall"
"Claw the Clouds"
"Vengeance is Hers"
"Scattering The Timeweb"