Review Summary: The sweet taste of sticky jamming just keeps on giving.
From the ashes of one project (The Sand Collective), comes the birth of another. Hela’s Broken Cross
is the sound that has been on a steady rise for the last few years. It’s fair enough to say that most stoner/doom/psychedelic combination bands float succinctly under the radar. Unfortunately, it’s in the make-up of the genre. But wave after wave of acts have slowly (and steadily) been raising the bar and in turn the amount of notice these acts are due to get. Recent bands in the vein of Universe217, Talisman Stone, Witch Mountain and High Priest Of Saturn have all proved that the music they develop has the staying power, emotion and weirdly enough, is accessible enough for those just getting into the genre to assure this magnificent rise on the world’s stage. Take a look at the band’s mentioned above, apart from the staple genre sound they all share, there is one other feature they have in common, which is also another reason as to why this particular brand of music is becoming so successful. This Spanish act, along with those mentioned is a female fronted group, and by no means is this review a shot at male vocalists in the genre, but instead highlights just how fresh to a sound the female vocal sound can be to a rather restricting group of genres.
In retrospect, Broken Cross
is a slightly predictable release. It makes use of the genre’s stereotypes and proceeds to squeeze every ounce of stoner goodness into these doom tracks. That’s not a bad thing as the album can become more and more enjoyable on repeated listens. Even with the splashes of the psychedelic influences that are peppered all over these tracks it’s easy to see where most of the songs are going. Whilst this play book style does nothing to sour the album’s reception, it does present a rather formulaic mood to the record. Every so often, the record will break out of its mould, occasionally dabbling in crushing doom metal and post metal alike. The album is not quite as lengthy as others, its six tracks which finish up at just over forty six minutes trudge along without losing pace. At no point does Broken Cross
become tiresome, over staying its welcome. This is an album you can bang your head to; each track has a huge instrumental facet in which the mid paced tempo gels well with the straight forward drum work and well placed riffs. That’s not to say that the band does anything mind-blowingly innovative but they show they know what works and how well it works. Hela has polished this sound, shaping it into something that knows its boundaries. So instead of fighting it, the band explores every nook and cranny of those so called boundaries, to make their music.
Being catchy is not normally the first thing on a doom metal band’s mind. However, with Hela’s 2013 release, there’s no shortage of hooks. Even the album opener ‘Horns Of God’, allows for the hook lines to engage the listener without conforming to a clichéd and obvious chorus line. Audio excerpts make the occasional appearance, giving the record a biblical feel (as per the excerpt’s context), their effect is minimal and they are usually found towards the start of tracks. If anything, they help a storyline and show a nice touch for the album, but it doesn’t really do anything to support the record as a whole managing only to create a brief vibe during their short appearances. Thankfully, the album is reasonably melodic. There is a consistent display of guitar noodling, staying true to the stoner genres blues-y roots. But that’s not where the melodic aspect of the album starts and stops. Leads, licks and underlying melodic notes are often placed behind the rhythmic aspect of the band, which helps prevent the album from becoming a dull, tasteless and boring listen. Highlighting the record is the ever prominent crooning female vocals. Isabel Sierras takes Broken Cross
to a whole new level with her resonating cleans and pleasant melodic vocal shaping.
What makes this release all the more impressive that it is in fact, a debut. Gone are all the fumbling’s in trying to find a sound or niche that a band can belong to, working out the kinks, bumps and missteps. Hela, instead focus on creating a more suiting sound from the ashes of their last project. In fact vocalist, Isabel Sierras is the newcomer to the group and the band changed the group’s name to suit this more melodic, stoner doom style. It just goes to show that the band has that all worked out even before the release of a debut. Overall, Hela’s Broken Cross
is a stunning debut that blends the doom, stoner and psychedelic genres together almost seamlessly. In the world of female fronted doom, this record shows exactly how it should be done. This release ticks all the boxes, crossing the t’s and dotting the I’s. It may be a little formulaic and predictable in places but it takes nothing away from this incredibly solid release. Despite the genre mashing and crossovers, this is about as straight-forward as the genre gets, the added female vocals provide a warm, melodic crooning rivaled only by the band’s peers. Broken Cross
is an interesting listen, stretched over forty six minutes. Making use of some very done before sounds, Hela create an album that does little to disappoint.