Review Summary: Quorthon, Ice Dale, Varg Vikerness, and Jeff Becerra of Possessed fame huddling around a camp fire in an ancient Norwegian forest telling ghost stories and drinking hot chocolate.
My latest find from Napalm Records has turned out to be a catch among catches. Great black metal is rare to find these days but when you find something special like Hellsaw’s latest record Cold it makes you feel a little happier inside. I actually just discovered the band not too long ago thanks to the help of Decibel spotting these guys out to me. Hailing from Austria, Hellsaw have released three full length records and a split E.P since forming in 2001. I have yet to acquire their first two records but after the modern and unique accomplishment that is Cold, I feel that not checking out their back catalog would be doing them a great injustice. Hellsaw’s style of black metal focuses on crystal clean production, cutting edge riffs and icy melodies, with a dark and mechanical atmosphere enveloping the albums thirteen tracks.
At first glance, Bathory was the major influence that I picked up after listening to Hellsaw. But a couple listens later I picked up elements of Enslaved, Satyricon, Possessed, Burzum, and even Wolves In The Throne Room. From the triumphant and Norse sounding vibe of Der Harzwald complete with thorough acoustic guitars and epic humming in the vein of Quorthon’s mid day Viking efforts to the black n roll of The Black Death, the mystical ambience of Psycho Pastor, and the Burzumic approach of Sulphur Prayer, Hellsaw excel at creating intricate black metal with a strong focus to powerful songwriting.
The lead and rhythm guitar foundation of Malthus and Isiul is incredibly varied and precise. Think Below The Lights era Enslaved if they wrote catchier and more up front patterns. On Cold you have the standard tremolo picking technique making a nice mess of things before erupting into head bobbing grooves that will have the Norse gods banging heads and crushing bodies in no time. Tempos range from mild to hot with the nice breakdown punch of Ache setting up as one of the many standouts on Cold. Vocally, Aries transitions from a deathly rasp to a torturous howl akin to Varg Vikerness. His rasps are thick and vicious, reminiscing more from early death metal than black metal. His howl though, purely channels the spirit of Varg’s misanthropic youth. Lyrically, this album strays away from much of the satanic hoopla that the three and a half million Darkthrone clones tend to adopt. The tightly executed bass and drum rhythmic patterns solidify Hellsaw as a competent and powerful entity to the extreme metal world. Deserdoth’s bass playing cuts through the riffs with a thick, buzzing tone that remains ever so present and catchy thanks to tight production values and excellent musicianship. The drummer Svart cuts through the frosty atmosphere with a punishing assault of double bass and blast beating yet his playing never feels too mechanized or overly produced. The snare drum in particular remains a force to be reckoned with conveying a bowel crushing movement
As I said before the production really adds layer of intrigue to Hellsaw’s playing. Far from seeping away and semblance to aggression, Cold manages to be dark and vicious as hell while being accessible enough to attract those who cannot comprehend traditional black metal values. The strength of this band lies in the ability to create something unique in rather straightforward guitar driven format and for that, Hellsaw gathers major respect points from me. Cold is easily one of my favorite records of the year surpassing the likes of Wolves In the Throne Room, Vreid, Cobalt, Peste Noire, and Samael in the black metal field. I highly recommend any extreme metal fan to give this a spin and hope that you might enjoy this as much as I do.