Review Summary: Mammoth and Satisfying.
There are a plethora of adjectives in existence that, if used in typically cliche fashion, would be key words in reviewing an album as diverse as this one. Energetic, original, adventurous, groundbreaking… all apt and with a degree of truth. However, allowing an undisputed future scene classic to be summarised by only a few popular buzzwords would be a disservice of mammoth proportions. In fact, mammoth is a reasonable descriptive choice when absorbing (and trust me, you do absorb it), the third full-length album from Sydney’s Hellions.
Right out of the gate, opening track '24’ lays claim to rock song of the year. A four and a half minute epic that sways from fast, punky verses to a swirling, operatic climax that has been described as everything from Birds Of Tokyo meets Mumford & Sons to a goddamn Christmas carol.
Lead single ‘Quality of Life’ borrows most significantly from the ‘hardcore riffs and shake your hips’ description that halos around the band. A call to arms to question oneself and the potential artificial joy we THINK we feel as we grow up. The layered vocals in the chorus were our first taste of the experimentation to be found throughout the record, and the choice of ‘Quality…’ as lead single was perfection.
As the beast grows throughout the 10 tracks on Opera Oblvia, so to do the musical influences and flavours. Sophomore record Indian Summer contained modest Spanish/flamenco sections that showed the bands diverse range and songwriting ability. Those influences have been revisited and showcased on the brilliant 'Bad Way', a track which begins so far removed from the hardcore/punk genre you’ll either embrace or discard it. Embrace it and you’ll discover a quintessential genre mash that is sure to become a live favourite. ‘Nuestra Culpa’ serves almost as a late album interlude or bridging track to the grand finale. As a standalone song it is arguably the most ambitious work of the bands career. Falling somewhere between modern melodic hardcore (piano and all), and an epic movie score. There is an intangible quality that continues to draw the ear back, despite a rather abrasive and uneasy initial listen.
As far as individual performances go, whilst not necessarily being the most imposing or guttural vocalist in the genre, Dre Faivre spits venom and range so fluently and uniquely he is practically unmatched in modern heavy music. lyrically, his work on Opera Oblivia is almost without peer. Read ‘validation, valediction what’s the difference now" eschew the standard, turn the paradigm upside down, you could be happy, if you wanted to be’ and try to imagine the definitive vocal hook of the album. What sounds like a confronting mess of words is twisted so expertly you’ll be singing this little banger all day. Although already touched on, musically Opera Oblivia is a revelation. The range of genres, influences and ideas crammed into 10 memorable songs is as impressive as it is refreshing. From the pop-punky 'Thresher', aforementioned rock epic '24', and combination-of-all album finale '25', fans of MUSIC in it’s purest form will have no trouble finding a redeeming quality littered throughout the beautiful madness.
Quite fittingly, Opera Oblivia has received a tremendous critical and commercial response since it dropped. Triple J, Australia’s premier independent national radio network, featured the entire record in the week leading up to it’s release. The album also debuted at number 4 on the ARIA charts, the bands highest charting position. To see hard working, DIY bands creating legitimate masterpieces of the highest quality and being rewarded is incredibly satisfying. In fact, satisfying is another reasonable adjective to describe Opera Oblivia. Mammoth and satisfying. Satisfaction in absorbing a fresh, original, expertly performed piece of music that is both true to its genre and inventive in its delivery.
Take a bow mighty behemoth, the curtain is about to fall.