Review Summary: Raise your broadsword. A clashing of steel is upon us.
Billows of dust choke the air. Through it, you make great strain to take breath, and the few you take are marred by the inhalation of freshly drawn blood. Whether this is yours or an enemy's holds no importance. You witness the slaying of brothers. The massacre of long running kinships. The fire is stoked. This will be both the first and the last battle. No more brothers will fall.
A little bit of dramatic flair never hurt in storytelling, so long as the one who tells it can make it tangible. This is something Helcaraxë has an acute awareness of, something which was proven well off of the romp n stomp fest that was/is Red Dragon
, one that has seemingly yet to end. The Last Battle
contains within it the following-riffs meaty enough to feed every cannibalistic New Guinean tribe, drum patterns thunderous enough to match the force of a running punch from Halfthor Bjornsson, and grunts and gutturals monstrous enough to overpower a stampede of hoarse voiced Randy Savages (ones undeniably charged with extra power due to their resurrection). In short, The Last Battle
is truly just a meaty, heavy record.
This isn't to treat the record as if it's one-dimensional, but it is not unfair to say that Helcaraxë like to hone in on their meat-headed skull-bashing ear-thrashing eye-mashing (perhaps my adjective choices could use revision) sound. The way swelling melodic riffs meet wicked snare pops off of "Guardians" show this quite well, as does the bands knack for infectious riffs tunnel through your ear canals like the burrowing of some great mystical wurm (before you accuse me of misspelling and call me an FAS baby, a wurm is a dragon bound to land who has lost it's right to flight. Or to own arms and legs.).
To be frank, this formula could quite easily turn into a lull, but Helcaraxë have both the technical finesse (seriously, that entire percussion section knows how to whip out some impressive odd rhythms, ala the first track "Old Blood Sings") and the atmospheric timing to keep the album wonderfully engaging. They punch you in the gut with chunky riffs and unfathomably heavy bass lines for a nice bulk of the record, but intersperse soothing acoustic bits and slower melodies to give a slight reprieve, which also gives those heavy sections a more potent bite. These contrasting feelings exist in both "Omens", a track that invokes the images of a long and barren land of permafrost and is dotted only by tall spires of pine tree, as well as in the cathartic solo of the epoch "An Eye For An Eye".
To condense the word salad I have spewed, The Last Battle
is in many ways but a refinement on every gnarled riff and gargantuan shout we've heard off of Red Dragon
, and that is in all honesty, everything I could have wanted. Helcaraxë have a simple vision, but one that is wildly fun and that needs not refinement. May the well of riffs never run dry, and until we again meet via bandcamp and a pair of cheap earbuds, godspeed Helcaraxë.