First track A Sail to Sanity almost puts a spanner in the works from the get-go. Casual listeners, perhaps prepared only to give the Aamamata a chance on the strength of it’s opening track might enjoy the Paradise Lost-meets-Amorphis feels but decline to look further, believing that that might be all there is to these mournful Majorcans.
That would be a massive mistake for the listener and a not inconsiderable tragedy for the band, as, over the ensuing best part of an hour Helevorn give a bravura performance, pulling every stop out of the doom/death bag of tricks to present one of the most sonically and emotionally exhaustive albums I’ve encountered in quite some time.
Aamamata puts the listener through the wringer, battering the ears with obsidian, adamantine riffs that consume everything they touch, whilst at the same time managing to inject utter melancholy into the unforgiving chug.
I’ve rarely heard such an album; an album where pure riffery can at once spark feelings of real desolation and upset, yet still manages to leave the listener feeling sadly uplifted. Second track Goodbye, Hope is perhaps the album in microcosm, though it’s unforgiving riff barrages are by some way the heaviest thing on offer if truth be told. The band do sound like Paradise Lost at times, at others like Finns Trees of Eternity when joined by Draconian vocalist Heike Langhans, but vocalist Josep Brunet has enough personality and depth to his own voice to give Helevorn more than enough identity of their own.
Blackened Waves is pure doom/death nirvana, building wave after wave of sound, the song working itself up to what you believe will be a momentous conclusion before disappearing abruptly; Following track Aurora, built on Moorish (and, it has to be said, very moreish) themes at the outset, transforms itself into another churning maelstrom of grandeur built around a stupendous chorus refrain that gets the hairs on every part of the body standing to attention. Again, the versatility of Brunet’s voice becomes a key weapon in the Helevorn arsenal as he flips between clean and growled delivery like a true master craftsman.
Forgotten Fields is probably the weakest track in the lineup, though ‘weakest’ could just as well be written ‘least brilliant’; it’s another slab of unrelenting riff warfare, Samuel Morales and Sandro Vizcaino letting their six string hammers fall mercilessly, but it just lacks the nuance that elevates a lot of the other material on the album. You’ll still love it though, let me tell you…
Nostrum Mare (Et deixo un pont de mar blava) – which basically alludes in Catalan to the Mediterranean being a blue sea bridge – is labyrinthine in it’s complexity, multi-layered yet eminently accessible, while the doom landed Once Upon A War weaves Scandinavian influences such as Candlemass and Below into the mix with sledgehammer subtlety. Both tracks are superb but neither quite prepare the listener for the utter magnificence that is penultimate track The Path to Puya; A sprawling, near-nine-minute epic of quasi-biblical proportions, TPtP is a near perfect exposition of the art of doom/death metal. Langhans adds a filigree sensitivity to proceedings, adding another level of wonder, the sum of the parts being just about as good as it gets in this ever-more-cluttered field. If the solo midway through doesn’t have you out of your seat, air guitaring stoically, there may be no hope for you…
Final track La-Sibil-La cleverly lets the listener down gently, drifting away in riff-aided reverie, but the truth of the matter is as soon as the dying strains ebb to silence you’ll be putting the whole thing back on again – it’s that kind of album.
Aamamata will be released on January 23.