Named after the frost resistant flowers, Helleborus from Colorado, USA are a black metal duo that experiment with the symphonic black metal while adding elements from other styles like psychedelic rock. The band’s debut full length on Satanath Records, titled ‘The Carnal Sabbath’ displays a degree of hypnotic mysticism that manages to resonate deeply with the listeners. The music carries an enigmatic flavour, while not being overtly abrasive. Though there is a smooth flow to the music, none of the venomous black metal qualities are lost. Rather, the melodic and atmospheric take on the style manages to blend well with some of the more harsher qualities of the style. Some of the flairs added by Helleborus instill a psychedelic quality to the record, making this an album that is easy to lose oneself in.
There are also influences felt from the duo’s other project Akhenaten, which had touches of middle eastern folk added to a black / death template. While Helleborus does not exhibit the same folk influence, the lead guitar work and the general rhythm of the album seem inspired from the aforementioned band. While the tracks themselves do not exhibit outright abrasiveness in terms of riffs, they do a good job of drawing the listener into the music. Helleborus Black opens with a slow build up of the atmosphere as the guitars slowly and steadily build up to a steady mid paced rhythm. The rich atmosphere and the sound of the chiming bells have a very hypnotic quality and even when the band crank up the blastbeats, it only feels mesmerizing. The vocals are snarls that harmonize quite adeptly with the guitar tone and the atmosphere of the tracks.
Some of the tracks like Coils, Temple of Seventh Death and A Gift of Renewal exhibit riffs that are heavily inspired by psychedelic rock and are tracks that one can trip to. This contrasts with tracks like Colored Spores of Yuggoth, Draconian Discipline and The Poison of Sleep, which are much more vicious in their intent and more aligned towards traditional black metal ideas. This variation in song writing makes this album a very enjoyable affair that seldom gets repetitive. The electronic augmentations used sparingly on the album intensify Helleborus’ psychedelic nature. That said, the album as a whole still has room for improvement and it feels like Helleborus are only just beginning to explore the realms of symphonic and psychedelic black metal. The album does feel a bit disjointed in places and this is something that should be naturally rectified as the band continues to make further albums.
While Helleborus might not be synonymous with psychedelic black metal like the way bands such as Oranssi Pazuzu and Hail Spirit Noir are, it is only a matter of time before the metal world starts to take notice of this duo. There is a lot of potential here and ‘The Carnal Sabbath’ is an album I’d recommend if you’re into unorthodox black metal that pushes the boundaries of the style.