With a name meaning ‘Fatal Illness’ one would make the assumption that Helsott were a German clan or at least with their brand of pagan metal a group hailing from somewhere Viking and Scandinavian. Hold on though, it appears these brigands are actually from California, did they get mixed up with longships and surfboards? Just to make things all the more confusing Gods And Slaves along with the album art-cover peels off into some Egyptian symphonic sounds on the opening album title track. So we are already embarking on something that geographically could be all over the shop but there could be an air of authenticity about it all as the group on their second album have brought a load of friends along on the journey. Guests here include many Euro heavyweights from the scene including members of Arkona, Equilibrium, Trollfest, Elvenking and Nothgard.

Once we have sailed down the Nile we are off with a Turisian peal and some gruff throaty roars that are destined to get many an Amon Amarth fan waving their plastic axes and stomping around a mosh pit. Plenty of bravado and chops about this and although you have heard it countless times before it’s got a bounce about it and a fun sort of battle cleave. So far so good but on second track The Coward’s Curse and then later with the frankly horrible ‘Eye Of The Storm.’ For some reason they change the intensity by introducing some really limp and wafty power metal clean crooning histrionics into their vocal armoury. Yeah some metal fans may well like both facets but it completely turns intentions on their heads for those of us not liking Euro pomp and expecting the gung-ho more extreme facets of the music to give us a thorough glory ride throughout the album. Personally this flaccid rock-opera sounding intrusion really got my goat and made this album near impossible to listen to without hitting the skip button and getting rid of the offending tracks. Not good at all.

The inclusion of guests strikes as circumspect too not really standing out that much. Even with a track like ‘Winter Smells Like Death’ where you would expect the inclusion of Arkona warrioress Masha to deliver her trademark scream and bite your head off you feel she is very much on the side-lines just about there to mop up and finish off the leftovers of any battlefield carnage. The problem here is that the band are perhaps trying to much and music suffers from being either too frilly or in the case of numbers like ‘Zep Tepi’ with its grunting, grimacing vocal thrust overly-dramatic and frankly daft. I see that the group have made it over to hallowed Europe and played French pagan fests and Wacken Winter Nights shows so they obviously have some fans but I was glad to get to the end of this album as far as reviewing plays were concerned, a cover of Tom Petty’s Runnin Down A Dream, complete with electric violin at conclusion making it all particularly tough going. Bit of a schizophrenic mess in more ways than one it has to be said

(5/10 Pete Woods)