Strangely never even heard of this Gothenburg band. Well I ain’t the personification of Metal Archives so maybe I can be forgiven. The PR guff mutters about being one of the originators of the return to traditional heavy metal in the new millennium but we’ll ignore that as the only return was in minds of people looking for a line to hang on to; I didn’t notice it leaving to start with. But on the other hand ‘traditional heavy metal’ is a good place to start.
This opens with…er.. ‘Stan Brinner’ which Google Translate tells me is not some bloke down the pub but probably something to do with a burning town. Jeez I wish I wasn’t monolingual… Sorry guys. Anyway it’s a sprightly number in a kind of Manilla Road way; you know, neat riff, a little almost proggy touch without detracting from the metal. Throw in a little Slough Feg and you’ve got a vague ballpark idea of where we are. I am going to have to mention the production, so here is as good a place as any – it’s a teeny bit bass-lite for me creating that slightly thin sound but which does nonetheless have the added benefit of making appreciation of individual parts easier which is actually rather nice. Nothing wrong with it but just takes a little adjustment for modern ears. They also sing a lot in their native language which makes a change, and gives us lots of rrrrrrolllled r sounds, and jump languages mid song so no one feels left out.
Hmm..by the time we get to ‘Ruled With An Iron Hand’ the word eccentric is tumbling around my brain in a good way. It’s a four minute song that has so many parts it sounds like a ten minute epic and yet still has a catchy refrain. Follow on ‘Hard Mot De Harda’ (no I’m not going to tell you what translate said there…) is equally eclectic but far more urgent with some excellent vocals and a sense of the dramatic.
It’s kind of impossible not to like Helvetets Port. The hearts on their sleeve enthusiasm and musical dexterity displayed is just so… Fun. Case in point: ‘White Diamond’ (clue – not about cider drinkers in the park) comes on like a bright eyed Slough Feg all folky prog metal, drops into a NWOBHM breakdown, mentions dragons and bounces along like a drunken Gizmo at a gig.
There is a downside however. There are fourteen tracks here which despite all being relatively short is too many, far too many. Despite the odd excellent hook, after a while the ‘scamper, stop, start, scamper, wail’ rhythm gets very difficult. I would say also say that the tempo is pretty much the same, except it changes so many times a song it makes Slough Feg at their most progressive seem almost one riff per song merchants. Add in the sudden high pitched vocals interjecting and almost random sounding backing vocals by the time I reach ‘Thunder Age’ and ‘Night Of The Innocent ‘ I’m utterly exhausted and my brain is actually hurting. Lead breaks come as a blessed relief.
It’s genuinely tricky as I love their talent, their enthusiasm and their idiosyncratic approach and they should be applauded. Just eight or nine songs is enough and at fourteen it begins to disappear into a brain rattling barrage from a randomly firing machine gun.
Well worth trying, well worth trying hard and hopefully many will just fall in love with it. I just need a lie down now.