Originally reviewed here.
Sounding like a dream that keeps getting stranger and stranger, going off the rails towards oblivion, Melencolia Estatica's Hel is one of the more surprising albums of the year. The album is a concept piece centered around Fritz Lang's masterpiece of early cinema, Metropolis. I will admit to being somewhat naive about that piece, having only read about it or heard others talk about it. I have never seen it myself, though the pieces I have seen would suggest a fairly powerful message.
Melencolia Estatica is the project of Climaxia, who performs the bass and guitar duties. She, that's right she, is the only stable member of the group. The vocals are handled by Afthenktos, who possesses a fairly impressive range for a black metal vocal style, which is used to terrific effect over the course of this album. Melencolia Estatica has been making some noise in the depths of the Italian black metal underground for a few years now. This is the group's third full-length album.
The music is dark and suffocating. The atmosphere is extremely foreboding. All of which serves to drive home the underlying threat of the demise of mankind as found in the film that inspired this album. This is doom-laden black metal that always sounds slightly unhinged and deranged. It is unpredictable and chaotic. At times it is ethereal and dreamlike and at others it is torturous and aggressive. The soundscapes crafted by Climaxia take hold deep within the soul and refuse to let go. The album is deeply affecting.
This is definitely music for headphones. The vocal effects come across best that way. The whispers and screams from the void are much more effective through the use of headphones instead of stereo speakers. Besides, it is much easier to get lost in the music that way. To shut everything else out and let it whisk you away.
I found myself completely engrossed in this album. And it got stronger and stronger with repeated listens. This is one of the biggest surprises of 2012 for me. An absolutely breathtaking experience.