Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Hefeystos - Hefeystos (1996) 78/100.

Bands like Poland’s Hefeystos exist in numbers, but they dwell in relative obscurity across Central and Eastern European plains. Many lie undiscovered by the masses for long periods of time whilst others develop cult status amongst the few underground followers who have been lucky enough to discover them. Unfortunately for Hefeystos they come under the former category despite the largely accessible nature of their music, particularly on this self-titled debut effort. Having read snippets of background information about the obscure Polish band and putting two-and-two together, I have come to the conclusion, despite not having heard their sophomore full-length, that the band have undergone radical changes to their sound, as well as their line-up, over the years which has been the primary reason for their departure from the black/gothic hybrid of the early days and into the realms of avant-gardé rock, a style which kept the musicians and small sections of fans occupied until their demise at the turn of the century.

I often find a lot of Central and Eastern European bands have accentuated methods when it comes to doing certain things and Hefeystos are no different from the standard. The vocals, for example, normally come in the form of both male, and female, clean voices with both parties allowing their accents to twist the words into an emotive form. Normally I find a lot of Central European accents to be quite cold, including the Polish accent, but when sung in this folksy fashion, the words of the vocalists, both male and female, transform from cold, empty words into one’s with meaning, passion and beauty. The vocals are important when it comes to Hefeystos’ self-titled debut, something which isn’t the case more often than not across the board in regards to black metal outfits. I certainly wouldn’t even begin to classify this album as a black metal record. In actual fact, it sounds very far removed from the black metal scene.

Occasionally, the keyboards, or the vocals show some sign of taking influence from the symphonic side of black metal, but these representatives are often subdued for long periods at a time. However, on the odd occasion, the male vocals do transform from cleanly sung words into watered down rasps, as shown on songs like ‘Magiczny Strumień’, though they only begin to take affect towards the end of the song and, whenever they do appear throughout the record, they’re infrequent and sparse. Whatever black metal elements that do exist, they’re subtle and not all that imperative when it comes to the foreground material. However, in the grand scheme of things, all the elements are tied together surprisingly well for a band so obscure. You could be forgiven for thinking acts like this would be sloppy in their song writing, but Hefeystos’ debut shows a lot of maturity in the song writing, particularly when it comes to the integration of the keyboards, performed eloquently by former member Piotr Weltrowski.

I particularly liked his involvement during songs such as ‘Czarna Łza’, during which he performs his symphonic touches with coolness. Songs like this also highlight the depth in skill when it comes to song writing as Hefeystos manage to successfully integrate an audible bass into the fray despite the distortion, something which is actually also very subdued throughout. I had expected more distortion, more growls, or at least rasps, but most of these elements were sparse and allowed the piano passages, solos and clean vocals to flourish in a not-so-demanding environment. In fact, the album comes across more so as being slightly slow, like a doom metal album, but these is probably when the gothic aesthetics come into play, alongside the charming female vocals provided by the sultry Alicja Szumska whose operatic style is turned down a notch, thankfully. Her voice doesn’t become overbearing, as shown perfectly on ‘Starych Legend Czar’, a song which shows that softer and harsher elements can coexist peacefully on black/gothic hybrids such as this.

Elements like the bass become slightly more repetitive on songs like this, whilst the folksy singing and guitar solos give the song more depth and a splicing of creativity amidst the repetitious factor. Alongside the dark, wicked gothic keyboards, the songs manage to stretch their influence well and manoeuvre between the styles effectively. The vocals, which are typical of Central and Eastern European bands bring everything together and lead from the front deceptively well for such an unknown, reasonably young act. The vocals remind me of bands like Kauan who have managed to integrate small doses of clean vocals into harsher styles, although Hefeystos definitely take this one step further with their consistent use of heavier structures. Despite the cheap look of the artwork and the obscurity of the band, this is a very well put together debut with some very beautiful, touching moments.

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