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Hei'An – Imago Award winner

by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 25 October 2022, 7:02 AM

From their Facebook page, the band lists their style as “Post-Progressive/Post-Modern Metal,”and they are from Slovenia. Their record label stands for “service for artist owned labels,” meaning that this is an independent release. Let’s then forgo any introductions, and get straight to the music. The album has 12 songs. “Semita Tenebrarum” is the first. The tones are tense from spoken word and riffs that hang, ready to be cut loose. Once they are, the music grows cold and somber, and the alarms are raised. What is coming? “Inferno” begins with light, atmospheric elements, and cushy vocals that surround you with warmth. But tense tones in the background warn of something darker. The vocal harmonies are wonderfully melodic, followed by intense harsh vocals that play on the other side of the field. The weight of the harsh vocals increases as the song builds a strong crescendo, with the laments eventually dropping from anger to despair, and the supple closing lyrics of “let me out, let me go.”

“Embers” features a tight jaunt of audible bass notes with some picked leads. The harsh vocals are deadly, and bring with them a whirlwind of backing sounds. The lead guitarist is exceptional, and he leaves a trail of fire on the fretboard following his diligent finger work. “Can’t Get out of my Skin” has a smooth and dreamy sound from the opening vocals and melodic rhythms. The harsh vocals reel with “Help me, I can’t get out of my skin!” while backing synths hold down a beautiful melody line. It’s as pretty as the harsh vocals are dark and extreme. “Escape” begins with more of those silky and ethereal synth sounds and a little bouncy rhythm. So far, this album is very well balanced. It has a bit of a sad sound however…sad but graceful in every meaning of that word. They drive the despair full throttle with harsh vocals and a dismal, almost funeral sound. Clean vocal harmonies slowly eat away at your soul, until there is nothing left but nibbles of your former self.

“In the Cold” is an introspective and pensive song with free flowing melodies. The cold is one of those phenomena’s that once it starts to settle in, it is hard to shake. It could be referring to feeling alone. The harsh vocals represent the subject’s disdain with the situation. The sounds swells towards the end with layers. “Time to Go” is a tale of two competing sounds: melancholy bliss, and heavy, depressive punishment with some fancy guitar rhythms. The keyboard solo towards the end smooths things out and lets the song breathe. “Shut my Eyes” begins with the powerful line of “now I never want to dream again.” When the world becomes indifferent, this is what moves you to just shut everything out. “Noises” is a transitional song with mellow tones and lyrics of “now I’m sitting in my room, noises are my only friend.” Harsh vocals roar in “then it all comes crashing down.”

The title track begins with electronica and soothing, flavorful melodies. The tide is turning, and hope begins to spring forth. The bright color butterfly from the album cover seems to come to life, and even the harsh vocals are tinged with hope. “Ko Te Ni” is sung in the band’s native language. Many of the darker elements from the album are slowly being washed away, and you can feel the cleansing; a sort of rebirth if you will. “Ne I Em Ve Besed” closes the album. Tense, eerie tones open the song, with calming clean vocals. Harsh vocals enter and the song begins to climb…above the mountain spires and clouds, and into the heavens above. What a fitting way to end this listening experience!

Just when you think you might have heard it all under the vast umbrella of Metal music, this band comes along and shatters all of your conventions…it’s heavy, and angry, but dreamy, pensive and graceful. The melodies are so well developed that you can easily get lost in them, following them down a rabbit hole to the point where you don’t care if you ever return to the world above. But alas, you do, and you come back with a new perspective on life and everything that you thought you knew about it. It is dark, and painful, but also so full of beauty and joy, your heart can hardly take a pinch of it.

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 9

5 Star Rating

1. Semita Tenebrarum
2. Inferno
3. Embers
4. Can’t Get out of my Skin
5. Escape
6. Dreamer
7. In the Cold
8. Time to Go
9. Shut my Eyes
10. At the Break of Dawn
11. Noises
12. Imago
13. Ko Te Ni
14. Preteklost
15. Ne I Em Ve Besed
Matic Blagonič - Hei'An – Vocals, Guitar
Matevž Počič – Guitar
Peter Smrdel – Bass
Gaj Bostič – Drums
Record Label: SAOL Records


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