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Helge - Neuroplasticity

by Matt Bozenda at 15 June 2022, 9:39 PM

It’s been said so much and so blithely that sometimes it really doesn’t fit, but truly, music can be therapeutic. The effectiveness can vary from person to person or even band to band, but when a listener connects to what they’re hearing and can get a spiritually cleansing moment from it, the results are much more clear cut than what we saw between Tony Soprano and Dr. Melfi and certainly for less money.

Catharsis isn’t limited to the listener, however, because sometimes it’s the artist who stands to gain peace of mind. One such example comes to us from Denmark, where HELGE, an atmospheric Black/Death hybrid outfit, serves as an ongoing therapy session for lead guitarist and main songwriter HELGE NØRBYGAARD. Since recording a song back in 1996, the band’s concept spent the following twenty-five years germinating while the man himself struggled with personal issues like addiction and depression. After gathering some like-minded friends and musicians, the band was born in mid-2021, culminating in this year’s full-length debut, “Neuroplasticity”.

While not exactly mind-bending, the Black/Death hybrid sound employed here is done well enough that fans of either genre could find it accessible. Track one “Disavow” achieves the mixture, even adding a few lines of clean vocals towards the end, and all the while creating an incredible atmosphere through simple reverb. That easy-does-it formula carries on in tracks like “Thrall” and “The Calling Wakan Tanka”, the latter of which also shifts dominances between Black and Death.

A diversion is made on “Depressive Waters”, which begins heavily in the Death corner while occasionally injecting Black elements, followed by “With The Attention Of A Million”, which swaps those features. “Lack Of Serotonin” also takes a separate path, coming on slowly before picking up speed, then ending rather abruptly.

The album’s two longest tracks seem to have traits from all camps. “Dying To Become…” starts with an older, almost Gothy vibe during a Death-dominant intro before vacillating between that and their Black side. Coming in at nearly twelve minutes, “Venomous Breath” isn’t quite the heavyweight it seems; a pleasant acoustic intro gives way to the formula that worked before, but the back third of the song is all atmosphere with a miasmic bell-toll signaling no end. The closer, “Satori”, which means ‘enlightenment’, is little more than nine seconds of static, a powerful statement if one cares to hear it.

So, after forty-eight minutes it might feel a bit overcooked, but “Neuroplasticity” doesn’t overstay, at least. The six tracks which are near or under five minutes are all good, the two titan tracks have a flawed charm to them, and even the filler tracks aren’t totally meaningless. All told, this is a pretty solid debut for HELGE; the band has clearly put in some effort, and while they didn’t exactly ‘hold back’, as it were, there is still very much more to be seen from them.

“Neuroplasticity” is neither too much nor too little; it is exactly as ‘whemling’ as it needs to be. It’s not trying to be impressive with technical finanglings or crazy gimmicks, unless you count the stark white album art with the magic mushrooms on it. This album just works, even if it won’t quite be an Album-Of-The-Year frontrunner. Fans of Black metal, Death metal, and their hybrid, should have no issues with what HELGE has done, and will find it good for listening in all scenarios. Everyone else is on their own.

Musicianship: 8
Songwriting: 7
Memorability: 7
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Disavow
2.Dying To Become…
3. Cordyceps
4. Thrall
5. The Calling Wakan Tanka
6. Depressive Waters
7. With The Attention Of A Million
8. Lack Of Serotonin
9. Venomous Breath
10. Satori
Danny Woe - vocals
Torsten Madsen - vocals
Christoffer Djurhuus - drums
Balder Smed - guitar
Henrik J∅rgensen - bass
Helge N∅rbygaard - guitar
Record Label: Vendetta Records


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