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Helleborus - The Carnal Sabbath Award winner

The Carnal Sabbath
by Anna Chase at 18 March 2017, 6:37 PM

Even before I listened to their album, I knew that HELLEBORUS was a rare breed. Consisting of only two band members- brothers Wyatt and Jerred Houseman (formerly of Excretion and Akhenaten), they weave together a polished and surprisingly good album for the mostly underground North American Black Metal scene. When most of us think of Black Metal, we think of Norway, Sweden, Finland, or some other icy European country with dark forests. However, “The Carnal Sabbath” proves that Black Metal within the U.S.A. is very much alive. Now, I must admit I’m a little biased. I’m a huge fan of DIMMU BORGIR, DARKTHRONE, CARACH ANGREN, and pretty much any Symphonic Black Metal. I’m not exaggerating, though, when I say that I was extremely impressed with HELLEBORUS’s meld of Death and Black Metal into one mind-blowing experience of an album, especially given that it was their first.

The album’s opening song, “Helleborus Black,” is a chugging explosion of DARKTHRONE-like riffs and Wyatt’s vocals. The vocals were especially striking due to the hollow reverb effect, and Jerred’s breakneck solo was mind-blowing. I think that the band’s decision to skip the intro track, which is used by pretty much every Symphonic Black Metal act, was a smart one. It leads the listener right into a badass song that flies along into a growling melody, and clearly showcases the band’s talent before the first minute is complete. “Coils” is a decidedly slower but still heavy track that showcases the symphonic riffs and intense drumbeats of the band. S. Wyatt’s voice takes center stage yet again, rippling to life in an evil-sounding distortion, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.

The third track, “Edge of Black Waters,” was my personal favorite, and one of the best new Black Metal songs I’ve heard in quite a while. I don’t give that compliment out unless it’s well deserved. The beginning riff is intoxicatingly catchy, and adds just the right amount of Atmospheric Electronica to the song’s sound. The bluesy solo near the 3:30 mark is also an unexpected and unique addition to an album that is pure, unadulterated Black Metal. Jerred’s background of melodic and masterful guitar work provides the perfect contrast to Wyatt’s harsh, grating vocals and creates a song that I would listen to again and again.

“Colored Spores of Yuggoth” provides a waveringly trippy ride through the cosmic world of HELLEBORUS. The background drums are a ruthless attack on the ears, while the vocals become increasingly robotic and warped. This track harkened back to DIMMU BORGIR’s electronic roots, using beautiful orchestral melodies overlapping with Wyatt’s classic Black Metal sound. The discordant and searing electric guitar of “The Poison of Sleep” lays over the steady drum rhythm with ease, and I especially enjoyed Wyatt’s vocals in the chorus on this song. His raspy and raw vocals are the perfect point of focus. However, I especially liked the slowed-down section in which his menacing whispers can be heard over the bass riffs.

I was equally impressed with its follow-up, “Temple of Seventh Death.” Its grinding, depressive sound reminds me of “Tales From the Thousand Lakes”-era AMORPHIS, and I love how enchantingly the delicate guitar melody blends with the vocals to create four minutes and 24 seconds of what can only be classified as the purest Black Metal. I didn’t think the album could possibly get any better within the last two tracks however, I was wrong. “Gift of Renewal” drew me in with its flowing, clear guitar riffs and layered melodies. The vocals were also muted down compared to the rest of the album. I think this fit the track perfectly. It allowed me to hear some of the lyrics that S. Wyatt also writes, which was an added bonus. The title track, “The Carnal Sabbath,” is undoubtedly a culmination of all of the different styles HELLEBORUS put into this album. It transitions from screaming vocals and hammering drumbeats to slow, grooving riffs in a snap-second and ends the album with a bang.

Now, in conclusion, I must put out a disclaimer. I almost never, ever give albums a perfect rating. No matter how strong an album is there is usually some kind of weakness. However, this album is nearly perfect. It’s a prime example of what a Black Metal album should be. My only criticism would be that sometimes the vocals become monotonous, but that is to be expected within the realm of Black Metal. Overall, I think this is one of the strongest albums I’ve ever heard from a band that isn’t very well known, and I know that you’ll be playing it on repeat if you give it a chance.

Songwriting: 9
Originality: 9
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

1. Helleborus Black
2. Coils
3. Edge of Black Waters
4. Colored Spores of Yuggoth
5. Draconian Discipline
6. The Poison of Sleep
7. Temple of Seventh Death
8. Gift of Renewal
9. The Carnal Sabbath
S. Wyatt Houseman- Vocals
Jerred Houseman- Lead guitar and all other instruments
Record Label: Satanath Records


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