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Hellias - Eight Cardinal Sins

Eight Cardinal Sins
by Daniel Stefanov at 18 July 2017, 11:37 AM

"Eight Cardinal Sins" is the latest full-length release of Polish thrash veterans HELLIAS. The band has been assaulting the Eastern scene for almost thirty years with different takes on the thrash formula. The current album is their first full release since 2009's "A.D. Darkness". It is immediately clear that the Polish team has not sat idle in that time - the sound is different yet again, and production is noticeably better. The album immediately catches the eye with its cover art, drowned in commanding shades red, featuring the powerful imagery of a cathedral-come-alive, devouring nearly identical faceless men walking willingly to their fate/faith. The immense cliché that it is, challenging religion is a proven formula that works in metal, and this here cover scores above the average quality for the genre (the #1 spot is for King Diamond's "House of God" art, if you were wondering). The impression of an acceptably over-exaggerated cliché, successfully beating mediocrity, but falling short of greatness, seamlessly translates into the music.

The album unfortunately opens on a narration, which, unsurprisingly, is terrible and cheesy. Those of stronger mental composition, who are able to suppress the "um, yeah, about that…" that the intro evokes, are treated to a decently evil, aggressive, fast thrash assault from "Devilish Cycle" - the first song on the record. Opening the album with confidence, HELLIAS get straight to the point with "Eight Cardinals Sins", which showcases the direction they have taken for the whole album. It becomes apparent that the band has shaken off the blackish influences of their previous release in favor of a bit more atmospheric mid-tempo sound. While this on its own is not a bad thing at all, it puts a lot of strain on the vocals and composition, which seemingly struggle to carry the weight. Now, the vocals are decent, but having an overall slower, less aggressive sound, means the memorability of the album hangs on the melody and how the singer presents it. The riffs are great, and the occasional melodic breaks are also decent, technically the tracks are impressive, however there is a lack of a coherent idea throughout the album. This is not necessarily a bad thing either, and it could have worked fine with the style HELLIAS nailed with their harsher 2009 album, but coupling slower riff-driven songs with cleaner, yet not very melodic vocals and lack of sustaining melody in the songs, leads to very good technical heavy songs, that sometimes end up being totally boring and impossible to remember. In fact, "A.D. Darkness" may have overall stronger and more memorable melodies, despite being faster and rougher. That does not mean "Eight Cardinal Sins" is worse, but it could have been even better.

There are exceptions, of course, the eponymous track "Eight Cardinal Sins" bangs the formula on the head with its great rhythm section, evil backing vocals and melodic yet menacing lead vocals. "Deliverance", which is my favorite track on the record, even manages to improve on that, adding atmospheric parts, offsetting the brutal ones, and a beautiful chorus that sits in between. Also, the second half of the album is overall more colorful than the first one, with better examples of faster and harder songs, like "Twelve Angry Men", as well as more atmospheric sections, like those in "Deliverance" and "Pair of Sparks". The album closes strongly on "Judas the King", which has a very bold and memorable retro-sounding chorus and a bit questionable verses. The sound is better than the previous releases, with the only little remark that the guitars are occasionally too dominating, and, as usual, I would have loved more prominent and deeper drums.

"Eight Cardinal Sins" leaves me with mixed feelings. On one hand, it is slower, heavier blend of thrash, which is usually what I prefer. However, the weight of the music has to resonate with the weight of the feelings its melody evokes. For example, while OVERKILL's harder approach may inspire me to beat the ever living crap out of someone, KREATOR's heavy blend oozes such a crushing, deep-rooted hatred, that it steps over mere face-fisting and transcends into "I will spend 2 years concocting a revenge plot to ruin your worthless life and to make sure everyone that you love despises you until they die, as I pretend to be your friend, just so I can spend the next 15 years witnessing your demise into crippling depression first-hand, because that's how much I hate you, you miserable sod". And while HELLIAS'es music sounds like the latter, its delivery and overall feel gives the impression of a cigarette-smoking 17-year-old rapper flipping the bird and yelling obscenities to a bus driver for not letting them ride for free. It's a conflicting imagery, I know, but as I said, the album left me with mixed feelings. Definitely a good album, though, did enjoy listening to it!

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 6
Memorability: 4
Production: 8

3 Star Rating

1. Intro
2. Devilish Circle
3. Eight Cardinals Sins
4. Ant Democracy
5. Mental Violence
6. Angels Make War
7. Deliverance
8. Pair of Sparks
9. Twelve Angry Man
10. Baader Meinhof
11. Sin City
12. Judas the King
Karol Mandozzi - Guitars
Młody Karson - Bass
Wojciech Wojnowski - Drums
Paweł Góralczyk - Guitars
Piotr Foryś - Vocals
Record Label: Old Temple Records


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