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Hess - Harpokrates

by Tiago Masseti at 03 December 2019, 10:22 PM

As 2019 marches near its end, one can definitely say that there is a growing trend in the Heavy Metal market: old-school-sounding bands with female musicians. Acts like BURNING WITCHES and AVATARIUM being signed to major labels show that Metal is slowly waking up to the fact that it has been a male-dominated genre and that “female-fronted” bands should not be a genre in itself, since the term has nothing to do with the music. And, as far as originality goes, getting some regular riff and ordinary chord progression but putting a female voice on top of that immediately makes you stand out a bit. And the Argentinians in HESS did a great job with that, as the front-woman and founder Melani Hess sounds like a female version of an 80’s Bruce Dickinson.

Every aspect of “Harpokrates” takes you to an alternative reality where giants like IRON MAIDEN and BLACK SABBATH could have had female musicians in their line-ups. The songwriting, the performances and the overall sound really resembles the 80’s era of those bands. The opener “King Aiwass” has this galloping riff that we heard far too many times before but when Hess starts to sing you get a pleasant surprise. Her vibrato, her range and her aggressiveness are very heartfelt and controlled and, very unusually for South American bands, her English sounds good as well! You can also hear some classical training in the way she articulates the vowels and finishes her sentences. “God of Silence” starts with a more unconventional riff, has some MALMSTEEN-influenced guitar leads and a cool solo, that shows the band’s blend of Adrian Smith and Dave Murray at their best. “Thoth” slows down the tempo a bit to make room for waltz-like grooves, big chants and long-stretching verses. This is where the singer’s strengths shine the most. Halfway through the song the pacing goes up again and the old MAIDEN comes back with great hooks and riffs.

“The Outsider” is a great contender for this album’s best song. The passionate hook that cries “a stranger among the living men/a stranger among the children of death” and the entire instrumental crescendo that follows it will definitely give you chills. “Heroes” starts with the most MAIDENesque bass intro topped with guitar leads, but when the vocals kick in…it’s sung in Spanish! Singing in their native language feels refreshing and courageous and it’s finally something that bands all across the world are starting to do more and more. For decades Metal fans in South America have claimed that Heavy music didn’t work in other languages and high quality bands with good singers are proving this to be nonsense. If someone tells you that Heavy Metal cannot be sung in Spanish without sounding weird just play them “Heroes” by HESS. “Battle of Maldon” is a groovy track with powerful riffs, great hooks and probably the best guitar solo of the album to that point. Next, “Chaos at Uruk” sounds like a cross between IRON MAIDEN and YNGWIE MALMSTEEN with hints of RAINBOW. Here is where Melani Hess ultimately establishes herself as a singer you should pay attention to in the future. “Atlantean Dreams” and “Hagalaz” end the album with a fair amount of competence but might make you miss a bit more diversity towards the closer. The one-hour length might be too much for the more progressive listener.

If one had to define this album in a sentence it would have to be “80’s IRON MAIDEN with a female vocalist”. No song in here is trying to reinvent the wheel but the fact that they are making good old Heavy Metal with some Spanish thrown in and with a woman singing makes it relevant right off the bat. It is also a fierce statement to the entire South American underground scene. It shows once again that an above-average singer can make a good song sound great. And that a singer who wants to sing in English needs to know…well, English.

Songwriting: 7
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 6
Production: 8

3 Star Rating

1. King Aiwass
2. God of Silence
3. Thoth
4. The Outsider
5. Heroes
6. Battle of Maldon
7. Chaos at Uruk
8. Atlantean Dreams
9. Hagalaz
Melani Hess - Vocals
Diego Schmidhalter - Lead Guitars
Ariel Schefer - Guitars
Eric Knudsen - Bass
Martin Blengino - Drums
Record Label: Sonic Age Records


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