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Hevilan - Symphony Of Good And Evil

Symphony Of Good And Evil
by Kira Schlechter at 29 March 2021, 9:42 AM

A title like “Symphony Of Good And Evil” sets you up for something grand – a big Concept with a capital C. HEVILAN’s latest presents itself as a Concept album, capital C – the artwork, the title, even some of the song titles themselves. This is only the Brazilian prog/symphonic metal band’s second album since 2013’s “The End of Time”; they got together in 2005. So prolific, they are not. And you wouldn’t necessarily gather that this is indeed a concept album from all the individual songs – some, but not all. So it’s a concept, small c.

The opener, “Dark Paradise,” is 100 percent prog in the erratic rhythms, the quick shifts in tempo, the fact that you can’t latch on to a groove for very long, which is good and not so good in some ways. Johnny’s solo guitar over the chorus is a descant, a treble soaring over the throatiness of the riffing; the punch of the groove at points throughout gives it drive. Alex’s voice is a gritty tenor, much in the vein of DIO in the snarl and the rasp and the vibrato. It’s not super clear what this introduces exactly in terms of the action – the chorus alludes to it perhaps when it says, “Now we'll find through the mystic ride/There’s no other way to be saved from your sins,” then verse two mentions “the waking of Azazel” (him being the fallen angel of the Bible, the scapegoat, upon whom sins were projected and he would take them away). The second chorus changes to “Now we’ll find through this glory ride/There’s no other path to be craved for your sins,” so it’s taking the Biblical and flipping it. Another example of that is the spoken/sung transition after each verse (the spoken part could be more discernible) – “Blessed are the strong, for they shall possess the earth, cursed here are the weak/Be blessing the powerful, for they shall be revered men, cursed here are the feeble” (the second time through has similar ideas). So we see here that we have a scenario mocking Biblical themes toward a more sinister end.

“Rebellion Of The Saints” starts with a choir singing what seems like the chorus, but it could be A. louder and B. mixed a whole lot more clearly, because if you don’t have lyrics, what they are saying is impossible to discern. The treatment of choir vocals becomes an even bigger issue later on. What they are saying, though, is a pretty generic call to arms – “Believe in yourself, believe in your faith/We’ll come and claim for a reason/Believe in your work, believe in my words/We’ll come and march for freedom” – but it’s not clear what role the choir is supposed to be playing. The syncopated groove here is more straightforward and consistent. The first verse strips down to just the vocal and drums, the guitar drifting in and out; the second verse starts out much quieter for no real reason, certainly not for its kind of trite sentiment (“In this life/Sometimes we need more than people can see/So just believe and fill your time to make all your dreams come true”). It’s also not clear what the title refers to since nothing in the lyrics really supports it; there’s a reference to an “I,” but it’s not apparent who that is – God? It’s just not clear.

“Great Battle” starts and ends with a perfectly fine hectic tempo and melodic riffing, underscored by kick drums. It’s depicting some sort of journey, it seems (“Finding the path beyond/The circle of fire/Into the wilderness we go/Falling down for peace”), but to where and to what end is a mystery. There’s an awkward line here and there, too, that doesn’t help clarify things, like “Praying on these grounds/Living up by their other sounds.” The chorus itself is brighter sounding, more optimistic, and it sounds lovely, but it’s uncertain what it’s saying: “We follow the signs of untruth/The inner consent/We’re hiding the drifter alone/Helping uncreate, craving to understand.” The second time through it changes to “The river descent/We’re leaving the drifter behind” – it’s intriguing in its way, but its meaning is tantalizingly (and getting frustratingly) vague. And despite its title, there’s no reference at all to any sort of battle. Alex sings with great conviction, but “craving to understand” is right – you’re waiting for a moment where you go, “Oh yeah, that’s what we’re talking about,” but it doesn’t come.

Syncopated with a nice crunchy bite, “Here I Am” is short, dark, and ominous, like a foreshadowing. Biek’s bass in the beginning of the chorus is really cool and it’s set to an interesting looping tempo. I had lyrics, but virtually none of them matched what was actually being sung, so based on the chorus, where the lyrics were correct, something has been freed: “And now here I am … And now I am free,” “The battlefield made me strong” (although if that’s a reference to the previous song, where we heard nothing of a battle, we’ll have to take his word for it).

Isn’t it funny how you can spot a ballad by the title alone before you even hear a note? That’s what we have with “Always In My Dreams.” The acoustic motif that starts and ends it is perfectly pleasant, Alex’s singing is just fine, it’s mixed well, it’s intimate, it rises to a nice emotional finish at the end. The guitar solos are fine, if typical power ballad fare. But it’s a jarring change from the heaviness of the previous track and it’s to no real purpose – I don’t know who the character is who’s singing or the “you” (“That can’t escape the rush of you”) he’s singing it to (the line, “When even thoughts can’t meet blue eyes” is about our only hint). There’s little lyrical changes that again are intriguing but indecipherable, as to why they were done (“And there’s more behind your lies” changes to “And there’s more beside your lies”). It’s certainly hopeful (“For now, let this memory be gone/A future lies ahead for us/The sun will rise for all”), and the chorus lifts and soars as it should in a ballad.

Midway through, we finally reach a track that says something and says it quite well. “Devil Within Part I (Evil Approaches)” is a very nice example of music paralleling the action. A chilly, spare guitar melody and choir vocal is the lead-in to Alex’s crooned, suspenseful verse as he says, “The Devil grows in my soul.” As the music builds, layering drums and riffing below that same guitar melody, his voice grows in confidence, like he’s emerging into his power (“The power of Devil in me”) and that’s well done and consistent in feel and purpose. By Part II (“Hammer Of The Gods”), we let loose, getting nasty and punchy and raw, and this being who claims, “I’m God” proceeds to turn it all on its ear. If we assume this is God talking, perhaps the previous part is God seeing that he’s really the Devil after all, to simplify it – he says, “People given me a lot of names/I eluded and separated nations/Too many people died for me/I feed the fear in your conscience/I’m the creator of sinners and saints/They pray for me and/I don’t listen to anyone/There is only greed.” Now there’s a damn fine plot twist. The chorus builds on that idea: “I watch everything you do for me,” this being says, and notes, “I was created by you (humans?) and now I fly alone,” and brags, “I’m religion! I rule the world … You belong to me/When you cry I will be your only hope/Bring a false comfort to your soul/And you keep your faith in my paradise,” and sneers, “Nobody told you I’m the Liar” and “I laugh/I keep watching the fools following my words.” At the end he asserts, “I’m religion! You are my slave/I’m religion!/ Your mind is mine.” There’s an interlude and solo built on a terrific stop-and-start then elongated groove and a reprise of the chorus melody. We do keep mentioning the word “lust,” here and in “Dark Paradise” and “Great Battle,” but it never pans out – what kind of lust? Sexual? Lust for power? It’s just a word that’s bandied about, it seems to be just because it sounds good. But I’ll take it here because it fits the idea of the song.

In another dead giveaway on the title, yup, “Waiting For The Right Time” is another midtempo ballad – and it fits into the story how? After the previous dead-on, sophisticated track, we get a meandering, too-long song that moons over “the right girl and the best for me” and “To find my love once again” and “Forever only you.” There’s some very awkward wording here too, like “In the night I try to safe my sane.” Alex’s voice is sweet and so is the vocal harmony, but some of his vocal affectations turn cloying by the end. It inexplicably picks up and gets heavy and changes key after the chorus and again at the end and boy, is it misplaced – it’s just dropped in for absolutely no reason. The album could have lost both this and “Always In My Dreams” and been far better for it.

The closing four-part title track begins with “Symphony Of Good And Evil Part I (“Revelation”), the symphonic side of their persona, all orchestration and completely sung by a choir. But the words are nearly impossible to discern and hard to interpret – it mentions “the Prophet of Revelation” who “walks between life and death/Singing the song”; there’s a kind of open-ended or self-congratulatory line in “What really matters about good and evil/The Reason of life/Revealed in a powerful song”; and we reach a happy ending without any real struggle (“The kingdom of light comes to you/Peace and love everywhere/Mankind know the truth” and “The Divine redeems the land/Salvation reigns on the throne”).

Part II (“Dark Ages)” is the prog side again, but it’s a mishmash of orchestration, an odd jagged rhythm with weird guitar, bass, and drum interjections, and a whole lot of heavy-handed playing that goes at complete cross purposes tempo-wise with the choir (which again sings this one) and drowns it out completely. And again, you can’t make out the words at all – I only realized they sang the whole thing when I made out a phrase or two at the end. The lyrics suit the title in that they mention the Dark Ages when “Kings and popes now are hiding the truth of all/Fire and pain, all angels cry/Satan lives on earth and makes its rules” and the return of “the Age of Light” and the “rebellion of the saints” (which refers to the earlier song in name only, certainly not in theme).

Part III (“Song Of Rebellion”) returns to the metal and the choir, but thankfully only briefly on the latter before Alex takes over again. This is another intriguing little musing that puts forth the idea that “An ancient prophet/Once wrote a powerful song/That would bring the human being into light” but “Ambitious kings/Hid the revelation in the past/Established religions to confuse everyone.” The prechorus expands on that idea – “Truth or lie/Myth or tale/Choose your god and go pray/Odin or Thor/Zeus or Hades/All gods in the same song” – and later, there’s the clever parallel, “Day after day/Horus and Seth fighting on/They fight to see who will reign on the throne of Egypt” and “In another place/Lucifer and the horde from Hell/Are burning the heavens and the Angels of God.” Both sections support the chorus and the title, the whole idea of “the symphony of good and evil.” It’s well constructed and thought-out. A very long guitar solo with lots of Johnny’s pyrotechnics and dabbles in classical and Eastern sounds is everything but the kitchen sink – it’s nice, but it’s OK to leave a little in your back pocket and not give us EVERYTHING you can do.

And it’s back to the choir again in “Part IV (“Epilogue”), but again their words are lost, and it’s a shame, because what they have to say ultimately – “Eden shines at The End of the Gods” – is pretty thought-provoking, as if to say maybe we would be better off without gods at all. I just wish you could hear it, because it has no punch at all. If Alex would have sung it, it might have had an impact, but it’s a copout and a letdown to end it this way.

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

3 Star Rating

1. Dark Paradise
2. Rebellion Of The Saints
3. Great Battle
4. Here I Am
5. Always In My Dreams
6. Devil Within Part I (Evil Approaches)
7. Devil Within Part II (Hammer Of The Gods)
8. Waiting For The Right Time
9. Symphony Of Good And Evil Part I (Revelation)
10. Symphony Of Good And Evil Part II (Dark Ages)
11. Symphony Of Good And Evil Part III (Song Of Rebellion)
12. Symphony Of Good And Evil Part IV (Epilogue)
Alex Pasqualle - Vocals
Johnny Moraes - Guitar
Biek Yohaitus - Bass, Orchestrations
Rafael Dyszy - Drums
Record Label: Brutal Records


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Edited 06 February 2023

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