Written by: PP on 01/04/2009 14:38:24

I've always been under the impression that black metal diverged from death metal mainly in thematics and vocal style, but essentially I've always considered it to be a rather brutal genre, unwelcoming to anyone without a few years worth of solid experience to contemporary bands in the genre. And although the technical shredding and the quintessential black metal shriek of vocalist in Hellsaw seem to support that idea, there's a surprisingly strong acoustic melody element stuffed in between the blackened melodies here. Lets take the album opener "A Suicide Journey", for instance, which begins with an extensive acoustic guitar interlude not far akin to material you're used to hearing on later Opeth albums, immediately expanding Hellsaw's closed black metal universe by a boatload. And when the song further varies its tempo between contemporary black metal tremolo-style shredding and quieter, more melodic passages, there are enough moments of interest to last for the entirety of the eight minutes that the song lasts.

The same approach continues on "The Black Death", with tremolo shredding forming the base of Hellsaw's sound, which is then expanded with melodic bits and a number of different vocal styles ranging from 'the shriek' to somewhat uglier barks and yells to make things sound as bleak as possible. Here, too, one can hear the dual-guitar sounds of "The Grand Conjuration"-era Opeth naturally infiltrating the black metal sound, and while some genre elitists may dislike the melancholy-effect, I'll happily sign a document extending its use on further Hellsaw albums. Then we've got songs like "Der Harzwald", which features a similar Viking/Pirate styled humming as Grave Digger demonstrated on "Ballads Of A Hangman", and "I Saw Hell", which brings forth a more punk-oriented approach of chord-based riffing throughout the song. The most melody can perhaps be heard on "Ache", which even has a somewhat folksy rhythm to the intro guitars before it's back to the tremolo shredding. It's also here where the band is at their catchiest (if there is such thing for black metal), considering the bouncy fretwork and the whisperous vocal passages leave at least somewhat of a memory in the mind of the listener, unlike the two interlude tracks "1 F" and "Sulphur Prayer", which I would've personally left out, as they are nothing but irrelevant feedback noise and boring instrumentals, serving no actual purpose on the record.

What more can be said about "Cold" that doesn't include the words "tremolo", "shredding" or "shriek"? Not much, as those are the three elements that dominate the entire album, not surprisingly since they are also how black metal is defined. But the occasional acoustic guitar and other elements in the band's music make this somewhat more interesting than your average black metal record, even if it's not near being the best in the genre this year.

Download: Ache, A Suicide Journey
For the fans of: Endstille, Nagelfar, Enthroned
Listen: Myspace

Release date 30.03.2009
Napalm Records

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