Opus Magnum

Written by: EW on 04/06/2008 19:56:57

Hollenthon have burst back into life after a seven-year break since their previous album with their third album "Opus Magnum". This re-energising of the band is largely down to the dissolution of mainman Martin Schirenc's previous band, the Death Metal weirdo's Pungent Stench, and represents a completely different direction to what was produced by the aforementioned Stench. The difficulty in describing quite what this sound is, is summed up by the bands' Metal-archives.com page where their genre tag is "Symphonic/Orchestral/Folk/Melodic Death Metal", whatever that means! What strikes you as the listener above anything else is the hugely symphonic nature of the music, so I guess no surprises it takes lead place on the list of genres Hollenthon occupy. The symphonic element is most closely reminiscent to recent Dimmu Borgir, who also aren't a bad point of reference for the vocals, with Schirenc spewing forth a semi-growled/semi-sung style which compliments the harder Metal edge well without sitting uncomfortably amongst the vast percussive influence on the album. An alternative view of the well-produced symphonic elements also leads to me thinking of Turisas' "The Varangian Way", where the heavy down-tuned riffing holds hands (and more, ooeerr) with the epic sound of Classical strings. At times the two are kept safely separate but even when combined, as for instance during "Son of Perdition", the result is excellent and doesn't result in the pomposity of some Turisas nor the overly-ambitious nature of, well, most Classicaly-influenced Power Metal.

To confuse matters even more so, 'Operatic' could be added to the list of genres above as the soaring female vocal talents of Elena Schirenc (Martin's wife apparently - could 'Family Metal' join the list?) are used frequently, generally in countenance with the group male vocals to the similar effect of many male/female gothic Metal bands. Now I must admit, I've never been the biggest fan of such styles, in fact I generally hate all female vocals in Metal, but there's something about the ghostly soprano sounds of Elena that I can enjoy. Perhaps it's that they are not over-used, allowing the harsher male vocals and the excellent string-sounds to take the lead. There really is much to admire about "Opus Magnum", with interesting additions constantly appearing upon each listen, including the use of exotic, ethnic melodies in "Once We Were Kings" and "Misterium Babel" as well as the blatant usage of a Iron Maiden riff in "To Fabled Lands". Solos aren't in abundance but nor are they missed with so much else going on, however the lead solo in "Of Splendid Worlds" deserves special mention for just being, splendid really.

I can imagine the lyrics to be of a grandiose and epic nature too, however unfortunately I was not provided them in this promo copy so will just have to leave that to you to find out when you buy it! If any compliment is something to cherish it's that Wagner would be proud of some of the bombastic symphonic movements on show here and to combine them effectively with heavy, fast riffing is a challenge Schirenc has exceeded in. Purely from a Classical viewpoint I would love to hear the inclusion of 'real' classical instruments on the next Hollenthon album instead of keyboard effects but don't let that put you off - this doesn't sound contrived or 'fake' at all, in fact it's a brilliant success of an album showcasing many elements rarely touched on in the world of Heavy/Extreme Metal.


Download: On the Wings of a Dove, To Fabled Lands, Misterium Babel
For The Fans Of: Dimmu Borgir, Turisas, Wagner
Listen: Myspace

Release date 02.06.2008
Napalm Records

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