OK, I love most things symphonic, orchestral, folky and more, so HOLLENTHON would sound like a dream come true for me, right? Well, with all the incredible reviews their two previous efforts “Domus Mundi” and “With Vilest Of Worms To Dwell” have garnered, you would think I was all over them, correct? Well, it might come as a shock to you that I have never heard either of them and I don’t even know why!
Now, seven years after “With Vilest Of Worms To Dwell” Martin Schirenc is back with the third strike, titled “Opus Magnum” and for the first time ever I can sink my teeth into the Austrian quartet’s music, hoping that it would live up to both the title and the reputation of the band. And when I put the CD in, I had originally expected “On The Wings Of A Dove” to be somewhat of a quiet intro, but hell no, the opening sequence already floored me. Heavy symphonics with thundering guitars and drums, and some choirs, which results in an incredible beginning, after which things get a little harsher with the introduction of Martin’s harsh vocals, which add an element of malice contrasting with the music itself, but overall it is very nice to see a great balance between symphonics and heaviness, the orchestral elements never take over the song, like more than a few roughly comparable bands let it happen.
Something worth noting, btw, is that after the PUNGENT STENCH reunion-induced dormancy of HOLLENTHON Martin did not only re-awaken this band, but even erected a full line-up, not just him with hired guns to man the rest of the instruments, just had to add this. The following “To Fabled Lands” then cranks up both the choirs and the progressiveness up a notch or two, which sometimes distracts a little from the song itself, but that is just one flaw, “Son Of Perdition” puts more of an emphasis on the Metal and also is considerably straighter and catchier than the previous song, but without sacrificing any of the fascinating facets that HOLLENTHON stand for, including an ethereal section with the voice of his wife Elena.
And the at times vast differences that we encounter within the first three songs continue to thread through the remainder of the album, obviously with the symphonic and the Metal side as pillars to the left and right, but the web woven in-between is ever changing and brings harsh vocals, clear voices, lush choirs, oriental influences (just listen to closing epos “Misterium Babel”!) and orchestrations in ever-varying ratios together, all of which play important roles in making “Opus Magnum” such an equally challenging and memorable album. What makes HOLLENTHON (well, Martin) is that they know how to sweep from one passage to the other with masterful ease and dynamics, avoiding the dreaded breakdown of the song’s flow, while still staying complex and demanding on the listener, who will need a few rotations to actually sort through everything for the best listening experience, finding new details with every repeated session.
As mentioned before, I cannot gauge, where “Opus Magnum” stands within HOLLENTHON’s discography, but it is an excellent album that will be able to boggle your mind and smother you in its embrace (sometimes at the same time) and that will need some time, but shows amazing compositorial prowess and musicianship, which probably will satiate the hunger of fans of the first two albums and should be able to garner the Austrians many more fans, which definitely includes me!
(Online October 20, 2008)