HEL from German Lüdenscheid are one of those bands that I had thought completely lost, had they released their debut “Orloeg” way back in 1999 and had I not heard anything of them whatsoever ever since. Well, they still are around and the follow up to their ingenious debut listens to the title “Falland Vörandi“ and has proud 20 tracks (ok, 10 of them are under two minutes of playing time). And why becomes clear as soon as you take a look at the concept of the disc, for here HEL are very ambitioned, taking on a topic that has been realised several times before, but most bands have fallen flat on the nose before: Balder’s Death.
It deals with the tragic story of light god Balder, who has been betrayed by Loki and was killed in a very sneaky way. Of course there is a LOT more to it than that, if you’d like to read some more, have a look at this site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baldr. And even though HEL are only a duo, they have not taken the easy way out, but enlisted 16 guest musicians to realise this epic theme and it shows, for the musical realization is far more than just the usual Pagan/Viking Metal that we usually get these days, but contains excellent clear vocals, male and female, choirs, hoarse warrior roars and almost anything in between, bringing in a lot of depth. Additionally they also cover a lot of ground musically, from heavy Pagan/Viking Metal eruptions over epic hymns and acoustic interludes with flutes and violins to soundtrack-like keyboards, which play an important role, but never overshadow the song itself.
Contrary to most of my other reviews I will not name any single tracks of “Falland Vörandi“, because this should be experienced as a whole, so you will be able to take in the atmosphere of the interludes, which always are woven together with the story and therefore are very important for the flow of the album.
In my review for “Orloeg“ I had described HEL as mix of BATHORY on “Hammerheart”, FALKENBACH and the pathos of MANOWAR, by now HEL are far more than just that, surely still sporting some elements of said bands, but the stylistic variety makes “Falland Vörandi“ an absolute genre highlight, no matter what! (Online March 12, 2006)