Eternal Helcaraxe – Against All Odds Review

There’s nothing like mining the deepest parts of the “Lord of the Rings” universe to come up with a band name. You never know what one will come up with or even how apt the chosen moniker will be. We have a band out here that calls themselves Helm’s Deep, but as far as I can tell their music has little to do with hobbits and such. On the other hand, Ireland’s Eternal Helcaraxe went with a rather fitting choice. Helcaraxe – and I didn’t know this before – is the icy waste between the lands of Aman and Middle-Earth. Based on that, you’d probably guess that they play a frostbitten brand of heathen/black metal. You would be right, and Against All Odds is a pretty impressive tome of blood-splattered tales from that frozen land.

I only mention their homeland as a point of information, as to my ear there isn’t anything uniquely Irish here. However, they do seem to share more than a few musical/creative elements with countrymen Primordial, most notably when it comes to their more melodic moments (including clean vocals). Overall their sound owes more to the Scandinavian lands of ice and snow, specifically bands like Istapp, Thyrfing, and maybe early Darkthrone that create a definitive atmosphere from an almost bare-bones approach.

The most interesting aspect of Against All Odds is the ever-shifting mood. One moment you’re getting torn to shreds by the ferocious “We Assist Death”; the next you’re being entertained by the bard’s tale “Invictus”. (Well, a brutal bard, anyway.)  Somewhere in between lies “As the Snow Gathers,” which for all its chillingness, is also quite warm thanks to some sweeping keyboard lines. Then, just when you think you’ve heard it all, they drop an emotionally-wrenching epic on you in the form of the album-closing title track. In an extreme genre like this, it is rare to not only hear but feel that kind of pain in the music. I’m still not 100% if it involves a man mourning his dying love or a mighty warrior paying heed to his fallen brothers. Okay, so I’m pretty sure it’s the latter, but that just shows the power of the lyric and vocal.

So what is Eternal Helcaraxe’s place amidst the ranks of like-minded bands? Probably somewhere in the middle, but closer to the front than the rear. They’re not doing a lot to inspire awe and wonder – yet, for a debut album from a relatively young band, Against All Odds holds its own, and leaves one with promise that there are even better days ahead, and even more epic tales to be told.

Posted by Dave Pirtle

Coffee. Black.

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