Eternal Helcaraxe – Against All Odds (Abyss Records)Friday, 3rd January 2014
Tolkien terminology in the house: “Helcaraxe” is described as the “perilous icy wastes that formerly lay between Araman, and Middle-Earth in the forth north of Arda.” (We never would have stumbled upon this if it weren’t for this fascinating site: http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Helcarax%C3%AB.) As for Irish pagan black metallers Eternal Helcaraxe, their Against All Odds debut was originally released in April of 2012 via Abyss Records, but is repurposed, or re-promoted for the tail-end of 2013. Nothing like the second time around.
Generally, the utterance of “Irish” and “pagan” entails the likes of Primordial and their Darkest Era heel-nippers, but the distilled nature of Eternal Helcaraxe’s jams suggest they’re more in tune with the mid-90’s era Enslaved than they are the emotionally-ripe motifs of their countrymen. There’s the proper amount of extreme hamming (“One Still Stands Here”), and the riff couplings of “Invictus” suggest the Irishmen have more of a progressive girth than they lead on, although the closing “Against All Odds (All the Battles to Come Part II)” certainly tries its hardest to bridge all sorts of gaps between triumphant, epic metal, and warts-and-all lyrical soirees, some of which might be a bit too laced with cliche.
In way, Against All Odds is one of those “mixed bag” black metal outings; cerebral enough to not be basement low-brow, but with enough angular gusto to hold serve with heaviness and melody. And while some of these songs are uneven and don’t have the appropriate finishing kick, Eternal Helcaraxe have at the very least, positioned themselves for something to improve upon come next album.