Children of Ygg
Pete PardoSea of Tranquility
It's pretty rare to come across a death metal band that not only bludgeons you with extreme brutality, but also has a way with crafting their songs to be irresistibly catchy, epic in scope, and supremely technical in spots. New Jersey melodic death metal act Helcaraxe scored a major win with their 2012 release Red Dragon and they've followed that up here with Children of Ygg, a compilation of sorts that pulls together their Black Flames demo as well as previously unreleased tracks from both the Red Dragon and Triumph & Revenge album sessions. So, while it's not necessarily 'new music', it's going to be new to many, and when you toss in the fantastic artwork from Alan Lathwell that adorns the booklet, you have another sensational release from a band that needs to be heard by the extreme metal masses.

Remember when Amon Amarth used to deliver exciting releases that put the 'epic' in death & viking metal, before they began basically releasing the same album over and over? Well, Helcaraxe certainly are doing the same but on a much grander scale. These songs are just so 'classy', if that is even possible for death metal, with tunes like "The Return", "Sonnenrad", and "Service of Shadows" mixing technical arrangements with crushing brutality, yet still somehow it all remains quite catchy and memorable. Lead singer Jesse Traynor has a wide assortment of vocal styles in his repertoire, including some brutal growls, agonizing screams, and chilling bellows, which you can hear all in the same song on the melodic yet crushing "Cimmeria". The twin guitar team of Bill Henderson & Jon Tarella do everything needed and then some, pulverizing the listener with a non-stop supply of brutal riffs, twin harmonies, complex unison lines, and blazing leads, and when they want to groove, which they do so well on "The Fade", the results are staggeringly good. "In the Midwinter" is one of the speedier tracks here, which allows drummer Mike Donatella & bassist Pat Henry to lay down some intricate rhythms over which Henderson & Tarella can craft some inventive riffing. "Cross Crusher" is another rager with a black metal vibe to it, but the song sounds like it was recorded in someone's garage. The same can be said for "Deeds of the Master" and the Bad Religion cover ""God Song", all three originally on the Black Flames demo, but despite the sub-par production, these tracks have a savage, raw charm to them.

If you like classic Unleashed, Grave, Amon Amarth, or Amorphis, there's no reason in the world why Helcaraxe shouldn't be on your immediate radar. Children of Ygg is a rousing set of material from the vaults which will tide us all over nicely while the band puts together their next epic statement.
James GoatfukkWitching Metal Webzine
Hailing from New Jersey; HELCARAXE has been spewing forth their brand of Viking Death Metal since the year 2003 –and seem to have built up a reputable name for themselves in the underground during the last couple of years. I said “Viking” and indeed –but don’t think for an ounce that this is in the same league as Amon Amarth –a band, who might as well be endorsed by Coca Cola or play concerts at Disney Land – rather; HELCARAXE draw its influences from the early 90’s Death Metal movement and refine it into a sound they can safely call their own. As an obvious reference point; I would say a very prominent UNLEASHED influence comes to the surface ... And rightly so; since they are long-time pioneers in the realms of viking metal, and HELCARAXE to carry forth the flag for this particular style. But don’t get me wrong, at the end of the day, its still pretty much just DEATH METAL, and fancy genre categorizations become irrelevant; it’s only coined as “Viking” when speaking about the band’s particular lyrical theme.

The songs are superbly constructed, with riffs pacing along at crunchy ease, always maintaining a fresh and interesting tone; catchy and majestic hooks, and the occasional epic lead melody to make your heart explode. There’s a definite majestic feeling in the guitar playing, and the reason why the music is able to leave such a memorable impression. There’s a repeated usage of catchy, groove-laden passages (which are prominently executed), as well as some heavier, more darker-sounding riffs. Jesse Traynor, the vocalist, delivers an abrasive, sort of low-end growl, with some high screams added for range and good measure. Overall, they are very well executed, and the type of vocals I like to hear in my death metal. Occasionally, some epic backing vocals make itself present, adding some multiplicity to the atmosphere and keeping things interesting for the listener.

The musicianship has been honed to a tee, and when they shred, they shred hard. These guys know all about how to write splendid and memorable compositions without losing track of the genre’s essence. They manage to balance melody and brutality in such a fresh manner, and add to that some striking technique. While the music is intriguingly catchy, I wouldn’t quite call this ‘melodic death metal’ compared to today’s standards…think EUCHARIST or KALMAH (a bit more brutal, though), and you might just get a good idea of what to expect. The produced sound is very strong and clear without sounding too plastic and ostentatious; thus making the instruments heard more prominently – even the demo tracks are well recorded, but with a slightly more crispy sound.

An interesting verity regarding “Children of YGG” is that it comes off sounding like an album, but it’s actually a compilation featuring some re-recorded demo tracks and a few new songs composed in 2011. It’s a definite treat, and surprisingly addictive. I don’t have anything negative to say about it, and I’m being truthfully honest. By now, I’ve listened to it a few times, and gets better with each listen. “Children of YGG” have convinced me to dig up the band’s back catalogue which consist of numerous releases, including three full length albums…All in all, this is nothing but straight-up, old school Death Metal to the core, and should have no trouble at all appealing to fans of bands such as OBITUARY, MORBID ANGEL, GRAVE, UNLEASHED, EUCHARIST and the like… The compilation in question was released under PROMETHEAN BURN, and came with a very neatly designed layout, including lyrics and a magnificent, epic artwork done by Alan Lathwell. “Children of YGG” is excellent compilation of strong material and well worth investigating, especially for those new to the band.
WrenStereo Killer
Welcome to the best band you’ve probably, and unfortunately, never heard of. New Jersey’s death metal titans Helcaraxe bring forth another solid outing in their compilation album, Children Of Ygg.

I must admit, I sat on this review a lot longer than I should have. This record fell just outside of my top 10 records of the year that saw some true heavyweights have releases. It’s complexity I think is what through my feeble brain aloof. I normally do better when records are presented to me in an ordered fashion and Helcaraxe does me know favors. Their namesake, The Grinding Ice, taken from Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, is absolutely fitting. Helcaraxe’s song writing is absolutely epic, superbly technical, and gravitationally catchy. Since I’m an idiot when it comes to this style of death metal, the easiest comparison would be Opeth (without nearly as many clean parts) due to the progressiveness in the writing but they do rely on some of the more furious Viking-black metal hybrid style of Unleashed and are almost folkish at certain points. Instead of relying the speed and urgency you normally get delivered with death metal, the band firmly plants its feet in the ground with exceptional song writing. It’s a style that is better suited the music appreciator rather than the savage that just wants to clobber people in the pit.

No thanks to anyone in the band for letting me know, but it wasn’t until research into the record did I find out that this technically isn’t a “new” record so to speak. Sure there are some new tracks but the majority of the record is songs from previous records with better production and a cover of Bad Religion’s “God Song” that comes completely out of left field. Before I had that information, this record flowed so naturally that I just made the assumption that it was all new material and I think that is a testament to the bands ability to not break the mold that has worked for them up until this point. The music is already experimental in nature that they’ve never found the necessity to stray from the path and for that I thank them.

Personally I think the band had peaked with their last actual full length, The Red Dragon, but this is a very welcomed accompany piece for someone that doesn’t have much, if any, of their back catalog. This is a band that isn’t on nearly enough people’s radars and that’s a shame because they are one of the best put together metal outings that I’ve had the experience in listening to. This record comes highly recommended and if you like this mix of era’s from the band, then absolutely grab The Red Dragon as well.

  Red Dragon
Red Dragon is clearly inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, but the story is told with a great deal of subtlety -- you won't hear the word "hobbit" here, or even "dwarf". Instead, the lyrics distill the tale down to its essence, concentrating on the perilous journey, the battle with the dragon, and the ensuing tragedy of greed. The whole album is arranged as an unbroken piece of music, with each track flowing seamlessly into the next; if you're anything like me, this may have you playing it two or three times through without a break. Fortunately, Red Dragon delivers! The band's blend of heavy metal melodicism and death metal rhythm is perfect: the epic lead work is the first thing most will notice, but Helcaraxë backs it up with plenty of crunch. The songs here are a bit longer than on the last few albums, which gives the band space to pack in even more variety, but nothing's the least bit dragged-out, and the full running length is a comfortable 45 minutes. Likewise, this album puts more emphasis on melody than their earlier work, but not so much that it suffers as a death metal album. There are plenty of crushingly heavy parts on offer, including a few which rival the tracks on Ruination of the Heavenly Communion. The production is fitting, too: clear yet substantial, allowing each instrument to make its mark.

"The Thief" opens things up with a quiet, introspective two-part melody above a wandering bassline. The introduction of heavy guitar and harsh vocals shatters the mood, continuing into the galloping aggression of "Circle of Firelight". "Orcrist" speeds things up again with a flurry of headbanging sections and some guitar/bass work which brings early Amorphis to mind, before "A Fortune in Riddles" breaks things up with a short instrumental interlude. "Into the Fire and Sky" is a perfect example of the band's craft, alternating between crushing moments and soaring, catchy solos. Both build together into a crescendo worthy of old Amon Amarth, until "Skin Changer"'s vicious, shout-along vocals and jangling guitar lines bring things back to earth. "The Old Forest Road" combines twisted, start-and-stop riffing with snarled vocals to create a dark, oppressive atmosphere, all the more impressive given how relentlessly epic its surroundings are. The thrashing section in the middle is killer! The varied mood of "Dungeons" goes from somber to pained to triumphant in the span of just five minutes, ending in one of the best leads on the album. "Red Dragon" is simply monolithic -- the riffing, drum fills, and solos here are beyond great, skilled yet heavy as hell, and the vocals are the best on the record. Then the mood changes, and you realize that the dragon has only begun to wake...! Afterward, "The Arkenstone" delivers one last dose of reality, slowing things down in an epic prelude to the record's closing lament. Along the way are a thousand twists and turns, but take heed of Beorn's warning: it's death to leave the path!

Red Dragon might be Helcaraxë's masterwork: it's more unified yet more varied than anything they've recorded to date, and the result is endlessly listenable. I can't help but miss the slightly heavier atmosphere of the last album, but this one won me over immediately -- Red Dragon should please old-school death metal heads as well as those looking for a more melodic touch, and fans of viking metal ought to sit up and take notice. Highest recommendations.

Standout tracks: "Into the Fire and Sky", "Skin Changer", "Red Dragon"
Pete PardoSea of Tranquility
Epic, melodic death metal is all the rage on the latest from New Jersey's Helcaraxe, titled Red Dragon. This is not your typical death metal fare however, so if you are expecting horror, gore, of occult themed lyrical imagery you can forget it, as Helcaraxe instead look to J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit for inspiration on this album. Dragon's, swords, battles, and treacherous journeys through dangerous lands make up the storyline here, as Helcaraxe inject their brand of crushing metal into this familiar & beloved Tolkien tale.

You have to give this band credit for creating extreme metal that just has 'class' written all over it. From the guitar harmonies, the epic arrangements, the brutal riffage, pounding rhythms, to the bellowing growls, it's all done with expert precision and comes across as so powerful. I'm reminded at times of some of the best from Amon Amarth and even classic Edge of Sanity here, and to further connect to some classic era death metal, Dark Tranquility's Mikael Stanne even makes a guest vocal appearance on the raging "Skin Changer". Other pulverizing tracks include the crunchy "The Old Forest Road", the bombastic "Circle of Firelight", and the textured title track, complete with lovely acoustic guitars and some tasty dual guitar harmonies from Bill Henderson & Jon Tarella. The band at times do a great job of juggling the haunting atmosphere with the brutal death metal (much like early Opeth or Amorphis), but can also dial up the relentless old school mentality as on the raging "The Arkenstone", with Jesse Traynor delivering some deep growls that bring to mind vintage Dan Swano. I also need to make mention of the rhythm team of bassist Pat Henry and drummer Mike Donatelli, who do a fine job throughout but really shine on the melodic and intricate "Into the Fire and the Sky", a pulsating, twisting slice of epic death metal.

Not only is the music on the CD top notch, but the booklet contains some gorgeous artwork and detailing, making Red Dragon an overall outstanding package. There's a new player on the melodic death metal scene folks, so if you haven't yet discovered Helcaraxe, now's the time to do so.
If I told you that there was this absolutely fantastic melodeath band that wrote a concept album based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, what country would this band hail from? Sweden, maybe Finland? Nope. Germany? Guess again. How about New Jersey, the US of friggin’ A? Right. Unbeknownst to me, the band Helcaraxë has been churning out high quality melodeath since their inception circa 2003. Vocalist Jesse Traynor and guitarist Bill Henderson bounced around a few outfits before joining forces and releasing their first full length debut, 2007′s Triumph and Revenge. This was soon followed by what you might categorize as an American Viking concept album, 2009′s Broadsword, which also featured new bandmates Pat Henry (Swashbuckle) on bass and Jon Tarella (Ensign) on lead axe.

I’ve got to tell you, the Viking and Tolkien themes littered throughout their catalog truly makes me want to invite these gentlemen over for an intense game of Dungeons & Dragons. First off, the band’s name, “Helcaraxë,” is straight out of The Silmarillion and refers to the icy land between Aman and Middle-Earth. And in case you haven’t figured it out just yet, their latest release, Red Dragon, is named after that Lonely Mountain nuisance and every denizen of Dale’s favorite golden-reddish dragon, Smaug. Even the CD packaging is written in Tengwar based font (I’m here to help, really) which just adds a beautiful touch to a seriously stellar release. Put simply, what makes Helcaraxë different than all the other melodeath bands out there is an element of rawness and grit that is just lacking in a lot of the usual European suspects. Couple that with a bit of progressive inklings to keep you on your toes, and you have one mighty fine slab of melodeath.

Opener “Thief” greets you warmly with a sumptuous dish of melody with Henderson and Tarella duking it out for your attention. About 1:40 in, Traynor’s brutish vocals announce this is indeed death metal. This whole track is really an introductory bridge for the second and first highlight, “Circle of Firelight.” Again, it’s Henderson and Tarella’s one-two punch leading the charge with one catchy riff after the next. “Orcrist” follows the same formula, with Henderson and Tarella providing the initial introductory main theme before Henry’s bass completely takes over carrying you to the end. In fact, despite the whole album being completely riff driven, the bass plays a major role in practically every song which is a pleasant surprise.

“A Fortune in Riddles” is a short interlude that follows the same pattern as “Thief,” but with a very catchy bass line that provides the introductory melody. The song builds a considerable amount of tension before letting loose in “Into the Fire and the Sky.” Here, the band displays a bit of their proggy side with a really stellar breakdown where again, Henderson and Tarella fight for your ear’s attention. “Skin Changer” features both catchy vocal work by Traynor and a two-part melody that segues into the unbelievably infectious “The Old Forest Road.” The song begins as all the others with a thrashy melodeath intro before a sublime Mideastern flavored breakdown gets your head really moving (if your neck isn’t already sore at this point). All of their songs are masterfully crafted and succinctly make their point. They never fall into the trap of lingering too long as a lot of their Western European contemporaries seem to do of late. Even in the next two more progressive offerings, the songs are never stretched out unnecessarily in order to get one more technical piece of wankery in. It’s quite refreshing.

“Dungeons” is a 6 minute highlight that features some of the album’s most catchy vocal work. Traynor certainly has a set of pipes, but he also has some of that old school death metal joie de vivre. This track really exemplifies this aspect as it is just as raw as it is epic. Toward the end, Henry’s bass once again makes his presence known and provides a nice solo that bridges back into a neat guitar solo. The title and longest track, “Red Dragon,” is just outstanding. It starts off very folky, with an acoustic melody that immediately fades back into riff driven territory about 30 seconds in. And unbelievably, every single member of the band gets involved in the action, from Traynor’s catchy lyrics to Henderson and Tarella’s dueling technical wizardry, to finally the groove underpinnings of Henry’s bass and Donatelli’s drums. Do not miss. “The Arkenstone” is another perfectly sized melodeath portion that follows the same formula in structure as the other offerings. “Oakenshield Lament” is a beautiful acoustic piece that provides the perfect soundtrack for the ending credits.

Well the good news, Red Dragon is definitely a step up from Broadsword which was a tad too raw for my ears. This time around Henderson got the polish to raw ratio just right. And despite the fact that the album is heavily compressed, Henry’s bass is absolute killer throughout. Now the bad news, Henderson suffers from what we diagnose as a Guilty Conscience Mastering complex. He knows that the acoustic and more mellow parts should be more dynamic, but refuses to apply this line of thinking to the rest of the album. Most of the songs are heavily compressed with transients and highs suffering the worst. Donatelli’s cymbals sound awful (almost distorted) and I shed a tear every time he hits them. But again, this is really modern boilerplate production, c’est la vie.

Red Dragon is truly my unsung hero (literally) of 2012. It hasn’t made a splash practically anywhere and it’s a damn shame, this is now one of my favorite melodeath albums of last year. Do yourself a favor and check out their Bandcamp page now. You won’t regret it.
Vera MatthijssensLords of Metal
From the very outset you will notice that we are dealing with top notch quality here! Since 2010 the New Jersey, USA based Helcaraxë has been working on what would become their opus magnum. The five-piece is obviously inspired by Tolkien, more precisely by The Hobbit on this record. Yet musically they like to go back to dynamics of the death metal of the nineties, so that any reminiscence with works from Edge Of Sanity and Unleashed from that time manifest themselves. Red Dragon is brutal enough for that audience, but it is also epic and melodic enough to charm those melodic death metal fans that have a soft spot for the Gothenburg sound. By the way, Mikael Stanne from Dark Tranquillity does a vocal contribution on the sixth track Skin Changer.

This is my first encounter with this accomplished band. Yet they do exist since 2003 initially under the moniker Minas Tirith and after Triumph And Revenge (2007) and Broadsword (2009) this happens to be their third full-length studio album. It comes over you like a monumental piece dynamism of forty-five minutes, since there are no pauses between the songs and everything flows into each other without noticing. And thats exactly how the band intended it to be. Thus they suggest to listen to it as a whole. This odyssey starts with beautiful acoustic guitars, graced with a melancholic solo. Then it passes into a feast of chunky riffs, gravel-throated grunts of singer Jesse Traynor and an opulence of marvellous soloing. The rhythm section mauls without mercy in tracks like Into The Fire And The Sky and the lengthy, ultra brutal The Arkenstone, but there are also loads of moments when guitarists Bill Henderson and Jon Tarella loose themselves in graceful, very melodious solos. However, Red Dragon is not a common record. For example, a song may start in the middle of a solo or the long songs include breaks they could easily have chosen as the beginning of another song. Anyway, it comes down on you as a monolith. Therefore it is really a merit that it never becomes too much of the same. Some acoustic passages or an unexpected acceleration in the mainly mid-paced work take care of that and do miracles. Time to breathe you will never have, but the music has so much groove-laden power that this never gets boring. In the acoustic epilogue Oakenshield Lament we also notice the influence of Amorphis. A delicious record with a self-willed nature!
Doug MooreInvisible Oranges
Everyone knows that metal styles are no longer moored to geography. Norway may produce lots of black metal and NOLA may produce lots of sludge, but you can find those styles pretty much anywhere else, too.

Still, genre markings often indicate homeland, and it’s tempting to take them at face value. When you open Helcaraxë’s Bandcamp, the following indicators scream “Europe” (and “Germany” in particular) louder than white linen capris on a man:

-Blaring, fresh-off-the-Tor-Books-presses dragon cover art
-Scrolly logo
-Unpredictable umlaut in the band name
-An older album titled Broadsword
-The Bandcamp tags: death metal, dragon, hobbit, melodic, progressive

And then there’s the last Bandcamp tag: New Jersey.

That this Tolkien-themed progressive melodeath band hails from the least epic place in North America is Helcaraxë’s first surprise. The second is that guitarist and chief songwriter Bill Henderson was a founding member of the emo band Thursday. (Vindictive purists, you may close this browser tab now.) The third and most important surprise is that Red Dragon is actually really good.

“Really good” isn’t an adjectival phrase that I have much occasion to apply to melodic death metal these days. Perhaps that’s why this album is hitting me as hard as it is—this style’s few remaining stalwarts are polished, thrashy, and synth-happy. These qualities do not appeal to me.

By contrast, Helcaraxë brings genuine grit and guts to the table. I’m reminded of Eucharist and Amorphis, bands that should’ve played a much larger role in setting the tone for the style. I’m reminded even more strongly of Edge of Sanity’s Crimson: by Red Dragon’s one-long-song format, by the beefy rhythms (no thrash here), and by vocalist Jesse Traynor’s raw bellow.

This album came out late last year to a chorus of crickets. It’s a shame—I would’ve liked to see it rekindle an interest in this rougher, uglier vision of melodeath. IO commenter Andy Synn and I recently had an exchange in which he gave contemporary melodeath a clean bill of health. I demurred at the time; if there were more bands like Helcaraxë out there, I might be more inclined to agree with him.
APBurning Black
As many of you probably know already Helcaraxë is an US based Melodic Death Metal band formed in 2003 under the name of Minas Tirith (recording a single demo entitled “Black Flame” this same year). As Helcaraxë this band recorded their first album “Triumph And Revenge” in 2007, receiving very good critics, after this debut the band released a second full length, “The Broadsword”, an EP and a couple of splits to finally unleash this last album entitled “Red Dragon”. Helcaraxë plays at this brand new work a crushing blend of Tolkien-inspired Melodic Death Metal, full of epic atmospheres and intense guitar driven melodies, all these complemented by some of the classic Death Metal brutality reflected at the powerful grunting vocal performance of Jesse Traynor (Open Grave), who using deathly, unadorned growls contribute with the most traditional sounding element of the entire record. The album is mainly based over an excellently executed guitar performance; the crushing riffs in conjunction with intense and virtuous guitar solos create a strong Heavy Metal feeling along the 44 minutes this album lasts. The drum work is intense, complex and powerful, the bass lines here are quite remarkable as well, besides of complementing the drum work, the bass work of Pat Henry (Swashbuckle) is melodic and muscular, enormously contributing with the overall melodic feeling of this album. As I’ve mentioned above, the vocal work here is very direct, obscure and unadorned, balancing and complementing the technical and complex musicianship in a very interesting manner, by the way, this album also features the participation of Mikael Stanne of Dark Tranquility as guest on the sixth track “Skin Changer”, who contributes to this album with his particular vocal style… “Red Dragon” is an excellent piece of intelligently composed Melodic Death Metal absolutely recommendable for anyone who enjoys the most melodic, technical and even progressive side of the Death Metal…
Justin PetrickMetal Bandcamp
Let me be perfectly clear as I start this review that a band as strong as Helcaraxë in the realm of melodic death metal with a penchant for J.R.R. Tolkien may be one of the more bizarre marriages I have come across. Looking at the album cover, the song names and the sound and one instinctively thinks that they will be listening to another European band with lore to explore. But boy are you wrong! This band from New Jersey (Yes New Jersey!), have created a stellar melodic death metal album that is as brutal and strong as anything you will hear in this genre of music today.

Helcaraxë have produced a solid album with Red Dragon and have competently used the most aggressive sound they could muster to tell the story that they have interpreted. It is a testament to the band that they were capable of creating an original sounding album in a genre that tends to stay pretty safe most of the time. Helcaraxë are smart with this album and showcase the innate abilities to bring something fresh to this genre and allow the beautiful guitar harmonies to lead the way while allowing the rhythm section to help move the songs along.

For the most part every song on this album is solid with the stand outs being “Skin Changer” (with a guest appearance by Dark Tranquility's Mikael Stanne), “Dungeons”, “The Arkenstone” and “Circle of Firelight”. Using the solid and surprisingly appropriate growl of lead singer Jesse Traynor, the urgency and aggression of these songs convey the epic atmosphere and the overall brutality of the subjects being offered. Yet even with all of this speed, aggression, and brutality the listener is able to develop a deep feel of the songs and embrace the subtle progressions as the album moves from song to uninterrupted song.

So as I have all learned you can’t judge a band by its album cover. I would never have pegged these guys as Americans let alone from New Jersey, but it is a great surprise to see a band this talented come from the US and have created an album that measures up to the likes of European favorites like early Amorphis or Dark Tranquility. Hopefully this trend continues for Helcaraxë but in the mean time give Red Dragon a listen.

  Helcaraxë / Ascended Split 7"
Mike AbominatorMetal Maniacs
Another killer split was done by Regimental Records with a couple of favorites of mine Ascended and Helcaraxe. Each band throws down the 2 song gauntlet. Dismal and horrific as usual, Finland’s Ascended continue the tradition of gloomy death doom madness. And the equally mighty Helcaraxe come to slay with their usual chainsaw of killer riffs, that always seem to lead into some sort of killer majestic and triumphant passage. NOT light in contrast to Ascended’s dark, but just a more relentless death machine that thrashes and bashes at a quicker pace then the Finns. Both bands have melody that is used so effective as well. A stunning and top notch display of death metal, by bands with contrasting styles of the genre, yet it fits so well together and you will find yourself flipping the record over and over again.

  Ruination of the Heavenly Communion
Scott AlisogluTeeth of the Divine
Well, it ain’t Christian metalcore; that’s a certainty. Ruination of the Heavenly Communion is a split release from Father Befouled and Helcaraxe, otherwise known as double Satanic trouble. You may know Georgia’s Father Befouled as the act that released Profano Ad Regnum (as in “Regnum? Damn near killed him!”), a hideous exercise in dread-spreading old school death of the early Incantation/Immolation (or in today’s terms Dead Congregation and Necrovation, sort of) variety that reeks of acrid smoke and tastes like Jim Beam flavored holy water. It is no surprise that Father Befouled’s half of the split continues in that vein. It is either down, doomy, and dirty belly-crawls or up-tempo, clattering death strikes, riddled with harmonic squawks and cavernous bellows, all of which is covered in a slimy film. And that church choir/organ sample during the last part of “Profane Heavenly Crypt” is creepy as hell.

Helcaraxe then retains the unholy, gray skies aura of the early masters, but ratchets up the songwriting dynamics, making its half of the split a pleasant surprise for a first-time listener. More like dirty, organic death with Immolation twists, the rhythms are higher powered and the song structures more varied and of consistently quicker tempo. A song like “Liturgy of the Eucharist” features a lively (relatively speaking) cadence with a high head-bang quotient and relatively melodic guitar bits, while “Helm of Awe” has an almost southern metal, even COC, swing to it, albeit in an old school death kind of way, and is also inclusive of the occasional Swede-death flourish. Groove comes to the forefront on “Putrid Remains,” a real slammer with vortex soloing and a notable break for a lighter, yet still chilling, instrumental section. Closing with a cover of Amorphis “Sign from the North Side” is a nice bonus and quite fitting in the larger scheme of things.

It is hard to go wrong with a split like Ruination of the Heavenly Communion and that includes the skillfully crafted artwork and booklet. It is a two-for-the-price-of-one deal that will introduce you to the darker side of death.
This is a split LP from Father Befouled and Helcaraxe, two American bands playing death metal.

Father Befouled play sludgy death metal in the tradition of Incantation, with an emphasis on bizarre riffs and sick, choking atmosphere. These are the best songs they've written so far, especially "Propagation of Absolute Impiety", which perfectly balances the slow parts with some killer blasting sections. The insane, drawn-out riffing on "Orthodoxy of Primeval Ascension" is also noteworthy: even the fast parts of this sound doomy and oppressive, thanks to the careful guitar lines and liberal use of bass. "Idolatry of Cursed Revelation" is another slow one, whereas "Profane Heavenly Crypt" has a more experimental structure in which a solid, mid-paced tempo perfect for headbanging is tossed into a blender with a back-masked choir, feedback, and a few insane breaks... the perfect way to close this side of the record.

Helcaraxe play melodic, bass-heavy death metal with a heavy-metal touch. Again, their songs for this record are probably the best they've ever done; the extra heaviness in the production really lends these tracks extra punch, as does the nimble riffing and aggressive vocals. As usual, the band alternates between short tracks (like "Liturgy of the Eucharist" and "Roar of a Morbid God", which each pack more into two minutes than most bands do in six) and more epic songs. "Agonizing Death" keeps things mid-paced, with some neat jangling bass lines and a shredding solo or two. The vocals on "Helm of Awe" deserve special mention; the emotion on this song is exceptional! That plus the crunchy rhythm guitar part makes this one stand out. "Putrid Remains" spits on Christianity one last time, with a catchy main theme and some intelligently blasphemous lyrics. The band closes with a solid cover of "Sign From the North Side" off "The Karelian Isthmus".

This is a bit like finally hearing the famed Incantation/Amorphis split... it's wonderful to see two very solid (and very different!) bands contributing to a single record like this. I can't think of much from the past few years I'd recommend over this; if either of these styles interests you, pick this record up and I'm sure you'll enjoy the other side as well. Highest recommendations.

Standout Tracks: "Propagation of Absolute Impiety", "Orthodoxy of Primeval Ascension", "Profane Heavenly Crypt"; "Helm of Awe", "Roar of a Morbis God", "Putrid Remains"

The production on this album is similar to that on their last EP -- crisp and clear, with emphasis on the jangling bass and lead guitar. The growled vocals are a bit lower in the mix, but still powerful and easy to distinguish, and the same goes for the drums, which underpin everything without losing their impact.

The songwriting here is a perfect blend of the styles from their first album and EP: Broadsword combines the straightforward catchiness of songs like "Chain Mail" (included once again on this record) and "Northmen" with the complexity and unpredictability of shorter songs like "The Iron Shield" and "To Plunder". The songs here are dense with insane heavy-metal solos and complicated bass & guitar lines, yet each has a unique melody and atmosphere that'll have it stuck in your head for days. I especially enjoy the "The Iron Shield", packed with frantic riffing and tempo changes, and "Commander", with its bouncy guitar lines and rumbling vocal parts. The "destiny!" section is particularly great!

The band's lyrical excellence is also worth mentioning; few Viking songs are better than "Commander" or "Broadsword", and "God Slayer" is one of the best anti-Christian songs I've heard in some time, perfectly encapsulating the triumph of reason and atheism over superstition and unexamined belief.

Broadsword is easily one of my favorite albums of 2009; the nimble, memorable guitar lines, shout-along vocals, and a bass-heavy production make this one easy to spin on repeat for hours at a time. Those who like their death metal both heavy and complex should look no further than this! Highest recommendations.

Standout tracks: "Broadsword", "The Iron Shield", "Commander", "God Slayer"
Erik ThomasTeeth of the Divine
Hailing from the craggy depths of New Jersey, Helcaraxë are one of the resurgent US bands plying Viking inspired forms of metal (Oakhelm, Hammer Horde, etc) and is one of US metal very best kept secrets.

After their impressive debut, Triumph and Revenge, the trio has tightened up their form of gruff, dense and loose but melodic and rousing death metal with 11 tracks of chunky, slightly Amon Amarth-ish and (very) early Amorphis styled metal. But with some of their jangly solos and loose bass work, Broadsword actually reminded me of Arghoslent’s recent album, Hornets of the Pogrom, but without the weighty backdrop and political/racial issues. Broadsword is simply a fun, direct record that shows as with most things, that when talented. dedicated Americans put their mind into it, they can pretty much do any genre they want.

Owners of 2008s No God to Save You EP will be pleased on two fronts as 10 of the new tracks are brand new, and that EPs best track, “Chainmail” (slightly off clean vocals not withstanding), appears on Broadsword. And for owners of the debut, whereas Triumph & Revenge delivered 16 very short (with the exception of “Mjolnir”) tracks, Broadsword fleshes the tracks out more with more depth and variety. From the rousing opening of “Northmen” and the superbly raucous title track, and other highlight including “The Iron Shield”, “Commander”, lengthy “Eye of Fire” and closer “God Slayer” all deliver a more rusty, rugged and rough version of Viking metal as opposed to their frolicking European brethren despite galloping riffs and solos abound. Only the 2 minute interlude “Götterdämmerung” lets up the rip roaring antics. Vocalist Jesse Traynor aids the whole rough and tumble affair with a throaty gruff roar that’s a perfect compliment to the music by being death metal without over stating it.

Albums don’t get more simple yet enjoyable than Broadsword, and after some of the recent mind fuckery from the likes of Augury and Gorod, it feels good to simply hit ‘play’, drink a beer, bang your head and then rape a nun.
AutothrallFrom the Dust Returned
Helcaraxë is a band from New Jersey, with a style and theme you don't often hear paired together: melodic death metal and Norse history. Alright, there is one obvious comparison, and that would be Amon Amarth, perhaps a little early Unleashed, but Helcaraxë are not a bite off either band. Broadsword is the 2nd full-length, and while New Jersey may not be Northern Europe circa millenia past, it is the most universally reviled state in the USA. But it has produced some decent metal bands, and this is one of them.

Broadsword features 11 tracks of warlike melodic death metal with charge fueled verses, big dual melodies, and a cavernous tone to the album which really stands out. Unlike most run of the mill, big budget 'melodeath' bands from the States, these gentlemen (most of whom are also from Open Grave) are not fashionistas. You won't find them down at Hot Topic admiring each others latest tattoos, and when they write a breakdown in one of their songs, it actually fits. It's not just there for the fuck of it to please juvenile concertgoers, it actually builds anticipation and climax as such a riff should! When I claim the band is 'melodic, it is with the best intentions of traditional metal music, which this band has successfully mired within the brutality of death metal. Personally I enjoy when the band goes out, tracks like "The Iron Shield", "To Plunder", and the insane "Ginnungagap" created an atavistic reflex in myself to find the nearest Christian and smite them with the pommel of my sword while quoting from the poetic Eddas. But the band is also capable of writing an epic track like "Eye of Fire" (not epic in length, but in form and feel). The slower bombast of "Northmen" and "Chain Mail" is also quite good.

The mix of Broadsword is thunderous and mildly raw, after all this was recorded at a studio called 'Christ Puncher'... Lyrically the band is pretty simple; even the song titles, and in this way they did remind me of Amon Amarth. But when the big, reverberous vocals and the riffs combine here, it creates American Viking bliss. Fans of the aforementioned Swedish bands will find a good local band to follow here, and I might actually recommend this to a broader base of 'war metal' fans (Hail of Bullets, Bolt Thrower, etc), as there are a few similarities in tone. The band is selling copies of the album directly through their website (linked below), rather cheaply I might add.
Anthony AbborenoInvisible Oranges Metal MP3 Blog
Fundamentally, the U.S. band Helcaraxë sound like Swedish death metal with melodic elements. If this were all they were, they would still be excellent. They phenomenally execute everything I want in melodic death metal. Guitar crunch is prioritized, melodies are catchy but never saccharine, and vocals are grotesque and expressive. Even though Helcaraxë are one of the most inventive bands I've heard recently, they still play bottom-line, satisfying Death Metal. Helcaraxë are masters of innovation from within the style.

Every song on Broadsword (Regimental, 2009) is its own experiment, with musical technique closely linked to lyrical intent. The title track features both guitarists shredding frantically against each other, taking the sort of majestic battle song that Amon Amarth is known for and throwing it off balance and out of control. "Into the Vortex" centers on the climactic scene of Evil Dead II, and features horror movie keyboards directly alongside the riffs, creating an effect that's equal parts weird reverb and separate instrument. "God Slayer" uses polyrhythms and sudden tempo changes to narrate an internal battle between Dawkins-inspired atheism and Christianity, then blasts into gear with dual guitar solos and a bad-ass thrash riff when Dawkins wins. Every song feels fresh yet purposeful. I never feel like I'm listening to a variety show or technical wankery.

If there is indeed an old school death metal revival, its proponents would do well to pay attention to Helcaraxë. Following tradition risks sounding like you have nothing personal to offer. Helcaraxë use tradition as a base for new musical and narrative ideas. The results are surprising, compelling, and unpretentious.
Anders NilssonTwist Magazine
Helcaraxë have taken their name from a gigantic glacier in "Lord of the Rings", so I was a bit sceptical when I got "Broadsword" in my hands. My mind painted a picture of this being folk metal of the worst kind with ridiculous lyrics. Once "Northmen" kicked in with its mighty Amon Amarth riffs, I knew I was dead wrong.
Amon Amarth is probably the single most fitting comparison, but instead of springing just from death metal, Helcaraxë are also knee-deep in old-school heavy metal and American power metal. However, a description of this band's sound can't be made without mentioning Slayer, early Metallica and various influences from punk and NWOBHM. Sounds twisted and torn? It isn't. Once you lend this band an ear, it will all be very logical to you.
Helcaraxë are at their very best during the title track, "Commander" and "Eye of Fire". In fact, "Commander" just could be my song of the year. During these three songs, "Broadsword" is one phenomenal album indeed.
Guitarists Bill Henderson and Jon Tarella pair up brilliantly and take you through the heaviest of Unleashed pounding via classic Savatage riff-orgies into the most swirling of Helloween harmonies, whilst bassplayer Pat Henry, of Swashbuckle fame - by the way, "Back to the Noose" has one of the coolest cover arts I've seen this year - delivers some top-notch playing.
Along with Jesse Traynor (vocals) and Mike Donatelli (drums), they manage not only to create something bloody good, but also something pretty unique. I can't remember the last time a band combined so many influences into such a logical mess of sounds.
You want good? You want unique? This is your band! [9/10]

  No God To Save You
This is the second album from Helcaraxe, an American band playing death metal.

The production on this record is crisp, with the drums, guitars, and jangling bass right up front in the mix. This is a great choice, since much of the power of this band is in the instrumentation. The solo parts especially benefit from this production, and are completely shredding! The growled vocals are great, too, and are given just enough emphasis here. I really like the occasional use of semi-clean shouted vocals and classical instruments as well!

As on their first record, Helcaraxe plays technical, bass-heavy death metal, jam-packed with insane riffing and complex drum fills. The soloing and vocal work shows a strong sense of melody, a counterpoint to the aggressive rhythms beneath. The songs on this record are a lot longer than on "Triumph and Revenge" -- these are three-to-six minute tracks rather than the two-to-three minute songs which dominated their previous album -- but the songwriting is just as varied as before, with tons of ridiculously over-the-top solos and heavy bass & guitar lines. I think the longer songs are a great change, as they give the band a little more time to explore each theme before moving on to the next. After all, Helcaraxe has a ton of riffs that are actually worth repeating once or twice!

Speaking of which, I can't review this without mentioning "After the Bomb": the tempo changes, guitar lines, and vocal work on this track are exceptional! I really like how the whole thing builds, rushing frantically forward until the quiet middle section stops everything... only to begin again, "after the bomb". Great stuff! Tracks like this take Helcaraxe to a whole new level, as the sense of natural progression and unified songwriting here is the perfect refinement of the shorter songs on their debut.

"No God to Save You" is easily one of the top ten things I've heard in 2008. As a mini album, it's a bit short, but I'll take half an hour of this over 99% of the full-length albums I've heard this year. Anyone who values uniqueness must hear "No God to Save You" -- Helcaraxe is one of the few bands that doesn't sound like anything else out there. Those who like complexity as well as old-school death metal heaviness should also get this immediately! Highest recommendations.

Standout tracks: "Chain Mail", "After the Bomb", "Valor"

  Triumph and Revenge
FADirt Culture Webzine
It’s pretty rare when you experience death metal with any semblance of an epic feel. It’s pretty much an oxymoron within that genre in particular, as a matter of fact. I actually wonder how many bands really give such a venture a fair attempt. Enter Helcaraxe from New Jersey, who with their Tolkien-inspired name take the Viking/Asatru ideological stance and gives it quite the killer epic death makeover with plenty of traditional heavy metal to boot, and definitely not in the Hot Topic accessible sense of say Amon Amarth. 16 tracks (many a mere minute and some change) unfold like one massive concept album, thundering forth like the wrath of all the residents of Valhalla. Part odyssey, part brutal, all all-over magnificent, triumph and revenge shall belong to Helcaraxe!
Worm Gear Distro
This is an amazing death metal album from the US. Helcaraxe embrace the full throated, massive burn of the ancient Scandinavian/Europe death metal sound and sculpt that with their own interesting songwriting style. Everything from the production, the songs, all the way down to the very unique artwork is totally pro and full of class. Fans of real death metal will eat this monster up.
Empire of Death
(This review is in Italian. If someone can translate it for us, that would be MUCH appreciated!!)

Č un debut-album senza dubbio molto particolare e sui generis quello che ci propongono gli americani Helcaraxe, lontano dalle mode del periodo e frutto di una passione incredibile che non conosce i limiti dello spazio e del tempo. A giudicare dal sound che ci propongono i tre d’oltreoceano verrebbe infatti da pensare che gli Helcaraxe siano nati nel posto sbagliato e nel momento sbagliato: probabilmente si sarebbero trovati a loro agio al tempo dei vichinghi in Scandinavia, bevendo litri e litri d’idromele e brandendo pesantissime asce sul campo di battaglia.
La proposta della band del New Jersey si discosta completamente da quanto ci si potrebbe aspettare da un gruppo americano, orientandosi verso un death metal epico ed atmosferico tipicamente nord-europeo che affonda le sue radici nel lavoro di bands come Unleashed, un pizzico di In Flames e persino nei Bathory del periodo epico.
Ne scaturisce un sound decisamente particolare e che non appare certo influenzato dalle mode imperanti del periodo, in quanto sono ben poche le bands che al giorno d’oggi si dedicano ad un genere cosě particolare, e se a farlo č un combo americano la cosa diventa ancora piů eclatante.
“Triumph and Revenge” č un disco molto piacevole, ben scritto ed eseguito da un gruppo determinato e che sa cosa vuole e come ottenerlo, pieno zeppo di canzoni avvincenti ed epiche ma sempre potenti ed avvincenti.
A livello tecnico i ragazzi si dimostrano preparati e competenti, ma il piů delle volte (a dir la veritŕ sempre) preferiscono mettere il proprio bagaglio strumentale da parte a favore di un approccio piů diretto ed in-your-face; una scelta senza dubbio azzeccata visto la proposta musicale. Il riffing č comunque vario e alterna sfuriate lineari e nordiche a passaggi piů monolitici e solenni, perfettamente supportato dal drumming essenziale di B. Henderson e dal basso di P.Henry, mentre a completare il tutto troviamo il growl classico ed intelligibile di J. Traynor, che ha il compito di trascinare l’ascoltatore in un interminabile viaggio fra le leggendo e i miti nordici e le battaglie della Terra di Mezzo (anche l’universo di Tolkien appare molto caro agli Helcaraxe).
La durata media dei brani č estremamente corta e la loro struttura si rivela essenziale ed istintiva, ma questo non significa che ci si trovi di fronte a canzoni prive di idee; il songwriting infatti risulta piuttosto convincente ed il riffing cattura l’attenzione dell’ascoltatore e non lo lascia finchč il disco non termina di girare nel lettore.
Dopo una splendida introduzione di chitarra classica esplode in tutta la sua furia epica “Revenge”, che si erge su un riffing che riprende il tema principale dell’introduzione ma lo arricchisce di una violenza primordiale grazie alle vocals combattive di Traynor e a giri di chitarra taglienti come la lama di un’ascia bipenne. Il brano in questione dura appena un minuto e mezzo, ma appare cosě ben strutturato coi suoi cambi di tempo e di umore che convince sin dal primo ascolto. La successiva “Behind the Goatlord” raggiunge i tre minuti fra giri di chitarra accattivanti e svedesi (il fantasma degli Unleashed aleggia pesantemente su molti brani del platter) e momenti perfetti per del sano hadbanging, mentre “The Hammersmith” sfascia l’apparato uditivo del deathster di turno coi suoi riff quadrati e semplici ma dal grande impatto, senza perň disdegnare fraseggi e melodie che riportano direttamente ai tempi dei grandi dei Asi.
Con “Nidhogg” ecco di nuovo tornare in mente gli Unleashed e il disco continua su queste coordinate fino alla inaspettata suite (10 minuti di durata) “Mjolnir”, vera e propria sorpresa del disco. Peccato perň che a conti fatti “Mjolnir” rappresenti il momento meno ispirato del disco, in quanto nei suoi dieci minuti non riesce a mantenere alto il livello d’attenzione dell’ascoltatore a causa della mancanza di cambi di tempo e ritmica significativi ed una ripetitivitŕ di fondo a tratti fastidiosa. Non siamo di fronte ad un brutto brano, perň si poteva fare molto meglio. Ma non preoccupatevi cari deathsters amanti delle atmosfere epiche, ci pensano “With Fire and Steel” e “Jormungand” a tirarvi su il morale con le loro atmosfere vichinghe, prima che il disco si chiuda con gli arpeggi melodici della strumentale “Sunwheel’s Power” e l’ottima “Vision Quest”, in bilico fra Unleashed e Bathory del periodo epico ed arricchita da riff e fraseggi di chitarra decisamente intriganti.
La produzione dell’album si attesta su livelli piuttosto buoni, con un sound pulito ma “casereccio” quel tanto che basta per esaltare la furia primordiale ed istintiva degli Helcaraxe.
Per tirare le somme, “Triumph and Revenge” č un buon esordio da parte di una band che ha senza dubbio bisogno di crescere ed affilare le proprie armi (qualche passaggio non convince del tutto ed un perfetto esempio ne č la suite “Mjolnir”), ma che ha le carte in regola per far breccia nei cuori degli amanti delle sonoritŕ piů epiche e solenni.
Album consigliatissimo ai fan di Unleashed, Bathory e dell’epic metal mescolato a nostro amato metallo della morte.
“Triumph and Revenge” is the impressive debut full-length from New Jersey’s Helcaraxë, which was recorded back in 2005 before finally being released earlier this year on Regimental Records. Formerly known as Minas Tirith, the duo (which has since added a third member) had only released a prior two-song demo in 2003, which makes the force of this album all the more admirable. Inspired by common influences such as Tolkien (their new name was lifted from “The Silmarillion”) and Norse mythology, the band has referred to themselves as both “heathen metal” and “viking death metal”, but call it whatever the hell you want, because it’s pretty damn good! To be honest with you, I actually enjoy this material far more than any of the albums I’ve ever heard from Amon Amarth, Unleashed, and other such (rather overrated) acts often associated with such tags. There are a scarce few passages where the playing’s a touch raw, but for the most part this is an absolutlely massive slab of death metal that’s both churning and guttural as well as melodic or even “epic” to some degree - thanks in large part to some gorgeous acoustic passages and borderline doomy clean runs. Burly growls, thick power chords, and brighter dual guitar harmonies are all present, but the end result is so much more than that. For one thing, there are loads of fucking raging bass work - in addition to tons of tempo changes and “atmospheric” elements within the diversity of the riffing - but it’s still a completely consistent and coherent listening experience. And the really weird thing is that most of the songs are less than two minutes apiece!? Of the 16 tracks only five of them top three minutes, among them one at a “normal” five minutes, and just a single 10-minute epic, so… I mean, that’s just shockingly rare for death metal. Beyond that the recording is perfectly dense and textured, which highlights some of the subtler dynamic interactions between the instruments. And yes, the bass tone is completely awesome, which certainly helps bring attention to the extremely active role that the basslines play within these compositions. There’s still room for improvement there overall, but fuck it. Beautiful packaging, too: Printed entirely in metallic bronze ink with a matte finish on a marbled sort of tan stock. What can I say? I don’t know what the hell they’ve done exactly, but there’s definitely something a little different and “special” about this album, and that’s a great, great level of achievement within this genre. I’m impressed.
Dave WaiteVampire Magazine
With their name taken from the Tolkien masterpiece “The Silmarillion” and their album based on topics relating to Asatru/Viking ideologies, New Jersey death metal trio Helcaraxë are a blazing new entry in the US scene. Formed in 2003 under the name of Minas Tirith, they released one self-released demo in 2003 (“Black Flames”) gaining much critical acclaim with their volatile blackened death metal attack. After garnering a much deeper interest in Norse Mythology the band decided to change their name to something that would suit their increasingly darker, more focused sound and to cut a long story short…enter Helcaraxë.

Debut album “Triumph And Revenge” is put simply, a fucking beast. Harnessing a sound that can be likened to fellow US death metallers Immolation, its low-end crunch and overtly epic nature sounds both bombastic and powerful. Relying more on feel than unnecessary blasting, these songs showcase the bands obvious love for the brutal whilst keeping that Valhall-ian vibe pulsating through its veins. A thousand times more enjoyable than the watered down Viking metal of Amon Amarth and the like, Helcaraxë create the sound of war rather than a night of pissed-up merry making, which enables this to stick out from the generic millions that currently inhabit this scene.

With 16 short (only five tracks are over the three minute mark) ball-busting tracks of epic, grandiose death metal on offer here it is hard not to be impressed with the level of craftsmanship and musicianship on display. From the all out barbarity of “The Dread Helm” to the stunning clean tomes of “Celestial Resonance”, this album is a masterful display of forward-thinking death metal that doesn’t even have to try. You will most certainly be hard pushed to find a better debut than this.
While I enjoy the far more fruity elements of traditional Viking metal such as beer hall wocals and chants and galloping synths and such, I wish a few more bands plied a slightly darker, more brutal visage of Viking metal. Enter New Jersey’s Helcaraxë.

Named after the huge wastes of grinding ice from J.R.R. Tolkien's "Silmarillion", Helcaraxë deliver a rumbling, lumbering mid range take on Viking metal that lies somewhere between Stockholm’s gnarlier death metal of the early 90’s, Amon Amarth and Amorphis’ The Karelian Isthmus.

With 16 relatively short bursts (some tracks are a little over a minute) of down tuned, growl filled chugging simplistic death metal, Triumph and Revenge is still majestic with appropriately themed riffs and solos that convey the grit and grime of Viking times with a far less shiny and glittering mood. Straight to the point, pummeling tracks like “Nidhogg”, “Gloomweaver”, “The Dread Helm”, “Jormungand”, “Chimera” and “Vision Quest” deliver ample crunch and bellow while still carrying a Viking undercurrent within the riffs and melodies. “The Celestial Resonance” and “Sunwheel’s Power” provide a couple of atmospheric interludes, without being to cheesy or wimpy. However, the standout of the album is the monstrous, 10-minute “Mjolnir” an epic track that rivals Amon Amarth’s “Victory March” in scope that shows Helcaraxë can deliver more than sub two minute burst of Berzerker rage and can flesh out an epic, brilliant track.

The production is loose and murky with a sort or semi Sunlight Buzz, but suits the material perfectly and vocalist J.Tranor has a ample roar, that like the musician ship is simple yet incredibly effective in the delivery of blood smeared, battle weary, rain soaked, grim faced warriors rather than shimmering, peppy, beerhall festivity.

A nice surprise from the deep Viking lore of New Jersey and I look forward to hearing much more from this band.
It certainly wouldn’t be surprising to see any of the 2007 efforts from Nile, Behemoth, Immolation, Mithras or Malevolent Creation hit death metal enthusiasts’ top-ten lists at year-end, but I’m here to make a case for three relatively obscure releases from death metal bands I believe are worthy of any genre devotee’s immediate attention: Necros Christos’ Triune Impurity Rights (which I reviewed here in May), Deathevokation’s masterful debut, The Chalice of Ages (imagine a slightly slower, heavier version of The Karelian Isthmus), and this particular hulking monster of a record, courtesy of New Jersey’s dyad of věkingr’s, Helcaraxë (Helcar-AK-say: from Tolkien’s The Silmarillion).

Quite simply put, Triumph and Revenge is an essential Viking death metal record. It’s utterly barbarous, pummeling, and splinters bone with all the deftness and cruelty of Erik Thorvaldsson’s swinging warhammer. In terms of where it should stand within the rest of your Viking metal arsenal, I’d say you should drink with Turisas, travel with Moonsorrow, relax with Tyr, prepare for battle with Amon Amarth, and accompany the savory task of exhaustively obliterating your rivals’ skulls with the mighty Helcaraxë.

As is the case with the above-mentioned Necros Christos and Deathevokation, the core of this troupe’s brand of death metal is infused with the classic sound laid forth from the forefathers of the genre. Proper fealty is paid to progenitors such as Unleashed when the riffs are fat and rumble & pummel with the weight of a battering ram: “Revenge”, “Nidhogg”, the kingly “Litany of the False God” (one of the heaviest tunes I’ve heard this year), “The Dread Helm” and closer “Vision Quest”, but there also moments aplenty when the barrage is much faster and the music rips with a more vicious, razor-biting edge: “The Hammersmith”, “Gloomweaver”, “Chimera” and “Jormungand”, for example: all callous gutters.

The album’s savagery is also most potent when swallowed whole, as eleven of the sixteen tunes clock in at less than 3-minutes (including three softer atmospheric instrumentals), but the undisputed epicenter is focused on the 10-minute eleventh cut, “Mjolnir”. The tune starts slowly and doomily, like a lumbering hill giant, but it eventually swirls in a wealth of tempo changes and oodles of yet another element which only further adds to the scrumptiousness of this already delectable treat: some surprisingly melodic, epic guitar lickin’. Truly the sort of ballsy tune that’s bound to leave heathens everywhere glutted with a teeth-gnashing berzerker rage.

Another jewel worth mentioning is the absolutely sick bass guitar tone belched forth by the duo’s sole instrumentalist, B. Henderson. This guy splays a veritable jackknife of talents behind each and every instrument on Triumph and Revenge, but his fluttering bass play sounds almost as if he’s molesting the strings with a bloody hand drill throughout the bulk of these tunes, bringing to mind the wicked talents of Macabre’s own Nefarious just for comparison’s sake (incidentally, the band has apparently recruited a bass player for future endeavors…hopefully the guy will flash a similar expertise as Mr. Henderson). Remaining member J. Traynor also does a helluva job bellowing like a barrel-chested warlord throughout the record, so any worries of an ill-fitting vocalist can be dashed to the rocks as well.

As is the case with any record that has the potential of hitting my year-end top-ten, I could easily spend another page rambling about the many strengths of this exceptional debut. Suffice to say, any fan of brutal pagan death metal needs to buy Triumph and Revenge…period. And at a mere $6.66 directly from the band’s website, it’ll definitely be one of the smartest purchases you’ll make this year. Hell, even the disc’s spiffy packaging is well above what you’d get from most major labels, so do as Fjölnir bids ye and give this young band your support, they definitely deserve it. Highly impressive and unquestionably recommended.
This is the first album from Helcaraxe, an American band playing Viking-themed black metal.

The sound on this album is quite thick, with tons of jangling bass and deep, throaty vocals. Snarled and clean vocals also come in now and again. The lead guitar reminds me a bit of old Morbid Angel -- bizarre, nimble riffs collide with weird speed changes and breaks, then briefly coalesce into straightforward melodies. The drumming is equally varied, switching between total insanity and slow, stately passages with nary a second of hesitation.

This is one of the rare Viking & Tolkien themed albums that doesn't rely on stereotypical cliches to make its point. This band largely eschews the usual medieval/ren-faire sound, in favor of a dynamic, aggressive flow, heavy on the bass. That's a good thing, as the bass sound on this album is monstrous, simply excellent! Best of all, every song is pared down to the bare minimum. There's no "epic for epic's sake" tracks here -- almost all of the songs are under four minutes long, and about half of those end before the two minute mark (and they're actually good!) I have no idea how this band manages to make two minute tracks sound this epic. An example is "Chimera": short, swaggering, and snarling, this might be the best song ever written about lycanthropy. Hell, "With Fire and Steel" is even shorter (just 35 seconds long), and it's got actual song structure! Unbelievable. Then there's "Mjolnir", a ten-minute track marked by ambitious bass lines and an emotional vocal performance. The tempo changes are wonderful throughout. "Vision Quest" is the other long song on the album, at a little over five minutes. It strikes an interesting balance between melodic guitar lines and bludgeoning bass. The shouts during the middle section are especially great.

It was quite difficult to choose the best tracks from this album, and I don't think I've EVER picked a two-minute song as a standout track before. "Triumph & Revenge" has it all: unique sound, excellent songwriting, and top-notch musicianship. This is one of the best albums of 2007. Fans of Unleashed, Bifrost, Hades, and other complex Viking bands must hear this! Highly recommended.

Standout Tracks: "Litany of the False God", "Mjolnir", "Chimera"