Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Halladrol - The Last Mile On Earth (EP) (2012)

Rooted in the noise style of the early 90's, Lord Heikkinen struck out on his own, leaving the sounds of Soulgrind behind, and creating a death/doom project called Halladrol. Focusing on the more blackened side of metal, with an avant garde twist, he began to craft a story of the end of the world, the end of days. But despite his best efforts, and a well conceived concept, something in this debut effort is missing. Somehow, "The Last Mile On Earth" losing sight of itself, and takes you on a journey that feels like a cross country voyage, rather than a short walk.

The title track begins with a bit of whimsy, the chirping of birds and organs. An oncoming storm comes bearing down on a circus atmosphere, crashing in one fell swoop, turning the world into chaos. Despite a rough recording, there are a lot of pieces being communicated at once. There is a constant roll of double kicks and cymbals, laying down a foundation for heavily distorted, and almost muffled guitars. There is a deathly tone to the growling vocals, helping to drive home the "end of the world" scenario. The strength of the track lies more in the non vocal sections, where the guitars are left to fester and grow. When they come head to head with the varying vocal styles, whether it be the growls or off key, eerie attempt at clean singing, the riffs are simply too muddled to enjoy, falling all the way into the background. The writing itself far exceeds the execution, which leaves this is a jumbled mess more than a viable opening.

A positive step in the right musical direction, "Black New Stars" changes the blueprint in a number of ways. First, a run time under four minutes allows no time for filler, something that the opening and eventually closing track seem plagued with. Second, there is a stronger focus on sound and structure in the instrumental. The drum tone sees a vast improvement, despite an even more aggressive delivery. Guitars are allowed to stand on their own at times, with some cleaner notes cutting through the sheer density of the chugging chords. It would be fair to say everything plays out in a more precise, methodical manner here, rather than the swirling wave we witnessed before. The vocals, however, are the only thing not to evolve from track to track, with the coarse growls leaving an oily coating on the entire duration. They fall flat, almost uninspired, despite the story they carry.

The most profound track, lyrically, may also be the most complete track, musically. "No Rest For The Holy" follows the story of a holy man, left to question his own beliefs, while the demons of the fallen world take over his mind. Here you will find the most intense use of the doom sound, with down tempo beats and crushing low end guitars rumbling through your speakers. But while the tenets of one genre may float to the surface, blackened death is still the main ingredient in the track, with high speed, machine gun drums working overtime in the breakdown sections. An unfortunate element that remains constant throughout is the poor vocal lines, rarely giving you anything more to hear, to digest. Yes, they carry a certain weight in that "brutality" realm, but minus a psychedelic clean singing fit just before the six minute mark, you get nothing more than a droning set of lifeless breaths. They do nothing to build the overall sound of the song, or the album for that matter.

There is a clear concept at play here, a well defined story that is ready to be communicated through sound and fury. But somewhere after the first note, Halladrol throw that idea away, and churn out a nearly twenty minute epic EP that goes, seemingly, nowhere. And while that foundation is in place, one of ideological thoughts, about the time and place of religious right, there are nowhere to be found in these three tracks. Sure, if you pour over the lyric sheet you may find meaning in the distortion. But with this as your soundtrack, "The Last Mile On Earth" is sure to be a long one.


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