Review: “New Horizons Pt. 1” by Heleven

Spanish string quartet Heleven formed in the September of 2016 with a desire to create Metal with no borders or boundaries, to evoke emotion in the listener. They began their journey with 2019’s “Medusa’s Love Story” before an obligatory cover of “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher” surfaced in 2020, a month after the series staring Henry Cavill appeared on Netflix. 2021 saw the arrival of sophomore album “Into the Oceans” which once again served to raise the profile of the band both in Spain and internationally as vocalist and guitarist Higinio Ruiz, drummer Matías Famá, bassist Kike Martín and guitarist Álvaro Castilla confirmed the potential Art Gates Records had seen in them. Album number three, the intriguingly titled “New Horizons Pt. 1” has already given no less than four pre-release singles with the band smashing their previous streaming statistics. So what does it sound like?

Dispelling the myth that the band go harder with this third album is straightforward enough, “New Horizons Pt. 1” still has roots in Melodic Death Metal with warm and melancholic synths underpinning cuts like “Stronger” despite the positive lyrical narrative with the sound distantly echoing mid career In Flames except with a bright clean vocal performance from Ruiz. The songs are driven by the powerful percussive sound of Famá who hammers home a whirlwind of fills to create the tempo of the damned which the others play along to, crunchy rhythm guitars of cuts like “Toro” displaying some Gojira influence before “The Unknown” dives into chugged Nu-Metal riffs a la KoRn which work quite well with Ruiz’s soft vocals as they offer a nice contrast. The chorus of this one is anthemic with arena sized venue sing-a-long qualities and a stomping mosh pit breakdown section in the final third slaps hard however there is the feeling that at six minutes and nine seconds it is perhaps a verse and chorus over long. Sometimes less is more and that would negate the need for the ethereal atmospheric interlude that is “Over the Clouds“, a piece that serves to cleanse the palate and introduce the album title track. Once again having the spirit of Gojira trapped within its four walls like a ghost, “New Horizons” offers chanted unclean vocals, a nice sense of tension and a powerful driving riff in the mid section to get the headbanging going. A tasteful melodic drop off that builds back up to a powerful conclusion makes this one a real stand out and worthy title track.

The seconds half of the record continues in the same vein, dark and powerful riffs that modernise the 1999 guitar sound with a satisfying crunch bring in “The Sniper” before an eclectic and slightly unhinged drop off for a whispered part offers something fresh before building back up again. They manage to escape the trappings of sounding a little one dimensional by adding parts to bolster the songs core sound, including a rare piece of lead guitar work on the back end of the cut and this formula works for the most part. Industrial sounds enhance “When the Earth Leaves the Sun” as the Heleven take a more melodic direction, the electronics subduing the power of the previous cuts and giving it a more monolithic and entrancing flare. What it lacks is a bit of punch, a mid cut breakdown or a powerful solo just to lift it out of its framing and give it a little more attitude. Finding some Progressive moments, “Last Call to Nowhere” returns to the earlier album cuts in terms of style, its big chorus offering winning the day before it closes out with an eerie piano moment straight out of a horror film. “Dead Trees” takes a little while to get going but when it does it’s menacing riffs lift it from the gloom into territory that excites once more, the quality of the groove laden rhythms and leads in the end making it one of the albums finer cuts because they give it that edge that is strangely absent on a few of these tracks. Afterthought “The End” feels like the soundtrack to the credits at the end of a Clint Eastwood starring Western, the twang of the acoustic guitars and whistled melody as you leave the cinema and perhaps something that the band will use to introduce their live sets. Here it feels unnecessary but a curiosity none the less [7/10]

Track Listing

  1. Stronger
  2. Toro
  3. The Unknown
  4. Over the Clouds
  5. New Horizons
  6. The Sniper
  7. When the Earth Leaves the Sun
  8. Last Call to Nowhere
  9. Dead Trees
  10. The End

New Horizons Pt. 1” by Heleven is out 3rd February 2023 via Art Gates Records

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