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Helium Horse Fly - Hollowed CD (album) cover

HOLLOWED

Helium Horse Fly

 

Experimental/Post Metal

4.19 | 13 ratings

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TCat
5 stars The band from Belgium that goes under the name of "Helium Horse Fly" has not been heard from since 2013. Finally, in early 2019, we get a new, and very dark release from the band in their 2nd studio album "Hollowed". Consisting of a vocalist (Marie Billy), guitarist and keyboardist (Stephane Dupont), bassist (Dimitri Ianello) and drummer (newcomer Gil Chevingne), the band can conjure up some interesting sounds seeing as their musical backgrounds come from everything from free form jazz to metal.

The album is made up of 6 tracks (one less on the vinyl version) ranging from 2 minutes to 14+ minutes with a total run time of over 47 minutes. The album starts with "Happiness", not necessarily the name of a track you would expect on an album such as this. A noise fuzzy guitar and a keyboard drone announce the vocals from Marie that are perfectly suited for the style, somewhere between operatic with a Bjork strangeness, and melodies that are definitely not straightforward. They sound somewhat improvised using a song-like quality, but verging on dramatic spoken word. The background instrumentals start building in intensity, even though it is already intense, by adding in a guest saxophonist, which only heightens the tension being generated. At 4 minutes, there is a sudden change as the drone stops, percussion kicks in and dissonant guitar chords play against the bass and keyboards in a quick churning whirlpool of heavy sound until we hit a sudden, unexpected ending.

"In a Deathless Spell" is the longest track at over 14 minutes and begins much softer, but no less darker as we get a swirling drone and Marie's softer vocalization. You can notice a similarity in the lyrical and melodic style of the band and "Kayo Dot" as Silly Puppy mentioned in his review, and this is an accurate observation. That is probably the closest you'll get to knowing what to expect here, and the comparison is well deserved. A few short outbursts erupt from the dreamy feeling, but it continues on in the second section of lyrics, but this time the softness is short lived as we mix heaviness with little bits of quick jazz-like broken chords. These sounds all mix very well. There is a heavy and complex instrumental break before things quiet down again to a single, pensive guitar that creates an expansive and dark meandering passage. Nearing the 8 minute mark, the hesitant vocals return. Then there is a sudden outburst as the band kicks in again with a very progressive passage of complex rhythm from the drums which is mirrored by the guitar. After a while, a surprising choral style section starts creating a unique and almost threatening feel to the music. The drumming stops as everything else carries on with an echo effect added to the choral sound and this gets nice and spooky sounding. The heaviness and intensity abates as things slowly fade to get replaced by atmospheric synths. Excellent track!

"Algeny" is the track that follows next. Again we have a solo guitar playing broken jazz chords this time against a minimal background. Soon, vocals begin with pensive singing following the guitar notes. In the background there is some metallic dissonance, then the bass and drums establish a somewhat funky pattern. The vocals continue, this time with a brighter attitude, yet remaining a bit hesitant still. Later, it returns to just a solo bass with vocals, soon the drums join in almost approaching the original pattern, until the full band suddenly join in and carry everything into a heavy progressiveness. Cool! This goes on for a while, and then just stops leaving the bass and vocals again.

"Progeny" is a bit shorter at just over 4 minutes, but is a heavy post-metal sound, again similar to Kayo Dot with its complex patterns. It all breaks down and builds again quickly to a nice post-rock feel not unlike GY!BE since things become a little more melodic in the echo-y guitar line. This is a nice instrumental interlude, but is definitely not filler by any means.

Next is another long track called "Monochrome" that goes over 11 minutes. Starting with another vocal section, again with a small choral feel to it, it starts off dark and soft, but with a nice jazz feel to the drums and slightly subdued guitars. A little before the 4 minute mark, there is a sudden intensity as we enter a more complex section with wilder drumming and dissonant guitars playing against each other. This lasts for a little over a minute, the softness and vocals return for a short time, then the bass and drums start churning out a spinning complex pattern and a guitar line comes in strumming against it all, but the drums win out while they take the spotlight against a subdued drone. They fade out while the drone continues, with echoes of the choral section and guitars play far off in the distance, almost indiscernible. Get ready! A sudden eruption will make you jump as another heavy section breaks in and continues to the distorted end of the track.

The last track is a short one, at just over 2 minutes. "Shelter" feels like you've reached a safe place with a soft guitar supporting the vocal. "But there's still something out there."

What an amazing band and album this is, ingenious, unpredictable, and a level of uniqueness with echoes of experimentation, an excellent use of dynamics and no fear of exploring deep and dark passages of music. If you love the experimental heavy sound of bands like Kayo Dot, you will love this, but the music doesn't go completely off the rails like KD can at some times. Besides this comparison, however, HHF is original in their own sounds, finding territory that has been unexplored and hopefully will be explored more in their future albums, like those ghostly sounding choral sections. There is plenty of complexity and a lot of extreme dynamic experimentation here too. Once again, we have another new album that I highly recommend this month.

TCat | 5/5 |

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