Viking Metal On Steroids was the phrase I thought of when catching HELESTIOS live in Southampton nearly a year ago. I also remember thinking they managed to create their own sound and they are due to release their second album Road To Ecstasy. To achieve that this early on is an incredible feat to do. Road To Ecstasy will take you along for a rough and chaotic ride, whether you are ready or not. Let me explain in one of my rare track-by-track reviews.
The album opener Sanctuary lures you in with a haunting and atmospheric soundscape accompanied with a sombre guitar riff. This is before it hits with a strong doom surge and then melodic death metal greatness. Even within the first track, it’s hard to pigeonhole them into one style. The definition of sanctuary is a place of refuge or safety from pursuit and persecution. Given what the album explores, the song’s music and lyrics could be inciting that even sanctuaries aren’t safe places anymore. You can read more about what is explored in the album in my interview with lead vocalist/guitarist Henrijs Leja by clicking here.
In Cage is one of the singles to be released and all I can say for this track is this: expect a lot of foot stomping, hair swishing and sore fingers from all that air guitar you will be doing to that brilliant guitar solo.
In the first few seconds of Cycles, STORMCAST song Resonance comes to mind instantly. This is due to the same power and anger that both these tracks display, they also have similar sounding melodies. Not too similar that you can’t tell them apart mind, both equally fantastic tracks that demonstrate what the band have to offer up.
When I first heard Fight, I couldn’t help but think of BEASTIE BOYS classic Fight For Your Right To Party if it were given the Viking treatment. This is due to the similar sounding beat when the vocals cry out “you gotta fight, fight for you right”, yet when you listen to the rest of the track; it couldn’t be further from this party anthem. I am personally glad this has been released as a single as it means you can hear for yourselves before the album is released.
Evil Bastards is an interesting track. First thoughts are that it starts with more major tones than its previous tracks and if you didn’t know what you were in for, I would say the opening riff wouldn’t be out of place in a BLACK SABBATH or LED ZEPPLIN record. It includes a recording from a speech made by John F Kennedy from the sixties, knowing where the speech came from explains the retro sounding riffs. It’s a track that encourages you to stop and think about things.
The title track communicates those feelings of numbness and vagueness at the beginning. Images of those opium dens come to mind. This is before the ecstasy part kicks in, and everything is incredibly rapid. You know that feeling of everything needing to be done in a short space of time? This track provides the audio version of this perfectly.
The rapid and chaotic goings on in Visions provide a great representation of what the mind goes through when experiencing a bad period when fighting those inner demons and ill mental health. You feel as if there is no way out and everything is confusing and frightening.
It closes with Mind which gives us one last blast of what the band offer up. We all know how complex the mind is and this track does a great job showing this musically. Is there such a genre called melodic death progressive metal? If not, there ought to be, and this would be a great example. Even up to the last track, they show it’s impossible to pigeonhole them into one style.
Road To Ecstasy is a solid album. It’s full of pounding riffs, prevailing growls, slick solos and thunderous drums that all come together to create chaotic sounds that will leave a lasting impact. It’s one of those albums you need to hear for yourself, don’t take my word for it.
Words: Lotty Whittingham
Road To Ecstasy will be out 19th May 2023.
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