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Hellix - Montage review

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Band: Hellix
Album: Montage
Release date: November 2023

01. Montage
02. Dada Construction
03. Coffee Break
04. Stuttering/Exquisite
05. 0
06. Zodiac
07. The Sufi
08. Es

Fast, technical, progressive thrash hardcore bursting with creativity. Sounds cool, huh? Welcome to Hellix.

Montage is the debut album of the Japanese band Hellix. The cover art immediately reminds me of Vektor’s Black Future, with all the wires sticking out of a head, all colored in black-and-white. In fact, the music on this record is also reminiscent of Vektor, with both lightning-fast riffs and lengthy, progressive noodling sections. But, it would be misleading to call Hellix a carbon copy.

The first track, despite its mere 30-second runtime, already shows an element that puts Hellix apart: a foreboding synth track. Another such experimental synth interlude appears on track 5 as well. The vocal delivery on Montage is a mix of blackened rasps and aggressive shouting reminiscent of hardcore singers. On the one hand, the singing can sound sometimes rather forced and almost lacklustre such as on the song “The Sufi”. On the other hand, that song, in particular, is quite noteworthy due to the entertaining interplay of piano playing and lightning-fast guitar-work.

In general, Hellix truly shine by means of their instrumental capabilities. The guitars provide both rapid, razor-sharp riffing and more intricate, melodic playing. Throughout Montage, the bass guitar especially plays a prominent and very audible role. At times, the bass offers a pleasantly calm background component to contrast the wild, interweaving lead guitar. At other times, however, the bass guitar leads the pack with some quick finger-work such as in the intro and outro of the song “Zodiac”.

Many of the songs here feature a trademark of progressive metal: long, indulgent guitar playing that's technically impressive but might not be that engaging for every listener. I'm usually not a fan of the over-the-top progressive melodies, and I typically find a simple yet catchy riff far more effective than a meandering guitar solo. But, fueled by their aggressive thrash/hardcore energy, Hellix somehow get away with infusing these progressive sections, often in the form of short, unexpected bursts of fast, technical guitar-work. These musicians definitely are full of ideas, and, as a result, their songs seem to be overflowing with a multitude of different riffs and melodies.

While I believe some songs could be shortened to keep alive the invigorating thrash style and not risk losing the attention of a more casual listener, their frequent switching between musical motifs throughout their songs keeps me engaged all the way through. The final song, “Es”, despite it being the longest song on the album with its 11-minute runtime, ends up being arguably the best track. The key is keeping the listener continuously entertained and throwing in unexpected changes in pace to keep the listener at the edge of their seat. And this is exactly what Hellix accomplish, as the last song is flush with various melodies, including some groovy midtempo moments, super sonic solos, and even an audio sample of maniacal laughter.

In the end, while their ultra fast technicality and progressive guitar playing are clearly inspired by Vektor, Hellix end up defining a quite unique mix of their own by incorporating hardcore vocals and the experimental usage of synth melodies. And, with all of the creative musicianship on display here, Hellix can be proud of a successful debut record. I definitely look forward to listening to how they'll continue to develop their ideas in the future.

Written on 01.12.2023 by The sign of good music is the ability to both convey and trigger emotion.


Comments: 4   Visited by: 48 users
03.12.2023 - 12:56
Rating: 8
Haven't enjoyed a thrash metal album this much since Havok's latest album V back in 2020 so thanks for the discovery of this band and for a very nice review
Bow to the King Hercules!
03.12.2023 - 13:50
Auntie Sahar
Drone Empress
Yeah this is the type of thrash that will actually catch my interest nowadays. No recycling of the 80s bangers, please, let’s try to mix it with something more interesting like prog, sludge, etc. I’ll definitely be giving this a whirl
I am the Magician and the Exorcist. I am the axle of the wheel, and the cube in the circle. “Come unto me” is a foolish word: for it is I that go.

04.12.2023 - 15:16
Rating: 7

It's certainly unique - how much I enjoy it is up for debate (the vocals I'm not particularly fond of) but I can appreciate the ingenuity, cool find!
11.12.2023 - 11:38
Almost the same issues that I also have with the Venus album. I appreciate it for its songwriting rather than actually enjoying listening to it.
Do you think if the heart keeps on shrinking
One day there will be no heart at all?

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