Saturday, February 6, 2016

Hyperion - Seraphical Euphony

Written by Andy Osborn.

Cover Art by Alex Tartsus

The term ‘Dissection clone’ gets thrown around a lot. While not necessarily an insult, it attempts to classify the many bands trying to recreate the glory of Storm of the Light’s Bane; one of the most game-changing albums in modern extreme music. It may not have been the first to fuse gorgeous melodies with the frostiness of black metal and death metal guitar wizardry, but it certainly was (and arguably still is) the best. The album immediately and obviously influenced Dissection’s Swedish cohorts like Dawn, Vinterland, and Sacramentum, but its grasp reached much further than those short-lived bands of the 90s. A second wave of these talented tremolo titans later appeared with the likes of Thulcandra, Dark Fortress, Istapp, and - of course - Watain.

It’s not hard to see why this sub-sub-genre is so often emulated. It’s complex, intense, and absurdly fun. The songs are built upon ridiculously catchy guitar leads that are ever-changing, and most bands make a game out of how they can construct, rearrange, and inject more intrigue into the foundations. There’s a defined set of ingredients, but the recipe is open-ended enough to allow for endless experimentation. But for every one of the well-known acts that do the style some sort of justice, there are ten more that play a sloppy, second-rate bastardization of it. It can be hard to wade through the murk.

So it’s rare when a debut comes along and nails the sound, but Hyperion did just that. Hailing from - nevermind, you can guess where - their debut, Seraphical Euphony, is an absolute monster, and the result of hard work and patience. Sticking it out in various forms for almost a decade, they waited until the stars (and their tumultuous roster) aligned before putting this amazing record together over the course of two years. It’s something the world was waiting for, we just didn’t know it yet.

While the aforementioned slur certainly applies, the band does so much more than play a sound that’s been obsessed over for two decades. The six-piece dive in with full force, worship their masters, and attack the style with such confidence it feels like they’re one of the progenitors. What they bring to the sound is a bag of tricks that seems to never end. The most prominent of these, acoustic guitar interplay, was featured on the original Great Work, but Hyperion use it to an extent that never feels contrived or thrown in because they ran out of ideas. For once it actually works as in intro to an album, and it acts as a perfect homage to “Where Dead Angels Lie” on “Flagellum Dei”.

Rare for the style, keyboards also appear throughout the album, though they’re used appropriately; as an Emperor-esque accent rather than a bombastic crutch. But the secret weapon Hyperion employ is one that just makes so much sense for their sound: a triple guitar attack. The fact that this isn’t just studio trickery and can (I assume) be replicated live is a dedication few bands have. Their melodic leads are brought to a whole new level when doubled in size and can shift to play counterpoint off each other while the rhythm section barrels forth without any loss of harmony.

It’s not only these flourishes or even the songs themselves that impress, but the album as a whole. It’s presented in such a way that proves it wasn’t random assortment of tracks thrown together. While the first three proper tracks are fairly similar is style and substance, Hyperion switch gears halfway through the album as “Moral Evasion” first soothes with some light piano then explodes into epic melodeath to keep things interesting and show they have a few more influences at play.

After this halfway point the band tries a few new things and, unsurprisingly, they work. There are more solos, tempo shifts - okay, maybe a tad too much acoustic guitar - and the band even tries their hand and gang vocals at one point. It’s as if they’re growing over the course of the release and exploring who they are as a unit, and it’s beyond impressive. “Blood of the Ancients” closes out the whole thing with a brilliant finale as every member launches a full-scale assault on the senses to overwhelm before abruptly disappearing.

Hyperion set out to play a style that’s easily dismissed, and they impress on every level. For a debut to be so precise in its intent and execution is rare, and this new Swedish guard is doing much more than making their countrymen proud - they’re forging a new path out of old tools. Every second is engaging, and the album's individual parts are just as rewarding as the sum. If Seraphical Euphony isn’t the best work in this style in its twenty year history, it makes a damn convincing claim for it.


Tagged with 2016, Andy Osborn, Black Lion Productions, death metal, free download, Hyperion, melodic black metal
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