Review: Velkhanos – The Wrath

Velkhanos is a four-men, one-woman black/death metal band hailing from Spain. And with this shockingly abundant information I end their introduction, simply because I don’t know anything else about these guys and the one girl… nor could I find anything anywhere. Google, Facebook, Bandcamp, Instagram, Twitter, they have it all, but they all are equally silent and shady about the band. There’s really nothing noteworthy about them to be found either of those. At least not anything that might be of interest to this review and you guys, apart perhaps from the line-up, to be found a little further down. No matter, because I’ll just let them talk through their music and damn’, do they have a whole lot to say! Their presumably maiden release The Wrath is one hell of an album. Who needs introductions, just put this on and you know all you need to know. Before I’ll elaborate, though, one more note: I don’t know who thought calling their music black/death metal an accurate description and what he or she was thinking, but in my humble opinion it’s far from accurate. Death metal, sure, but black? I haven’t heard anything that could justify that label. A remote hint to it, perhaps, but other than that there’s nothing resembling black metal. Just so you know. Now, let’s see what it exactly is that vocalist Miriam Ortiz, guitarists Fernando Salmerón and Pablo Ato, bassist Ángel Lucas and drummer José Antonio Montiel have produced to get me so psyched.

First we need an answer to the question of what it is they play. Well, even though opener/intro In Absentia Dei (In the absence of God) is far from revealing where it comes to Velkhanos’ musical path, it still manages to make you realize what is coming next. It inevitably builds up towards a powerful wall of melodic sounds and that is exactly what you get. So melodic death metal it is, spiced with doses of power and thrash metal and a pinch of shred to top it off. The aforementioned wall of melodic sound is called Bring me the Fire and it is straight away one of the best songs on the album. Arguably, yes, but still. It’s title couldn’t have been chosen any more appropriate, because it sure as hell brings fire. What an introduction!

After a short intro that definitely rings an Yngwie Malmsteen bell the deep growling, almost barked vocals kick in at exactly the right speed and perfectly embedded in the very energetic music to ensure even the most frigid creature gets seriously fired up. Impossible to listen to this and not move a muscle. Even though the line-up says it’s only Miriam singing on this release, I really cannot tell if these vocals originate from a male or a female throat, but that is irrelevant to their quality. They’re great regardless. Somewhat surprisingly the clean female vocals that also make their appearance, join in the perfectly balanced equilibrium this song is, along with a point of rest that cuts the speed halfway through. Hopefully this is the prelude to even more of this deliciousness. That quite difficult task falls to Black Omen and, I have to admit, it’s well up to it. Though somewhat different and a little less energetic, in no way a demotion in any way, it’s a great song. The clean female vocals switch to operatic and a Spanish guitar makes its appearance, all framed by tight guitar-, drum- and bass guitar rhythms. This Spanish guitar is here to stay, as it opens the next song, Dagon, before the electric guitar takes over its rhythm. Vocal-wise the focus is shifted towards the clean female vocals with the grunts supporting them by means of a background vocal.

Next up is the title track which seamlessly fits all its predecessors in terms of quality, audibility and composition. The middle section, a tight piece of guitar work with an old school vibe to it followed by a guitar solo, is perfect to give your neck muscles an old-fashioned workout. And don’t think you’ll get to recover after this, as Vulcano offers you some more muscle-stretching opportunities with its high speed pace. Then there’s proof there’s no such thing as a perfect album, when The Last Day sets in with a rather lame chorus. The rest of the song is actually pretty good, but the chorus, in my opinion at least, spoils the fun a bit. Too bad really, as I definitely do dig the rest of the song with its high-paced drum- and bass lines and the ever-good growls. A minor letdown that is easily overcome and that certainly doesn’t change the fact this release is, in its entirety, one of the best of this year. At least so far. It ends with the music fading out while the now familiar Spanish guitar takes over, ending this with a small but welcome surprise. This strongly contrasts with the intro of Moloch, the next song, making its start count. The female vocals are a bit edgy in this one, as if Miriam has to really strain to get it right, but rest assured it’s not a big deal at all. The rather strange intermezzo halfway through breaks the song, which is actually a great choice, because, again, the contrast with what’s coming next maximizes the impact of it. And then, finally, it’s time for the first (and only?) clear hint towards black metal when The Eye of God sets in with a church bell and some ominous chants, something that reoccurs later in the song in the form of a chorus, although that is much more ominous-sounding. The vocals, again the female ones, are spot-on here. And with that, after a little under three quarters of an hour, the album end is near. This awesome album finds its closure with Capricho Árabe, a beautiful duet between the Spanish and the electric guitar with the drums and bass subtly guest starring, if you can even call it that. A soothing end to a fabulous release.

So, if you hadn’t figured it out yet, Velkhanos’ album The Wrath is, at least in my book, a true gem, a fantastically composed and executed album with only one or two very, very tiny points of criticism. This one has it all in one package: Excellent guitar-, drum- and bass work, laced with highlights for all, a vocal duo, an assumption since there’s no mention of another vocalist than Miriam, that, for the vast majority, is perfectly balanced, highly varied compositions. If this in fact is a duo it’s an awesome one, if it’s just Miriam she’s a miracle. Added to that are an abundance of out-of-the-box moments including plenty of guitar solos and a Spanish guitar that actually augments the overall quality of the album rather than being the odd duck in the pond. This one will definitely get a high spot in my year list, hopefully this isn’t going to be the last we hear from them. I’ll be sure to keep an eye out and I can only urge you all to give this a spin. You really don’t want to miss this.

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