Since forming in the early 2000’s, Finnish metallers XIII have earned a potent reputation through their live appearances which has seen them sharing stages with the likes of Entombed and The Crown at festivals like Finland’s own Steelfest Festival. Their appearance in 2011 drew powerful responses and acclaim but until now the band has not had any physical releases to tempt the passions. They certainly have made up for it with the release of their debut album Helltongue, a release which suggests the Helsinki based quartet has been saving up and brewing their intensity and sculpted aggression for the event, as across the thirteen track album it is rife and carnivorous with tsunami intensity.
Formed by vocalist/guitarist Kristian Juuso and drummer Petteri Lammassaari, the band conjures up ferocity in their adrenaline driven sound which is breath-taking but it also comes with a wealth of grooves and melodically toned enterprise which ensures the release has more to offer than just unrelenting and unsurprising onslaughts upon the senses. Like a tempest of Pantera, Slayer, and Devildriver, to go for the obvious, the record and band do not complicate things by trying to create new dimensions or boundaries with their place in metal but simply they are intent on igniting the rawest most ear crushing pleasure possible, something which with Helltongue they have mastered triumphantly.
The album is a real treat of aggressive confrontation and incendiary passion rising joy, it may not be overtly original but easily right up there with the most enjoyable and inciting furies over past months. Once the intro has built up the atmosphere with deceptive lures as to what really is to come, its melodic tease more akin to a power or symphonic metal encounter, Phantom Pain from a crisp cymbal wave accosts the ear with predatory riffs and equally violent rhythms, the bass especially bestial and deliciously intimidating. The vocals of Juuso growl and prowl the song with bear like qualities whilst the distant additional squalls add further caustic rub upon the already scarred flesh buckling under the intensity and weight of the guitars and drums. It is a carnally toned embrace which devours the senses before handing them over to a mutual corrosive conspirator in The Circle of Snakes. Again the guitars of Juuso and Jari Härkönen enslave the passions with unbridled and uncomplicated persistent provocation whilst Lammassaari and the bass of Simo Partanen crack and snarl with venomous urgency and force. Like the first the song is short with a punch to ground a rhino, a feature of the album though some songs make a longer but no less intensive proposition, and within all onslaughts no atom, synapse, or thought is left unbreached.
The Last Messiah brings more of the same though stands alone in individuality from the previous pair, it’s slightly slower ravaging seemingly more calculated in its destructive contagion whilst the bass leers from within the storm with noticeable enterprise and spiteful clarity. Another easy to be infected by with the catchy groove to sound and swing of the vocal delivery, it continues the immense if samey start in style. Next up Gemini steps forward to stretch things and break–up expectations, its longer groove cored presence veined by sizzling sonic enterprise and shifting textures. It is still an insatiable rage upon the body but the first to beguile and seduce with what now becomes a regular weapon, variation.
The stalking pace of Dark Utopia consumes the ear next it’s restrained but still eager charge sharing centre stage with scintillating melodic strikes and a cleaner twist to the vocals, the growl still in place but evolving throughout to offer absorbing diversity in that aspect too. The song is an intimidating charmer and at this point the brewing ardour for the release switches to a building rapture which after only a couple more encounters was raging as intensely as the album itself. The outstanding and glorious The Valley of Death with its sirenesque intro and heavy beckoning shadows is an irrepressible temptation whilst the likes of the bloodthirsty Iconoclast, the gently enthralling Post Scriptum with its startling and magnetic smouldering start complete with rich clean vocals before more bestial persuasion, and the creeping weight of Demon Avenue, all press creatively and heavily with virulent effect to spark greater hunger in return.
The final duo of tracks The Ghost and Deathgrip are just waiting carnage givers, both merciless savagery but both again offering more than just violent conflicts. On the surface both have a closely crafted presence but deviate into their own open stances for a lasting thrilling finale of argumentative intensity. Released via Inverse Records Helltongue is outstanding, hopefully XIII will not take another decade or so to bruise and rouse our passions.
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