Many of us often hope for unions of visual, musical, and lyrical artistry, the integration of sights, sounds, and words that manifests a cohesive vision, with each part elevating the others and making possible a more compelling holistic experience. Such achievements are less common than we might wish, but the Colorado band Helleborus have given us one through their new album Saprophytic Divinations, which will be released by Redefining Darkness Records on December 6th.
This won’t come as any great surprise to people who are familiar with the band’s 2016 debut album, The Carnal Sabbath, or their 2017 single “Prayer of the Undying“, both of which we wrote about here, and yet the new album seems an even more fully realized reflection of the band’s far-reaching aspirations.
Before today Helleborus had already revealed one example of that artistic integration referred to above, presenting a song called “Alraun Ghost” along with artwork created for the track by Stefan Todorovic (Atterigner) of Khaos Diktator Art, and today we’re presenting another one — revealing both the title track and Stefan Todorovic‘s artwork for the album. (In the days ahead Redefining Darkness will share yet a third track and the artwork created for that song as well; all three pieces of art will be included in the 6-panel digipak CD edition of the record).
Thematically, as one might divine from the band’s name (the deadly winter flower that the ancient Greeks called “the plant of fauns”) Helleborus have been influenced by the Orphic Mysteries and traditional western witchcraft and folklore, but have also drawn inspiration from occult herbalism and sexual mysticism. With respect to the title of the new album, “Saprophytic” is a term given to fungus or plants that grow or eat from decaying matter, obtaining nourishment from the products of organic breakdown.
As for the album’s title track, vocalist/lyricist, S. Wyatt Houseman has told us this:
“To make our own home be our gallows, to sacrifice our self to our self and to ignite the Hypraxis of the soul… This time we explore aspects of The Hanged Man and the Chaldean Oracles. The Hanged Man surrenders himself in attempt to gain enlightenment and in turn becomes part of the prophecy.”
Wyatt Houseman‘s voice is a frighteningly powerful presence in the song, but he is surrounded by the equally powerful contributions of composer/guitarist Jerred C. Houseman, new drummer Brent Boutté (ex-Uada), and bassist Ian Horneman. The piercing, unnerving guitar arpeggios and gloomy bass tones that begin the song create a frightening harmony, generating tension and fear, undergirded by methodically gut-punching drumwork and fronted by those truly terrifying vocals, the kind of serrated-edge roars and howls that seem a hybrid of tyrannical imperiousness and throat-tearing bestiality.
The striking force of the sound and its disturbing melody cast a sonic harpoon deep into the brain, yet the experience becomes a mesmerizing as well as a fearsome one. But the dreadful power of the music escalates further, the vocals becoming even more nightmarish as they grow more crazed and ferocious, and the backing swathes of sound becoming a searing typhoon. The core melody of the music transforms through a wailing and swirling solo that has a paranormal sheen, and transforms again when the drum rhythm grows more stately and choral voices enhance the song’s spiritual and ritualistic aspects, while those sensations, coupled with the chiming leads and roiling riffs, simultaneously create an aura of frightening majesty and magnify the building atmosphere of hopelessness and despair.
The song swells to a crescendo of magnificence that underscores how well the band have interwoven multi-faceted sensations — of crushing strength, paralyzing hostility, unearthly peril, and solemn reverence, of fear and splendor and the surrender to death.
As mentioned above, Redefining Darkness will release the album in a 6-panel Digipak CD edition, in a matte finish. The album was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Shane Howard at Sawn & Quartered.
Below, along with our premiere, we’ve also provided a stream of the previously released single “Alraun Ghost“, which is just as stunning an experience as the song we’re sharing today, and maybe even more likely to induce sore-neck syndrome.