May 112023

(We present DGR‘s extensive review of the debut album by the Dutch band Haliphron, a big album that was released at the end of March by Listenable Records.)

Prey – the first full-length release from the Netherlands-dwelling group Haliphron all the way back in March- caught eyes for a few reasons. One of the main ones being the artwork attached to said release since – if our site background hasn’t tipped you off yet – we do enjoy us some skulls round these here parts. But there were a few others that managed to align the planets just right that, so even one of us keyboard mashers managed to take notice.

One of the other reasons was that solo artist/guitar wizard/former Aborted member Mendel did some work on this release, and the other, which is just as somewhat out in the weeds that only those of us who find amusement in pattern matching and statistics will enjoy, is that the God Dethroned circle seems to continually spread ever further.

In addition to that band’s guitarist popping up in Ghost Of Mirach last year, it will interest some to know that their current drummer also happens to sit behind the kit for the aforementioned symphonic black metal shenanigans of Haliphron.

Like we said, it’s certainly a whole lot of weight to throw behind a debut album and definitely a lot of stuff that NoCleanSinging afficianados are going to take notice of. If nothing else, it is certianly a testament to the various internet music holes that we love to fall down around this corner of the net.

If you’re familiar with a lot of bands who fashion themselves as symphonic black metal, you’re also likely familiar with how a lot of their debut albums go. They tend to be incredibly ambitious and often feel like the band threw everything they had at it, as if they’d never get the chance to record again. Not only are they debut albums but they tend to be big albums as well, with expansive songs and equally expansive run-times.

You wind up checking a lot of the simplicity at the door in favor of huge works and because the band have a massive musical arsenal available to them – both in instrumentation and sometimes in sheer talent – they often can’t help indulging themselves in creating massive, multi-layered songs wherein the synth work can get just as much focus if not carrying just as much of the musical weight of the album as the main band does.

Prey isn’t that different in that regard. The shorthand version of this is to say that Prey is an album you’re going to have to hike your pants up for and get ready for a walk, because depending on what version of the album you get, this bad boy is forty-five to fifty minutes long. It’s the sort of album where you could actually be okay taking a mid-journey break to go grab a snack and come back to it. By the time the titular “Prey” song wraps up its five-minute musical whirlwind, it’s hard to shake the sense that holy hell have the Haliphron crew already thrown a ton of stuff at you.

The first three songs on Prey all clear the six-minute mark with ease, with opener “The Killing Spree” scraping just up against the seven-minute mark close enough to scare you. Prey has the required ominous intro in place, but after that “The Killing Spree” is all gunfire and spectacle, making clear just what sort of band Haliphron are going to be, including (for a good chunk of the album) their preferred tempo.

It’s a whole lot of big guitar and equally big bombast happening in the back of “The Killing Spree”, with vocalist Marloes Voskuil providing enough varied snarls up front to sound like a riot in an animal shelter.

“Perfect Existence” a few songs later is when you get a punchier version of the band that reaches for the full gothic-theatrical-horror-show that this style lends itself well to in the opening moments, with plenty of orchestral stings and rolling bass guitar to grab your attention after it seems like the one-two of “The Killing Spree” and “Mother Of All Evil” were going to guitar-chug you into a treadmark on the ground.

If you’re the type to love songs that are big, sweeping tales of madness, then surprisingly enough, it’s not the first two songs that lean that hard into the dramatic stage-play of insanity, but “Perfect Existence” definitely earns full marks.

Now if you would like to pull a seat up to the table and have a long philosophical discussion with us about playing to the NoCleanSinging cheap seats, then let’s have us a grand ol’ time with the song “Human Inferno”, if for no other reason than the fact that it is a song called “Human Inferno”.

Taken on its own, “Human Inferno” is a movie score of a song, where again you have the big and bombastic symphonics opening up the affair as the song plunges into the depths for its opening assault. At a tiny bit over five minutes, the difficulty of not being drawn into “Human Inferno” as a potential first sampler is very high. You’ll get plenty of drum-kit annihilation, orchestration in the style of horns hailing from the sky, and a rhythm section that somehow absorbs the guitar work into it to create one big, bludgeoning and angry beast.

Is it all huge for the sake of being huge? Absolutely. Is there a little bit of unintended camp in it? Yeah, probably, since evil all the time can easily become the norm by which things are judged. When you’re this deep into Prey‘s overall assault, “Human Inferno” and its constant guitar chugging, and angular rhythmic changes combined with the bellicose bombast that you’re used to at this point ,strikes a fine enough balance that it still manages to stick out.

Is the main guitar rhythm in the last two or so minutes used by every band under the sun, from SepticFlesh to Children Of Bodom to White Zombie? Yes. Does it still work as shorthand for headbanging? Yes, easily. “Human Inferno” is a hell of standout in the back half of Prey.

Prey works out like many of the band’s contemporaries on their first launch. We discussed it above so it doesn’t shock to say now, Prey is tremendously ambitious. Haliphron overstuff the hell out of this album, and like many of those other first-launch explosions, part of the fun is dissecting each and every bit as you come across it. As a whole, it can feel like an album of cinderblocks being launched at you from a cannon in ten different forms, but again, that’s the point of music as densely packed as this. It does a lot of tip-toeing between full-blown evil and cinematic camp in about equal measure, but there’s plenty of headbanging to be found within Haliphron’s first.

There’s definitely more than enough here to germinate from, and promises of at least several different directions that the band could head off in in pursuing new heaviness for a followup. Were they to intertwine their taste for the grandoise with the bludgeoning band a little tighter and let their vocalist continue to run just as wild as they do here, then Haliphron could easily grab more than enough heads to build a throne of skulls. With Prey, the work is a little harder, but still just as interesting because each song is likely to find its legion of listeners.

Though let’s be real, you’re more than welcome to the “Human Inferno” club. We’ll see about getting some stickers printed.

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