Heylel is a quartet from Portugal with a multitude of artistic backgrounds and instruments. Their debut album, Nebulae, aims to recapture the old school presence of Progressive Rock with some Alternative Rock thrown in. Does Nebulae show off their gothic and sentimental shades or become lost in the looming shadows?
Nebulae starts off slowly, (hopefully) to set the mood. Track two, “The Prophet” demonstrates the brooding atmospheric aura that Heylel is composed of. This track has a lot going on, distorted vocals, abrasive guitars, and beautiful breakdowns; this track is Heylel in a nutshell. Yes, they are capable of more, (as the rest of Nebulae demonstrates) but “The Prophet” acts as a collection for many of their favorite attributes.
Nebulae spends a lot of time creating presence, usually with the help of piano/keyboard and chorus/indiscernible vocals. For example, the last track on the album, “Embrace the Darkness” refrains from distinguishable lyrics and instead relies on more chorus like vocals, which makes sense considering lead vocalist Ana Batista, comes form a church choir background.
The soothing female vocals throughout the album bring about a haunting calm; a feeling similarly presented by The Gathering. As a working cohesive group, Heylel remains on point throughout the entire album. The synchronicity between each member is crucial to creating and maintaining a dark theme that doesn’t contradict itself. The album is 11 tracks long for a total of 48 minutes. Much of this album stems from slow starts and patient progression, but doesn’t cross over into drawn out or overdone. In fact, only one song passes the six-minute milestone.
Tracks like “The Sage” show how well Heylel can operate with so little going on. Heylel makes simple elegance look so easy. A good portion of this album is less dark and more soothing. “I Talk to the Wind” could even fit perfectly in a piano lounge.
If this band so successfully blends artistic creativity in terms genre with band synchronicity for the entire length of an album, then what could possibly make it any better? The really strong tracks on the album are too spread apart, that is to say that an ordinary album length isn’t fitting for such an unwonted band. Truly, Heylel’s next album could take advantage of this and offer more of themselves to create something even bigger. The ambient focused tracks are enjoyable, but they could be more appreciated if the album were longer. The creativity Heylel serves leaves the listener craving more.
The journey of resurrecting old school Progressive Rock has begun. On June 30, 2014, the Portuguese quartet Heylel released their debut album Nebulae. This dark atmospheric album connects emotional messages with melodic grit in a fashion one could compare to Lacuna Coil or even Nightwish. That being said, the slow flow may catch some off guard, while others will appreciate the experimentation and creativity presented.
Underground Examinations is a series of Independent Music Reviews with the intention of giving new music a fair and appropriate opportunity to be enjoyed.