Hollenthon – Opus Magnum (2008)

Hollenthon – Opus Magnum (2008, Napalm Records)

  1. On The Wings Of A Dove
  2. To Fabled Lands
  3. Son Of Perdition
  4. Ars Moriendi
  5. Once We Were Kings
  6. Of Splendid Worlds
  7. Dying Embers
  8. Misterium Babel

Band Lineup:
Martin Schirenc – Vocals, Guitars, Bass & Keyboards
Martin Arzberger – Guitars
Gregor “El Gore” Marboe – Bass & Backing Vocals
Mike Gröger – Drums & Percussion

Additional Musicians:
Elena Schirenc – Vocals

Total Time = 46:17

Hollenthon official website
Hollenthon MySpace page
Napalm Records

OPUS MAGNUM is my first introduction to Austrian symphonic death metallers Hollenthon but the band has been around since 1999. Hollenthon is the brainchild of Pungent Stench mainman Martin Schirenc and the band has released two albums: DOMUS MUNDI (1999) and WITH VILEST OF WORMS TO DWELL (2001). The band has been on somewhat of a hiatus while Schirenc has concentrated on Pungent Stench but, now that they have broken up, Schirenc has focused his attention toward OPUS MAGNUM.

There is a blend of styles here aside from typical Death Metal, some call it Melodic Death Metal, but I hear more orchestration and folk in the music while retaining a pure heaviness. ‘On The Wings Of A Dove’ is a perfect example. The song opens the album with a heavy guitar riff and manic double bass drums but with an accompanying orchestration that includes choir vocals, keyboards, and strings (that probably come from the keys). When you add the harsh vocals of Schirenc then heaviness of the music stands out. Being a new fan of this type of Metal, ‘On The Wings Of A Dove’ is the type of song that gives me the general idea of the direction the band is going with the blending of many different sounds. The old saying is “you only have one chance to make an impression” and Hollenthon has made a favorable impression right away. ‘To Fabled Lands’ slows down a little bit compared to the opener but it is still heavy due to the double bass and crashing cymbals. There are more prominent choir vocals that remind me of some of Hammerfall’s output from their first two albums. I really dig ‘Son Of Perdition’, it has this hook between the guitar and keyboards that gets the fist pumping. The keys are a little more prominent at times but that main riff sticks right in my head. There are some more solid background vocals but it’s the gruffness of the main vocal that stands out to me. The song slows in the middle for some clean female vocals (a Symphonic Metal staple) and then they are incorporated in to contrast and compliment the main vocal towards the end. It’s a little different compared to the rest of the album, ‘Sons OF Perdition’ has more of a Power Metal vibe to it.

‘Ars Moriendi’ starts with a heavy orchestration and some serious soprano highs from Elena Schirenc that are kind of like Tarja (ex-Nightwish). After the beginning, ‘Ars Moriendi’ is a guitar feast with Schirenc and Martin Arzberger shredding all over the place, including a really good solo, until the orchestration kicks back in towards the end of the song. The tempo slows a little on ‘Once We Were Kings’ and incorporates the keyboards into the main vocal and also includes the choir like backgrounds and clean female vocals. This is one of my favorite songs on the album and it displays the myriad of sound that Hollenthon is using just like the album opener, ‘On The Wings Of A Dove’. ‘Of Splendid Worlds’ is more of the same Death Metal heaviness mixed with a Nightwish type orchestration at the beginning and then the symphonic elements kick out for the verses revealing the harshness. Towards the middle of the song a cool piano comes in to accompany the guitar. ‘Dying Embers’ starts out a little slow, a little quiet, with a clean vocal but everything picks up again with the blazing guitars and bass pounding.

The surprise of the album is the 8 minute ‘Misterium Babel’, a song that experiments with a Middle Eastern/Indian style along with the harsher elements. The contrast between the softer, cleaner side versus the harsher, Death side really makes the song. There is a perfect blend of sound between the heaviness of the riffs and drums to the subdued percussion and almost trance chanted vocals. The orchestration and female soprano weaves in and out almost mysteriously as does a flute! I was surprised to hear a flute pop in around the 6:40 mark of the song but it is there and done within the confines of the Middle Eastern flavor. Absolutely the best, and most different, song on the album!

Bottom Line:
I have only begun to explore the more extreme sides of Metal, my normal genres of choice being Traditional/Power Metal and Hard Rock. During the last year, I have started to listen to more Death and Black Metal and all of the spin-off styles that accompany them: Symphonic, Folk, Melodic Death, etc. So, while I’m not an expert, I do know what I hear and what I hear on OPUS MAGNUM is really good. There are plenty of guitar riffs that totally crush and some serious double bass pounding to go with the gruff vocals but what sets this band/album apart is the will to experiment. The orchestration is not overbearing, it’s blended into the heaviness. The female vocals soar and provide a good contrast to the death growls. One of the things that usually turns me off to Death Metal is that I can’t understand what is being sung, the good thing is that Schirenc is understandable under all the layers of vocal aggression…..to me, a big plus. The production is really great: everything is crystal clear, blended together well, and not overdone. It’s hard to understand how a band like Hollenthon has slipped under my radar but I can assure you that I enjoyed OPUS MAGNUM enough to give me the kick to go find the band’s first two albums.

Favorite songs: ‘Misterium Babel’, ‘On The Wings Of A Dove’, ‘Sons Of Perdition’, ‘Once We Were Kings’