Despite its formation all the way back in 1995, it wasn’t only from 2002 that Poland’s Hellveto started its spree on full length releases, with Damnaretis being the band’s 15th full length release in a short 10 years. Yet the consistency of the band is rather evident, with each of the releases being rather well received, making Damnaretis a pretty interesting first exposure to this Polish pagan/black metal band.
The pagan/folk aesthetics are extremely clear right from the start, with the somewhat soothing and calming soundscape that the band creates with album opener Damnaretis. The melodies that band mastermind L.O.N. unleashes on the guitars all have a distinct folk sound. The mid-pace that the band goes also helps to reinforce the atmosphere in the music, allowing for the emotions that the band has incorporated into the music to really set in to the listener as the album progresses. Rather than simply sticking to a standard heroic or pagan theme that most other similarly-styled bands tend to do, Hellveto includes a rather nice variation throughout the album, from the soothing Damnaretis, to the rather aggressive Zalobny taniec, to the crushing Wlasnie Tam, sounding like a neverending funeral march, somewhat reminiscent of slower Marduk songs albeit with a heavier atmospheric emphasis here. Apart from the pace of the music, this is also done through the vocal styles of L.O.N., with his alternating between black metal shrieks and clean singing, at times even giving a somewhat melancholic feel to the music with the melodic music at the background.
The songwriting on Damnaretis is also stellar, with no moments on the album to bore the listener at all. Each instrumentation, and the orchestration all come together nicely, particularly the composition on the folk acoustic instruments that are present on the album, and that is perhaps one of the main highlights of Hellveto‘s music, the perfect synchronisation of soothing pagan/folk metal and black metal elements. Each of the songs also flow smoothly to the subsequent ones, ensuring that Damnaretis is one coherent listen, and the band ensuring that the train of thought is not broken with sudden surprises. To be honest, there is nothing too surprising or too out of the blue on the album, and that seems to be the entire point of the band, to ensure that the listener is completely immersed in the universe that is created by Hellveto and Damnaretis.
Few pagan metal releases are truly able to captivate me, but I have to admit, Hellveto has certainly done one hell of a good job with Damnaretis. The entire atmosphere that is created with the instruments and the orchestration ensure that one is put through an extremely enchanting and captivating journey.