*** Go to our YouTube channel in the link below to see the video review of this record in episode #34 of the SBR Album of the Week.
Jesse Heikkinen seems determined to land the award for best debut album of 2023. SBR readers will recognise him as the songwriter behind the colourful progressive doom debut from The Abbey, released earlier this year. Now, he presents his latest project as an avant-garde black metal tour de force with members of industrial metal group, King Satan. Think of the carnivalesque transgressions of Arcturus and the genre-hopping madness of Dødheimsgard, and you’ll arrive somewhere close to where Henget cast their spell. Beyond North Star is a thrilling piece of macabre music.
Mystical gyrations and alchemist incantations form the intro to opener, ‘Dive’, where strummed electric guitars and tom drum patterns segue into a thrust of ghoulish death metal vocals. You think it’ll creep along in this posture, but it soon transitions to a barrage of technical tremolo patterns and earth-shattering blast beats, like Behemoth in the baton-wielding hands of Emperor. Cosmic synthesisers fill the gaps in the few moments of mid-tempo regrouping. Jesse Heikkinen’s plectrum scorches the strings of his guitars as if aiming to wear them down by sheer velocity. Listen how vocalist, King Aleijster de Satan, shouts his way through the chorus like a Medieval knight leading his troops into battle. He does the same on the magnificent, ‘I Am Them’, as the drums alternate between blast beats and a pulsating Tresillo rhythm to prepare you for the evil muscle-flexing of the chorus. A glittering jazz guitar solo offers you a welcome breather from the cyclone of instrumentation operating at maximum levels of destruction.
Beyond North Star is a cornucopia of different musical influences, yet it never sounds disjointed. That’s because the core of the music takes it cue from blackened death metal, like a danse macabre version of Akercocke. Every tip-toeing waltz finds a countermeasure in the baseball bat swings of a violent protagonist. The Killing Joke riff in ‘Henkivallat’ stands out for its unusual focus on an incorporeal hook and an upbeat drum sequence, yet the tempo accelerates to total Armageddon when you think it’s safe to sway your shoulders. Heroic black metal passages seldom have time to admire their handiwork when there’s so much more to conquer in the next battle. ‘The Great Spiral’ reminds you how much Arcturus changed the game with their 1997 album, La Masquerade Infernale.
Henget play a ghoulish form of metal suited to corpse paint and sharp fangs, yet their art is serious. The extravagant riff in the title track has more pull offs than the early morning shift of a backseat hooker. It transitions into a celestial passage of arpeggios as easy as heat flows from naked flames. ‘Lovi’ leaves you with flesh bites in an unresolved drama that flickers between berserk extreme metal and the prowling excitement of a masked ball. It’s the last place you’d expect to find a pentatonic blues solo.
Great music can make you shiver and can test your threshold of fear. Henget play with their listeners like flies to wanton boys – they kill us for their sport. The creepy motif that ghosts through ‘Nouse’ will leave you wondering whether you’re the predator or the prey. Either way, you cannot deny the excitement building in your bones. Your smile will widen with a diabolical thirst for murder and intrigue.
Beyond North Star is a fine piece of free-thinking black metal unencumbered by rules or rituals that lost their sense of purpose over the last two decades. It has the making of a cult classic.
Release Date: 19/05/2023
Record Label: Season of Mist
Standout tracks: Dive, Henkivallat, Beyond North Star
Suggested Further Listening: Arcturus – La Masquerade Infernale (1997), Phallosopher – (I) (2021), Dødheimsgard – Black Medium Current (2023)