It’s not clear why Lower Saxony death metal quintet, Dawn of Disease, split up after releasing Procession of Ghosts via Napalm Records in 2019. You could say that Hiraes is the same band but with a new name and a different singer. Instead of Tomasz Wisniewski roaring down the microphone with clutched hands, the new line-up boasts the charismatic, Britta Görtz, on vocals. It’s a rebranding aimed at Arch Enemy’s audience that will win them new fans but might also alienate those loyal to the former group.
On first listen, Hiraes carry over all the attributes of a competent melodic death metal band from their previous incarnation. The adrenaline-fuelled drums, the growled vocals, the rapid tempos, the heroic harmonising guitars – all are present. Opener, ‘Shadows Break’, starts with a mystical fade-in of finger-tapped guitar harmonies and malevolent voice abrasions from Görtz that soon darken the Nightwish vibe with a barrage of gothic undertones. It’s a strong start to the record that gives way to a flurry of blast beats on ‘Under Fire’, and it’s here we understand why Dawn of Disease rebranded as Hiraes with Görtz as the main focal point. The vocal performance on this record is extraordinary – few extreme metal growlers can reach such levels of elocution in a raspy death metal voice. “Under the fire we must die to be reborn,” cries Görtz, like a thunderous metal goddess.
Unfortunately, the members of Hiraes are in awe of their new vocalist and rely too much on the supreme power of her tar-coated lungs to motor through this album. ‘Grain of Sand’ cries out for more imaginative riffing and a crunchier guitar assault, while ‘Outshine’ is nothing more than a bland imitation of Arch Enemy. Yet a number of gems sparkle among the minority of fillers. ‘1000 Lights’ illuminates with epic keyboard strings and palm-muted guitar grooves and ends with a frantic blackened death metal offensive. Standout track, ‘Eyes Over Black’, showcases a wonderful handle on changing tempos with alternations between double-kick rhythms and sporadic segues into blast beats. Here the dual guitars work wonders in the chorus, invoking the majesty of Paradise Lost’s famous Mackintosh/Aedy partnership in its sorrowful brilliance.
No one can doubt the song writing talent of guitarist, Lukas Kerk, on Solitary, and his lyrics are just as commendable. The ode to solitude in the title track deserves praise for the poignancy of the words: “Don’t take my hand/ Just understand/ Nothing is forever/ Don’t take the blame/ Don’t live in shame/ For being who you are.” It would be even better if he included a Bolt Thrower riff in the composition of the music. Closing track, ‘Running Out of Time’, ends like a melodeath version of Synergy with the stadium theatrics of Sabaton and Power Wolf. Herein lies the main problem with the album – it’s overproduced and too enamoured with the idea of turning death metal into an anthemic bombast for the masses to wave their fists at. This dilutes the brutality of the music and allows the drums and vocals to overpower the guitar rhythms, just like the latest Therion album.
Solitary has some remarkable moments, but these are too few on a debut record that promises a lot but relies too much on the exquisite vocals of Britta Görtz. Lukas Kerk needs to rediscover his love for the primacy of chunky guitar rhythms and tone down the heroic harmonising.
Release Date: 25/06/2021
Record Label: Napalm Records
Standout tracks: Shadows Break, 1000 Lights, Eyes Over Black
Suggested Further Listening: Paradise Lost – In Requiem (2007), Arch Enemy – Will to Power (2017), Sinergy – Suicide by My Side (2002)