CD, Cyclic Law, 2010
One thing that I really enjoy about the Cyclic Law label is its level of consistency. “Hel” is another fine entry in a fantastic catalog. From the get-go, “Hel” seems like exactly what you’d expect from a release bearing the Cyclic Law name: an extremely dark, droning collection of deep ambience. And, yes, that is 100% what it is: 44 minutes of dark, droning ambient. It’s eerie, unsettling, at times grandiose, and it will transport the listener to a place more ancient and terrifying. As the track titles would suggest, this album is based on Norse mythology and the concept of traversing the underworld.
While the entire collection does indeed sound like a trip through the abyss, there is nothing particularly striking about each chapter that would make you think specifically of the thing referenced in the title. Regardless, it does succeed in being an incredibly cohesive collection. I believe I read that this album is primarily made up of guitar drones, and that is kind of what it sounds like. “Hel” is predominantly filled with very long, sweeping passages of immense drones; often several coexisting on the same plane, aggrandizing one another as they churn, slowly building an epic vision of the underworld. And that’s it – just layer upon layer of drones. A lot of cavernous drones and murky atmospheres, but little more. Personally, I prefer acts like Raison d’Être or Desiderii Marginis who use a lot of scraping, banging, rhythmic stuff – general sound effects happening throughout their tracks – because I feel that these things make the tracks feel more ‘complete’, amplifying whatever feeling they are trying to convey. “Hel”, sadly, has none of that.
While it is a very good release and will please fans of more droning ambient, such as Kammarheit, Cities Last Broadcast, Visions, etc., I think the addition of what I just described would add another very important dimension to these tracks, and render it, as a whole, a more lasting and notable work. Regardless, this is a solid dark ambient release and should absolutely be checked out by anyone who enjoys the darkest and drone-iest corners of ambient music.
— Dan Barrett