Released: 1999, Napalm Records
Reviewer: Nathan Robinson
Calling all those who praise the names of the musical assassins! Former Pungent Stench growler/guitarist Martin Schirenc is back!!! I put this CD on for the first time, late at night, after coming home from seeing The Thirteenth Warrior. And what a perfect choice! Allow me to explain...
Martin's new album is quite different than Pungent Stench. Gone are the sick, perverted, and humorous lyrics. Gone are the blast beats and all-out maniacal belching vocals. Gone are the groove-laden and wall-of-sound bulldozeresque riffs. Nope, Hollenthon is quite a change in musical direction! Martin has combined a black metalish guitar tone, power metal riffs, blackened death vocals, and loads of symphonic keyboards with Elena Schirenc's fabulous lyrics to create a very strange yet new approach to metal. Martin handles vocals, guitars, bass and keyborads, with additional vocals by Elena. Drums and percussion are performed by Mike Groeger. Elena's lyrics are sheer poetry, much like some of the Swedish melodic death or black metal bands. They take much thought to decipher, and because the disc is still new to me, I have no idea what the songs are about! But the music takes me to another dimension...
The opening track "Enrapture" starts things off with the sound of wind...no rain, just wind. Very cool. Then come the keyboards, which sound like symphonic battle music. Soon comes the full-on assault of thick guitars and double bass, plus some angelic female choirs, wailing a warning for those entering the domain of Hollenthon. It's not long before Martin's blackened death vocals arrive and begin reciting the poetry in the darkest fashion. The symphonic keyboards continue throughout the song, as well as the rest of the album. "Homage" follows, incorporating some Middle Eastern flavor with strange chanting and keyboards, gongs, and a nice touch of acoustics playing alongside the heavier metallic guitars. The combination of clean male vocals with a melodic guitar run is quite moving. "Vestige" has a very tribal feel to it, opening with percussion and strange chanting and incorporating touches of both clean male and female vocals. Together with power metalish riffs this song cries for you to grab your sword, jump on your horse, and ride into battle! "Lure", one of my favorites due to the straightforward-yet-heavy riffs, has lots of choirs to help guide the song. The instrumental "Interlude" sounds like a song that would be played in the warm grand hall of a fortress, as friends and family rush to greet their warriors returning from a bitter yet victorious battle and coming home for a kick-ass medieval dinner and dancing. How in the hell Martin gets those flute and bagpipe sounds out of his keyboard is beyond comprehension! "Reprisal" takes a 180-degree turn, starting in utter despair with evil chants and cries of bitterness with some sinister guitar riffs. This is the fastest song on the album, and the one that closest resembles black metal. While the villagers are having a good time in their fortress, the dark lord of doom works up a new batch of destruction and hate...and this is the song he's listening to. "Premonition" goes back to the uplifting, violin/flute-like keyboards and a deep male choir combined with power metal. "Eclipse" ends the album with saddened guitar melodies and slow, plodding riffs, with Martin trading off his blackened vocals with Elena's clean voice. A great ending to a great CD.
As you can tell, lots of choirs are present, both male and female. I see no credits in the booklet for such, so whether it's fake or not I have no idea. But they sure as hell sound real! And it sounds as though there are a ton of musicians on the album, do to its high symphonic content. I hear a variety of stringed instruments, and even some brass and wind instruments...not to mention the bag pipes! There are many similarities to Therion on this album. But again, the CD booklet (which has a skull or skeleton on every page) mentions no additional players, so I am assuming Martin has done everything on keyboards. And if so, he must be given much praise, because most of the time it sounds so damn real! Die hard Pungent Stench fans, who only listen to death metal, will not find this album interesting. But die hard fans that are open-minded will. For best results, listen to the CD in the dark, or when it’s raining. By the way, visit Hollenthon's web site at http://www.hollenthon.com
and Napalm Records at http://www.napalmrecords.com