Album Review: Hiraes- Dormant

3/5

This one’s going to be a bit difficult because I honestly didn’t feel very strongly one way or the other about Dormant, the sophomore album from German melodic death metallers Hiraes. It’s not bad by any means; if it were, then this would be much easier because I could just trash it and call it a day. But nope, it’s heavy; it’s fast, and it’s triumphant, which are obviously all good things. It’s got everything a solid metal album needs, but it just didn’t “wow” me like I’d hoped it would. Imagine a perfectly serviceable burger and fries, but they’re missing a little bit of salt and should have been served 10 minutes ago. That’s kind of how I felt about it—It’s good, but it could have been better.

But y’know what, the band clearly put a lot of time and effort into making this album, so in that spirit, I shall reciprocate that effort in kind. Let’s get into it.

The opening track “Through the Storm” starts off strong, quickly building tension the same way an EDM song builds to the drop before vocalist and certified femme fatale Britta Görtz cuts it with a snarl: “GO!” An explosion of blast beats and whiplash inducing grooves is unleashed, and we’re off to the races … until the momentum is suddenly and disappointingly lost once the chorus kicks in. What once was a hurricane of double bass and palpable ferocity has now been replaced by a very simplistic, straightforward, and frankly uninspired rhythm and melody that almost seem like they are just there to fill up space.

Thankfully it doesn’t take long for things to kick back into high gear again, with the blast beats picking up steam and carrying a ripping guitar solo, but then the same thing happens again less than 30 seconds later, with barely enough time to squeeze in a second verse. At this point, the damage has been done, and sadly this constant buildup and subsequent loss of momentum becomes a fairly apt metaphor for the rest of the album.

Perhaps it’s simply a commentary on the more traditional songwriting structure of melodic death metal as a whole, but I just can’t get behind something like that when a band has clearly demonstrated that they are capable of so much more. However, there are plenty of shining moments that do a good job of picking up the slack as well.

In my opinion, the album really starts to find itself the further along it goes. The relatively slow third track “Undercurrent” is a bit of a slog to get through (apropos, I suppose), but towards the end there is an excellent psych-out that helps the song redeem itself. Right as you think they’re going to hold out the final chord and move on to the next song, the tempo suddenly shifts dramatically and there are some very impressive bursts of double bass, allowing the music to fade out on a much stronger note than what it started on.

On top of that, songs like “Chance To Fail” and “Nightfire” are glimpses of the band’s true potential; the former sounds highly reminiscent of Amon Amarth but even more dynamic, and the latter is a straight up high octane thrash fest, easily the fastest and most fun song on the entire album. “Red Soil” is a very strong offering as well, showcasing some of the lowest growls in Frau Görtz’s impressive arsenal, but it also sounds so similar to Gossow-era Arch Enemy that I was expecting her to start chanting “we will rise” at any moment.

Another noteworthy track is “Ocean Child,” except for the fact that it shares a nearly identical opening melody to “About Lies,” when truth be told (hehe ,see what I did there) it didn’t need it in the first place. Had Görtz simply bellowed the opening lyrics and led the charge into the blast beats then it would have been infinitely more impactful, and both songs would have retained their individual sense of identity. It’s a minor grievance, as are all of the issues that I had with this album, but little details like this can go a very long way if properly applied.

And speaking of attention to detail, when the time finally came for the closing title track (see the music video above), I was very happy to see that they’d finally gotten the pacing 100% right, creating a sensible and well-balanced ebb and flow between the fast and slower segments. I only wish that they could have figured out that balance earlier on, but oh well. C‘est la vie, I suppose.

At the end of the day, Dormant is a solid melodic death metal album which sounds like a near-perfect amalgamation of the genre’s staples, taking clear inspiration from bands like Arch Enemy, Dark Tranquility, At the Gates, and Amon Amarth. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it, either. But then again, I’m only one person and clearly not the target audience here, so take that with whatever size grain of salt you wish. It certainly doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but even with its inconsistencies in pacing it’s still good for what it is, so if you consider yourself a melodeath fan, then it is sure to scratch that particular itch.

Dormant is available now via Napalm Records. Order your copy here.

Photo courtesy of Hiraes

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