Hearing a band blossom is always a magnificent experience. While some acts never change at all, never improve, or, conversely, change completely by “jumping the shark”, the shrewd ones deliberately evolve their sound over time, carefully contriving each fresh nuance with the care and forethought of a blacksmith gradually transforming a raw chunk of metal into a resplendent, polished blade.
Similarly, observing the maturation of Colorado’s Helleborus has been like watching a glorious transformation. Since the release of their raw-but-fully-pleasing debut full-length, Carnal Sabbath, in 2016, these melodic black metal newcomers have spent the past three years touring to spread the word, hibernating to write new material, and ultimately, acuminating their sound; and the outcome is the release of their mind-blowing sophomore effort, Saprophytic Divinations, out now on Redefining Darkness Records.
Helleborus have only been plying their trade since 2014, and while there have been no significant lineup changes for the band since their inception (save losing a bass player who was replaced by someone already in the band, anyway), the noticeable expansion in sound, songcraft, and production between 2016’s Carnal Sabbath and 2019’s Saprophytic Divinations is wondrous to behold. Cleaner, louder, and unbelievably more complex, Saprophytic Divinations is a clear pronouncement to the world that Helleborus have arrived.
From spectral start to funereal finish, Saprophytic Divinations is a melodic black metal masterstroke. Stark and lugubrious, expansive and unrepressed, this entire album is A-plus grade material. Some of the finest cuts on this killer album include the opener “Celestial Grave”, the deliciously dissonant “Devil’s Garden”, the mind-bending brutality of “Juniper Shrine”, and the sepulchral sounds of the closing title track, “Saprophytic Divinations”. Hell, even the three-minute interlude, “Verum Fidei”, is a hauntingly good listen.
In short, listening to Saprophytic Divinations by Helleborus is like receiving an early Yule gift that keeps on giving (as the repeat button has been pressed many times on this one already by yours truly).
You can listen to the epic entirety of this monster masterpiece by pressing play below - and be sure to purchase a copy if you enjoy what you’ve read and what you hear! \m/ \m/
Rating: 9.75 / 10
Release Date: December 6th, 2019 (Redefining Darkness Records)
Influences and Contemporaries: Sacramentum, Lord Belial, Naglfar, Rotting Christ, Mist of Misery, Oubliette, Arctos