Vera : From the very outset you will notice that we are dealing with top notch quality here! Since 2010 the New Jersey, USA based Helcaraxë has been working on what would become their opus magnum. The five-piece is obviously inspired by Tolkien, more precisely by The Hobbit on this record. Yet musically they like to go back to dynamics of the death metal of the nineties, so that any reminiscence with works from Edge Of Sanity and Unleashed from that time manifest themselves. 'Red Dragon' is brutal enough for that audience, but it is also epic and melodic enough to charm those melodic death metal fans that have a soft spot for the Gothenburg sound. By the way, Mikael Stanne from Dark Tranquillity does a vocal contribution on the sixth track 'Skin Changer'.
This is my first encounter with this accomplished band. Yet they do exist since 2003 - initially under the moniker Minas Tirith - and after 'Triumph And Revenge' (2007) and 'Broadsword' (2009) this happens to be their third full-length studio album. It comes over you like a monumental piece dynamism of forty-five minutes, since there are no pauses between the songs and everything flows into each other without noticing. And that's exactly how the band intended it to be. Thus they suggest to listen to it as a whole. This odyssey starts with beautiful acoustic guitars, graced with a melancholic solo. Then it passes into a feast of chunky riffs, gravel-throated grunts of singer Jesse Traynor and an opulence of marvellous soloing. The rhythm section mauls without mercy in tracks like 'Into The Fire And The Sky' and the lengthy, ultra brutal 'The Arkenstone', but there are also loads of moments when guitarists Bill Henderson and Jon Tarella loose themselves in graceful, very melodious solos. However, 'Red Dragon' is not a common record. For example, a song may start in the middle of a solo or the long songs include breaks they could easily have chosen as the beginning of another song. Anyway, it comes down on you as a monolith. Therefore it is really a merit that it never becomes too much of the same. Some acoustic passages or an unexpected acceleration in the mainly mid-paced work take care of that and do miracles. Time to breathe you will never have, but the music has so much groove-laden power that this never gets boring. In the acoustic epilogue 'Oakenshield Lament' we also notice the influence of Amorphis. A delicious record with a self-willed nature!