HYSTERICA — The Art of Metal (review)

HYSTERICA — The Art of Metal album cover Album · 2012 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
adg211288
The Art of Metal is the second studio album from Swedish all female metal band Hysterica. Although originally slated to be released in October 2011 following a ‘one single a month’ build up that began in April 2011 the singles stopped coming after the fourth (of seven) and the album never actually got released until March 2012, almost a year since the first single, Force of Metal, saw its digital release. While it’s definitely a good thing that the singles stopped coming, if they hadn’t we’d ultimately only got three tracks we hadn’t heard before by the time of the album arrived, it’s also definitely been an tantalising wait for The Art of Metal to finally hit the shelves. Seven of the songs on the album have a piece of associated artwork with it, hence why the album is titled The Art of Metal.

As suggested by the four singles (Force of Metal, Message from the Dark, Heels of Steel & Fighters of the Century) the wait is very much worth it. There were a couple of issues I took with the band’s already pretty darn good debut album Metalwar (2009), mainly a disappointingly low amount of really noteworthy guitar parts, and overall it was lyrically a very cheesy release. Both these issues have been addressed on The Art of Metal. While some of the lyrics are still a bit cheesy, Force of Metal especially, we’ve got a much more mature brand of song writing overall from the girls. The instrumentation is much improved on all counts as well. There are actually some changes in this department of the band, as guitarist RockZilla left the band in 2009. Rather than replace her Hysterica has instead brought in Marydeath, a keyboardist. This isn’t as radical a change as it sounds, as Marydeath isn’t the band’s first keyboardist. A pre-Metalwar incarnation of the band had a keyboardist called Electra, who was with the band for their 2006 demo. Compared to Metalwar however, the keyboards offer a more modern heavy metal sound, with only a brief excursion into symphonic metal territory during Spirit of the Age. Otherwise the keys flesh out Hysterica’s sound into something that is a much more polished version on Metalwar’s approach.

There are some musical surprises to be found though. Message from the Dark is much longer than any of the band’s previous songs, and everything else on the album as well, clocking in at just over seven minutes. It’s also a more laid back affair that features some really emotive guitar playing from remaining guitarist Bitchie, and the slow tempo lends it something of a faint doom metal feel to it. Although I love the whole album I have say that it’s this song that is the album’s crowning achievement on all levels. Other parts of the album lean more towards the power metal genre, especially the closer Daughters of the Night, but there are parts pushing towards the style throughout the release. Since there can be a fine line between heavy and power metal this isn’t really as noteworthy as their drawing sounds from other styles, which is why we now have to move on to the biggest difference compared to Metalwar, the vocals.

On Metalwar lead singer Anni De Vil proved herself a more than capable vocalist for the band, but on The Art of Metal she really shines. Her style however has changed to include a lot more death growling though. While Metalwar had a few brief moments of harsh vocals dotted about the tracks there was never any doubt that you were listening to a traditional heavy metal album. While I’d still say that The Art of Metal is a heavy metal album, most of the music behind Anni is definitely within this vein, I struggle to bring myself to call it heavy metal in the ‘traditional’ sense, as there’s far too much death growling going on for that. I guess despite the instrumentation that The Art of Metal could perhaps be considered something of a heavy metal and melodic death metal hybrid, although really the only thing remotely death metal about this is those growling vocals, and those are most definitely in the death metal vein. It’s a tricky game labelling genres at times, but I do like it when an album comes along that pushes the boundaries of a style, which The Art of Metal certainly does. Anni is just as capable at growling as she is singing cleanly though, so I’m not at all opposed to the use of so much growling on the album. Actually this is one of the few cases where growls in a heavy or power metal environment actually work and don’t make me think the band should leave such things to the extreme metal acts. In the same breath I can’t say I’d like the album any less if Anni stuck to her cleans, because she’s really sensational at those, but perhaps that’s testament to the strength of the material.

The one thing that hasn’t changed is that Hysterica still produces the kind of metal music that is energetic and about having a damn good time, and with The Art of Metal the band are doing that better than ever before. With all issues with their previous material remedied there’s no reason not to award Hysterica with a top tier score for The Art of Metal, even if the music isn’t the most complex or as groundbreaking as it could be. Of course with an album such as this there’s always a chance that once you’ve given it several listens it doesn’t seem to be as exceptional as it may have originally seemed (this happened with Metalwar for me), so I’ve given The Art of Metal many plays through, a full dozen actually plus my personal favourite songs on their own sometimes on top of that, before finalising this review, and tell you what, the album sounds just as strong now as it did on my first listen. Being hooked on this album doesn’t even begin to cover it. Here Hysterica finds just the right balance between homage to the heavy metal they clearly love and song writing that you can sink your teeth into and take seriously. The album comes very highly recommended!

9.8/10

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven (http://metaltube.freeforums.org))
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