April 20, 2016 HÆLOS – Full Circle (Album Review)
Out of London, England, the band known as HÆLOS is one that immediately provokes interest. Comprised as a trio, Arthur Delaney (vocals), Dom Goldsmith (vocals, keys), and Lotti Benardout (vocals), if someone has not heard of HÆLOS that may be because they have not existed very long. Releasing their EP Earth Not Above via Matador Records in 2015, the music could best be described as stunning, but having no clearly defined genre. Deriving influence from a broad range of areas, the band states, “Our songwriting process can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful, but we want to write evocative music that captures the spirit of what it means to be alive and human.” With that said, they now offer audiences their debut full-length album, entitled Full Circle, as of March 18th. Also released via Matador Records, Full Circle peaked at #1 on the iTunes Electronic charts and is an album that will provide a different type of listening experience.
Starting off with an old lecture tape for its intro, the few seconds of a professor discussing love is thought-provoking to be sure, but one should not set up the expectations that it will drive them to goosebumps. And while a listener does not need a seat belt and a full suit of armor to withstand being blown away by the intro track, it definitely sets a cognitive mood to the album, which is key to the experience. The music brings out an ability in the listener to think. If they close their eyes and let the music sweep them away, they will find themselves on a crystal island floating down the River Styx and free to think. This is something to think about upon listening to the opening musical track “Pray,” one of the stronger songs on the album. As the song goes on, a listener may find their heart beating faster with the quick tempo. Meanwhile, the vocals are a swirling mix on this song, which gives their music a unique feel. Like Unleash The Archers, they mix softer female vocals with deeper, darker male vocals to provide contrast that brings out the effect of both to a great degree.
While “Pray” flares up a certain degree of emotion and excitement, HÆLOS brings their audience the next track, entitled “Dust,” which is a more mellow experience in the beginning. It starts with some long, deep tones as it draws the listener in. In addition, the vocals are unsynchronized and in unison to give a ghostly chorus kind of a feeling. The music, as a whole, is something that can be focused on, that the listener can let wash over them, or just something to be played in the background to be a sort of soothing white noise while work gets done. While the lyrics do take center stage, they are not so intrusive as to invade on thoughts with very distinct words or sentences. If the music is not focused on, the words will flow like a cool breeze past one’s ears.
Holding up the middle of Full Circle is “Separate Lives,” one of four songs that have their own music video from the album. Part of the rationale behind so many videos is likely to increase exposure, but a big reason they get away with it is because of the track’s strength. All the way through Full Circle, no song jumps out as particularly weak, though not all of them evoke the same level of excitement or thought. “Separate Lives,” however, jumps in at track eight to do just that as the instrumental elements nudge their way closer to the spotlight mixing with the vocals to spin a whirlwind of interest back into the audience.
As the album draws to an end, “Pale,” another very strong offering, is as powerful a closer as “Pray” is an opener and its strategic placement helps to close off Full Circle well. Filled with drums and synth that play well together, they are joined by a mix of vocals that help to give the listener a final taste of what they heard in the rest of the album before they hit replay.
All in all, HÆLOS has an interesting sound that is worth checking out, even if another album is not in the budget. The vocal style from Benardout could be best described as a spectral siren-song. It twists like wisps of smoke on airy exhales and straightens like a whip crack on emotional high-notes. In fact, the rest of the music could be cymbal monkeys in a washing machine but people would still be gripped by her vocals and smashed into the rocks. Those looking to put visuals with the music, as stated, HÆLOS has a selection of music videos up on YouTube that can be taken advantage of. Whether someone is looking to diversify their music or find a good musical chaser to whatever cocktail of brutal Metal they have been listening to, or some other reason, Full Circle is an album worth getting. CrypticRock.com gives Full Circle 4 out of 5 stars.