HellLight – No God Above, No Devil Below

I have loved HellLight‘s music from the start, ever since that Funeral Doom, the second full length in which, despite several imperfections, the Paulist band showed a melodic and evocative potential capable of exploding at any moment. The subsequent …And Then, The Light Of Consciousness Became Hell… had confirmed those impressions, reinforced by a clear progress from the point of view of instrumental technique and production. All this made one think that the fourth album could have been the one of the definitive consecration but, although a further step forward was taken, it did not quite turn out that way, because those small structural flaws that HellLight have been dragging behind them since their beginnings have not yet completely disappeared. Mind you, No God Above, No Devil Below is a beautiful record, recommended to those who appreciate doom in its most melodic, melancholic and accessible version, but the impression that remains, at the end of these almost 80 minutes of music, is that of a band that has not yet managed to take the decisive step to reach a level close to that of Saturnus, just to stay in the same stylistic sphere, although I realize that we are not talking about something within everyone’s reach. The merits and demerits of the band led by guitarist and vocalist Fabio De Paula are essentially contained in the more than twenty minutes of the title track and the following Shades Of Black: a strong melodic sense at the service of mournful keyboard scores, the alternation between a deep growl and a stentorian clean voice, pachydermic rhythms and guitar solos of classical style as well as of excellent taste and workmanship. I defy anyone with a modicum of sensibility not to be moved by listening to the incipit of Shades Of Black, the typical track that alone is worth an entire record, too bad that the choice of an overly dry drum sound (such that it almost sounds like a drum machine) and, above all, the cyclical recourse to a clean voice that has remained the shrill and somewhat uncertain one already exhibited in the days of Funeral Doom, force the Paulist band to remain a step below absolute excellence. Because, let’s face it, every time Fabio De Paula decides to produce himself in his guitar evolutions he manages to deliver truly unforgettable moments, and this is certainly a significant point of contact with Saturnus; but, while in the latter Thomas Jensen wisely limits himself to exhibiting, in addition to his own deep growl, only a few recited parts, in HellLight the use of clean vocals seems forced if not even superfluous, since the compositional structure of the songs alone contributes to creating plenty of emotions. The rest of the album usually follows a well-established pattern, with songs marked by a long and more sedate introductory part that leads into a finale in which the leader’s six-string stands out as the protagonist, with the exception of Path Of Sorrow, with its authentically funeral-like structure; all this sometimes risks weighing down the listening of No God Above, No Devil Below, although for those who appreciate the genre this will prove to be a pleasant sacrifice. Perhaps I have been overly critical of HellLight, and what this latest work of theirs really conveyed to me is clearly shown by the rather high rating assigned to it; unfortunately, however, in a search for the best, one cannot gloss over those details that, for now, prevent the definitive take-off for a band capable of creating such engaging melodies with such naturalness. But, you know, sometimes too much love makes people particularly demanding.

2013 – Solitude Productions