“Behind The Demon Eyes” is the second album from Manilla Road main man Mark Shelton’s side project entitled Hellwell and is slated to be released April 14th, 2017. This album follows 2012’s “Beyond The Boundaries of Sin” which was a pretty decent effort from one of the titans of cult metal. It was very heavy but had almost a progressive element to it with a lot of organ backing the songs up. Shelton’s vocals also were a lot lower than you typically expect from him. However, it wasn’t quite death metal but just a unique dark voice (think Cirith Ungol a bit but lower). However, it was something that never became huge or gained tons of recognition but the album overall was decent. Now here we are with their second effort, can we see a gem of 2017 with this one? Lets find out.
1.Lightwave- Opening with some very punchy riffing with the organ popping in and again and it really hooks you with some intricate dark riffing from Shelton. The production has that Manilla Road feel to it with the super clicky drums and very distorted guitars it definitely works and makes the album sound like its from 1982. Shelton’s vocals are very roaring like and very heavy but like I said it isn’t death metal its just very low and works quite well. The song really holds up I think and is a good opener to essentially represent the album right from the start.
2.Necromantio- This song has a bit more mid pace and progressive tone to it as well. Sheltons vocals are a bit more what people expect from him on this song and it adds a bit of variety. It basically sounds like a darker Manilla Road and there isn’t anything wrong with that. But holy hell when the song builds in the middle it just keeps building and building and it’s quite epic and is one of my favorite moments on the album.
3.To Serve Man- This song is one of the doomiest on the album by far and has this grand epic goth feel to it that I love. It is possibly the most atmospheric as well with the vocals a bit more out front also. There are some fantastic melodies as well that again add some variety than just being a run of the mill heavy metal record. And you have to love the organ solo in the middle it was quite unexpected but its really badass and makes this track one of the best on the album clocking in at just over sixteen minutes.
4.It’s Alive- Keeping with the tradition, this song is another solid tune you could head bang to but offers a lot of substance to it and is epic as hell. There are a lot of time changes and a ton of riffs in these seven minutes so it is one of those songs that can take multiple listen to kind of get the gist of it but after my third listen it has sank in very well and is a total jam.
5.The Galaxy Being- Opening with your classic extra terrestrial sounds which slowly create some great atmospheric vibes with the synthesizer completely enveloping you and straight into some very doom covered riffing. The flow of this song is also quite well how it goes from more experimental to straight forward dark heavy metal. It manages to combine a lot of speed metal elements with more progressive pacing like “To Serve Man” and is done fairly well. This is also one of the more straight forward songs on the album too.
6.The Last Rites of Edward Hawthorn- And we come to the epic closer and it has everything. From one of the moodiest openings I’ve heard in awhile that is dark yet very beautiful, it slowly transitions to the whole band joining in and I have to say this is one of the most amazing compositions in a long time that I have heard on an album. It does eventually get to the heavy guitars and they come in full force with some very tight playing and it really keeps you interested with just how much is going on. I’ve gone through multiple listens and I still don’t think I have caught everything that’s going on it’s crazy. This is definitely one epic closing song that ends a consistent and strong album.
Overall, I give the album a very strong 8 out of 10. What Mark Shelton and his bandmates have managed to do is not only make a solid heavy metal record but they pulled out all the stops to make it as powerful and creative as possible. With a lot of intense playing, the sheer epicness of some of these songs it is definitely worth your time. However, because it is only six songs, some of them are quite long so it isn’t an album that hits you right away, it is an album that you set on the turn table on your day off and play all the way through and I can appreciate that.