Hiraes – Solitary – Album Review

Artist: Hiraes

Album Title: Solitary

Label: Napalm Records

Date of Release: 25 June 2021

If you’re wondering exactly why I’m reviewing this particular record, it’s because of this:

“This massive melodic death metal assault leaves no scope for weakness and serves an exciting take on the genre with hymnlike melodies, enthralling drums and guitar riffing as well as breathtaking hooklines. Topped with the distinctive and versatile performance of Britta Görtz, this powerful new formation and its debut is a must have for fans of bands like Insomnium, At The Gates, Arch Enemy and Amon Amarth.”

To be clear, I always take the press release hyperbole with a pinch of salt; their job is to sell records and get us hacks to review their artists. And it worked, because I couldn’t resist checking out this debut album from Germany’s Hiraes, if anything to find out for myself how accurate or otherwise this bold statement actually is. To put it bluntly, curiosity got the better of me.

Hiraes, apparently a name derived from the Welsh word ‘hiraeth’ used to describe the nostalgia of a place or home that never was, formed relatively recently from the ashes of Dawn of Disease, another band I know precious little about. Nevertheless, they are comprised of vocalist Britta Görtz (Critical Mass, ex-Cripper), guitarists Lukas Kerk and Oliver Kirchner, bassist Christian Wösten, and drummer Mathias Blässe. On all platforms, the band proudly declare their music to be nothing other than melodic death metal. No ‘core’, no ‘prog’, no pretence.

After a first listen, I’m happy to declare that this is easily better than the last few Arch Enemy records in my opinion, so the only real similarity to the Swedish band is that they both boast a female singer. So that’s the first inaccuracy of the aforementioned press release. I’m not sure I hear a lot of At The Gates either, so that’s strike two.

But, to counteract this, I do definitely hear some Insomnium and Amon Amarth, not to mention an In Flames influence, somewhere around the ‘Colony’ or ‘Clayman’ era. The best example of this can be heard within ‘Grain Of Sand’ which offers a passing resemblance to ‘Pinball Map’ from the aforementioned ‘Clayman’ record, complete with similar gratuitous key change late on for added epicness if that’s even a word.

And this might just be the Achilles Heel to Hiraes, in that they lack a little of their own identity – ‘Solitary’ does not really alter the melodeath landscape in any appreciable way and they wear their influences boldly on their collective sleeves. Some might also accuse Hiraes of playing it too safe.

Nevertheless, I would also agree that this is an album that delivers on heaviness and melody; it’s a chunky beast where each of the nine songs feels like a weighty slab of heavy metal, uncomplicated and to the point. The musicians are very competent across the board, but no-one steals the spotlight, or tries to do something out of the ordinary to rock what is a tightly honed ship. It would be unfair to suggest that the music is simple so to speak, but it is focussed, and regardless of a few reservations, it does deliver some thoroughly entertaining and satisfying melodic death metal along the way.

‘Under Fire’ for example is a bona fide melodeath anthem. It kicks off with a memorable melody created primarily by the lead guitar lines, before exploding in a flurry of blastbeat-led fury. The pace alters again to deliver a chunky, stop-start riff allowing Görtz’s voice to take centre stage. And then there’s the chorus, which is one hefty beast, immediately satisfying and entertaining.

Then there are tracks like ‘1000 Lights’ which kicks off with a mid-tempo stomping riff reminiscent of Amon Amarth, but builds upon this with some well-placed orchestration, giving the song more of a symphonic feel. It isn’t a breakdown as such, but there’s also an unashamedly groovy section that starts off slow but speeds up to increase the intensity. Interestingly, it is a catchy track, but it doesn’t feature a hook-laden chorus as such. I like this, as well as enjoying the burst of ferocity at the death of the song.

Elsewhere, I rather like the injection of more poignant melancholy within ‘Eyes Over Black’, as well as the ‘hidden’ and unexpected piano piece at the end of the final song ‘Running Out Of Time’, a song that, regardless, is a thoroughly satisfying final hurrah. The melodies are really great, and it has a more pronounced blackened death influence running through it. As such, the Insomnium references loom largest within this composition than anywhere else on the album.

As I listen for the umpteenth time, I am plagued with a feeling that ‘Solitary’ might lack enough longevity, as this music is designed to give an instant hit of heaviness and memorability rather than test the listener. I like the music quite a bit now, but I do wonder how often it’ll return to the playlist once I move on to other albums. My fears may be completely unfounded, but it’s something I consider, nonetheless. In the here and now though, I can do nothing other than praise Hiraes for a job well done. ‘Solitary’ is definitely worthy of the time and attention of anyone who enjoys heavy but accessible and melodic death metal.

The Score of Much Metal: 85%

Further reviews from 2021:

Darkthrone – Eternal Hails

Thy Catafalque – Vadak

Terra Odium – Ne Plus Ultra

Hiraes – Solitary

Eye Of Purgatory – The Lighthouse

Crowne – Kings In The North

Desaster – Churches Without Saints

Helloween – Helloween

Fear Factory – Aggression Continuum

Wooden Veins – In Finitude

Plaguestorm – Purifying Fire

Drift Into Black – Patterns Of Light

Alluvial – Sarcoma

White Moth Black Butterfly – The Cost Of Dreaming – Album Review

Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen

Bloodbound – Creatures From The Dark Realm

Nahaya – Vital Alchemy

Frost* – Day And Age

Obsolete Theory – Downfall

Vola – Witness

Acolyte – Entropy

Dordeduh – Har

Subterranean Masquerade – Mountain Fever

Seth – La Morsure Du Christ

The Circle – Metamorphosis

Nordjevel – Fenriir

Vreid – Wild North West

Temtris – Ritual Warfare

Astrakhan – A Slow Ride Towards Death

Akiavel – Vae Victis

Gojira – Fortitude

Hideous Divinity – LV-426

Benthos – II

Evile – Hell Unleashed

Ninkharsag – The Dread March Of Solemn Gods

Bodom After Midnight – Paint The Sky With Blood

Morrigu – In Turbulence

Mother Of All – Age Of The Solipsist

Throne – Pestilent Dawn

Sweet Oblivion (Geoff Tate) – Relentless

Exanimis – Marionnettiste

Dvne – Etemen Ænka

Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined

Arion – Vultures Die Alone

Maestitium – Tale Of The Endless

Wode – Burn In Many Mirrors

Everdawn – Cleopatra

Unflesh – Inhumation

Mourning Dawn – Dead End Euphoria

Wheel – Resident Human

Wythersake – Antiquity

Odd Dimension – The Blue Dawn

Metalite – A Virtual World

Cryptosis – Bionic Swarm

Ghosts Of Atlantis – 3.6.2.4

Memoriam – To The End

Aversed – Impermanent

Secret Sphere – Lifeblood

Enforced – Kill Grid

Liquid Tension Experiment – LTE3

Turbulence – Frontal

Iotunn – Access All Worlds

Warrior Path – The Mad King

Stortregn – Impermanence

Mariana’s Rest – Fata Morgana

Orden Ogan – Final Days

Witherfall – Curse Of Autumn

Plague Weaver – Ascendant Blasphemy

Ephemerald – Between The Glimpses Of Hope

Paranorm – Empyrean

Einherjer – North Star

Epica – Omega

Humanity’s Last Breath – Välde

Simulacrum – Genesis

Forhist – Forhist

Evergrey – Escape Of The Phoenix

Empyrium – Über den Sternen

Moonspell – Hermitage

Infernalizer – The Ugly Truth

Temperance – Melodies Of Green And Blue EP

Malice Divine – Malice Divine

Revulsion – Revulsion

Demon King – The Final Tyranny EP

Dragony – Viribus Unitis

Soen – Imperial

Angelus Apatrida – Angelus Apatrida

Oceana – The Pattern

Therion – Leviathan

Tribulation – Where The Gloom Becomes Sound

Asphyx – Necroceros

W.E.T. – Retransmission

Labyrinth – Welcome To The Absurd Circus

TDW – The Days The Clock Stopped

Need – Norchestrion: A Song For The End

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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