HELLBORE – Panopticon
July 9, 2022, a month ago
A solid and sturdy release from Hellbore here, a death metal duo with one guy from the UK and one from New York. Opener “Libertus” is actually a pretty cool instrumental prelude, and it leads into the incredibly pro and slick melodic death of “All Men Are Created Evil” perfectly. I'm reminded of, well, I'm reminded of lots of bands here, but the end result is a sort of mean medium median of early-'00s melodic razor-wire thrash/death bankrolled by Century Media, the sounds definitely impressive for a band only on their second release. I mean, “band,” that's a stretch, as this is mainly the work of one Charlie Munro (UK guy, guitars, bass) with New Yorker Chris Whitby on vocals (the drums are either a very good sounding drum machine, not words I say often, or a sort of machine-sounding person; either way, they actually sound just fine, if a bit clinical). I dig “Angel Slayer”'s climactic build, “Terror Eyes”' manic grind bursts and weirdo jazzy part, and “Panopticon I”'s solid groove and classy soloing. And while “Panopticon II”'s tricky opening part nudges me awake, by the time we get to the final third of this record, a bit too much ennui is setting in for my liking, the band actually skirting through a few styles on this record—nodding at Meshuggah, winking at deathcore, whispering sweet nothings in Cynic's direction—but never really getting to a point where it's like, this is Hellbore, like it or leave it. But the skills are there, and these things take time sometimes. There's promise here, and this record is pretty impressive; Hellbore is worth keeping an eye on.