The, for me unknown, Portuguese band Heylel was founded in 2012. On the band's website they present themselves as an alternative progressive rock band with a gothic twist. They also say that the purpose of the band is to make old school progressive rock and to add some personal ingredients. According to themselves this resulted in a dark, atmospheric and immersive sound. Anybody who has heard their in 2014 released debut album Nebulae, can tell you if everything mentioned above is on this album. Well, I am one of them and I will go deeper into this release after introducing the band members first.
The band consists of Narciso Monteiro, who wrote most of the band's compositions. Narciso plays the guitars, bass and keyboards. He is also responsible for the whispers and growls. Ana Batista is the female lead singer. She is a trained classical singer. Filipe Braga is the drummer. SÚrgio de Meneses is the bassist and background vocalist. He used to only play at the live shows at first, but is now a full member of the band.
For me describing the music on their first musical effort is a rather simple one. Mostly Autumn with gothic musical elements. As simple as that! I came to this comparison most of all because of the way Ana's voice sounds. This comes very close to the voice of Olivia Sparnenn. She has the same kind of vocal range and also knows to impress you with her vocal capabilities. Moreover the mellow parts from time to time move towards the music of this British band. Mentioning the Gothic influences into the music of Heylel doesn't mean the music goes in the direction of bands such as Nightwish and Within Temptation that much. It's the heavy guitar parts that occasionally come to the surface that are related to the Gothic influences. This happens most of all on the tracks The Prophet, Watcher Of The Light and Embrace The Darkness. The band is at its best when they let their progressive rock influences shine every now and then. Most of all in the more mellow, delicate parts they are at their best. Strangely enough the two covers on this release belong to the best tracks on this release. It doesn't mean the rest of the compositions are weak or not interesting. Certainly not. But the King Crimson cover I Talk To The Wind and the Emerson Lake & Palmer cover The Sage bring out the best in the musicians. Both tracks have certainly been an inspiration in the total sound of this album. Throughout the entire album (probably a concept album and divided into four chapters) you hear that most of the songs are musically related to them! I guess Greg Lake must have been a major influence for Narciso Monteiro as a singer, guitar player and composer, because he contributed on both of the original versions.
All in all I must admit that Heylel made a very strong debut album of an international level. Those who are into the music of Mostly Autumn will find in Nebulae a very fine album to listen to. The spare Gothic moments don't have to be a reason to avoid this album. Just try it like I did myself to discover the real beauty of this great album!
**** Henri Strik (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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