After four long months, the moratorium on Huck N Roll reviewing albums with non-English singing has come to an end. And as luck would have it, this venerable reviewer managed to snag something from Hungary, AKA the Old Country. Perihelion isn’t a very Hungarian word, but the band makes up for that with a plethora of umlauts, accents, double acute accents, and other glyphs throughout their song titles. That automatically makes the band trve and is worth 0.5 bonus marks on the score. Örvény (Hungarian for maelstrom) is the band’s second full-length release, and falls awkwardly into the post-metal genre, with plenty of nods to alt-rock and shoegaze to boot. Sounds odd? It kind of is. Does it work, or am I going to flip out over the vocals? Let’s press play and see what happens.
“Kihalt égi Folyosók” is the first song, and kicks off in a remarkably upbeat manner, with Perihelion’s alt-rock tendencies on full display, all jangly guitars and jaunty 4/4 beat. It’s not completely straight-up rock, though, as the middle of the song careens off in foreboding directions and the ending (as is the case on every song on this album) is nearly a minute of shoegaze meandering. It’s a bit of an outlier as well: no other song has this sanguine feel to it. “Fényt!” is a heavier song as it opens, but clean, layered guitars, kick drum/hi-hat backbeat, and subdued vocals in the verses make it catchy, accessible yet interesting. And the title track is a standout here, with a pensive, expansive start that blows up beautifully at the midpoint — like everything on Örvény, the arrangement is highly effective.
How about the vocals? Well, despite being of Hungarian ancestry, the only word I know is from my great-grandmother and is “eszik,” which more or less means “you eat” as a bucket of Barney’s Chicken is thrust into your face. So I can’t report on the lyrics other than what the PR world says, and that is these songs are all linked together and are intended to be dreamlike passages that spiral into the subconscious. Regardless, they are well sung by Gyula Vasvári, whose smoky voice rises and falls throughout the songs with ease, passion, and charisma. Vocals are certainly not a weakness here, and Vasvári’s finest performance is on “Bolyongó,” where his emotional delivery carries the song.
The seven songs on Örvény clock in at a svelte 39 minutes, meaning song lengths are bang on despite the fact that Perihelion love to tack on superfluous endings. Yeah, it’s kind of self-indulgent, but it’s the band’s style, so love or hate it, we’re stuck with it. It’s only annoying because it happens on literally every song. Chalk it up to their shoegaze fetish. But other than that, a fault is hard to find here, with plenty of variety in the songs. As for the concept mentioned earlier, the feeling of moving deeper into the subconscious is effectively conveyed throughout the album, both in the song arrangements and the vocals. The album as a whole doesn’t journey down this path, but rather, each song does so in its own way.
After spending the past couple of weeks with Örvény, I am pleased to proclaim my affection for the album, and Perihelion’s style in general. The layers and arrangements presented in all the songs are compelling and infectious: walls of guitars (clean and distorted, sometimes awash in effects), furious drumming, and heartfelt singing all add up to deliver an engaging and accessible post-rock gem. Sure, I don’t know what they’re singing, but it sure is delivered with conviction and talent. Thanks for saving my non-English review cred, Hungary.