Crack a beer and get comfy folks, it’s storytime. Our tale is about a brave group of Swedes who decided to storm the castle of greatness, knowing full well the dangers and hardships they’d face. The lofty standards of age-old records loved worldwide would need to be breached. Our protagonists would need to deftly maneuver within clear and defined stylistic boundaries. These Swedes go by the name Hyperion, and the tome of their triumph is called Seraphical Euphony.
Into battle Hyperion rides on a menacing black steed. In particular, the one the Grim Reaper is riding on the cover of Storm of the Light’s Bane because my oh my does this sound like Dissection’s second record. There’s also a clear influence of Emperor’s brand of tastefully symphonic “sophisticated black metal art” that shows up on their records along with the far more melodic direction Ihsahn’s The Adversary took that sound in. Given that Dissection employed a ton of melo-death elements on Storm, it makes sense that Hyperion takes the hint and brings that influence into play as well. Interestingly, The Haunted’s severely underrated The Dead Eye is the biggest melo-death influence present to my ears, which lends an extra layer of big riffs to the melodic stuff here. Watain’s finest two hours in Lawless Darkness and Sworn to the Dark make appearances too in their burlier take on Dissection, particularly noticeable in “Flagellum Dei” when things get extra chunky.
While I’m not generally one for intro tracks, “Remnants of the Fallen” is brilliant, showing Hyperion in top form right out of the gate. Like most good sad sounding metal, it’s plainly influenced by “Moonlight Sonata” and like any good intro lasts for the perfect amount of time to effectively build tension. Then, when you’re on the edge of your seat wondering what’s coming next, “Novus Ordo Seclorum” proceeds to knock you out of it with an impassioned ode to how awesome Emperor’s first three records were in the form of a collection of great riffs. After this, it’s full-bore into the Storm, and the melodic lead here is nothing short of incredible. “Moral Evasion” kicks in fully with a great catchy riff that may as well have been on The Dead Eye and toys with it to make the whole song based around that idea, which itself is derived from the excellent and shockingly cheese-free piano intro in which guitar slowly fades in and builds anticipation expertly.
As for flaws, the drums don’t sound quite as I’d like them to. They sound somewhat replaced, the snare roll in “Novus Ordo Seclorum” is a wee bit off-putting because of this, and the ride cymbal is wont to get a bit lost in the more intense passages. Also the rarely used clean vocals are good but not remarkable as they lack in range. Hyperion seems to know this, and uses that device sparingly enough that it’s still effective. There’s also a ton of acoustic and soft instrumental passages, but they’re so gorgeous and fitting that the breaks away from the black metal on a black metal record manage to become highlights in themselves. The title track does its best to sound like Prometheus mixed with The Adversary for much of its runtime and it’s a bit less dynamic because unlike most Ihsahn songs no clean vocals make an appearance, giving the song a bit less versatility in that regard.
If it wasn’t already obvious, I had to try really hard to find things I didn’t like about Hyperion’s debut. Not only is Seraphical Euphony easily one of the most traditionally beautiful black metal records I’ve ever heard, it’s wonderfully paced and consistently engaging too. Hyperion takes a risk in making music with such obvious similarities to their influences that it’s impossible not to compare them to the classics, forcing us to put them to test of incredibly high standards. It should be clear that to this reviewer, they passed with flying colours. Within five minutes of hearing Seraphical Euphony for the first time, I was completely enraptured and believed that I’d stumbled upon something truly great. When the stunning and wholly consonant lead that concludes the record on major highlight “Blood of the Ancients” faded into silence, I knew Hyperion had created something special. As the record fades out for the twenty-fifth time as I write this, I can confidently say that Seraphical Euphony will be the best record released in 2016. While this is certainly a massive victory for the lads in Hyperion, it’s a bigger victory for us listeners; we have a timeless triumph put to tape, our Sulphur Aeon for 2016, a new classic we’ll remember fondly years down the line.