Three years after the release of Negotium Crucis, the faceless Black Metal fiends The Infernal Sea return with studio album number four, Hellfenlic. This is another compelling tale from the Medieval period of history.
The Infernal Sea – Hellfenlic (Candlelight Records)
Release Date: 26 January 2024
Words: Jools Green
Predecessor Negotium Crucis sought inspiration from the dark nature of the Knights Templar and their Holy Crusades. This time, with Hellfenlic, The Infernal Sea moves forward a few decades to the time of the brutal persecution of men and women by the infamous Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins.
Hopkins was active throughout the East Anglian area. His obsession, religious fervour, and brutality are the inspiration for the lyrics on Hellfenlic.
Hellfenlic delivers eight superb tracks spanning forty-three minutes of raw, black ‘n’ roll that will engage and enthral you from start to finish. The title comes from Old English and means, unsurprisingly, fen of hell. This is very apt as The Infernal Sea hails from the East of England, an area famously known for its bleak, flat desolation.
Regarding the first single from the album, Bastard Of The East, the band say that “this single delves deep inside the notion of how incredibly delusional Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General, was. Hopkins was a brutal, sadistic murderer who strongly believed that he was carrying out God’s work.
“He extracted false confessions out of many fearful innocent women during a time of great paranoia within the Church. He believed demons were rampant, causing mischief, fornicating and spreading blasphemy. It was the Witchfinder’s mission to protect the Church and the people from these lies.”
Opening track Lord Abhorrent, which was the second single released, gets the album off to a great start. An intense, driving and brutal beast from the offset, the opening caustic statement, “I am the Witchfinder!” is impactful. The ensuing caustic vocal delivery is superbly intonated with good clarity of content. The bouncy bass lines add a rolling groove and interest alongside the driving waves of well-varied riffing. The direction switching is sharp and impactful, with a deeper vocal delivery in the second half, adding further texture and drama.
Shadow Of The Beast maintains the pace and drive with an added grippingly eerie undercurrent. It is a track that has superbly unpredictable twists and turns to the pace and direction, making it a hugely engaging piece. I love the vocal layering and use of multiple voices by vocalist DL.
The pace drops back for the next track, Witchfinder. Opening on a groove-rich rolling repeat, this is a perfect canvas for the multivocal dialogue of the lyrics. The track is interspersed with faster bursts of riffing and a wonderfully eerie mid-point drop and vocal chant, closing on a sung/spoken repeat and squealy thrashy closing leadwork.
The Hunter unleashes wave after wave of driving riffs. The vocals cut through with vitriol and menace, and midway through, more of a roll develops with bursts of intense riffing breaking through.
Bastard Of The East, which offered a tempting insight as to what we could expect from this offering, delivers a sinister drive punctuated with sharp and effective pauses and engaging ebbs. It builds alongside unnervingly acerbic, sinister vocals. The final phrase, “For I am Hopkins,” is followed by a dark, gritty and sinister track outro. A magnificently engaging piece from end to end.
The next track, Black Witchery, brings a surprising change of mood, manifesting as an up-tempo, Thrash-infused, blackened offering of galloping riffs and squealing leadwork. There is superb variety in the vocal delivery, which includes cleaner elements, demonstrating how well The Infernal Sea can mix it up.
They continue to impress and surprise with the penultimate piece, Frozen Fen, which drops back to a slow and sinister pace. Protracted acidic and tortuous vocals intersperse elements of darkly melodic Black ‘n’ Roll, which superbly emphasise the darker, more sinister swathes.
The final piece, Messenger Of God, is the album monster at almost nine minutes duration and continues to bring surprises to the release. You get an acoustic opener followed by a haunting swathe of violin, adding texture to the slower, driving blackness that otherwise courses throughout the track. The haunting violin repeat makes a welcome return midway through, heralding a rise in pace. The violin work becomes more complex, weaving through the riffing alongside dramatically protracted vocals. Messenger Of God is a powerful closing piece.
Hellfenlic was engineered by James Burke at the Noise Cabin, with mixing and mastering completed by Tom Dring at The Arch Recording Studio.
The cover art is by Khaos Diktator Design. Hellfenlic comes with a 12-page booklet and is available as a CD, 12″ vinyl in two colours, a picture disc, a cassette, or a digital download.
Hellfenlic is a superb listen. I’m loathe to choose a favourite track as it’s an end-to-end listening joy, setting the Extreme Metal bar for 2024 very high indeed.
But where it will truly come into its own is as a live performance when combined with their captivating ritualistic stage show. So, go buy the album, then go witness it as the live spectacle it is sure to be.
The Infernal Sea – Hellfenlic is available to pre-order from theinfernalsea.lnk.to/Hellfenlic.