Article by Belisario
Alpha Hydrae is a rather recent metal outfit hailing from Monterrey, northern Mexico. Their only official release to date is their full-length Venomous Devotion – The Hematic Lust from 2013. Despite its misleading title, this is no symphonic metal, but rather old-style melodic black metal with a strong use of keyboards. It could be described as “gothic” as well, not in reference to the terrible metal subgenre of the same name (that swarm of early-Paradise Lost copycats), but according to its ambiance and obsession with tales of vampiric fantasies.
The band deploys long phrases that are beautifully crafted and repeated unhurriedly, usually over mid-tempo drumming, with the intention of creating somber atmospheres sunken in mystery. The songs know how to string the different parts together with a smart sense of narration in order to avoid monotony. Most of them feel light and tightened, as if stripped of anything redundant or unnecessary, something quite uncommon in the melodic black metal subgenre.
The most obvious influence would be Avzhia [Editor: maybe Argentum as well?], although the approach here is more conventional than that of their fellow countrymen. One can also point at some echoes of the more melodic leanings of classic Mexican death metal acts, yet the emotivity is far from subtle or secondary, as in most albums by those bands, being in this case the very foundation of the music.
Keyboards are omnipresent, but it’s always the riffs that brace transitions between sections, which not only provides solidity of structure but also keeps the music inside the realm of metal instead of letting it become a pleasant but quickly forgettable soundtrack appropriate for videogames or movies. In half of the tracks there is a dramatic stop in the middle solved in each case by a surging riff that breaks the calm to bring momentum and boost the action, a simple yet efficient strategy.
On the whole, the listener will not find anything groundbreaking or particularly surprising here, but this skillfully arranged music offers an enjoyable listening experience that matches the lyrical content. It could be compared to the style showcased by Legion of Doom in The Horned Made Flesh (2008), in a simpler and more basic manner that one would expect from a debuting act. Nonetheless, the band deserves some credit for being able to create black metal of the melodic and evocative variety that is by no means ear-candy.
The production is rather modest and the musicians seem to be more inspired that they are deft, but to this reviewer structure and intent/vision are far more important than instrumental wankery. For a debut album, this is pretty accomplished, and leaves room for improvement in a future sophomore effort.