Grade: 80/100

Release party, Billabong Bar, Aarhus, Denmark, March 23rd 2007

I've had time to listen to Gehennesis three or four times before Melsen and I head into town on this Friday evening. My impression so far is positive. Safely nested in the professional hands of producer Ziggy and mastering wizard Tue Madsen the album sounds just right, with fine energy, atmosphere and melody as a background for Jesper Heinsvig s near-black metal vocal. So it's not the album pre-listening possibility I'm so curious about on this evening, but more the fact that Compos Mentis have promised to play a few tunes live. The Billabong Bar is tiny bar in the centre of Aarhus, and since the band has promised free beer for everyone, the place is literally packed. Singer Jesper announces from the bar that we'll first listen to the CD a bit and then the band will play some songs from the album. The pre-listening session is a bit of a joke, since the music is practically inaudible due to the many people who focus more on the free beer.

Soon the band gathers at one end of the narrow bar where their gear has been crammed into a space of approximately five square metres. Despite the confinement of this small space, the sextet manages to perform four songs, three from the new album and one from their 2003 debut, Fragments of a Withered Dream . They sound good, even, although the keyboard is unusually loud for a band like this, almost to a point where it sounds odd. Matters not, the overall impression is fine and the folk at Billabong Bar are happy also when a beer drinking contest is announced and convincingly won by a red-haired maiden in front of four guys! Thus amused, we depart.

The album

What the visitors at the Billabong Bar could hardly manage to hear last night is a really solid release that combines elements of traditional heavy metal melody, latter-day Dimmu Borgir/Cradle of Filth-ish pop black metal and Moonspell atmosphere. The use of synth/piano is widespread and in most instances used appropriately, although you at times wish that it would move one step further into background and make more room for the fine guitar work.

The incorporation of a 45-piece choir on three songs is a cool addition to the bombastic sound and pushes the boundaries for the genre a wee bit, although it in fact is the underlying heaviness and groove that really does the trick for me.

All in all, a recommendable album from the talented Danish sextet. Try it out.