The Infernal Sea - Official Website


Hellfenlic

United Kingdom Country of Origin: United Kingdom

1. Lord Abhorrent
2. Shadow Of The Beast
3. Witchfinder
4. The Hunter
5. Bastard Of The East
6. Black Witchery
7. Frozen Fen
8. Messenger Of God


Review by Fernando on February 29, 2024.

From the dark fens of East Anglia, The Infernal Sea! Yes, the plague doctors of UK black metal have returned with their fourth LP, Hellfenlic and this time released through yet another iconic British extreme metal label, Candlelight Records. The band has certainly managed to work their way into the upper echelons of black metal, and their last album, which was appropriately released during a worldwide pandemic, adding a touch of macabre fate, was a surprisingly excellent outing where the band truly nailed their own sound. And now, four years later, the band now delivers a new album, and with a lofty concept about the infamous Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins, who led a reign of terror in the band’s native East Anglia. Does The Infernal Sea still deliver, or are they now resting of their laurels?

Well, I’m happy to say that the band once again deliver venomous and vitriolic black metal, and much like their previous outing, it’s deeply rooted in the old ways of black metal, but more interestingly, the band have officially shed their overt influences and are now fully realized as their own entity. For starters this album doubles down and relishes in the band’s sonic exploration of classic British heavy metal melodicism, and punkish black ‘n roll, while also bringing back their early sorrowful and macabre atmospherics that made them known with their sophomore The Great Mortality. In that regard, this record can be seen as their darkest yet in terms of concept and execution, as well as their most ambitious. And indeed, this is an ambitious record, while the band are no strangers to concept albums, Hellfenlic is the band delving deep and delivering a full account from the aforementioned Matthew Hopkins in the first person, each song, which is presented from the perspective of the maligned Witchfinder General, tells his full story with gruesome details, vocalist Dean Lettice with his screeching howls truly embodies the hate, paranoia and insanity of the demented Hopkins and from the first track to the last, you get the full picture of the horrors of the witch hunts that plagued Europe in the pre-Industrial age. The fact that the band so effortlessly delivered and understood the assignment of this uncanny concept that’s as relevant today as it was centuries ago is the true mark of their ambition and their talent.

However, while any concept album sounds good on paper, the music is what truly makes this record, and fortunately the band didn’t skimped on that area either. As I said, this record continues the band’s ever expanding dynamic songwriting and understanding of black metal, with added atmospherics that were underplayed for the previous record, and both elements work perfectly together sonically and with the lyrics and concept. Much like the cruelty and madness of the Witchfinder Hopkins himself, the music switches from utter brutality and fast aggression, into forlorn mid paced riffs and bass grooves and sorrowful melodies. The best tracks are, of course when the band hones into a sound, if you want thrashing black ‘n roll full of punk attitude, ‘Black Witchery’ will scratch that itch, if you want pure black metal, the first three tracks got you covered, and if you want pure dark atmosphere, stick to the end with the closing tracks ‘Frozen Fen’ and ‘Messenger Of God’, but make no mistake, the entire album is a synthesis of all those elements, and more. It goes without saying that The Infernal Sea truly hit their stride, and this is for sure their best record so far, which is impressive given how solid their body of work is.

There’s very little to complain here, even the technical aspects like the production and individual performances are at their peak in every sense, and to find faults would be to nitpick, not to mention this is a perfectly paced record and there is zero filler and each track has enough variety to work on their own, while also being essential pieces of the album as a whole. If this is the type of record that started 2024 Anno Domini, then this will be a good year for black metal, hopefully. Highly recommended.

Rating: 10 out of 10

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