When you see Jens Bogren involved in the mixing and mastering of your album, there is an immediate glow of anticipation. The Swede’s CV is huge. Stretching back over two decades, the list of bands he has worked with includes such luminaries as Opeth, Dimmu Borgir, Enslaved, Amorphis and Rotting Christ. He doesn’t back donkeys, only thoroughbreds.

Enter HIRAES, fronted by ex-Critical Mass singer Britta Görtz, whose ferocity is one of the most noticeable features on this ten-track release. Accompanied by former members of Dawn Of Disease, this is the follow up to 2021’s Solitary, an album which saw the band rightly get noticed in the pandemic days. Although that may have been an opening salvo from the band, these are already well-established musicians and so it’s no surprise to find that this sophomore release possesses increased intensity and power from the opening moments of Through The Storm.

Whether you like it or not, its Görtz’s fiery delivery that grabs the listener early. Previous reviews inevitably refer to the first lady of melodic death metal, Angela Gossow, but Görtz is no copycat and has carved out a style of her own here.

Having got the elephant in the room out of the way, let’s focus on what is a savagely abusive aural assault from start to finish. Through The Storm opens with a quick build of atmosphere before the hammering drums and lacerating riffs explode. It’s 100mph stuff, with a decent blend of melody surging through the twin harmonies of guitarists Oliver Kirchner and Lukas Kerk. It’s a relentless barrage that will get heads banging across the globe, the Germans ensuring that they grab you hard by the throat and pin you to the wall.

Whilst HIRAES may have taken their name from the Welsh word ‘Hiraeth’ which means nostalgia and yearning, there is no looking back on Dormant. Two vicious songs lead to Undercurrent, which sees some clean vocals contrasting with the barking roar that dominates the other songs. Don’t be alarmed though, for it’s a balanced and reflective style that is placed well, giving a depth to the track and provided a neat contrast.

One thing that HIRAES do well is write tight, anthemic songs. The musicianship is impressive, with drummer Mathias Blässe particularly noted, his performance at times absolutely blistering. HIRAES even have the confidence to throw in Come Alive, a two-minute atmospheric piece that provides an evocative and melancholic pause mid-album. It’s a vital piece, providing time to catch the breath, even if it is for mere seconds before the rollercoaster kicks off again and things unleash once more.

Throughout Dormant, HIRAES focus on building imagery, creating sonic soundscapes that transport the listener to realms far away. Central to the album is the longest song, About Lies, which stands proud and strong. It’s another bruiser of a track, with Görtz in fine form. The tempo, as it is throughout the album, is intense, insanely so at times. One can’t help but sit back and enjoy the onslaught that washes over you at times.

There is nothing bad to write about this release. The quality of production is superb, the cover artwork thought provoking. It’s as fast as you’d expect, pulverising, heavy and at times brain-splittingly relentless. With the blend of delicious melody that drifts in and out, HIRAES have released an album that will surely stand tall with the best of 2024 come the end of this year. Miss this at your own loss.

Paul Hutchings