HDK (Hate Death Kill) is a project put together by ex After Forever guitarist Sander Gommans and released a heavy, angry, powerful metal debut 'System Overload' in 2009. Five years on the project has been revived with 'Serenades Of The Netherworld', a very different beast released in a very different time.
The album is on the Dutchman's own label this time round and in the current state of the music industry is being released (to start with at least) experimentally one track at a time. This subject is covered extensively in an interview I did with Mr Gommans and his partner and vocalist on both HDK releases Amanda Somerville for MetalTalk.net and there's a link to that at the bottom of this article.
What matters most of course is the music and I have to say on that front that this album is very different and in my opinion much better than 'System Overload'.
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'Revelation' is the first track available for digital download and while the track listing may still be a work in progress at this stage it will surely stay as the album opener. It immediately sounds different to the debut album's angry, dense, aggressive stance with touches of choirs and keyboards over a galloping rhythms and riffing guitars. Still heavy but much more light and shade here.
It's a terrific start and shows off what for me is the album's strongest point, the vocals. Geert Kroes is best know to me from Dutch 21st century grunge band Dead Man's Curse but his performance on this song and the rest of the album is, if you'll pardon the pun, a revelation.
Perfectly at home singing in a strong, clean, melodic style he can also perform what is definitely more of a roar than a grunt. Raw, intense but yet musical he is complemented by the sublime voice of Amanda Somerville, croonng sweetly or soaring majestically to make a dynamic contribution to this song and to the album.
There is so much to enjoy on this album musically too, the sound is crisp and powerful and the guitars sound amazing whether it's the heavy riffing or the fluid, interesting solos which almost leap out of the speakers at you at times. 'Return From Tomorrow' is a good example of how the album manages to be both complex yet enjoyable. There's some heavy, almost detuned riffing, lovely harmonies in a memorable chorus, pomp style keyboards floating over it all and some delightful fluid melodic guitar solos too. It sounds like it could be a mess but it all hangs together perfectly yet doesn't come over as even sitting in a prog Metal pigeonhole.
'Mortal Zombie' starts in thrash Metal style and would be quite at home on the previous album although I think the songwriting is a notch higher and it has keyboard hooks and a mid section build up which adds new dimensions. 'Book Of Lies'' on the other hand has a swirling riff and soaring guitar and vocal melodies that are just so different to anything on the debut.
Even in the context of the change in style from album no 1 I wasn't expecting the eastern tinged beauty and power of 'Eternal Journey' with simply superb vocals from Ms Somerville. It simply crackles with restraint and leaves you wanting more. Also unexpected the title track is a superior example of an epic metal ballad, again with superb vocals.
The longest track 'Omega' is surely intended to be the album closer and starts in acoustic mood before the huge riffs, changing rhythms and layered vocals kick in building up to a complex, epic, menacing conclusion and an ending which leaves you wanting more.
Verdict: All my reviews are honest and an expression of my genuinely held opinions. I have to admit to being a big fan of Amanda Somerville's work and much of Sander Gomman's too so I had high hopes for this album. I wasn't disappointed in any way though, this is an album which has taken the power of HDK, the melody of After Forever and the songwriting nous of Gommans/Somerville/Kroes and created something which is definitely Metal but doesn't really fit into any sub-genre but its' own.
Highly recommended, but don't take my word for it, check out 'Revelation' available now and see if it grabs you like it grabs me.
Sander Gommans: After Forever/Trillium/Kiske Somerville (Guitars/Bass)
Amanda Somerville: Trillium, Avanatasia, Kiske Somerville (Vocals)
Geert Kroes: Dead Man’s Curse/BlindSight (Vocals)
Koen Herfst: Dew Scented/ I Chaos/ Armin van Buuren (Drums)
Uri Dijk: Textures (Keys)
Erik van Ittersum: (Keys)
Mark Burnash: Trillium (bass)
Paul Owsinski: Trillium (guitar)
Stephen Pursey: (guest solo)