Review: Hellir – Wheel of Ghosts

Band: Hellir
Album: Wheel of Ghosts
Country: USA
Genre: Black Metal, Blackvapor
Release Date: 9 February 2024


1. Wolfking
2. Salt
3. Moria
4. Alkali
5. Low Sky
6. Frost
7. Flail

Dissecting the album:

Wolfking is the first track off of Wheel Of Ghosts and it wastes no time as it has a short introduction from a glistening synth followed by a heavy guitar riff which solidifies the emotion of the song. Each kick from the drum instills a sense of dread, like a stalking, creeping monstrosity. But it’s not long until we get a short break as the next section is marked by sorrowful, yet catchy singing and the way the song transitions is perfectly timed and gives off an uncanny feeling, which seamlessly morphs into a clean, haunting melody crafted by guitarist Daniel. Remarkably, Daniel is credited with writing, recording, and producing the entirety of Wheel Of Ghosts on his own from late 2022, with the exception of a guitar solo on the fifth track, “low sky,” which was written by his friend Harry Reyes.

Moving on, about track 2, Salt. It begins with a synth that could fit right into a video game, Some of them Hellir uses for inspiration, The Legend of Zelda, The Callisto Protocol, and various other books and movies. Following the intro, a slow, punishing riff marches forward, evoking the dense atmospheres and intriguing grooves reminiscent of bands like Cough and Lord Mantis. After the slow, dredging verse it turns into a spacious environment, still stalking with its minimal drums until we get a twangy, bluesy riff that fits perfectly with the vibe of the song and gives life to a sound that can on occasion overstay with its monotony and generic structure.

If you couldn’t tell by now, Hellir is a bit experimental with a sound ranging from atmospheric black metal to synthwave and other varying music styles, the next few songs will teach you; hereon it gets darker and more probing, The atmosphere shifts, feeling heavier in its metal sections yet whimsical and euphoric in its electronic bridges, with a nod to Peter Steele’s essence to me personally.

Inspired by ‘Lord of the Rings,’ the next song on the album, Moria mirrors the grandeur of its narrative influence. It starts with an intriguing spacey synth or possibly a pad, building up to a compelling groove with a pronounced bassy tone that makes sitting still impossible.
The Lord of the Rings inspiration hits with a Gollum-like guttural phrase “I carry the ring, I hear it speak, I hear it speak to me.” and afterwards around 8:40 there’s a saxophone section that reminds me a little bit of White Ward.

Now, I’ve drawn a lot of comparisons to other artists here but I don’t want to make it seem like what I’m describing isn’t original or well thought out. Plenty of the choices made in this album I have seldom heard anywhere else, or at least never taken notice enough to be moved by them. There are plenty of unique features from multiple different genres that go well here when brought together, and I think that’s the point. It is supposed to be adventurous and I believe the next song is a perfect example of that very concept.

Alkali opens with a reverb-drenched acoustic section, followed by vocals that expand into almost religious chant-like melodies, this part evokes a cavernous depth. I rather enjoy hearing pieces like this as it is sometimes jarring but can be woven with a proper dissonance to encapsulate sinister undertones. As I said we know what we’re in for with the record up to this point but somehow each of these songs presents us something new to make our ears perk up.
With a ghostly intro that evolves into progressive, djenty rhythms, giving harsh vocals room to shine along the way, It then moves to heavier sections with reverb-laden vocals that introduce gothic choir type vocals, building up to a climax with an eerie piano piece that creates a dismal atmosphere. It picks back up into a dark, yet beautifully structured chorus that I can’t help but play over and again.

The idea behind the lyrical content is that within certain forms of media you have relatable characters or events that take place and Daniel does a great job of making us feel the most engaging fragments with emotional choruses and song structures that guide you through the struggles of the main character.

The hardest hitting song of the album Low Sky, is similar to Wolfking in that we get a short intro that throws you straight into a dark world. This song is brutal, There’s barely any respite, and pummels us for almost 2 minutes before we get to the guitar solo by Harry Reyes. There’s maybe some death metal influence in there, of which I am a big fan, but if I broke it down even more I might say it’s blues inspired. There’s a lot to unpack here, especially being a guitarist myself; I think the walk down into a rising arpeggio is very smart. It carries the rest of the rhythm along but detracts us long enough to sharpen the melody giving a new vibe entirely. This song sounds like boss fight music to me and it’s slowly becoming my favorite.

Frost is a song featuring a gothic intro with a groovy rhythm and a first verse that emits a mysterious aura, seamlessly transitioning into a symphonic, progressive, blackened experience filled with emotional melodic phrases and a chorus brimming with desperation.

Frost concludes and fades out into the last song, Flail.
I don’t want to spend too much time on this one because my first couple listens really made me feel like if I had heard it earlier than now I wouldn’t really understand it.
I will say this, it sounds like a perfect storm of the previous experimental song’s unique qualities. There’s a short piano section about halfway in and it could end here and be perfectly fine, but it picks up, and it becomes earthshattering, dark and slow worming its way into the listener’s brain like a mantra until it cuts mid sentence, leaving just a few last seconds reverberating and fading away.


Bringing together synthwave, black metal, sprinkle in a dash of core with the groove metal, and you get this album. The production overall is pretty good, it’s a little different from what I’m used to and I explore a wealth of other genres from softer music to the heaviest I can find. From a producer’s standpoint here I think it’s impressive to be able to merge these genres as typically it can be hard to walk the line between what is and isn’t black metal depending on your favorite era. Wheel of Ghosts has a lot of second wave black metal but incorporates a little third wave as well, but I would find it hard to say that this is a foundation that Hellir sits on. This is a culmination of many styles, sounds, and emotions all into an experience that, just in under 25 minutes, is a welcomed surprise for experimental black metal.


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