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Root - "Hell Symphony (Reissue)" (CD)

Root - "Hell Symphony (Reissue)" CD cover image

"Hell Symphony (Reissue)" track listing:

1. Belzebub (6:07)
2. Belial (3:07)
3. Lucifer (4:08)
4. Abaddon (3:15)
5. Asmodeus (3:13)
6. Satan (4:10)
7. Leviathan (5:50)
8. Astaroth (2:39)
9. Loki (4:41)
10. The Prayers (4:10)
11. The Oath (0:46)
12. Satan's March (2:51)
13. Lucifer Live (4:55)
14. Leviathan Live (6:15)
15. Song For Satan Live (2:51)

Reviewed by on January 21, 2011

"Make no mistake about it, 'Hell Symphony' isn’t a masterpiece by modern standards, but it is an important piece of metal history that still holds appeal to current day audiences."

Way back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the various extreme metal genres were still being developed and were crafting the iconic sounds known so well today. Before names like Emperor and Mayhem were on the lips of everyone in the underground, a little band from the Czech Republic called Root was also doing its part to define the darker aspects of metal. To get more exposure for a band that would have been big had it been based in Norway, I Hate Records has been re-releasing the early works of Root, including the group’s second album, “Hell Symphony.”

Make no mistake about it, “Hell Symphony” isn’t a masterpiece by modern standards, but it is an important piece of metal history that still holds appeal to current day audiences. The music is significantly faster and more complex than on the band's debut album “Zjeveni,” (reviewed here), which was fairly simplistic. The album doesn’t have quite as many experimental or instrumental aspects as would be found on the next album “The Temple in the Underworld” (reviewed here), however.

Although significantly more well rounded than the band’s first album, “Hell Symphony” still has a few instances where the music feels a bit bare. The mid-paced to fast guitars and use of blaring blast beats were probably mind blowing in 1991, but they don’t hold up nearly as well in a modern setting. Musically, “Belial” is the most interesting track on the album, starting off with an atmospheric acoustic guitar and then heading into a repeating guitar riff meshed with clashing cymbals that is both heavy and melodic. Since the album was crafted before the Norwegian black metal hordes had made a major mark on the metal landscape, a good deal of the music is surprisingly rooted in thrash and classic metal.

The vocals heard throughout the album are a bit of a mixed bag, with some echoing the deep baritone chanting on later albums and others going in decidedly less compelling directions. Some of the odd, scratchy screech/chants are definitely an acquired taste that isn’t going to work for all audiences. “Satan” is an offbeat vocal-driven track, showing where Root was trying new things, even if it didn’t always work perfectly. The song only consists of vocalist Big Boss belting out chants with a backing drum beat, which is an interesting idea, but it’s also repetitive and a bit lackluster in its execution.

With the bonus songs and extra live tracks tacked on the end, the re-issue of “Hell Symphony” is a worthwhile addition for Root fans, whether they own the original or not. The album many not be the best starting point for listeners new to the band, but it has some appeal for anyone interested in old school music that shows where genres like black metal came from.

Highs: Interesting proto-black metal sound with lots of thrash elements

Lows: A bit simplistic by modern standards and not all of the vocal styles work well

Bottom line: An important piece of metal history that shows where the early darker aspects of metal were going in places besides Norway.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)