Vanhelga has almost reached a mature age of eight years, making it even more satisfying that the one-man band finally got its debut album released. Before hearing the album I got their this, their debut EP which shows a rather different side to Vanhelga when compared to their two earlier demos (the latest one is reviewed here). Whether this EP is in any way similar to the actual debut album or not, I cannot say, but judging by the EP's strict limitation to 50 copies I'd suspect that it's meant to present a more obscure and experimental side of the band's expression.
"The End of Reason" sound highly professional, despite its small pressing. It begins with the eleven minutes long title track, and right off the bat one can hear the radical differences between the EP and its preceding demo; the song sounds rather light and clean, and the riffs are a lot less traditional. It begins with a really brisk riff that's more close to progressive heavy metal than any kind of black metal, and continues with some slow shredding to balance out the more energetic and skilled riffs. The song morphs many times between these two opposite ends of the spectrum, but while retaining from going to the either extremes to keep the composition unified. At least partly due to the aforementioned fact, the song's progress is more based on repetition and upholding the atmospheres revealed in it's beginning instead of any deeper ventures, and I think it's a shame. The song builds up your expectations, and then doesn't strive to live up to them.
The song is followed by the four-minute instrumental "Qliphotic Alchemy," which sounds closer to what one could expect from Vanhelga. It is based on traditional Norwegian black metal-riffs and -soundscape, but this time with some progressive and even power metal-esque riffing to accompany it. There's a single riff in the song's middle that sounds simply too cheery to serve its purpose, but otherwise the songs is tasteful, appealing and even mystical mixture of tradition and new school. I would've expected nothing less. In case you were wondering if Vanhelga had any more ideas left, this song should give you the answer.
The opener was a grand disappointment for me. I was expecting for something really talented that's been crafted with care and effort, and despite all this coming true to some extent it seems as if the artist would've stopped working too early. The opener is built from interesting elements that don't seem to melt together, nor do they unleash anything even close to their full potential; the shredding sounds almost like filler material that's meant to back up something which doesn't even show up in the end, instead of it sounding powerful. The light soundscape really creates a downfall here, as it damages the most black metal-oriented components. The hoarse gurgling vocals are used with good taste and have an appealing sound, but similar to the programmed drums, they do their job but nothing more. I would've gladly accepted the artist to put his skills to a greater and more daring use on a release like this, and it would've been especially recommended since the guitars are so daring. The instrumental ends up being the EP's more pleasing song, which is a bit of a shame since it's clearly the more traditional one in Vanhelga's canon. Well, at least is shows that the artist knows his own craft well.
I think it was a nice gesture from the artist to release this EP for his fans, and I'm sure that many of Vanhelga's core audience as well as people seeking to widen their perception of black metal find this EP very pleasing. I hope to hear the debut album soon, as this EP made me very curious on how it will sound.