Created in 2012, Heylel is a prog rock band out of Portugal whose sound has elements of metal, Latin and goth. Band members Ana Batista (lead vocals), Narciso Monteiro (lead guitar), Sérgio de Meneses (bass guitar) and Filipe Braga (drums) all come from diverse artistic backgrounds and have combined their strengths and experiences to create “Nebulae,” their debut album.
The band has described the album as “a conceptual vision over life and death, represented in the form of a star life-cycle. The record is presented with eleven tracks divided into four chapters, from a star birth until its extinction, creating intense emotional passages through life’s stages.”
With such a specific concept as a premise, the proposed journey falls short of expectations. The album starts strong with the track “The Prophet,” the first single from the album. It has a dark, rich sound fueled by guitar lines and complemented by the classically trained voice of lead singer Ana Batista. She has an angelic voice that provides a nice contrast that fans of mainstream rock would find reminiscent of Amy Lee from Evanescence. The end of this song seems a bit disjointed, as if they couldn’t figure out an appropriate segue to the coda, but it doesn’t ruin the song.
“Watcher of the Light” has a fantastically dark and operatic intro that should be longer and part of a movie score, but the momentum slows down immensely, and continues to do so as the album goes on. “The Sage” is an acoustic ballad that is a departure from the rest of the songs on the album — this makes sense since it is actually a cover of an Emerson, Lake & Palmer song. It features Narciso Monteiro, a former student of Porto’s Jazz School, on guitar. The Latin feel of this track, as well as “Wings of Eternity,” pleasantly reminds the listener of their Portuguese roots, but makes you wonder what this has to do with the songs from the first half of the album.
The track “Deeper” doesn’t fit in at all; “The Great Abstinence” has a tinkling jazz piano thread through the background, which sounds good but again, doesn’t seem to make sense here. “Sometimes” is a fantastic song — if you like acoustic singer/songwriter songs that are being performed in a local coffeehouse. And “I Talk To The Wind,” while strong and liked by critics, is another cover, this time of one of the pioneers of prog rock, King Crimson.
While Nebulae surely interprets the ups and downs of a life cycle, it would have been nice if it followed the same life throughout.