Yfel. The very name means evil in Old English, and in that respect The Depths of Hell doesn’t disappoint. In addition to some decidedly evily titled tracks like “Baptized in Demon’s Blood” and “The Depths of Hell”, the album artwork depicts people being cast into hell; perfect for a filthy, evil sounding band like Yfel. Apart from the brief piano intro to “The Might of Lucifer” and the slower instrumental “A Cold, Dark Fog”, the album assaults your ears with pure, aggressive, orthodox black metal blasphemy with some resemblance to the Greek scene. Armon puts emphasis on the rather bass heavy, almost thrashy at times, riffs in The Depths of Hell and for good reason; the riffs carry the album and create for some very memorable tracks like “The Might of Lucifer” and “The Power of Understanding”. The atypically high in the mix bass adds depth to these riffs and is another of the albums strengths. It, combined with the already solid guitar work, make the chorus of “The Might of Lucifer” irresistible to headbang to and for likely the best part of the album. It’s refreshing to hear bass in black metal, especially when it’s done well.
That said, The Depths of Hell does have some weaknesses that prevent the album from reaching its true potential, namely the vocals and drums. Yfel makes use of a drum machine, which is fairly common in one man projects. It’s programmed well enough to prevent it from being a serious liability to the overall sound. Still, the addition of a drummer could only do good for Yfel. The other thing that holds the album back is the vocals. Armon’s vitriolic, throaty rasps are far from bad and do a fine if unassuming job, but when compared to the guitars there’s a clear difference in quality. Additionally, there’s no real variation in the vocals, a definite letdown given the album’s other strengths.
Complains aside, The Depths of Hell’s other strong points are the songwriting and mixing. The album flows well and the short, punchy tracks keep the pace going quickly. Indeed, save for the final track, none of them reach six minutes in length. This furthers the epic nature of the closer, “The Black Seas of Infinity”. The addition of the slower “A Cold, Dark Fog” keeps the album from running out of steam too quickly from the other, faster tracks. The mix is clear, despite the somewhat rawer guitars, without becoming sterile and losing the album’s atmosphere. It’s somewhat of a surprise, albeit a welcome one, given that it’s Yfel’s first album and was self-released. Indeed, I have nothing against raw production, but this would likely have been a hindrance given the quality of the guitar playing.
When it comes down to it, The Depths of Hell achieves what it sets out to do, and the aggressive black metal takes its listener on a journey to the depths of hell. The tracks catapult riff after riff at you and force you to submit to their power. It isn’t new or adventurous or anything like that, but due to the sheer power and strength of its riffs it succeeds. It does have a couple noticeable flaws, but its strong points far outweigh the weaker ones and makes for a greatly satisfying and pure black metal experience.