Don’t be fooled by the fact that Haiduk is a band name: Haiduk is in fact one man, Luka Milojica, programming, playing and singing everything that you hear. This is not uncommon in the worlds of death and black metal by any means, but the quality of the music here suggests an intensity of purpose, coupled with an innate ability, which makes the fact that Haiduk remains unsigned laughable. Happily, however, Luka is determined that his music should reach those who appreciate it and so, label or not, we are fortunate to have “spellbook”, the debut Haiduk album (following an eight-track demo entitled ‘plagueswept’), and a blistering work of caustic death metal that offers much in the way of both intelligent lyrical prowess and pure visceral thrills.
Opening with ‘Lich’ , the first thing you’ll notice is the crisp, clean production which allows every instrument the vital clarity necessary when playing at such speeds. The drum programming too, although obviously programmed, is not intrusive and it does a good job of supporting the songs without overpowering them or being noticeably artificial. ‘Lich’ is a furious start to the album and it is also dizzyingly brief – a mere two and a half minutes – and yet between the sung lyrics, and the expanded text in the booklet, it packs in a wealth of ideas that showcase just how deep the concept behind Haiduk is. ‘Stormcall’ is similarly brief (in fact even shorter) and similarly brutal, Luka intoning the lyrics in a monotone growl that sends shivers down the spine as the guitars rage around him. It is brutal stuff indeed and it says much about the searing power of those first two tracks that ‘Black Wind’, with its double-kick assault and cleverly panned guitar riffs almost feels like a respite after such an assault. A speed-driven, classic death metal track, it is a devastating piece that highlights the detail in the composition as Luka squeezes in an impressive array of riffs before the vocals even start. The aptly titled ‘maelstrom’ does a good job of demonstrating an aural equivalent of the titular event, the furious drumming matched only by the speed and precision of Luka’s thoroughly excellent guitar playing.
Opening with a treble laden riff, ‘forcefield’ rapidly becomes a searing mix of rumbling bass, full-on percussion and deathly vocals. Hinting at the complex technicality of Meshuggah but maintaining the straight-forward aggression fans want from their brutal death metal is an inspired move and the result is a song that aptly demonstrates Luka’s formidable talents whilst laying down a challenge to other bands to follow in Haiduk’s foosteps if they only dare. ‘Hex’ opens with the briefest of acoustic introductions before veering between thrash and death metal for a track that is both blisteringly heavy and possessed of a variety of moods and feels. ‘Tremor’ is a furiously noxious blast of nimble-fingered riffs that leaves you slack-jawed with admiration whilst ‘fire-wield’ somehow takes the same template and, in keeping with its name, remarkably ups the tempo for a track that is as blistering as it is intense. ‘Lightening’ recalls elements of Sepultura’s early sound with its raucous, punk-infused riff and then ‘Vortex’
Musically this is an intense ride that never once lets its foot off the pedal. Lyrically the arrangements are sparse, and yet Luka has expanded the lyrics in the booklet showcasing the depth of his vision whilst not endeavouring to cram every syllable into the music. There are flaws here – the drums lack the power and intuitive feel of their real-life counterparts, although they are well programmed; and it is arguable that a greater deal of light and shade would allow the power of the music to maintain its impact: certainly there’s an argument that come the tenth song the power of the music has been dulled by familiarity, and a moment to draw breath would undoubtedly help in this area. However, this is a death metal release of some power and it is clear from the outset that Luka is a talented musician indeed who has both the ambition and the ability to take Haiduk to the next level. At half an hour the record hardly outstays its welcome and the overall flow and feel of the album will be enough to leave seasoned death metal fans well sustained. It may not be an innovative effort, but for a debut album ‘Spellbook’ showcases considerable depth and it is a fine addition to the crowded world of death metal and offers great hope for the future.
Check out the band’s webpage, buy the CD and listen to samples of the album here.