Cooked up during long, locked down months and polished to what sounds like close to perfection, "Prey" is a debut album that oozes class. We are firmly in symphonic extreme metal territory here, with echoes of all the usual post-DIMMU subjects, but HALIPHRON rarely sound entirely in thrall to other people's ideas. Primarily rooted in ornate and epic bombast, songs like opener "The Killing Spree" and the macabre swarm of "Mother of all Evil" reveal a strong but subtle influence of early '90s death metal, but the Dutch crew's progressive sensibilities and theatrical flair wipe away any underground grubbiness. As a result, "Prey" seems unusually sophisticated and impressively nasty for a debut.
"Perfect Existence" is an obvious high point, as HALIPHRON go into symphonic overdrive, with strings and horns erupting from all angles. Over six wildly dramatic minutes, it morphs gracefully from pitch-black thrash to stately, melancholy doom and back again: a near-flawless demonstration of how to pace and pen a great metal song.
There are several more nearly as strong as that, too. The title track emits faint glimmers of folk metal eccentricity, as frontman Marloes Voskuil plays evil narrator over a shapeshifting backdrop. "Human Inferno" is a grim storm of blackened DM perversity, but outrageously catchy with it. "The Resistance" surfs in on an electronic pulse, as HALIPHRON bring malicious melo-death and RAMMSTEIN's austere violence together in a shower of black sparks. "Unidentified Mass" has twisted circus keyboards, a heart of purest darkness and a perfect rock 'n' roll ending. Oddly, supposed bonus track "Schizophrenia" is one of the most accessible moments and boasts at least two of the album's finest riffs (so ignore any versions of "Prey" that don't include it!),a bona fide catchy chorus and arguably more intriguing twists and turns that any of its album counterparts. Maybe that's why it's considered a bonus. Confusing.
Enjoyably pompous and, again, nastier than it first appears, HALIPHRON's first musical statement hits all the right extravagant notes and sounds like a million, unholy dollars. It's amazing what people can come up with when left to their own devices, isn't it? "Prey" sounds big, bold and ambitious because, its creators rather shrewdly made it so.