The Hellblinki Sextet
Regen Magazine Online
Posted: Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Hellblinki Sextet

By: Ilker Yücel Editor
Maniacal clowns, dance-crazy zombies, and sex-crazed pirates are all par for the course for a delightfully twisted collection of dark cabaret musings from Hellblinki.
With a name like Hellblinki, one can immediately visualize what sort of twisted and bizarre form of music the band must be capable of. True to their name, Oratory features a buffet of sonic strangeness that conjures images of demented clowns in a perverted circus, laughing maniacally as the fires of hell engulf them, with ringleader Andrew Benjamin preaches his sordid and silly tales from a malicious altar. In a scene filled to the brim with electronic stimulation, it's almost gratifying to hear Hellblinki's brand of cabaret madness, with "The End" kicking off the proceedings with the sound of a film projector and a muffled introduction reminiscent of a scratchy vinyl record setting the stage for the album, transporting the listener back to the silent film era and giving way to a thumping drum beat, stabbing guitar chords, and a shrieking violin. Benjamin's whimsical yet malevolent vocals guide us into the audio/visual cornucopia while Valerie Meiss' operatic wails add a despairing unease that never quite lets up throughout the album. "Bella Ciao" - a folk song repurposed by the partisans to fight fascists in WWII - comes like a cross between cabaret and Mariachi music with a crooning trumpet and Meiss' Italian vocals while "Drums" is quite simply... drums, chockfull of layers of tribal beats, with Meiss' banshee voice hovering like a ghostly presence. There's a certain amount of classical dance floor flavor at play on Oratory as "Ruckus" lightens the mood slightly, sounding like swing music for zombies, while "Tango" is indeed as its title suggests, those trumpets once again giving the song a Mariachi-esque quality and Meiss belting out a fine performance. The accordion and slow cadence in "No Place to Go" could easily put one in mind of walking the streets of Paris by moonlight, while "River" is an extended slew of distorted chords and reverberating percussion that fades into a shimmering ambience, almost industrial in its mood, though definitely not out of place given the eccentricity of the album. Adding to this bit of industrial flair is the abundance of interludes, many of which either feature a fractured assortment of samples - some of which indicating political undertones - or recorded phone messages that sound as if taken from the ranted musings of a scraggly redneck, although they were actually left over the course of several months at Augusta, GA's NPR station. Also an intriguing element of Hellblinki's music is a knack for the irreverent, rebellious, and debaucherous, especially in the lyrics to "Wicked World" as the chorus calls on the listener to "Get up off your ass and raise some hell," and in "Can be Free" as Benjamin growls "I'll take what I want to satisfy all my needs / I'll have what I choose and I'll take it for free." While Oratory may not deviate dramatically from past albums by the band, when they went by the moniker of The Hellblinki Sextet, their brand of dark cabaret deserves praise for its effective mix of horror show histrionics and circus-freak sideshow exhibition, at once unsettling and hilarious. Indeed, Andrew Benjamin leads his band of rogues with incredible bravado on Oratory, making for a wondrously enjoyable if disturbing time.