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Hell - Human Remains (9/10) - Great Britain - 2011

Genre: Heavy Metal
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Playing time: 1:06:00
Band homepage: Hell

Tracklist:

  1. Overture: Themes From "Deathsquad"
  2. On Earth As It Is In Hell
  3. Plague And Fyre
  4. The Oppressors
  5. Blasphemy And The Master
  6. Let Battle Commence
  7. The Devil's Deadly Weapon
  8. The Quest
  9. Macbeth
  10. Save Us From Those Who Would Save Us
  11. No Martyr's Cage
Hell - Human Remains

Time has finally caught up with this one.

 

HELL were formed in 1982, and were stalwarts in the NWOBHM scene that continues to have such an influence on Metal to this day. Yet, inexcusably, this band was overlooked at the time, and only released a collection of demos and a single on Deadly Weapon Records for the song “Save Us From Those Who Would Save Us.” Despite their lack of recognition, they had a profound impact on a teenaged Andy Sneap, and it was the band’s original guitarist, Dave Halliday, who taught the youngster to play. Sadly, HELL was disbanded as a result of Halliday’s death by his own hand, while Sneap went on to form influential occult Thrash band SABBAT.

 

Years later, the band decided to re-form with Mr. Sneap taking Halliday’s place on guitar, and original member Kev Bower assuming the vocal duties. The result is this collection of original HELL songs, re-recorded by the new line-up, and finally receiving the backing of a major independent label.

 

Without having heard the original versions of these songs, it is impossible to guess what the impact of this album would have been had it been released during the NWOBHM era. Suffice it to say, however, that if the originals bear any resemblance to the versions contained here, then this album would have been well ahead of its time. While there were certainly other bands form this time period experimenting with the Avant-Garde, these tracks would have openly flouted much of what was Metal convention. The songwriting is rather non-traditional, with multiple abrupt time signature and tempo changes, and giving a sense of controlled chaos to the whole thing and playing deft sleight-of-hand with the listener’s expectations.

 

Notable is the skillful combination of the vocals with the lyrics. Much like SABBAT, HELL use the conflicts and settings of a long-ago, less “civilized” era to paint aural images of the absurdities of our own time. Whether singing about the turmoil created by pestilence and war (“Plagues And Fyre”) or recounting the story of one of Shakespeare’s most tragic figures (“Macbeth”), the songs pull the listener back into the contemporary, and in the process make the case that despite all of its advances, Humanity has not progressed much beyond its medieval prejudices and capacity for self-delusion. Bower’s vocal delivery, meanwhile, is very theatrical – equal parts Garm and Alice Cooper, and greatly contributes to the visceral impact of the album. The vocals are over-the-top, almost maniacal, and call attention to the absurdity of the themes in the lyrics.

 

Quite simply, this album kicks ass. The material is not as ground-breaking as when it was first written, and assuredly Metal fans have developed a greater appreciation for the Avant Garde in the thirty years that have elapsed since then, but this is challenging stuff nonetheless. It is almost as if ARCTURUS were playing old-school NWOBHM.

 

Not to be missed!

(Online May 25, 2011)

Steve Herrmann



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