Hell are rarity. A band that came to an abrupt end many years ago, were revived by a fan (who happened to be mega producer Andy Sneap) and turned out to be the best band you never heard of. Everything that a metalhead claims to love about metal is in this band.
Riffs upon riffs, musicianship in moderation, theatricality, dark lyrics and subject matter and sitting in a heavy fog of atmosphere. The ‘Human Remains’ album was a completion of an earlier album written by the since departed David Halliday. When most bands lose their principle song writer it is often a creative death sentence, not HELL.
After a long touring cycle interspersed with Andy Sneap helming a few albums in his day job (Amon Amarths Deceiver of the Gods and mixing Carcass’ Surgical Steel) its time for a new album…”Chapter and Curse.”
I personally have never stopped listening to Human Remains, and do so at least once or twice a week. This long awaited second album was crafted over a long period of time which is a testament to the collection of compositions on “Curse & Chapter. To write as Dave Halliday did is not an easy task and it’s safe to say that the fine legacy of HELL has been nurtured and cared for like the first son of the Devil himself.
The album opens as a continuation of Human Remains, instantly letting you know something awesome is going to come. The distinctive guitar tone is ever present and as ‘The Age of Nefarious’ starts its clear the wait was worth it. A blend of dark poetry and veiled humour can be heard as this track references ‘dawning of the age of aquarius’ in chorus.
Next up is “Darkhangel”. Dave Bowers vocals are majestic and have a fitting background with orchestral interludes and heavy as fuck guitar playing courtesy of messrs Sneap and (Kev) Bower. Oh if your bag is thrash with a groove “Harbinger of Death” is for you. The is a full on tempo that continues through the album that never really loosens it’s grip and even for the few seconds between tracks that it does a sense of foreboding takes over.
The DIO style riff of “Land of the Living Dead” soon explodes back into the mid-tempo ferocity prevalent on the rest of the album. “Deliver Us From Evil” is primed to be a savage display of what HELL can actually do in a live setting. You can hear how well that’s going to play with that audience in any venue or any size, anywhere!
What really impresses me is the contrast throughout the entire album. Some slow and some fast, focused intensity and open atmosphere and all in between. The lyrics are superbly executed through alliteration, rhyme, prose and phrase. Almost a cross of Lemmy’s sense of rhyme, Ian Gillan’s phrasing, Shakespearean prose, Alliteration of Poe. Or as some would put it “fucking awesome”.
As regards production, it sounds huge, clean and dripping with succulent meaty riffs on the bone, you can actually hear Tony Speakman play bass which isn’t always a ready facet on on most album’s. To presence of the the bass really sets up Tony Bowler’s drumming to be as solid as they come, perfectly accenting the vocals and music only when it needs to. The time signatures change so seamlessly it catches you out more often than not
I haven’t in recent memory or possibly ever, come across a second album that made me think I was hearing the band for the first time. “Curse & Chapter” manages to trigger all the right senses, giving this listener that much desired “first time” rush that every band strives to achieve. HELL are back, so get ready to bow down and take it anywhere you can. A fantastic album.
Overdrive Rating 5/5
Words – Ross McDermott