Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hell - Human Remains : Album Review

In the past couple of years, when a large percentage of unaware audience was mourning the declining older, more traditional forms of Heavy Metal and (rightfully) blaming modern metal for the imminent death of Heavy Metal, there were a good number of bands engaging in old school metal worship in all its flavours. While people are well aware of revivalist Thrash and newer Old School Death Metal, new Traditional Heavy Metal goes unnoticed. Though I should make it clear, Hell are NOT a new band and have been around since 1982, as a part of the NWOBHM movement, but never released an album till 2011.

UK's Hell released few demos back in the 80s, but never got any attention due to the large number of bands from the movement successfully releasing a number of albums. Human Remains is their first ever full-length album. Needless to say, Hell play Traditional Heavy Metal, very similar to the top-of-the-line bands from 1980s, most notably Mercyful Fate. Their NWOBHM roots are very pronounced in their playing style, but they also take a little from their American counterparts in form of Speed Metal riffing and wailed vocals and "epic" songwriting. The band doesn't shy away from inclusion of synth, which is okay, since it doesn't sound like flowery Euro Power metal keyboards. The style works well for the record, but can sound monotonous since the album is over an hour long with little variation.
The riffing is a combination of upbeat, punk-ish NWOBHM-like riffs and heavy, palm-muted Speed Metal riffs, which is like listening to Mercyful Fate, Riot and Angel Witch, all at the same time. The possibility of an amazing outcome of such a combination is hindered by the fact that they're arranged in a chaotic and disjoint manner at times in certain tracks. Nonetheless, the enjoyability factor is kept up by the quality of the riffs. The guitarists show their full potential with blazing, melodic guitar solos present in every song, upping each song's quality. The vocalist differs from typical NWOBHM vocalists with his good range and superior singing ability. Yet, he might come off as unoriginal, since the King Diamond-like style doesn't work for anyone except King himself. The vocals dominate most of the songs, and that can be distracting from the rest of the music. The bass guitar is not very audible, despite the clear and fairly modern-sounding production of the album. The drummer plays quite well, without a sign of sloppiness or error, and adapts well to the structural changes throughout the songs. The band engages in progressive songwriting, with constant changes in structure, tempo, riffs and certain unconventional (but not outright weird) time signatures. The progressive nature of the songs compels the listener to either pay full attention to the music or give it several listens. The lyrics deal with Satan, Hell, Occult, etc, and the dark nature of such is further amplified by the meticulous use of synth.

Even if the band comes off too similar to Mercyful Fate, Hell has its own flavour. There are no new ideas here, since it is a Traditional Heavy Metal release, and if it is all you're looking for, you won't be disappointed and Human Remains is for you.