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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Hell

Human Remains

Review by Mike Korn

Around 1985, I was a huge fan of the British fanzine "Metal Forces.”  The mag had a demo section which featured unsigned talent and it was there that I saw a very bizarre picture of a band simply called “Hell.” That pic was so off the wall and cartoony that I never forgot it, but it was years before I heard anything else about the band. Gradually, I found out that they were very well regarded in the British metal underground but had broken up due to the tragic suicide of their leader Dave Halliday.

I thought that was the last I'd ever hear of Hell, but miracle of miracles, in 2011, we now have the 25 year delayed debut of the band entitled "Human Remains.” It seems that Sabbat guitarist and metal producer extraordinaire Andy Sneap was a student of Halliday's and never forgot Hell. He eventually rounded up the other members of the band and convinced them to pick up where they left off following Dave Halliday's suicide.

The result is Human Remains, and what an amazing album this is. This is a full-blooded and demonic reworking of classic British metal like Iron Maiden, Angel Witch and Cloven Hoof, with a huge helping of Mercyful Fate theatrics and just a touch of modern black metal. I would strongly recommend this record to any fan of dark and heavy metal with an epic feel. The return of Hell is really the metal story of the year so far!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Overture Themes From Deathsquad

Wow, this sounds like it could have been taken from the soundtrack of "Gladiator" or "Lord of the Rings!” It's a rich symphonic instrumental complete with chanting in Latin that sets the stage perfectly for what's to come.

On Earth As It Is In Hell
I can't describe this as anything except killer British metal full of dynamic riffs. Get ready for the fruity, over the top vocals of Dave Bower, which perfectly fit the music. He really puts everything he's got into his performance and if you see the video of this song, you'll see a theatrical frontman to rival King Diamond and Alice Cooper. This is a great introduction to the world of Hell!
Plague and Fyre
The sounds of human suffering form an intro to this cut and you can tell some great catastrophe is taking place. ..a plague-ridden London is burning to the ground! Once this eerie introduction finishes, we get another fast and furious metal song. The chorus on this is a masterpiece and you also notice the sheer cleverness of Hell's lyrics. This is a band that knows how to tell a story!
The Oppressors
The bouncing, catchy riff that kicks this off is just plain cool! This is a very dark song where Dave Bower really cuts loose with those melodramatic vocals. The band knows how to bolster their sound with just the right amount of keyboard and synthesizer flourish. This one will really get your head banging!
Blasphemy and The Master
The ominous beginning makes it sound like you're taking a guided tour of Hell...which, in fact, you are.  Dave Bower's spoken word performance is incredibly demonic and when the metal finally kicks in, you're in just the right mood. This is the first of the really long epics on the album and can basically be described as a mixture of Mercyful Fate and Iron Maiden. The Latin chanting makes another appropriate appearance and segues into some real sick twin guitar work from Andy Sneap and Kev Bower.
Let Battle Commence
This song actually has its roots in Parallex, a NWOBHM band dating before Hell. That shows you how deep this band's roots in the metal scene run. This is galloping, up-tempo metal with a definite feeling of the old days of British metal ala Maiden and Diamondhead.
The Devil's Deadly Weapon
This is the album's monster epic clocking in at over ten minutes in length. The opening is cloaked in melancholy synthesizers and the sounds of battle, as Dave Bower declares an ode to the Devil. This cut is like an album in itself and shows Hell's influence from British prog rock. There's also a more rock n' roll feel to the solos. Anyone familiar with the old English band Demon will hear some of them in this cut. It's a little bit too long for my taste.
The Quest
This is more good crunchy old school metal in the NWOBHM tradition but with great modern production. As hard and crunchy as the tune is, the harmony vocals of the chorus almost seem like classic radio rock with their catchy melody. This cut is further spiked by some great Maidenish twin guitar work. The lyrics are uncharacteristically positive: "If you truly believe in what you do/ One day your dreams will come true.”
MacBeth
Yes, this is an actual metal opera based on Shakespeare's play, right down to wailing bagpipes, cawing crows and the cackling of the Three Hags. The introduction is pretty cartoony and overdone but once the actual music kicks in, it's one of the album's best and definitely the best of the longer tracks. The riffing is some of the most powerful on the whole album and Dave Bower is in his element relating the tragic tale.
Save Us From Those Who Would Save Us
The shameful subject of child abuse at the hands of Catholic priests is the lyrical focus of this song written well over 20 years ago...and sadly more relevant now than then. A whole panoply of news sound bites regarding the abuse sets the table for another scorching fast metal cut. The lyrics are just as scathing as the music and Bower is again fantastic with his bile-filled vocals.  This is a headbanger with something important to say.
No Martyr's Cage
You might think this track accidentally came from a different band with the mellow, proggy way it starts. It's definitely the lightest moment on the album. Have no fear; the guitars still kick in with a vengeance. However, this song is the album low point for me. Another long epic, it just doesn't seem to have the punch of "Blasphemy and the Master" or "MacBeth.” It's not at awful song, but it drags, and since the album is already well over an hour old at this point, I think this might just as well been left off.
 
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