Monday, July 30, 2012

Underground Laboratory: Hells Headbangers Records

The number of record labels trawling through the depths of the underground to bring you various versions of black metal , death metal,  thrash metal, and their hybrids is probably too numerous to mention, but the best of the bunch is Hells Headbangers Records. Also well known as a merchant and mail order service of all things metal with an absolute insistence on authenticity, Hells Headbangers Records’ official releases are almost always excellent.

Hells Headbangers’ releases usually occur in batches a couple of times per year.  This summer sees the release of no less than six albums from the label, spread out over two months or so, and here’s a brief look at each.

Mongrel’s Cross The Sins Of Aquarius

Release Date: July 3rd, 2012

More dirty, blackened thrash, this time from Australia’s Mongrel’s Cross. Obviously descended from bands such as Deströyer 666 and Impiety, Mongrel’s Cross have the right mix of heaviness and catchiness to go along with a snarling attitude. Rather than just simply blasting away, though, Mongrel’s Cross slow things down and emphasize deeply heavy riffs, crunch, and even a few nods to good ol’ traditional heavy metal. Toss in some good songwriting, and The Sins Of Aquarius is a strong debut from Mongrel’s Cross.

Grade: B+

Denial Of God Death And The Beyond

Release Date: July 13th, 2012

Denmark’s Denial Of God have been kicking it in one form or another since 1991or so, but have only managed to eke out two full-length albums, including Death And The Beyond. Playing a generally slow to mid-paced version of sludgy blackened death metal, Denial Of God rely on a rancid atmosphere and pounding, dirge laden riffs to get their point across. Favorable comparisons to bands such as Acheron are probably warranted; albeit, with a more of a direct black metal approach, but the songwriting on Death And The Beyond is a bit uneven. Denial Of God have a welcome penchant for mixing things up with a few quiet moments and all out blasts to accompany the mid-paced approach. A few of the songs of shorter length are done well enough, but, oddly, Denial Of God choose to close out the album with a fifteen minute opus that tends to get a bit tedious.

Grade: C+

Satanic Bloodspraying At The Mercy Of Satan

Release Date: July 18th, 2012

Bolivia vomits forth the hilariously named Satanic Bloodspraying, a duo walking through the muck of blackened punk with At The Mercy Of Satan. A short release of eight songs clocking in at about 25 minutes, At The Mercy Of Satan sports influences from Impiety, Impaled Nazarene, and Sodom with a great deal of pride. Awesome, insanely catchy songs with a surprisingly clean tone that works so well that you’ll find yourself repeatedly hitting the “Repeat” button, At The Mercy Of Satan demands to be listened to at least three times in a row in each sitting.

Grade: A

Release Date: July 31st, 2012

The Royal Arch Blaspheme is a duo made up of what essentially constitutes USBM royalty: John Gelso of Profanatica and N. Imperial of Krieg (both serve time in various other bands too numerous to mention). Playing a dirty version of primitive black metal, The Royal Arch Blaspheme are much noisier than both Gelso’s and Imperial’s main outfits. In addition, II sees the duo ramp up the intensity a notch over their self-titled debut from 2010. II comes off as the bastard hybrid of Welcome To Hell and In The Sign Of Evil and is just as filthy; albeit, with a louder production.

Grade: A-

Deiphago Satan Alpha Omega

Release Date: August 14th, 2012

Filipino by way of Costa Rica, Deiphago, a trio, play an exceptionally messy form of primitive blackened thrash. Obviously influenced by Sarcofago and that band’s descendants, but with more speed and a much louder, more modern production, Deiphago are a swirling mass of chaos with loud, ornery guitars, drum patterns that drift all over the place, and just out and out caterwauling.

Frankly, in lesser hands, Deiphago would come across as a talentless mess as the term “songwriting” really doesn’t seem to apply, but the band’s infectious form of primitive histrionics is going to bring a smile to the face of old school fans that grew up on a steady diet of Sarcofago, early Sodom, Hellhammer, and the like.

Grade: B+

Midnight Complete And Total Hell

Release Date: September 1st, 2012

Cleveland’s Midnight probably need no introduction as the popularity of the band and their brand of d-beat influenced primitive blackened speed metal has grown enormously since the release of Satanic Royalty in 2011. However, like fellow Ohioans Nunslaughter (as you might guess, the bands share a member), Midnight released a plethora of material prior to Satanic Royalty in the form of various splits, EPs, and what have you. Unlike Nunslaughter, however, it’s actually just possible to gather all of this material into one compilation, and that’s exactly what Hells Headbangers Records has done, minus a few previously released rehearsal tracks, with Complete And Total Hell. Covering 21 songs in 73 minutes, Complete And Total Hell doesn’t appear to have been remastered in any way, but that’d be a mistake, anyway. Go for it.

Grade: A

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