Let’s not waste a lot of time with today’s album, because Black Anvil have dropped something on us that is revelatory. This band always killed. But they always hinted at having something a little more than what they were showing us, like they had stockpiled weapons for a massive assault and only were giving us heavy body blows until the real arsenal arrived.
Over the course of their great first two records—2008’s debut “Time Insults the Mind” and 2010’s “Triumvirate”—the NYC maulers, veterans of hardcore unit Kill Your Idols, found a way to take the base they formed with their old band and add giant helpings of black metal and sludge to form a terrifying, lumbering group that could face any other band out there in hand-to-hand combat and more than hold their own. So the arrival of their third record “Hail Death” already was heavily anticipated by the metal world, and definitely by me, who spent a ton of time with the first two albums. In fact, for my running/exercise hate playlist, I have plenty of Black Anvil on there to keep me motivated, pissed off, and moving. But I had no idea that we’d hear on this third record would be this world toppling.
At 10 tracks and clocking in at 71 minutes, Black Anvil have turned in the most ambitious, varied, violent, and astonishing record of their seven-year run. It topples everything they recorded before this, which is no easy task because, as noted, those offerings were massive. But they go so far beyond and into the darkness on “Hail Death,” that it’s practically a point of no return for them. In the best way possible. My first experience listening to this record stopped me dead in my tracks because I knew this was the band realizing their true potential. This would be their high water mark, and everything that comes after will be measured against this, whether or not that’s fair to the band—bassist/vocalist Paul Delaney, guitarist/vocalist Gary Bennett, drummer/vocalist Raeph Glicken, and new guitarist Sos. They remain true to black metal, for sure, but there are more elements of thrash, classic heavy metal, and even rock and roll, which makes for one raucous combination.
The record tears open with “Still Reborn,” a 9:09 crusher that opens gently enough with strains of acoustic guitars before erupting into molten lava. The music gets crunchy and vicious, the growls sound like they’re coming from the depths of hell, and the guitar soloing tears through your flesh like a knife. It never feels half as long as it is, but it definitely leaves you exhausted. “Redemption Through Blood” follows with militaristic drumming, bleak growls, gang shouts, and a hardcore spirit trickling through the song. Toward the end, everything ignites, with strong soloing, thrashy madness, and more chaotic shouts that hammer home the intensity of the thing. “Eventide” is chunky and fiery, with the growls letting menace rise, and eventually melody flushes into the song, infusing it with a Motorhead-style catchiness. “Together we run to death,” Delaney howls, as the band responds with vile amounts of crushing. “Seven Stars Unseen” has a clean intro that gives way to simmering, rock-style guitars, vocals that spit fire, and a true sense of classic heavy metal that makes me think back to the early 1980s. Great track. “G.N.O.N.” has wicked sounding guitar lines, chugging thrashing that could incite violence, and a blistering, speedy pace that will beat you half to death.
“Until the End” also begins with a sense of calm, taking its time to set up its intentions. The vocals are a mix of clean, but gruff singing and growls, and more classic metal guitar work sets up shop and meets headlong with their black metal tyranny. The song hits on a crushing pace that could destroy buildings if played loudly enough, and the track ends in a blaze of savagery. “My Hate Is Pure” kicks into high gear after an eerie intro, with the bulk of the song reeking of demolition and the torture of lost souls. The guitars gallop madly, the soloing is blazing, and the cut ends with everyone laying waste to their instruments and your senses. “N” is a strange one, with heavy moments but also paths of dark melody, and there are plenty of tempo changes that jerk you back and forth. The band eventually takes up arms by shouting in unison, “We are all, we are nothing!” making it almost like a mantra. “Next Level Black” could not have a more fitting name, and at 11:39, it tests your will. It begins with vocals and playing that are doomy and sour, leading you on a path to misdirection, before they launch in full and pour on the hate. The guitar playing is channeled and angry, the tempo smothers you, and the growls are downright animalistic. The band spends the entire run time just gouging away, piling on layers of blackness, and slaying until the final second when the song finally gives way to mercy. Capping off everything is a cover of one of Kiss’ weirdest songs—“Under the Rose” from their “Music From ‘The Elder’” record. It actually fits really well here, as the band puts in an honest reading of the song that matches the dour personality of this record. Cool choice.
“Hail Death” is a monumental moment in Black Anvil history, the record that truly signals their arrival as a leader of underground metal. I can’t get over how heavy, abysmal, and violent this album is and just how far they’ve come as a band. If you’ve been along for the ride with Black Anvil, seek this out now. If you’re new to these guys, get ready to have your world burned to the ground by one of the world’s most devastating bands.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/BlackAnvil
To buy the album, go here: http://www.relapse.com/store.html
For more on the label, go here: http://www.relapse.com/