Wednesday 9 December 2015

Label Intensive - Hell's Headbangers Showcase

By: Daniel Jackson

For most heavy metal labels, December tends to be something of a dead zone. While new releases don’t dry up entirely, they do seem to slow to a trickle. Not for Hell’s Headbangers. In a year already filled with highpoints, they’re finishing the year out as strong as can be. For the sake of bringing up some album’s I’ve really enjoyed from earlier in the year, I’ll point you to some of the label’s finest releases from throughout 2015.

One of the year’s early highlights was Perdition Temple and their album ‘The Tempter’s Victorious’ an album that reunited Gene Palubicki with Bill Taylor who played together on the classic early Angelcorpse albums ‘Hammer of the Gods’ and ‘Exterminate’. The album rewarded people like me who have a near bottomless appetite for Palubicki’s particular brand of fiery blackened death metal.

Speaking of Palubicki, he came back shortly thereafter with the returning Blasphemic Cruelty and their ‘Crucible of the Infernum’ EP. Featuring Alex Plume of the also excellent Ares Kingdom and human gatling gun Gina Ambrosio; ‘Crucible of the Infernum’ adds a bit more of a thrashy feel to Palubicki’s trademark guitar style. It’s every bit as good as Perdition Temple’s album, which is to say it’s top notch. With Angelcorpse coming together again for some live dates, including Taylor, Palubicki and the band’s drummer Ron Parmer in the lineup; Perdition Temple may end up going dark for some time.

The rest Hell’s Headbangers’ 2015 brought us the first new Abominator in nearly ten years, and it’s an excellent addition to an already strong discography, along with some similarly worthwhile releases from the likes of Deathhammer, Deceased, Deiphago, Nocturnal Blood, Cemetery Lust, and Abysmal Lord. Deceased also put out two really fun, gigantic compilations, including over fifty(!) cover songs getting a reworking from bands as diverse as Motörhead, Angry Samoans, Sodom, and 45 Grave, and then the other being demos compilation.

All of this is to say that Hell’s Headbangers has had an insanely big year this year from a quality standpoint, and where a lot of labels slow down towards the year’s end, Hell’s Headbangers is doing just the opposite. They have four releases this month, all of which are worthy of your time, and we’re going to highlight each of the four.

Diavolos - ‘You Lived Now Die’

With a pedigree that includes the likes of Impaled Nazarene, Sentenced, Soulskinner, Thou Art Lord, and Electric Wizard, this album had a high likelihood of succeeding with me before it even hit my ears. It doesn’t disappoint. It’s a fantastic mix of death, thrash and black metal with a real sense of songwriting. It’s fantastic beer-drinking music, hitting that sweet spot between Possessed and mid 80s German thrash, with hints of prime Mercyful Fate and Di’Anno-era Iron Maiden.You Lived, Now Die’ is mandatory listening to close out the year. In fact, I’ll spoil my list a little and let you know that the album’s in my top 25 of the year.

Power From Hell - ‘Devil’s Whorehouse’

A throwback of a different sort, São Paulo’s Power From Hell scratch a very specific itch, that being Bathory’s first two albums and Venom. Even the production hits the right notes, from the heavy reverb over everything, down to the deep 80s snare tone. It doesn’t have the same excess of sleazy personality that Midnight has, instead aiming for something a bit more solemn. So, while you might need to be in a pretty specific mood to get the most out of an album like this, Power From Hell gets about as close to that old feel and sound as anyone going. 

Gravewürm - ‘Doomed to Eternity’

A staple of American death and black metal dating back to the early 90s, Gravewürm exhibit all of the wisdom and patience of a band that’s been in the thick of things as long as they have. You’re going to come across a lot of reserved tempos and blackened death metal riffs woven into something resembling a traditional rock n’ roll and heavy metal temperament. You won’t find a lot of aimless blasting, or even an excess of thrashing drumbeats. Instead, those are held back to try and make them count for more than they might otherwise.

Which brings us to a somber note related to this album. ‘Doomed To Eternity’ features the final studio performance of Jim Konya (aka Jim Sadist of Nunslaughter fame), which in and of itself makes this album an important one. Jim Konya had an insanely prolific career, and it’s nice to be able to say he went out on a high note, because ‘Doomed To Eternity’ is a rewarding listen, that gets better as you give it more time. 

Bonus: Invocation Spells - Descendent the Black Throne

This albums was released on CD earlier in the year via Argentinian label Metal Command Records, but will receive a wider release on CD, Vinyl and Cassette via Hells Headbangers 11 December. ‘Descendent the Black Throne’ is pretty by-the-numbers black thrash, though it’s smartly-written, with thoroughly punk rock overtones. If you imagine Aura Noir, mid 2000s Darkthrone, and early Sodom thrown together and then recorded their guitars using Paul Cutler’s sound from 45 GravesSleep in Safety’, you’d be in the right ballpark. 

You can buy physical copies of these albums here and digital copies here.