Though Robespierre tapes would make their way onto the internet as old friends documented their rarities digitally, their recorded existence was limited to die hards and the deepest of bootleg divers until 2011 when ‘Die You Heathen, Die!’ compiled their two 1983 demos. Of course they were pretty good as Robespierre‘s style fell somewhere between ’77 era Buzzcocks, Paul Chain‘s early doom tapes, and the occult NWOBHM of Pagan Altar‘s earliest moments. That compilation showed a young band kickin’ out their jams while hailing Satan and definitely had the same allure that you’ll find on early Pentagram demos, but the heavier post-Stone Bunny stuff like “Call the Man”, or other obscure NWOBHM groups like Demon Pact. Anyhow, not only was I grateful to have a collection of a long lost NWOBHM group’s demos but to also get a full-length from the band in 2018, 35 years after their original demos were recorded, is kind of insane.
The kicker is that ‘Garden of Hell’ sees Robespierre pick their ass up off the stage they left in 1983, shakes the dust off their leather jacket, and just goes right back at it. This type of defiant, and never straight-forward, heavy metal would have fit perfectly in the space between Tank‘s hard rock tendencies and Witchfinder General‘s Zeppelin-fed doom metal. The dirtiest doom metal moments on ‘Garden of Hell’ like “Dwelling in the Shadows” would make Vitus‘ ‘Hallows Victim’ shake in it’s punkish boots and really puts this album on par or above the re-recorded 70’s hooks and heaviness of Pentagram‘s 2011 album ‘Last Rites’. The gist of it is that Robespierre still have a classic heavy metal weirdo spirit driving their music and ‘Garden of Hell’ offers the sort of twisted freak out of an album you could only find in the 80’s.
No matter how close groups like The Lamp of Thoth or Briton Rites come to capturing that old sound and ethos oldies like Robespierre are a bit more conscious of their own personality and not paying such tribute to others. Their guitar tone is simple and largely untouched outside of flipping the SG to the neck position, but works well within punkish numbers and doom riffed classic metal alike. ‘Garden of Hell’ is stronger for it’s relative minimalism, yet only sticks in the mind because of their knack for varietal differentiation of songs. I found myself favoring the chunkier moments of their sound on the slower tracks like “The Black Mirror” and “Fear” and felt like the riffing fell flat on parts of “Dagon Rises”, a great song that needed something other than open chugging for transition.
What Robespierre captures on ‘Garden of Hell’ is the essence of occult NWOBHM innovation expertly distilled for 2018 without any fuss over modernized technique. There is incredibly value and undisputed heaviness that comes from this approach and in many ways it preserves a classic art form through new and memorable variation. Highly recommended to the retro-doom loving crowd, NWOBHM completionists, and especially fans of groups like Witchfinder General and Pentagram that dabbled in the space between 70’s hard rock, punkish NWOBHM crossovers, and early 80’s heavy metal.
|Released||April 20, 2018|
|BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!||Follow Robespierre on Facebook|
I freeze inside. 3.5/5.0
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