From their inception in 2010 Peñaflor, Chile based blackened thrash metal band Hellish were focused on material fueled by a cruel obsession with the classics of Teutonic thrash metal. As they’ve cranked out several demos and EPs reminiscent of early Alastor, Toxic Holocaust, and Merciless for nearly a decade now they’ve finally struck gold with a more distinct sound on their second full-length. Coming from traditional thrash and speed metal bands (Exposure, Armoured Knight) the project continues to keep it true with their own spin on old school speed metal eight years later. Though their black/thrash was nothing new at all new in 2014, Hellish had found the right mix of rawness and structure to stand tall on thier ‘Witch’ demo and the resulting ‘Theurgist’s Spell’ (2015) EP. It might have taken six years to accumulate material for their debut full-length in 2016 but Hellish are striking still-hot iron two years later on follow up ‘The Spectre of Lonely Souls’. A release that sees the band finally arriving as a world class thrash entity.
Hellish‘s debut ‘Grimoire’ (2016) was exactly how a throwback thrash band should sound. Raw, echoing death noise set to tightly wound riffs and a constant thrashing beat. As solid of a debut as it was most of the material was breathing deep down the necks of their influences with Iron Angel and Destruction riffs all over the album. Many of the tracks had stuck around unchanged since their earliest years as a band and ‘Grimoire’ was more a record of their past. ‘The Spectre of Lonely Souls’ is all fresh coffin air with a sound that has changed a great deal they’ve had a few years of rubbing shoulders with classic and contemporary thrashers from around the world. Their ‘Only Death’ (2017) demo was a clear sign of the band upping their stance and reigning convincingly while also staying true to their influences. That increased melodic guitar work, stoic heavy metal riffing, and deeper incorporation of first wave black metal ideas have thankfully all found their way onto ‘The Spectre of Lonely Souls’.
Although I suppose first wave black metal rewinds too far back and is too broad of a term what I’m referring to is more a mix of Swedish black/thrash a la Merciless or Deathwitch, earlier melodic material from Xenofanes, and a production sound that comes close to crossing Kreator’s ‘Extreme Aggression’ with Agressor‘s ‘Satan’s Sodomy’. The result is an album that slightly hits upon the melodic black/thrash metal style of early releases from Witchery and Skeletonwitch with better taste in thrash and a more grimy, raw sound. The mix is perfect and the toms are tuned to just slightly recall those used on ‘Pleasure to Kill’ and ‘Schizophrenia’. All of this is in stark contrast to the very orthodox and melody-lite pure underground speed metal songwriting of ‘Grimoire’. It isn’t so much a step ‘forward’ but a step into their own.
‘The Spectre of Lonely Souls’ is exactly the type of thrash metal I want to hear in 2018. It balances old school influences to create a modern-yet-straightforward blackened thrash style. With so many well-known black/thrash bands racing toward further reversion, be it early Voivod or 70’s rock itself, it is refreshing to hear Hellish just bang out great thrash riffs without resorting to melodic death metal or full-on dinosaur reconstruction. Although they’re still not touching anything more technical than the second Destruction album, Hellish rip just as much at half speed as they do full bore. I found the greatest resonance lies in the slower parts of “Souls of Desolation” and “Only Death”; Some of the best material they’ve written to date comes from slowing down a bit and this works well with the rising burnt and blackened edge of their sound.
Hellish aren’t reinventing the wheel but they have whipped up one of my favorite thrash metal albums of 2018. From the cover art to the guitar work and perfect production sound, it is a monster release exploding my thrash radar. The riffs aren’t all staggering masterpieces, nor is it relentless riff-salad, but the flow from song to song feels entirely in line with the classic thrash that continues to inspire them. In the crowded blackened thrash arena any band that never rests on any one idea to the point of rote repetition is a gem by default, but Hellish go one step further in writing memorable, timelessly brutal speed metal. The main event for my taste is “Sacrifice”, one of three tracks beefed up from their ‘Only Death’ (2017) demo; It starts with a riff and a growl that makes me want to rip my face off, in a good way. Alternately “Souls of Desolation” should absolutely sell you on ‘The Spectre of Lonely Souls’. I’d start there when previewing the album and include a full spin of that 2017 demo on their bandcamp if you’re unsure before jumping into the full-length.
|Released||July 27, 2018|
|BUY/LISTEN on Unspeakable Axe Records’ Bandcamp!||Follow Hellish on Facebook|
Proscriptors of illumination. 4.25/5.0
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