Kängpunk for the hell of it to start and death/crust when they’d put some thought and energy into it, Västerås-honed quartet Bombs of Hades weren’t following suit or reaching for a trend in the early 2000’s when they first plugged in. By the time their solid but plain debut (‘Chambers of Abominations‘, 2010) hit the pulse of the underground was right there pushing up bands like Black Breath, Mammoth Grinder, and Usurpress into view. I wouldn’t say this coincidental uprising bolstered a ton of attention as I don’t recall many folks really noticing their brand of death-punk until their second album ‘The Serpent’s Redemption‘, 2012) and that might’ve been the growing reputation of Blood Harvest or the more distinct rip of that second album as their rhythms began to depend less and less upon d-beat while easing into a Motörpunk sort of attitude. It wasn’t such an odd combination of things at the time but it was an unexpected sound from folks who’d been key presence in bands like Puffball, God Macabre, and Tribulation (the other one).
At that point Bombs of Hades were the sort of band I tend to keep in the back of my head almost for the sake of trivia, not in a disrespectful sense but without any meaningful association beyond novelty. It’d be ‘Atomic Temples‘ (2014) that mattered to me and appeared to make good on all of the momentum built up to that point. A snarling crust punk album from a death metal band that built a shrine in my mind from the bones of ‘Wolverine Blues’, ‘To Mega Therion’ and classic Amebix. That third record remains one of my favorite records in that death/punk hybrid style. They continued to change, (see: ‘Death Mask Replica‘, 2016) unshackling the still-narrowed focus of their sound and although in hindsight that was probably a new high point I wasn’t ready for it as a listener. That fourth record was ‘out there’ in an order of magnitude every 2-3 songs with “Burning Angel (Uhuru)” breaking the seventh gate to a 70’s progressive rock dimension and unveiling this forward-thinking psychedelic death metal and crust punk kicked rock mutant that is probably all the more relevant today. Anyhow, long story short co-founder vocalist/guitarist Jonas Stålhammar (God Macabre, Utumno) joined The Lurking Fear and At the Gates that next year and Bombs of Hades remained seated for the next handful of years providing plenty of time to reflect upon the bands sound and anticipated what’d come next, if anything. ‘Phantom Bell’ will be that next breath after the longest hiatus for the band since 2006 and at this point it serves to compel and realign fans back into the fray, reminding us what Bombs of Hades does well and suggests where they’ll pull from in preparing their fifth full-length, which’ll hopefully be put to tape this year.
Much of what I could say in hindsight about ‘Death Mask Replica’ could be said about the two original tracks on ‘Phantom Bell’ with a death metalpunk mid-2000’s High on Fire vibe carrying through the title track and a slightly more pre-’87 Celtic Frost wax and an early death n’ roll wane on “Bridge of Sighs”, complete with an inspired rock solo to tie a bow onto its heavy rock stomp. The two covers here are not only eclectic but pieces chosen from the heart as much as the head. Japanese heavy psych magicians Flower Travellin’ Band so rarely get their due mention, much less a cover that capitalizes on their unique approach to heavy psych/prog rock sounds. Bombs of Hades almost sounds like Reveal on their barked cover of “Kamikaze” which captures the original rhythm at a similar pace but with a sinister voice rather than the distraught yelping of the ahead of its time original. This was a big standout on the EP for my own taste not only because it was unexpected but as a prototype for how well this modus would fit into Bombs of Hades own sound despite leaving behind much of the punk therein. “Lungs” the coal miner’s lament from the darker turn Townes Van Zandt took on his third solo album is the second and final cover song here which loses its brittle country/folk affect and instead expresses as a difficult to recognize “Orgasmatron” styled rock song. Without understanding the re-working of the arrangement, or where the relation to the original stands beyond the use of the lyrics, this was still a cool cover though I’d probably have covered “Ridin’ with the Driver” or whatever since I’m not getting the spirit of “Lungs” or Van Zandt from the track.
Three out of four ain’t bad but the bigger point here is that Bombs of Hades have retained their identity, given some thought to their next stage in life, and presented a strong confirmation of their presence with ‘Phantom Bell’. As a statement of intent prior to an ‘in the works’ fifth full-length it is a short but substantial 16 minute ripper that’ll bring folks up to speed and hopefully suggest digging back into their fine work on ‘Atomic Temples’ and ‘Death Mask Replica’. Beyond that reintroduction I’d say “Bridge of Sighs” and the cover of “Kamikaze” are must-hear moments from the band and good enough reason to give a moderately high recommendation of this EP.
Moderately high recommendation. 3.75/5.0
<strong>Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:</strong>
Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.