Gallhammer is a two-piece female band from Tokyo, Japan. The band had formed back in 2003, and after four demo recordings finally put out their debut offering Gloomy Lights. There hasn’t been much activity from the band over the years, at least where the Black Metal trend of putting out release after release is concerned in some underground circles, though this band isn’t necessarily that underground anymore considering the label they are on. However, there is a somewhat unique approach to their material, as the group does take Black Metal as a foundation, and slams it against either a Crust Punk or Doom Metal influence. With The End being the duo’s third full-length recording, does it pack as much of a punch as expected, especially since the final unique touch of this group is that it lacks a guitarist?
If the band has got anything going for them on this release, or any other release in general, it’s that they have the Doom Metal aspect down. While the band has a clear Black Metal foundation to the songs, there’s a strong Doom presence, which is pretty obvious right at the start with “The End”, the title track of the recording that pounds away at the slowest pace humanly possibly for a band, perhaps going slower then the movement of a slug. The music sounds heavy, though it sounds like there actually is a guitar incorporated into the song. “Rubbish CG202” and many others, however, don’t seem to have that possible traditional electric guitar sound, and instead find the music focused solely on being drivem by the bass guitar and drums. The raw recording quality aids the album into sounding a little heavier and burdening then normal, but in the end it feels more like listening to some droning Black Metal if anything, and the music just doesn’t quite have that same bite to it then if there were some Black Metal distorted guitars thrown onto it for tracks other then “The End” and the musical example it setts. It does, however, make up a rather unique approach to the Black Metal style as a whole. It would have been better, however, had the quality not been as muffled as it is, and perhaps a little louder or clearer to give the bass a little more of an impact.
The muffled sound of the raw recording quality can be a bit too much for this recording though, as well as can be some songs in generation. “Aberration” features a mixture of rhaspy traditional Black Metal vocals, but there’s also some background higher pitched vocals that capture the Crust Punk vibe of the song, but make the material sound more Grindcore against an episode of Pokemon with Pikachu going off in the background at times, and ultiamtely just becomes a bit too much. Again, there’s that Droning vibe to the music from the heavy focus on bass, which is interesting, though feels a little out of place against those higher pitched vocals that seem to happen out of nowhere. This song introduces them on this release, and after that they appear quite a lot, though the lyrical content of “Sober” and the general drunken Doom/Stoner Metal vibe of the music with the heavier bass driven groove sans electric guitar actually sounds good, leaving the higher pitched vocals in the back to feel a little more welcome and suiting to the mix, even though they seem to be even more in the backghround compared to “Aberration”.
Honestly, the longer Doom-heavy tracks seem to find the band getting things right with their bass and drum only technique. While “The End” is just downright slow as all hell and lacks any real bite or impact to keep the listener that interested, some of the other tracks that pull off this style do wind up sounding great, as well as have that higher bass sound that actually sounds like a general deeper traditional electric guitar. Of these songs, “Wander” is easily the one that stands out the most. The song moves at a little faster pace then “The End” with a higher bass volume, some random Black Metal rhasps that feel more like growls, and it’s just done well enough to keep the listener focused in a somewhat hypnotic state. The only problem is that the song is roughly twelve minutes long and eventually it will start to feel drawn out, as that simple rhythm is consistant from start to finish without any real change to it. “108=7/T-NA” is another song that utilizes the same music in a constant pattern from start to finish, but it at least has a saxophone going on in the background to create some creepy effects to keep the listener a little more intrigued in the long run, though that overall sound of the song sans the saxophone isn’t quite as catchy as “Wander”.
Overall, The End by Gallhammer is a unique offering. Some tracks, like “108=7/T-NA” offer a good amount of atmosphere, and the Doom Metal heavy songs manage to use the bass and drum only sound to their advantage. However the music itself seems to lack a bit of bite, and some traditional guitar work would sound nice with it. While the album isn’t atrocious because of that, the music does become repetitive, isn’t that engaging, and the production quality really could have been better to work with the heavy bass at times, especially with the faster songs. The vocals also almost seem lost in the mix, and the higher pitched anime-esque vocals contibute nothing and are recorded at a pitch that may hurt your ears at times, though these only appear in the faster tracks that sometimes seem to have more of a Grindcore feel to the songs then a Punk vibe. If you want to hear something interesting and dark, then The End is an album worth picking up, but even then it’s not going to get that far with you. While not forgettable, this truly different offering can sometimes hypnotize the listener, or just drone on with no real sense of what it wants to accomplish musically. While it’s not a horrible album, it often just ends up being horribly boring, though highly commendable for what this duo does manage to accomplish on this release.