Review – Hell: Human Remains

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Review – Hell: Human Remains
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Hell: Human Remains
Heavy Metal, NWOBHM
Nuclear Blast Records
May 17th, 2011
Release length: 1:06:04
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When you hear the name Andy Sneap, you almost immediately think of the many killer albums he has produced over the years. His name does not usually come up in reference to participation in a band. Well, that is the main allure to recently reactivated NWOBHM band Hell from England. The group originally formed back in 1982, unleashed a number of demos, and eventually broke up. In 2008, the group reformed and eventually signed to Nuclear Blast Records to finally issue a long overdue debut full-length album entitled Human Remains. If ever there was a band to issue a pure NWOBHM or classic Heavy Metal release of any kind, then this group, led by founding members Tony Speakman, Tim Bowler, Kev Bower, and newcomers David Bower and Andy Sneap, are just the individuals to get the job done, and done right.

Hell definitely has a strong rooted presence comparable to legends of the early NWOBHM sound, such as Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, and their classical Metal compositions are fantastic, retaining that staple Metal bite to the music that feels heavy in it’s purest form, the kind that makes the listener immediately start headbanging right along with it. After a rather dramatic-sounding introduction of “Overture Themes from Deathsquad”, the song “On Earth as it is in Hell” slams in with it’s convential Heavy Metal music, pounding away with a vintage sound that’s upbeat but intense, sending the pulse racing as heads begin bang along with great force. The traditional sound is much like what anyone would expect from the early eighties, but the song will take a little while to grow adjusted to thanks to the band’s more unique approach in the vocals that really sets the group far apart from other acts.

The vocals on this release are hard to describe, and truly unique to the group. Perhaps the best way to explain it would be that the vocals on Hell are comparable to a dramatic performance one might expect if Queen had been a straight forward Heavy Metal band, but also mixed with the lungs and range of Rob Halford. This approach gives the album a dynamic feel with it’s over-the-top performance that goes from a high nasal approach that is clean enough to stay traditional, to a lower pitch, but all the while, despite what pitch or volume, all sounding hysterical or eccentric at times. The style becomes infectious after a short while, and it becomes clear that without this dramatic performance, Hell simply would not be the same. “Blasphemy and the Master”, for example, moves at a much slower pace near the start that has a highly overdramatic performance that sounds like voices going crazy before a stern over-the-top spoken word performance kicks in an eccentric man going crazy and begging the devil to have mercy upon his soul. It’s the kind of performance one might expect from some kind of eccentric character in a Broadway musical, or even perhaps a Stanley Kubrick film that would require a highly eccentric character.

But while those rather psychotic moments really stand out for the release, what really drives Human Remains are the vintage Metal tracks. “Let Battle Commence” is one of the strongest tracks musically, a heavy song with a faster pace that shows some great technicality in the chords at times against a traditional NWOBHM catchiness that captures the pure essence of Heavy metal. “The Quest” is one of the album’s power house tracks, having a much heavier feel to the music that often feels rather epic, which of course is enhanced with the vocals, though they aren’t as chaotic as on other tracks and feel more organic and natural, while the chorus is infectious with it’s catchier and somewhat simpler music that brings in the vibe of an old school Hard Rock band, as well as that style’s general attitude. “Macbeth” is also a track worth taking notice of for it’s suiting opening of witches cackeling over a boiling cauldron before hammering into this Shakespearean musical track that seems to take on a more Power Metal vibe to it. The song does feel slightly drug out at times, but musically it’s a strong track that will find listener pounding their fists into the air throughout the song.

Honestly, Human Remains is just a phenomenal album. The only thing that hurts the album a bit are some of the longer introductions to songs that keep one song from ending and going to silence. Some of them feel organic to the music, but as the album goes on, some just feel long winded, like the witches cackeling in “Macbeth”, and the slower start to “No Martyrs Cage”, a slow song to begin with but takes forever to actually kick in with a rather dull slower Ambient segway. The become both a blessing and a curse to the recording, but other then that there’s nothing else to complain about. The production quality on the album is superb, everything sounds modern but feels dirty enough to keep it from being too digital and sleek, retaining a good edge to the music from start to finish. The bass is audible in the mix, and blends nicely with the guitar, though given the dynamic vocal performance, it would have been nice to see the bass go a little more technical or even Avante-Garde somewhat with the music.

Overall, Hell have finally been able to release their debut full-length album, and it’s been well worth the wait, especially in this day and age with too many carbon copy acts out there too afraid to even do the most obvious unique methods to alter their sound and try to sound original in any sense. Human Remains shows that the classical approach isn’t dead, and can be altered just enough to add more to the music, and comes off a strong, and much belated entry into the NWOBHM world that today’s society needs with many of the legends and giants starting to slowly throw in the towel, or at the least starting to consider doing so. With only a few organic faults that feel a little drawn out, this is a staggeringly impressive debut from Hell, and fans of Metal in general will have to stand up, take notice, and assume the proper headbanging stance for this solid one hour plus of heavy, intense, overly dramatic, and epic NWOBHM release.


01. Overture Themes from Deathsquad – 1:14
02. On Earth as it is in Hell – 5:09
03. Plague and Fyre – 5:10
04. The Oppressors – 5:54
05. Blasphemy and the Master – 8:11
06. Let Battle Commance – 4:23
07. The Devils Deadly Weapon – 10:14
08. The Quest – 4:22
09. Macbeth – 7:21
10. Save Us from Those Who Would Save Us – 5:06
11. No Martyrs Cage – 9:00
Initial Pressing Score: 9.5/10

Hell
Hell

Digital review copy of this release provided by Nuclear Blast Records.