Despite their having been active since 2005, this is the first time I’ve come across Ukranian band Hell:on, but what a revelation! The band’s third full-length album (they have also unleashed a live DVD and two EPs) ‘Age of Oblivion’ is a gleaming, state-of-the-art thrash metal album which will have you giddy with excitement from the very first time you hear it. Hell:on aren’t just about power, although there is plenty of that, not least when Jeff Waters from Annihilator pops up on ‘My Doll’, the band also have an intrinsic grasp of melody that makes each track a memorable diversion in its own right and they have a unique sound which builds upon traditional thrash but throws in some unexpected variations which keeps the sound fresh and exciting throughout. Quite simply ‘Age of oblivion’ is a kick-ass album.
The album kicks off with ‘disaster’ which wastes no time in carving out a full on Metallica-slaying riff-fest that recalls the rabid assault of recent Testament outings, Alexander Baev spitting out the vocals in mechanistic fashion whilst the band throw in some brutal groove-metal manoeuvres to add an extra shot of heaviness to proceedings. ‘Bottom line’ sees guitarists Anton Vorozhtsov and Alexey Pasko leading the assault with a riff that twists and turns around Oleg Talanov’s splendidly inhuman drumming for a track that houses both technicality and feel in equal measure, the band suddenly pulling a complete U turn to head into slower, darker territory laden with atmosphere before charging off once more to end the track at a furious pace. It’s brutal stuff and it will shred your face off with its harmonised solos and inventive changes. The band maintain the furious momentum gained on the first two tracks with the Sepultura referencing ‘Rise’, a track you can easily imagine being screamed out in unison by sweaty crowds, fists aloft as they rejoice in the unifying power of heavy metal.
‘Let it feed’ opens upon a stunning percussive assault that once again highlights Oleg’s immense skills as a drummer and then the band kick in, all chugging guitars and atmospheric flourishes for a track that is still heavy, but restrained, allowing for greater variation between tracks and an element of light and shade that stops the sound from becoming too one dimensional. On ‘My doll’ the band switch effortlessly between the searing power of ‘Demanufacture’-era Fear Factory and the technical thrash of Annihilator with the result that the opening stages are a stunningly mechanical groove blast before the more organic middle section takes over, Jeff Waters making his presence felt before the unforgiving groove once more dominates the track to the end. ‘Punk guys’ is a work of insane genius, Alexay and Anton even managing to slip in a blast of ‘in the hall of the mountain king’ between the frantic chants of the title and it’s the sound of the band’s discipline slipping for a second to reveal the humanity beneath the mask before ‘Emptiness’ slowly emerges as a full on groove metal monster, sounding like lamb of god playing fear factory covers. One of the most interesting tracks on the album, ‘Burn’ mixes up crunchy thrash with a doomy melody on the chorus that sounds completely different from anything else and completely awesome to boot. ‘In the name of…’ has a chorus that recalls the RATM song of a similar name, whilst the verse is stunning death-metal infused thrash of the most potent variety, the guitars churning and raging around Alexander’s raging vocal. ‘Voices of the abyss’ is a more typically chugging thrash assault that does nothing to prepare you for the astonishing finale that is ‘Satan’, a searing closer that finds the space to include orchestral elements which add a huge amount of depth and atmosphere to the song, showcasing the band’s excellent compositional skills to great effect even as the album draws to a close.
‘Age of oblivion’ is a brilliant modern thrash/groove metal album. All the elements are present and correct for this to be hailed as a classic. From Jeff Waters’ stately appearance to the band’s ability to absorb their influences and fuse them into such a memorable, well-honed piece of work, everything here sounds immense and with the band handling production duties on top of everything else you can see that Hell:on are truly a talented, committed group of individuals who have both the passion and the skill to go far. If you only check out one metal band you’ve not heard before this year, Hell:on should be it – ‘age of oblivion’ is a stunning album all round.