With remarkable artwork and a production job designed to cleave flesh from bone with frightening efficiency, Hell:on are a genuinely exciting force in thrash metal. Hailing from the Ukraine, the band seemingly appeared from nowhere in 2005, going from formation to playing a major metal festival in just over a month – a feat that is only surprising if you haven’t heard the quality of the band’s music and the passion of their delivery. ‘Age of oblivion’ is the band’s third full length album which, despite some recording troubles, is a furious, state-of-the-art thrash monster that even boasts an appearance from guitar legend Jeff Waters (of the mighty Annihilator) on one track. Varied and intelligent we loved every bristling moment of ‘Age of Oblivion’ and felt that it would be the perfect opportunity to talk to the band about their formation, inspiration and development. If you’ve already discovered Hell:on, then read on and learn more about their latest work; if you have yet to discover their charms then acquaint yourself with the band as soon as possible. ‘Age of oblivion’ is out now and comes highly recommended (check our full review here.)
Answers by Alexandr and Alexey (vocal and guitar)
First of all could you introduce us to the world of Hell:On and tell us how the band formed?
The band was founded in 2005 in Zaporozhye city, Ukraine. All the members of Hell:On knew each other far earlier than band’s foundation. We met at local concerts as friends and participants. Before Hell:On the musicians participated in projects of different styles from speed to black metal. Then the drummer Oleg and guitarist Alexey decided to make something more serious – and the band was founded. They invited their friend – basist Alexander and second guitarist Anton, who was later substituted by another guitarist with the same name, Anton– it was pure coincidence, we didn’t try to find a guitarist with the same name! The last member who joined the band was the vocalist Alex. Just a month after its foundation Hell:On participated in one of the biggest Ukrainian metal festivals – Metal Heads Mission, so the start was very fast.
What bands inspired you as musicians to form a band?
Our big three – Metallica, Sepultura, Slayer.
It seems that Hell:on had a baptism of fire playing at the Metal heads mission festival in the same year that you formed – what impact did playing such an event have on the band?
It was a really great motivation for development and movement. It was like a childhood dream – to share a big stage with big bands. By the way the headliner of that year was Napalm Death.
Looking at your biography it seems that the band is always working – is it difficult to manage personal and work commitments against such a full-on schedule of performing and recording?
Yes, it’s rather difficult to do all this. We are not rock stars (I hope that’s only for now ;)) so we have to work. And almost all vacation time is spent for the concerts, recording and touring. But we love it – in other case it would be almost impossible to have such life schedule because sometimes playing (especially during the touring) is physically hard.
‘Age of oblivion’ is a very confident and varied work – how long did it take to write and record the album?
I suppose the material was written in two-three months (we decided to compose right before the album – thus it becomes more uniform). But the process of recording took almost a year. I can say that we recorded this album twice. The first material was lost due to hard disc failure. It was not possible to restore the data so we recorded the album once again.
Lyrically the album is very well crafted – how difficult is it to develop lyrics in a second language?
It’s rather difficult. I try to improve my command of English all the time by reading English books and watching movies in English. I try to start thinking in English, and what is more important my wife is a professional translator so I always have a great support in composing my lyrics.
Have you written any songs in Ukrainian and why the decision to write in English?
The major reason why we write in English is because we are oriented towards Europe. Metal music in Ukraine is still at the underground level. The second reason is our big three J (see question number two). We even didn’t try to write any metal song in Ukrainian language because it’s somehow sounds not serious in our native language. But folk Ukrainian songs are very beautiful (btw our language is one of the most melodious languages in the world).
What inspires the lyrics and thematic development of the albums?
The main inspiration is our world view which is formed by movies, music, books, friends, life – everything.
One song that sticks out from the album is ‘Punk guys’ which is musically very different from anything else on the record – what was the inspiration behind that particular song?
Once we were asked to make a cover for the Russian metal band – Master. We have chosen this song in particular (it was originally written in English). And then we asked their permission to add this song to our album.
Getting Jeff Waters of Annihilator to appear on one song is quite an achievement – how did you manage to organise that?
This happened thanks to our guitarist and manager Alexey. He got in touch with Jeff Waters’ manager and asked about making a solo for Ukrainian metal band (Hell:On). After some time of conversations the job was perfectly done!
The cover art for the album is pretty awesome – how involved are the band in that side of things and who actually designed the cover?
The creator’s name is Seeming Watcher, it is very talanted guy from Ukraine, and he did a great job for us. But if we talking about ideas, it seems like we involved him in a processJ We had a conception of artwork before we started to talk with a designer, everything, even all small detailes were discussed before working. We wanted to make a very serious work with this album and it has a deep things inside, doesn’t it?
You’ve played widely across Eastern Europe – are there any plans to head into Western Europe at all?
Yes, now we want to focus on the Western part of Europe, we will start this October with a big tour and we will visit Germany, for example. And in the summer time we want participate in several big festivals in a Western Europe especially.
In the UK we don’t hear a whole lot about the Ukrainian metal scene – what other bands would you recommend our readers to check out besides hell:on?
In Ukraine there is a lof of different metal bands, but everything in a deep underground. We have a very strong black/pagan metal scene with a bands like: Nokturnal Mortum, Khors, Drudkh, Natural Spirit. We also have a couple of strong power metal bands like: Conquest, Morton. In thrash it is Hell:on, of course, also Crusher and Violent Omen.
Both ‘Strong Enough’ and ‘Re:born’ were reissued in 2011 – where can readers get hold of these releases if they want to check out your back catalogue and what is the best website to find out more about the band?
Both albums you can get through our label (Metal Scrap/Total Metal Records). But as i know, it has a big distribution in your country with a Plastic Head/ Code 7. Anyway, you can visit our official website: www.hell-on.net
What ambitions do the band have now – what’s next for Hell:on?
Now we are ready for European tour, after finishing, probably, we will make a videoclip. And maybe we will do a small tour over Ukraine. Actually, of course we want represent Ukraine as well as it is possible for all Europe, so wait for us on the big festivals)))
Any final words for your UK fans?
He-he)) a couple of my favorite bands like Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath from England, so you have great music history in your country. Our mission – to tell all the world that Ukraine has a great musical potential too, and we will prove it! Wait for us in UK and enjoy our new album, you will not be disapointed!
Hell:on’s amazing ‘Age of oblivion’ is out now.