The last time we caught up with Ukranian thrash/death metal band Hell:on it was on 2012’s monumental ‘Age of Oblivion’. Since that release the band have clearly been honing their skills because new effort ‘hunt’ is, if anything, an even more furious assault upon the senses destined to propel the band into the consciousness of serious metal-heads everywhere with its devastating riffs, unfeasibly brutal vocals and mind-crushing percussion.
The album opens on the massive, arena-sized ‘hear my call’, a death metal anthem if ever there was one, which combines the relative accessibility of thrash metal to the ferocious, free-for-all riffing of death metal to create a potent brew that surely deserves to be screamed out by massed ranks of metallers anywhere and everywhere the band play live. There’s a strong Sepultura feel to the track, Hell:on adopting a similar vocal approach, delivering the lines with a powerful rhythmic force that is impossible to ignore and designed to lodge key elements (like the ominous chorus which instructs you to “hear my call, quiver and fall”) firmly in the listener’s brain, making the songs both ruthlessly brutal and entirely memorable. ‘Dormition’ (featuring Marek Pajak from Polish legends vader) similarly trips on a Sepultura vibe, taking on an almost punkish squall in the rapidly delivered vocal lines and ferocious drum lines, played with deft skill by Oleg Talanov. The first time the album gives the listener room to breathe or even think is on the slowed down, thunderously doomy ‘slaughter smell’ which sounds like Slayer playing Autopsy covers. Featuring an appearance from Andy LaRocque, the legendary king Diamond guitarist, who graces the track with a lead that shimmers customary elegance and skill, the song is a suitably brutal epic that leaves an imprint on your mind. However, such respite is short lived and ‘Duality’ is a savage, icy blast of ferocious death metal showcasing the exceptional skills of guitarists Anton Vorozhtsov and Alexey Pasko whose stunning work only goes to show that guest guitarists, whilst a long standing tradition in the fraternal metal community, are entirely irrelevant when the band already houses two such excellent musicians.
The title track opens upon a riff that intimates a certain elegance before the band suddenly adopt a familiar heads down posture and simply decimate the audience with a riff that seethes with unholy rage. The sort of ferocious, unhinged, blood soaked mayhem that propelled Slayer to the masses with ‘Reign in Blood’, ‘the hunt’ is a masterpiece of malevolence and will surely lay waste to any live arena upon which the band choose to deploy its withering charms. ‘Prey’ is, if anything, even more unhinged, the vocals of Alexandr Baev delivered with a monochrome rage which is both compelling and convincing, whilst the subject matter is grim to say the least. ‘Beyond morality’ has a devastating groove built around a tremolo-soaked guitar figure which is unconventional and refreshingly different. Somewhere between Pantera and Slayer musically, the track blazes with demonic light and it is clear that Hell:On have no intention of letting up on the oppressive weight until the album reaches its bloody conclusion. ‘The game’ floods from the speakers in a hail storm of blood, skin and traumatised bone whilst the chorus once again seems custom designed to send an audience into a fist-pumping, mass-chanting frenzy of metallic excitement. The album closes on ‘insight’, the band making sure that they leave you wanting more as they draw comparisons to Slayer’s legendary ‘mandatory suicide’.
Hell:on know exactly what metal fans want, for they have grown up living, breathing (and presumably shitting) metal themselves. This is a band who have carefully absorbed the teachings of Slayer, testament, Vader, Sepultura and Pantera and have bought it all together to deliver a master class in extreme metal. With excellent musicianship, taut grooves and a compelling sense of passion on display, Hell:on have delivered a modern metal classic that deserves to reach a wide audience. All the boxes here are ticked – monstrous riffs, adrenalin-inducing choruses, stunning solos and brutal vocals – and the album is all the better for containing a number of songs that are destined to set the mosh pit ablaze. ‘Age of oblivion’ was a brilliant record, a thoroughly devastating body of work, so it says much that ‘hunt’ improves upon its predecessor in just about every way and it is fair to say that there is not a wasted moment on this skull-crushing metallic monster. Hell:on may draw inspiration from the masters, but they don’t stand in their (or anybody else’s) shadow. Unhinged, untamed, and quite amazingly good, ‘the hunt’ is a stone-cold killer that deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as ‘as the palaces burn’, ‘reign in blood’ and ‘the preacher’; Hell:on have delivered their masterpiece – don’t miss it.