Album review: HELL – Curse & Chapter

Nuclear Blast – Out Now.

Theatrics and Rock music have been enjoying a symbiotic relationship for many years and it is this interesting partnership that is often responsible for the atmospheric and lyrical themes of our beloved music. With legends of old like Alice Cooper, Kiss, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden still in a position to offer high quality entertainment to the masses, one cannot fail but ask whether another similarly-minded band is something we all need.

Well, if Nottingham-based quintet Hell were a totally unknown entity to me I would have probably said ‘no’, but “Curse & Chapter”, the band’s latest offering, clearly demonstrates that this would have indeed been the wrong thing to say.

Rather than being the 80s influenced NWOBHM band that many magazines and music-related Internet sites seem to suggest, Hell are a far more complex musical organism – one whose vitality and strength relies in its ability to change according to the needs of their individual artistic vision.

Choral parts, eerie movie soundtrack-quality samples and ever-changing rhythmical themes sit comfortably side by side Andy Sneap’s (Sabbat) and Kev Bower’s massive riffs, while classically-trained theatrical actor/front man David Bower adds flair, power and feeling to the proceedings.

As a result, “Curse & Chapter” is a collection of twelve songs which, while having only a few things in common in terms of compositional technique and approach, comes across to the listener as a complete and truly focused body of work.

The album shows its true colours quite early on as, following the short orchestral intro “Gehhenae Incendiis”, the listener is introduced to “The Age Of Nefarious” – a riff-led monster whose falsetto vocal and melodic guitar refrain is amongst the most memorable moments of the album.

Hell’s Prog sensibilities are clearly outlined in the rhythmically/thematically ever-changing “The Disposer Supreme” but it is the monstrous “Darkhangel” with its head banging riffs, narrative style vocals and infectious sing-along melodies that truly steals the show!

Influences from the mighty Iron Maiden can be detected in both “Harbinger Of Death” & “Deathsquad” while, sandwiched between them, “End Ov Days”, offers more top quality riffs & melodies with oriental-sounding gusto.

The second half of the album is just as impressive as the first with “Something Wicked This Way Comes” and “Faith Will Fall” standing out as ‘classics in the making’ while the triumvirate “Land Of The Living Dead” / “Deliver Us From Evil” / “A Vespertine Legacy” offers further proof of the band’s excellent compositional skills.

It took Hell thirty two years to realise their true potential but, as things stand, with the support of a top-tier record label, Metal fans of different persuasions attending their shows and the music press praising their laurels it really feels like this band can simply do no wrong at this moment in time!

“Curse & Chapter” is a cleverly crafted, finely balanced and truly inspired effort that deserves your support and, as far as I am concerned, also a place in the list of top albums for 2013. Onwards and upwards, lads!

John Stefanis

Rating: **** ½ (4.5/5.0)

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 30 August 2020.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 8 September 2020.

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