This Is Hell - Black Mass
Record Label: Rise
Release Date: October 11, 2011
This Is Hell don't allow themselves to be trapped by trivial disputes over genre labeling. With Black Mass, the band has taken on a mixture of metallic styles to plunge us into the most unimaginable hell. Very few can trademark this sacrificial ritual: butchers. Chucky. Sergeant Slaughter bear hugs his opponents into a mass pulp. That innocent frolicking girl who chimes a verse then suddenly rips out your heart. And then there's the new-found metallic language to which This Is Hell aviate. Even though Black Mass combines NYC's crossover thrash gods Leeway with the hot lick sensibilities of Metallica, it can be a bit tiring at times.
Their Weight of the World release provided us with anthemic do-or-die hardcore born out of knuckle bruises and street-wise resilience. Fast forward to 2011, and the band resolved to create an entirely new Frankenstein of sorts, donned in an 80's hair metal wig and crafted from conscientiousness. So here we've arrived inside the Long Island quartet's isolate cavern of a lab, and face to face with a veiled monster. Our initial peek crept as a grim 12-second acoustic loop; a viral marketing tactic for what could have resulted in their traditional hardcore sound or a mixed wreck of noises. After a few weeks, a single carrying the album's name unveiled a beast of a creation production-wise. Producer Tomas Costanza had been tinkering away to unleash one hell of a mammothly dark machine.
It's meaty, and it's rough. With Mike Sciulara's athletic drumming, opener "Acid Rain" feels like a backhanded serve, accompanied by lead guitarist Rick Jiminez's whammy spiritual one-ness and dive bomb mastery that sort of re-compose the laws of physics, over and over again. It's suitable to remark that Jiminez's approach to riffing revives a percentage of tracks on its own; for example, first released single "Black Mass" revisits a crunching chorus courtesy of rhythm guitarist Chris Mazella. It then submits to a melodiously wild lead which, in "Demons", overtakes the spotlight. "Mi Nombre" maps a chorus reminiscent of Killing Time's "Brightside" with throttling verses to expose a foot-stomping finish: "They laugh right in my face/no justice what a fucking disgrace. I know I've never been treated the same/based on my name,” in palpable camaraderie. Despite the ferocious grit of head vocalist Travis Reilly, "The Last Outlaw" suffers his syrupy, out-of-key crooning. In this respect, Reilly's experimental side may hit or miss the band's new makeover. "The Reckoning" and "The Wars: Part Two", intended to close out the album with a bang, semi-lapse into a coma of mediocrity attributed to a cheesy chorus and uninventive 4/4 time notes, respectively. The latter reaches the band's explosive fervor, but only to break into thudding monotony. Its notable phrase, "we pledge the cause and fights the wars" feeds a kind of irony, considering the war --at least in terms of the band's artistic triumph-- becomes a fly swarm over the dead at this point.
Though the lyrical themes of the album are not as cohesive as the band's back catalog, This Is Hell are true color lyricists who refuse to be defeated in the game, and "Black History" stands tall as proof. As the catchiest track on the album, it's beefed up by crude defiance, pulsating two-step rhythms, and memorable catchphrase: "I won't hide...swallow my fate"; a hard-style testament that the band has always been driven by, and one can only respect.
Black Mass hosts a wealth of spastic metal techniques from the fiercest knockdown elements of 80s hardcore, while maintaining a realistic view on society. But despite being full of adventurous sparks here and there, it's not highly memorable.
Hmm. Can't tell from the review whether or not I'll prefer this to Weight of the World, which I felt was the second best hardcore record of last year (first being Symptoms and Cures by CBK)
But, why should you be able to do that? A review is 90 times out of a 100 just another opinion and description of the album, and the remaining 10 are usually thinly veiled attempts to suck up to the band. Reviewers aren't really supposed to sell the album either, a lot of people seem to forget that. Not saying you do, just something I've noticed.
I'm actually relieved that the hype didn't seem to sway the score on this review up into the nineties as that seems to be the generally practiced method around here...
I like this review. Good job, Dre.