Released: 2014, Relapse Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Thanks in large part to their background in hardcore — with the now-defunct Kill Your Idols and as live members with Cro-Mags — New York's Black Anvil offer a somewhat refreshing take on black metal. The band's third album offers black metal's inherent grandiosity, fire and fury, but with a distinctive punch, not to mention an occasional gang-tackle, shout-along chorus – like “N's” fight song-like “We are all! We are nothing! We are one!” - and surprising Maiden-esque classic metal guitar interplay, that add a certain levity and “likeability” all too often missing in a genre who's “no fun” gospel often is treated, well, as gospel!
That's not to say these guys should be taken lightly or that frivolity comes into play here. There's more than enough grimness and menace to go around – especially with Hail Death being a half-hour longer than its predecessors, clocking in at more than 70 minutes. Frontman/bassist Paul Delaney's noxious vocals recall Marduk's Mortuus and the ultra-gritty guitar production on Hail Death will rub your ears raw – though it’s a far cry from the low-fi, “true cult” minimalism so many bands are enamored with these days.
And that's Black Anvil's big strength. While they retain black metal's primal spirit, they are not slaves to its conventions - nor do they go too far off the reservation with experimentation, save for the puzzling, rather faithful cover of the Music From The Elder-era Kiss obscurity “Under The Rose” that comes as a bonus track. The sprawling opener “Still Reborn” is driven by a chugging groove over most of its nine minutes. “Redemption Through Blood” mixes big, group-sung choruses and soaring solos with fits of more textbook tremolo guitar and blast beats.
“Eventide” and “My Hate Is Pure” are full-frontal and furious - indeed “Hate” boasts a d-beat thrashiness - but take chunky detours with fat, bruising riffs and clean, though hardly operatic, backing vocals. The aforementioned “N,” by contrast is a droning epic reminiscent of Crowbar.
Things do go a bit awry at the end with the Kiss cover and the nicely riffy, but way overlong “Next Level Black” that just packs too many parts into its 11:39 jam. Indeed, Black Anvil might have been wise to employ hardcore’s sense of brevity more often here as seven of the nine tracks are six minutes or longer and Hail Death tends to meander instead of steamroll like their earlier efforts.
Still, if you’re up for the long haul, there’s plenty of heft, abrasiveness and aggression to hold your attention on Hail Death, and the various extras the band incorporate make it all the more interesting and ultimately fulfilling.