Released: 2009, Massacre Records
Many people might not be familiar with the band Disbelief, but this German band formed in 1991 and PROTECTED HELL is their 8th studio album. The band has toured with the likes of Death Angel, Crowbar and Hypocrisy, while receiving heaps of critical praise. Despite all these worthy qualifications, the band has failed to make a lasting impression on the metal community, and has flown under the radar of most metal fans. Several possible reasons for Disbelief’s relative obscurity present themselves, from the almost constant lineup changes, to the relative lack of marketing. However, it is not the quality of the music that is holding Disbelief back, as PROTECTED HELL is an album bursting with creativity that defies easy categorization.
Perhaps the best description of PROTECTED HELL is that it is a mid-paced death metal album with a generous mix of black metal, Goth, doom, and an almost imperceptible touch of metalcore. Lyrically, PROTECTED HELL is rather pedestrian, with themes of hell, aggression, rage, hatred, and enemies. The delivery and variety of the music is what pushes this album to another level. The intro tune “Hell” has a tasteful acoustic guitar that moves to a minor key pattern about a minute into the song as vocalist Karsten Jager croaks some unknown lyrics. “A Place To Hide” is the next track, a mid-paced down-tuned riff that has an infectious stoner hook.
“Nemesis Rising” showcases one of Disbelief’s favorite tactics of mixing heavy and sludgy riffs with open strings that are allowed to ring and breathe. Jager also varies his vocal style, moving more in gothic territory on parts of this song. Witali Weber deftly handles the guitar work on this album and fills the spaces with low open strings and riffs instead of the usual palm mute chugging. At no point does the band ever burst into warp speed, content instead to let the slower pummelling moshes carry the songs. The production is also top notch, as Michael Mainx has captured the songs in aural clarity and with perfect balance, although the bass is somewhat hidden in the mix.
The greatest strength of PROTECTED HELL is the sheer variety of styles employed. The mid-paced tempo becomes repetitive at times, and the detuned riffs start to blend together near the end of the 54 minute album. These are minor flaws however, and fans that enjoy sludgy and heavy riffs with a death metal vocal style will find this album to be a good introduction to Disbelief, while fans that prefer more progressive and technical extreme metal might want to skip this album. I cannot say this will be the album that pushes Disbelief towards greater recognition, but it ranks as one of their better albums and might generate interest beyond the land of the Teutons. Fans will have the option to pick up a limited release of PROTECTED HELL, which includes a 100 minute DVD.