Reviewed: December, 2020
Released: October 9, 2020 Peaceville Records
Reviewer: The Elitist Metalhead
I always feel like Sweden’s Witchery were the godfathers of blackened speed metal….a subgenre that is getting a lot of attention as of late. One such project is the brainchild of Aberdeen, Scotland’s James McBain, Hellripper. I first found Hellripper back in 2017 when his debut full length, COAGULATING DARKNESS, was released. That album immediately caught my attention. McBain’s version of blackened speed metal hit me like a ton of bricks. The music was relentless, fast and well crafted. The riffs were sick and in no short supply.
Formed in 2014, Hellripper released an EP and three splits before releasing the aforementioned debut full length….and when I say full length get ready for some old school run times here. The debut clocked in at a whopping twenty-six and a half minutes. A couple more splits, an EP and a couple of singles later, we have the follow up full length, THE AFFAIR OF THE POISONS. No longer having to self finance, this album is brought to you by Peaceville Records, whose catalog is extensive, as well all know. We get three more minutes of a run time this go round, however, that time is very well spent as this album just shows that Mr. McBain means business!
From the first notes of the album opener and title track, you think he might have slowed it down because the song starts off in an almost epic doom feel….for about thirty seconds before the riffs come and begin to pummel you! Halfway through he slows it down to a mid paced thrash tempo while adding some melody before the crushing solo. The solos is really well done and even has some dual harmony leads during the solo to add some dimension. At a 4:55 run time, that is the longest song on the album and is the quintessential album opener. It sets the mood for the rest of this twenty nine minute ass kicking you are about to endure. Handling all of the instruments (with the exception of a couple of solos) as well as vocals, this multi-talented young man is making a name for himself. As I said earlier, he is now signed to Peaceville Records, who handles giants like Darkthrone.
“Vampire’s Grave” starts off very Motorheadesque….even down to the Lemmy inspired “ALLRIGHT!” The riffs here do remind you of Motorhead a bit, just on steroids. That is one thing I love about this project, McBain’s use of riffs. I’ve seen some criticism of this album saying it was nothing new and it was a step back. I have to disagree. One of the biggest things that drives me crazy about some metal critics is that somehow, if someone borrows some riffs from whatever band(s) influenced them, they are automatically accused of ripping off those riffs. We’re fifty years into metal, aren’t they all riff borrowing at some level? No, he’s not bringing anything new to the table. What he is doing is taking the best ideas from all that came before him and putting his own spin on it. Right behind comes “Beyond the Convent Walls,” a song that is pure speed metal riffing at it’s finest. The bridge before the solo slows it down a bit just to kick your teeth in for the solo and to take the song to the end.
Once again, Mr. McBain delivers an album of pure blackened speed metal gold. Each song was constructed and executed with precision. With songs titles like “Savage Blasphemy” and “Blood Orgy of the She-Devils,” the album’s theme is based on a scandal of the same name during the reign of Louis XIV (The Sun King) where members of the French Aristocracy were accused of poisonings and witchcraft; a fitting theme or such an album…fast, dark, and blasphemous. The production may also excite some of the audiophiles out there as it sounds like analog (although it is not) and would probably sound best on cassette in an old Pioneer Super Tuner and Jensen Triaxles….ye old car stereo. Consume it how you like….just get it. You’re welcome!