Hell - Human Remains (Nuclear Blast)

A band we thought long lost return with a stunning piece of heavy metal brilliance.
Release Date: 
12 May 2011 - 11:30pm

Jesus H. Christ. I wasn’t expecting this! Nearly thirty years ago I remember hearing Hell on the Radio for the first time (that’s right kids – the radio! In England in 1983 it was just about the only way to hear new music, especially our kind of music). Suffering as I do from MR – I’m metally retentive – I used to keep a notebook of all the stuff Tommy Vance played on the Friday Rock Show (all the stuff that was good, anyway), and one night he played an independently released 7’ single from a midlands based act – Save Us From Those Who Would Save Us by Hell. Looking back at that notebook today, it would appear to have sounded absolutely earth-shattering to the sixteen year old Adams... ‘THIS IS MAGNIFICENT!!!!’ is scrawled in blue biro in large letters next to the bands name – and it was. But the music industry is a cruel mistress, and, though I kept my eyes peeled over the coming years for a band I was certain were going to be huge, nothing happened. Unbelievably the band sunk without trace.

 

Until now that is. If it was unbelievable that such a monstrously talented band could have failed back in the day, it is undoubtedly a miracle worthy of somebody's canonisation that the band has re-emerged, in full battle fettle, a quarter of a century after we tossed the earth into their coffin – and in such staggeringly good form to boot.

 

Put simply, Human Remains is an astonishing album. It’s astonishing for two reasons, one being that songs of this calibre could have been overlooked the first time round (there’s nothing new written here, as you’ll remember from MaF’s chat with Hell guitarist Andy Sneap a couple of weeks back), the second being that men who haven’t (except for Sneap) by and large even looked at an instrument for two decades could return to the studio environment to create such a masterpiece at the first time of asking – this is serious talent.

 

Human Remains is a trad metal album – and unapoligetically so – but within that arena the band stretch out as far as is humanly possible to deliver something for everyone. From the pounding heavy metal of opener On Earth as it is in Hell, through the more melodiously arresting likes of Save Us... to the epic prog metal of The Devils Deadly Weapon the band leaves no stone unturned to deliverthe most listenable album your correspondent has heard in years. TDDW is an amazing song, one which, though defiantly metal in execution, wouldn’t sound out of place on an Alan Parsons album or, perhaps more pertinently, something like Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of War of the Worlds. Hell tells stories – generally infernal ones, but always entertaining ones. Vocalist Dave Bower is a formidable throatsmith, possessing the sort of schizophrenic voice that’s perfect for this type of material. At times he’s King Diamond, at others he bares an eerie resemblance to Kingdom Come vocalist Lenny Wolf (The Quest sees this sonic doppelgangery borne out most), whilst his default setting is a slightly demented declamatory bark that demands your attention at all times; whichever way the man plays it,  his utter mastery of his craft means that the listener believes whatever he sings, and that’s a pretty special gift to possess. It’s also important because Hell is not just a mindless Satan band – there’s a degree of literacy on display here that demands more than just a banshee wail, and Bower plays the part to the full with a man of the match performance that will surely see  him take a place in metal’s premier league of vocalists from seemingly nowhere by the time we wave goodbye to 2011.

 

The band say they’ve got more of this in their kitbag – if they have more material of the calibre of Plague and Fyre we’re in for some good times ahead – but for now I can do no more than implore you to get out on May the tenth when Human Remains is released and snaffle yourself a copy. It’s bloody marvellous.