The Waiting, like Tom Petty said, is the hardest part - the final emergence of Hell, as told by Andy Sneap

With a gestation period that would have had an Elephant screaming for the induction stirrups, Hell's new record carries a lot of expectation on it's Satanic shoulders. Andy Sneap thinks it'll be worth the wait though...

Fate. Kismet. Some things work out in time, and there’s no telling how or why they happen – they just do. God moves in mysterious ways. 

Hell’s story follows such lines. Formed in 1982 from the ashes of such New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands as Race Against Time and Paralex, Hell was a sulfurous mix of old school metal mania with a proto-thrash attitude, the sheer brilliance of which stirred up a rabid following locally but, such were the difficulties facing bands of Hell’s stature in the early eighties, never managed to transfer to a wider market.

The band’s germinal spark was registered in some quarters, and Hell actually inked a deal with Belgian HM label Mausoleum in 1984. The label, unknown to the band, was in dire financial straits and, after keeping Hell dangling for a year without any activity, went bust, taking the band’s immediate fortunes down the gurgler with it.

The disappointment felt within the band’s inner sanctum was acute, and within a couple of years the band had fallen apart. In 1987 Hell’s driving force, guitarist/songwriter Dave Halliday, took his own life.

And that, ostensibly, was that. Until, around 2007/08, a combination of those circumstances about which we were speaking coalesced into a new lease of life for the band through, as new guitarist Andy Sneap says, ‘a bit of a chance to have a few drinks, get pissed and remember the old days!”

You read that right. Producer extraordinaire Andy Sneap, the man behind the desk for such stone metal classics as last years Blood of the Nations by Accept, is the new guitarist in Hell. Let’s let him take up the story.

“I was twelve when I first saw Hell, and I was always in the middle at the front of the stage whenever I saw them. I must have seen them about twenty times back then, and they were just a phenomenal band…”

By the time Hell had fizzled out Sneap was busying himself with his own band, Sabbat, who burned brightly themselves at the end of the eighties before finding a fickle public turning against their particularly vicious brand of thrash, thus facilitating Sneap’s move to the other side of the control room window. But back to Hell. I muse that maybe their lack of success all those years ago was maybe due to their music, which was ahead of it’s time in 1982?

“I think you’re right. I lot of the stuff I’m reading about the band now lumps us in with the NWOBHM, but, whilst all the guys came from bands of that era, by the time Hell got together the NWOBHM was really dead on its arse. Hell was definitely leaning towards what was coming, you can see those early pictures of Slayer and see where they were coming from... that’s where Hell were,  so I think it’s fair to say that, yes – the band was a bit ahead of it’s time then. And now, well, there’s nothing on the metal scene that sounds like it again!”

He’s right there. The band’s upcoming album, the utterly terrific Human Remains will be reviewed at length on MaF closer to its release date next month – suffice to say its dizzying mix of heaviness and flair has not been heard around these parts for a long, long time.

“People don’t really seem to listen to metal these days and expect to be entertained” continues the affable axeman, getting really warmed up now.

“This album, I think, is really entertaining. It’s heavy, for sure-“
But not just for the sake of being heavy?
“That’s right. And every song has a theme, a story behind it. It’s refreshing after coming as I do from working with a lot of modern bands.”

Sneap touches on a key point here. The material on this album is nearly thirty years old. Was it a challenging process realizing Dave Halliday’s musical vision of the future actually in the um, as it were, future?

“Well I knew the material of course, and we met up periodically over the course of three years before this album was created which helped the recreative process. We really left most of the material as it was with the exception of a few riffs or solos here and there.”

And how did you approach playing Dave Halliday’s guitar parts? Did you play them as you remembered them or is it Hell with an Andy Sneap twist?

“During the recording process I actually preferred that Kev (Bower, Halliday’s six string sparring partner in the original band) played most of the parts, as he knew all the material from the old days. But there were just some parts that he couldn’t play, because his style is so totally different to Dave’s, and he asked me to play them.”

And you weren’t worried by that?

“Well, I started having guitar lessons with Dave when I was twelve, and the parts that Kev couldn’t play just seemed to come naturally to me, maybe because he was my teacher, I don’t know. But little things like my hand position against the strings, stuff like that which has seeped into my technique, made the whole thing very natural.”

And that brings us back to that fate thing. A form of synchronicity seems to be at work here.

“Maybe so. After all that’s gone on, maybe this is the time for this band.”

If 2011 is the band’s time, does that mean Hell has only a present but no future? I’ve heard there is enough material for another two albums…

“We are already planning, yes. About fifty percent of the next album will be original stuff from the old days, and fifty percent new material. Kev had totally given up on music, done nothing for years. Now he’s got keyboards and guitars coming out of his ears and the ideas are flowing out of him!”

So it’s fair to say you are a little bit excited at what the future holds for Hell.

“Just a bit, yes!”

And so are we. This is going to be one hell of a tale unfolding folks – stay tuned.