Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hell-Human Remains

Nuclear Blast Records

Without a shadow of a doubt this has been one of the hardest reviews I've had to write. This would have nothing to do with the quality of this release or the material available to fill in the blanks in regards to the band Hell. If anything it is how do I convey just how good this album is without sounding like I'm over hyping it? Maybe the best way to start is to say there is one thing I would change about this recording (thus making it in reality less than a perfect album) and that is some of the lyrical content. While the music sounds both classic and modern (thanks in no small part to the production of Andy Sneap) the lyrics due tend to sound a shade to 1980s for me. Just the overly satanic content that is almost tongue in cheek. While Kev Bower (guitars,keys,vocals) is a good song writer (and must keep in step with the original music/lyrics of the late great David Halliday whose music is covered here) this "Lord Lucifer" spooky lyrical vibe can make the album sound dated. With that said though the album is still fresh and yes of the best albums of 2011! Classic NWOBHM/heavy metal is on display here and with that we must dig a little deeper behind the album. Hell were truly a one of a kind band. With a sound that screamed "METAL!" Hell were a sight to see. Originally dressed in character the late David Halliday was a master of the mic. He could capture an audience and toy with their very souls! I've said it before probably way too many times in fact but Hell really should have been huge. The songs were there. The image was there. They had it all and then some. If they would have gotten the right kind of attention this band would be mentioned in the same breath as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. I would put my good name on that. But, right after Hell signed to the Belgian label Mausoleum fate stepped in and dealt them a cruel blow. Two weeks prior to the recording of what would have been their debut album the label collapsed. Kev Bower would quite the band and though he was briefly replaced by Sean Kelly the band split up. Sadly this led to the suicide of Dave Halliday by carbon monoxide poisoning in 1987. All these years later though the band is finally releasing their debut album. While tackling some of these old songs without the one and only David Halliday would seem impossible Kev Bowler's brother David (who is known as David Beckford in his career as a stage and television actor) gives us a dead on take. For those of you who have not heard Dave's original voice I suggest you buy the 2 disc collection which features a full disc of nothing but demos and live material from this amazing prophet of doom. The extra disc has also been touched up by Andy Sneap and sounds great. If I was forced to make another point of reference Warrel Dane would be a close fit for the sounds that come howling out of David Bowlers. His ability to take this older material and make it sound new and explosive is nothing short of magical! With Andy Sneap not only handling production duties but also guitars the band is rounded out by bassist Tony Speakman and drummer Tim Bowler. As I said the old material comes across as both classic and modern as does the new material. The production is crisp and upfront making Human Remains sound epic! Hell sounds like no other. The music is forceful like U.S. power metal while mixing in what made NWOBHM and traditional heavy metal great. My predication is that this will make many top 10 lists at the end of the year and for good reason. If you call yourself a metal fan then you must add this album to your collection! It is available in single and double CD format as well as digital download. For the true collector though Human Remains is available on LP (just a hint for those looking to buy me something for my birthday in July I would love this on vinyl!) and from what I've seen of it man that is the way to go. With both discs comes a nice booklet. Disc one features lyrics to the songs as well as pictures while disc two's booklet covers the bands history, has rare pictures and has Andy Sneap (who was taught guitar by David Halliday) giving us the lowdown on what made Hell such a hidden classic. This album really is "a labor of love" as Kev Bower puts it and far too long in coming. When you look back and see these bands who were plastic having released album after album and then see acts like Hell who fell through the cracks you can't help but fill troubled. Thankfully time has corrected this great injustice and Human Remains is now available the way David would have wanted to have it.


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