In the entire English language, no three words get me more excited than “Australian blackened thrash” (maybe “double bacon cheeseburger,” but that’s a different article). Deströyer 666, Gospel of the Horns, Nocturnal Graves — all great stuff, and Bloodlust is just as savage. This Perth-based trio formed in 2011 and consist of current and former members of Impiety, The Furor, and Mhorgl, among others. Somehow debut Cultus Diaboli slipped by me in 2015, but no matter — sophomore full-length At the Devil’s Left Hand is here, and it provides all the Satan, hellfire riffs, and Satan that your pathetic little ears can handle. Did I mention Satan? Strap in because these Aussies are here to prove that when you’re lustin’ for blood, a warm can of Fosters just won’t cut it.
Initially, Bloodlust don’t seem to step too far outside the black-thrash pentagram. Snarling rasps are underlaid by crunchy thrash riffs, demonic melodies flare up amidst searing tremolos, and throttling drums rattle beneath everything, turning tempos on a dime and bashing with the fury of Satan’s hammer. The band even claim inspiration from classic acts like Bathory and Venom. Yet in reality, Bloodlust‘s sound is more complex than first glance indicates. Proper opener “At the Devil’s Left Hand” shows this from the start, kicking off with a winding Destruktor melody that soon accelerates into a hailstorm of flurrying notes and a frantic chorus whose underlying riff sounds like a speed metal progression played four times fast. Embellished with a stomping bridge and a pre-chorus of deep clean shouts, “Hand” is a busy four minutes that feels fun, chaotic, and wild without ever becoming too overbearing.
And for the remainder of these 39 minutes, Bloodlust largely maintain this rowdy enthusiasm. With a style pulling just as much from contemporary black-thrash as classic heavy metal, it’s soon clear guitarist Spectre1 is the real star of this show. Highlight “Death the Conqueror” rides on a slow gallop that sounds like Steve Harris gone black metal, before pulling another Maiden trick by flourishing the chorus with a jumpy melody right out of the Seventh Son playbook. Early standout “Witchfyre” cruises on a slick verse that recalls modern Kreator, while “Freak of the Night” moves from an intro of harmonized leads into a mounting progression that consists of a rollicking rhythm and chords that drip with early Venom. Even the solos of lead guitarist ‘The General’ are noteworthy. “Freak” in particular features some soaring, shredding leads that will have you picturing yourself raising your fists on a cliff’s edge while fiery meteors careen overhead and demonic concubines swoon below.
The thing that really sets Hand apart, however, is that it feels truly alive. Before pounding verses begin, chords are bashed just a measure or two longer than you’d expect. Riffs sometimes twist themselves into a different form than their initial notes suggest, ending on chords that ring with a grand chromaticism. In sections that don’t call for scathing rasps, clean shouts or deep growls are crammed in. While it’s true nothing here strays too far from bands like Nocturnal or Nifelheim, Bloodlust‘s genuine excitement and devilish inspiration ultimately imbues the album with a sense of rousing originality.
That doesn’t mean Hand is perfect, however. While the production is suitably powerful, it’s also just a tad muddy for how crazy these songs get. Tracks like “Deadly Force” and aforementioned “Freak” also feature choruses that are a little too obvious with their blunt use of the song titles. And though none of these nine tracks are throwaway, “Black Hymn to Death” is noticeably less memorable and cohesive than the other cuts.
Still, the fact remains that Bloodlust have ultimately produced the strongest blackened thrash album this year so far. The final proof comes in closer “Shadows of the Black Sun,” which abruptly cuts off its medieval Desaster melody and slicing riffs with a spoken word sample about field theory and occult Nazi research before the guitars explode back in for a triumphant march to the finish. It all leads to one message: Hand doesn’t just welcome you to hell, it throws open the door, yanks you inside, and tosses you enough whiskey and cocaine to knock the Devil himself on his ass. If you ever wondered what a more extreme Venom or a more polished Syphilitic Vaginas would sound like, look no further. I’ll even forgive the missed opportunity for a double umlaut.
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Caverna Abismal Records
Websites: bloodlust666.bandcamp.com | infernalbloodlust.com | facebook.com/bloodlust666
Releases Worldwide: August 24th, 2017