Hell - HellHell isn’t a unique topic in the realms of heavy metal. Whether it’s scalding hot or freezing cold, overpopulated with sinners or barren like a desert filled with tumbleweeds and rattlesnakes, Satan’s home and permanent tourist hot-spot has been covered to death and undeath too many times to count. Many metal bands, from Black Sabbath to the kvltest of tr00 black metal, weaved so many tales of that realm that it’s become old hat now. M.S.W., the sole member of Salem, Oregon’s Hell, knows this. Over the course of three numerical self-titled albums, Hell‘s droning take on the concept of Hell has won over many doom metal fans over the last decade. With this newest (and second self-titled), M.S.W. has come closest to achieving what Hell feels like to the listener.

Mere seconds into opener “Helmzmen,” the fat riffing and thunderous drums make their presence felt, leveling heads and eardrums with ease. Then there’s the bass. Gross, distorted, grimy, chewy bass that feels wet and diseased. Bass that, upon listening, will make you want to take a shower to scrape the filth off. In other words, the bass tone is disgustingly awesome. Adding to the misery, the indecipherable vocals howl, yowl, hiss, screech, and caw with unhinged insanity, adding to the miserable feeling one gets when hopelessly trapped in their own private nightmare. This isn’t doom that begs you to boogie and groove, or doom that laments in sadness and woe. This is Doom (capital “D” intended) that instills dread in the listener, eschewing the false hope that things will be okay in the end.

And that dread lingers and grows as the minutes progress. “SubOdin” and “Inscriptus” both have moments where Hell “rocks out,” coming the closest to what demons would consider a good party tune, but they’re still covered in soot and brimstone ash. Instrumental “Wandering Soul” contains a decent Grief-esque groove, offering what little light the album allows the listener to enjoy. But the most effective statement of intent comes in the form of the 17-minute one-two punch of the final two songs. First up, the twelve-minute “Victus” lurches like a diseased behemoth before spreading out with a tremolo riff at four minutes in, launching into a somber melody (complete with violins) at 6:33, and finally decimating from 8:45 onward with riff after crushing riff. And closer “Seelenos” is the musical equivalent of Nosferatu the Vampyre‘s Lucy Harker surveying the wreckage of her beloved city of Wismar after Count Dracula moves in. A somber guitar melody and a woman’s operatic wailing offer not peace, but rather the dismal aftermath of a journey wrought with despair and hopelessness. A fitting end to a dreary endeavor.

Soundwise, Hell is punishing. Normally, I would complain about the lack of dynamics on offer, but it fits the overall theme of the band’s (and album’s) concept. I do wish the acoustic guitar buried within “Victus” was given a bit more room to shine, but it still fits, smothered as it is. Maybe shaving a bit off of “Inscriptus” and “Wandering Soul” could make a stronger impact as well, but those are nitpicks. Rarely before have I listened to a concept executed as well as here. Much like other doom heavyweights like SunnO))) and VainajaHell struck gold here.

Mind you, this is a love-it-or-hate-it album. The off-kilter vocals and layers of dense distortion will drive away many listeners, denying the album a fair shake. Push onward, however, and there’s much to discover and (miserably) enjoy. Hell is lonely, scary, and devoid of light and hope. Hell is brutal, beautiful, and awesome. Hell is essential for those who want to experience Doom at its most crushing.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Sentient Ruin Laboratories
Websites: loweryourhead.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/mswhell
Releases Worldwide: August 11th, 2017

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  • Eli Valcik

    I got the cassette, too bad I have to wait for the download card to arrive with it. This album just fucking rolls over everything. That unicorn is really cute though.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      That Unicorn really brings the review together.

      Well, Ima blow this popsicle stand and take the advice now people have been directing at me for years… http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5cb2baeebf9624b7f685716c38df7cbb97c152bc139ba4061eded60230babf4e.jpg

    • It’s so fluffy I’m gonna die!

    • Grymm

      That unicorn is so dorbs, I became diabetic just by the simple act of scrolling down.

    • drug_genosh

      Same here-after reading this I’m feeling even more impatient

      • Eli Valcik

        They have a second bandcamp page that released the album today, and I have just been listening to that from start to finish all day, I really love this album.

        • drug_genosh

          I found this today too-it was my lawn mowing music. Great for killing grass! (Both kinds I’d imagine)

          • Eli Valcik

            This is my new weird people out music. Play it loud play it proud, play it proud.

          • drug_genosh

            Get one of those wireless blue tooth speakers and walk around town

          • [not a Dr]

            Why not just stuff the cassette in a ghetto blaster?

          • drug_genosh

            that makes for an amazing mental image. Time to cruise through some thrift stores with that in mind

          • Grymm

            If this isn’t worthy of a John Cusack moment, then nothing is, really.

    • ozzyzak

      These guys actually managed to make me buy a cassette, I can’t believe it. I’m a physical media guy anyway but when it seemed the only way to get it digitally was to buy the tape well…cooler heads did not prevail haha

  • Slam Grandpa

    “Hell?” More like HELL YEAH that rating! (gotta check this out now)

  • brutal_sushi

    At least my band added “From” to hell for ourEP and trilogy of songs.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    I think that Herzog film is one of the best Dracula movies I’ve seen, with one of the best Draculas in Klaus Kinski.

    • DIMENSIONAL BLEEDTHROUGH

      Yeah Kinski’s legitimately terrifying in that movie, just like in real life. He would have been a great Joker.

      Now I’m imagining a Herzog Batman movie…

  • Grymm

    Also, this album pairs very well with party wipes in Darkest Dungeon.

    • Eli Valcik

      Oooo so it does. I’ve been pairing Hellblade with Skuggsjá recently.

      • Grymm

        I need to get my hands on that game ASAP.

        • Eli Valcik

          Best game I’ve played all year. Easily.

      • Nukenado

        Holy shit you made me search up Hellblade, and I have no idea why nobody has told me about this game. Japanese styled hack and slash action gameplay plus an amazing premise…

        I have enough problems with this site giving me Bandcamp problems, I don’t need you guys killing my Steam wallet too!

    • Nukenado

      I like contrast.
      Which is why need to mod Death Road To Canada with this! The despair is on similar levels anyway…

      Edit: I need to play Darkest Dungeon. Hnnnnn that artstyle is gorgeous. Also, subtle Lovecraftian influences are the best.

  • Westpaceagle

    Need to hear more than that promo track which was a little underwhelming. Was expecting something more like Skaphe or Impetuous Ritual which is obviously what actual hell really sounds like.

    • Daniel Ritson

      …aaaand we have a winner. Straight truth.

  • Yolo Swaggins

    I can’t keep up with the sheer amount of high scores this month.

  • HeavyMetalHamster

    Was expecting more of a With The Dead type sound.
    I was WAY off.

  • HeavyMetalHamster

    Everyone knows Hell sounds like Ed Sheeran……the place not the band.

    • Grymm

      Not Mac DeMarco?

      • HeavyMetalHamster

        If Dantes model is accurate Mac would be just above Ed….the upper levels are reserved for jazz musicians.

        • herrschobel

          Now hold your horses young man ! There is not much that makes my soul fill with joyous wonders combined with a ‘devil may care’ attitude than a moody Sunny Rollins solo or a wicked Art Blakey drum roll. These fine gentleman were the first among many to kick ass with grace and style … they sure have a seat at the table with the good ol lord… you know the black baby Jesus one … some of them may have sold there souls to the smelly devil man in exchange for that mad mad talent but that is a tale for another day son !

      • herrschobel

        Haha ! Kudos for bringing that fool into the game !…hot boiling hellpool of death is where that grinning monkey should boil …

    • Nukenado

      Debatable. I think most nu metal and country would be playing in the lower bowels.

      The faces of Ed Sheeran, Kid Rock, Fred Durst and some country musician are plastered all around while a compiled playlist of nu metal, redneck country and shitty rap plays. After a 10 hour session, Johnny Cash’s 25 Minutes To Go Plays, but just after “well they’re testing the trap”, the song abruptly cuts to a 96kbp/s version of Ed Sheeran blasting at full volume, and the cycle starts anew.

      • HeavyMetalHamster

        Chilling….

  • Monsterth Goatom

    I think he could have dispensed with the sound clips. They kind of take away from the Hellish atmosphere he creates. Really dig the vocals. I’ll have to check out his back catalogue.

  • Master of Muppets

    So fuck their Bandcamp…

  • Christian P

    Wait….this isn’t that other Hell band? :(

    • doom-erik

      I also thought for a moment the British NWOBHMsters Hell had a new album out. Well, this sounds interesting too.

    • Grymm

      There’s, like TEN different Hells out there, according to Metal Archives.

      • [not a Dr]

        Ten un-kvlt Hells, maybe…
        I would approximate the actual count to be somewhere around 666.

  • Strapping Old Fart

    Well I’m a boogie and groove guy obviousky, but this I need to check out.

  • Akerblogger

    Ah this is a superb review Grymm. Some brilliant imagery. Listened earlier and was mighty impressed. For some reason when you mentioned it being heavy-as- heck I had some sort of meandering drone – noise style in my mind and chose to leave this to one side. However it has that same monstrous weight as bands like Indian and Thou with the touches of lightness and subtlety that I love so much. Heck yeah!!

  • Dudeguy Jones

    Best doom in years! Fucking filthy, crushing weight envelops the skull until it disintegrates in fits and starts, mirroring the crackling magma tone of the fat-as-beelzebub riffs. And oh yes, there are riffs. So juicy and lit up with holy terror. Amazing.

  • Equilux

    This site makes me spend so much money for music I will have to tell my wife I am crack addicted to justify my expenses.

  • I.B. Hurtin

    This is utterly sick music! I love it.

  • Dead1

    I had gotten my hopes up and thought this was the NWOBHM band that Andy Sneap resurrected.
    Alas it was not to be…

    • Bryan Stroup

      Same. I thought that I somehow radomly missed that they had been working on and completed an album in between my semiannual queries. :*(

  • GWW

    Not into Funeral Doom but this is great. It just sounds amazing, dense and foggy but with that killer fuzzy tactile edge.