Hell // Human Remains
Rating: 3.0/5.0 —Long overdue, way overdone
Label: Nuclear Blast [EU | US]
Websites: hell-metal.com | myspace.com/hell
Release Dates: EU: 2011.05.13 | US: 05.17.2011

Hell - Human RemainsWow, yet another reminder that you can’t always judge a metal album by the cover. By looking at the artwork for Hell‘s debut Human Remains, I bet most would expect a death or thrash bonanza. Well, a mighty big ass surprise would await upon spinning this thing! This is NWOBHM style metal by a British band that was part of the 80′s new wave but unable to land a record deal, despite adoring fans and supporters like Lars Ulrich. After founding singer/guitarist Dave Halliday killed himself in 1987, it seemed Hell had run it’s course. Fear not, for long time fan, friend and mega-producer Andy Sneap (Sabbat) has come to the rescue, convincing them to reform for another shot at metallic glory. With the surviving members together again along with new vocalist Dave Bower and Mr. Sneap as a second guitarist, we finally get that long awaited debut. So how do a bunch of songs that have been mothballed since the 80′s sound in 2011? Well, despite some great moments and obvious potential, its not a complete success. Allow me to elaborate.

Hell takes the NWOBHM style of titans like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, pairs it with riffing right off the first two Mercyful Fate albums and adds some extra heaviness to the mix. Sounds like a winning formula right? It is, especially for cranky old bastards like me who grew up during that Golden Era of metal (AMG will disagree about the 80′s being a metal Pax Romana, but it was!). On tracks like “On Earth As It Is In Hell” and “Plague and Fyre”, guitarist Kev Bower and Mr. Sneap lay down some great old school influenced riffs that don’t necessarily sound dated (“On Earth” in particular having a heavy Mercyful Fate style). On “The  Oppressors” they craft a swaggering, bouncing main riff that exudes coolness. During “The Devil’s Deadly Weapon” there’s some great, epic riffing that can’t be resisted (especially at 2:02 onward into the solo). In fact, every track on Human Remains has some great riffing and solo work and some truly interesting compositional ideas that get quite proggy at times.

HellSo what’s the glitch you ask? Well, it pains me to say it, but the vocals of Dave Bower (brother of guitarist Kev) are a real hindrance. He’s clearly a gifted vocalist and blessed with a diverse and unusual skill set. He can sing like King Diamond, hit stratospheric highs like Halford in his prime and can carry a tune across town without breaking a sweat. The problem is, he tries just too damn hard on most of the songs and adopts a style incorporating the worst features of Jon Oliva (Savatage), Hansi Kursch (Blind Guardian) and Lizzy Borden (Lizzy Borden, duh). If you can’t imagine that combo, it entails alternating between hoarse, gruff vibratos, little, shrill chirps, screams, WAY over-the-top dramatic intonations, cheesy theatrics and lunatic laughter. In essence, Mr. Bower approaches vocals like Anthony Hopkins has approached acting recently. Just listen to his ranting and general hysteria on “Blasphemy and the Master” and you’ll see what I mean. When he takes things down several notches, the songs fare better like with “Plague and Frye” and “The Quest.” Sadly, restraint is rarely the watch word and Human Remains contains the most overwrought vocal performance since Martin Walkyier’s slobbering on Sabbat‘s Dreamweaver album. Oddly enough, Walkyier was the first choice to do vocals here. Apparently Mr. Sneap likes his vocalists unhinged and unrestrained.

Another problem is the length of the songs. “Blasphemy and the Master” feels way too long at eight minutes and “The Devil’s Deadly Weapon” is even worse at ten minutes. Considering Bower’s vocal shit show, that’s simply too big a canvas to let him finger paint on. Also working against them is a tendency for the lyrics to get too glib and supercilious, thereby undercutting the dark mood they’re trying to create. Finally, the songs themselves are uneven, some rock solid, some borderline filler.

After such a long, tough road, I give Hell full credit for finally getting this material released. They’ve been through Hell and back career-wise (sorry, had to do it). While the vocals are a major love or hate proposition and its an uneven record overall, the guitar-work partially redeems things. There’s big potential here and I can see Hell crafting a real stormer next time out, providing they keep Mr. Bower on a much, much shorter leash (with muzzle). Welcome to the big time guys, glad you finally made it.

Share →
  • NSX

    “Considering Bower’s vocal shit show, that’s simply too big a canvas to let him finger paint on.”

    What an image!

  • Steel Druhm

    Yeah right? That sounds worse than even I intended it.

  • krozza

    Kinda agree with the synopsis….this is a pretty cool listen, if only for its historical climate..25 years on with Sneap at the helm is truly a great feat…BUT, yes, it’s a little bloated! The vocals don’t hinder me as much, rather the aformentioned length of some tracks….as stated, bloated. Lets trim some fat next time. Worth seeking out tho…

  • Metalfanz

    Actually, Im going to disagree on the vocals. The “Theatric” and somehow unusual singing style was also a real hindrance for me in the start, but now it’s my favorite thing on the album.

    Good review, liked it.

  • Biggus Dickus

    You’re outta your fucking mind. Dave Bower and the rest of HELL is bad-ass, period. The theatrics in his style along with his natural talents are what makes him so great. Opinions are like assholes, but I find your opinion a little hard to comprehend coming from someone who has clearly listened to Mercyful Fate and King Diamond.

  • Steel Druhm

    Yeah, I don’t agree. These guys have chops but Bower goes too far over the top and ruins it for me a bit. Even King Diamond is restrained in comparison.

  • Pingback: In Solitude - The World. The Flesh. The Devil. Review | Angry Metal Guy

  • hshs

    Hell has very little to do with NWOBHM, it sounds more like the worst digitally overproduced, cheesy German power metal you can find.
    The vocals are so cheesy, they make me cringe, and the obvious digital orchestral parts and choirs make this record the cheesiest thing since Therion.

  • Steel Druhm

    Hshs,

    They actually have a lot to do with NWOBHM since they’re a British band from the 80′s and these songs were all written then. I can see the German power metal part too though. It does get mighty cheesy at times.

  • FOAD

    What the fuck is wrong with all of you? You are trashing h9is vocal performance as if there isn’t a point to it. Yet people reference the old Hell demos as if they know them so well and this was a failed return. Now if you actually LISTEN to the old demos, you will realize the vocals on the new album are intended to capture the lunacy, spirit and theatrics of Dave Halliday, the original vocalist. The vocal style wasn’t just some random, new idea they threw in the mix, it was always a part of the band.

  • Steel Druhm

    FOAD,

    I never claimed to have heard the original demos and I actually didn’t. Nor do I care that the vocals are meant as a homage to Halliday. I find them overdone and to me, they hurt the album.

  • Matiagroinx

    Vocals are as overdone as King Diamond’s, period. Its not a matter of opinion, thats that and live with that as we lived so many years with King’s howlings. Now Steel if you dont like them thats something completely different and respectful, but dont go on rambling about how overdone they are, they are as they supposed to be, you just dont like them. The only true thing you said was the “Love/hate” thing, and thats what makes a album like that even more special, it has the ability to “be loved” and you dont find that everyday.

    • http://www.angrymetalguy.com Angry Metal Guy

      They’re overdone. He says they’re overdone. What’s wrong with stating his opinion? What kind of sense does that make?

  • King Zirconia

    I just don’t understand this review at all, especially considering the song you had in your #17 spot of “greatest metal songs” list. You praise the vocals like there’s no tomorrow for the very reason you’re lambasting David Bower’s?

    Before picking up this album I was a bit wary due to the comments about the vocals–they are pretty much spot on for what the band is trying to achieve. To say they would have been able to double headline with Mercyful Fate in 84 is putting it lightly.

    Oh, and the vocals are amazing. But just like King Diamond or even Sanctuary era Warrel Dane, definitely an acquired taste.

  • Wanz

    I have the Hell demos. Bower’s vocals are intentional, and pay incredible homage to Halladay’s vocal stylings. Also, it really is absurd to say that Hell’s music is merely the product of another Mercyful Fate influenced band. Many of these songs predate Fate’s initial offering by 6 months or so.

    • Steel Druhm

      Where in my review did I say Hell was “merely the product of another Mercyful Fate influenced band” or anything like that? I’m aware they were around at the same time as Mercyful Fate as is clear from the intro to the review.

  • King Zirconia

    I don’t really see in your review anywhere that you state they are another Mercyful Fate worship band; you only state that band for a good comparison of style (which is extremely accurate).

    Quite frankly, I consider Mercyful Fate one of the very best bands of the 80′s and still actively listen to their collection (along with KD up to The Graveyard) and have been missing an “over the top” (not the same as overdone) performance like this for a while that’s not from your typical Euro Powermetal band.

    So while I can appreciate that it’s not for everyone, I personally feel this is one of the best suprises in metal for 2011 so far. I do however see where Bower could improve (more pure emotiveness and less theatrics),so hopefully they hone it for their next release.

    • Steel Druhm

      I totally agree that Mercyful Fate was one of the best metal bands and their early albums are still some of my favorites of all time. While I liked a lot of the music here, Bower ended up going too over the top for me on a lot of the material in a way even King Diamond didn’t on the early stuff. I still gave it a good review because the music is solid and if Bower dials it back some I bet they can be amazing.

  • King Zirconia

    ‘Blasphemy and the Master’ is simply amazing in all ways and worth the price of the album alone, even if you can’t stand any other track.

  • jon.tell

    enjoy reading most of your reviews ,guess by most of the comments on here the vocals are an aquired taste to me they make the album .
    judging by end of year polls a lot of people agree its a great album.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Ironsave Matthew Bereckis

    Um Yeah….. I just got this yesterday. This is the best Metal album I have heard in almost 20 years.
    The singing makes this album complete; not a hindrance in any way……
    I agree on the riffs…. AWESOME.
    But you forget to mention the production and intors and outros with horses and voices…. Just AWESOME.

    All bands should listen to this to see how metal is done…….

    5.0/5.0

    Buy this album!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1379115919 Josh Bartlett

    Vocals are what make it extra amazing!