Hellbringer - Awakened from the AbyssMuch like veganism, not liking Slayer is completely beyond my comprehension. Why would anyone deny themselves the great stuff which food and metal have to offer them? Once you reach either point of denial, why not fully commit and start only listening to records with a 2 or below on the DR and/or AMG scale, only drinking wine that comes in an oversized juice box, or talking about philosophy exclusively with stoners? If you, for some reason or another, feel the utmost need to deny yourself the pleasure of indulging in great things, you’re in luck! There’s a contemporary group from Australia called Hellbringer who are making some high-quality imitation Slayer stuff that you can safely ignore. Perhaps “imitation” is unwarrantedly pejorative; don’t worry, this isn’t tofu-Slayer or any other such barbarity. No, we’re looking at choice cut of red-blooded retro-style thrash metal.

Taking one look at their name, which Slayer record do you think is Hellbringer’s favourite one? Here’s a hint for the obtuse: it came out in 1985 and is called Hell Awaits. Darker, heavier, and faster than Show No Mercy, Hell Awaits would go on to influence death metal in a huge way and remains one of the finest examples of thrash metal today. Its intensity and extremity haven’t dulled with time, and so it remains a vital and overflowing well of inspiration that Awakened from the Abyss wisely taps into. Haunting the Chapel, Reign in Blood, and bits of Show No Mercy make appearances too, but overall there’s little deviation from the general Hell Awaits template. This is fine, as everything in music has some outside influences; Hellbringer simply chooses theirs carefully and narrowly for maximum effectiveness.

There’s an impressive devotion to understanding what made early Slayer tick here which can best be described as musical reverse engineering, and to a fan of the Bay Area’s best band this is nothing short of exhilarating in practice. “Coven of Darkness” takes the “At Dawn they Sleep” format but adds a cold-open solo a la “Captor of Sin” into the mix and makes the inevitable full-throttle thrash part come earlier, placing the huge half-time beating after it; it’s a different take that’s great. The title track draws more from Show No Mercy than the other six songs here but keeps the Hell Awaits backbone, making me think that this is something not too far removed from Haunting the Chapel. When this came to mind as it did after a few listens, what Hellbringer is doing here really clicked. While this isn’t an indisputable classic like any one of Slayer’s first four full-length records, it doesn’t sound anything like a pale imitation either. What Hellbringer does sound like is a band that could’ve been a peer of classic Slayer, playing in a very similar style and putting forward a spirited effort that’s vicious, convincing, and of a high quality.Hellbringer 2016

The flaw here, if we can call it that, is that Awakened from the Abyss will spend nearly all of its time reminding you of old Slayer. “Iron Gates” has a midsection that’s got a whiff of Sodom, but it doesn’t last too long; soon enough, it’s back to business as usual, but business is mighty good. Calling “Realm of the Heretic” what the mixture of “Altar of Sacrifice” and “Epidemic” with “Necrophiliac” would sound like is an understatement, but unless you inexplicably don’t like those songs, this is definitely worthwhile. Of course this raises the obvious question of why anyone should care about Hellbringer when every serious metalhead has heard and probably owns a copy of Hell Awaits. The answer lies in Awakened from the Abyss being an extremely adept take on the style that Slayer had moved a good bit away from by the time Seasons in the Abyss was released. This isn’t a shallow rehash in the vein of making a bland game with 8-bit graphics and calling it “retro” as much as it’s a group of guys who clearly knew and loved the classics trying to recapture the magic and doing a damn admirable job of it.

Completing the package is the production, which is dynamic, clear, and above all else sounds natural. This is four talented musicians playing no-nonsense thrash without studio trickery, fakery, or polishing. The leads are chaotic and noisy as expected, and may be the most convincing Slayer leads not performed by Slayer that I’ve ever heard 1. Vocals are intelligible and extremely Araya-esque, but you could’ve guessed that. Awakened from the Abyss is utterly predictable in that it follows the template Slayer laid down thirty-plus years ago. Sure, the lack of originality in sound (an absurdly overrated attribute) will bother some, but rest assured Hellbringer have embraced another important attribute of classic Slayer: making ripping thrash that wipes the floor with their peers.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: High Roller Records
Websites: hellbringer.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/hellbringeraus
Releases Worldwide: August 19th, 2016

Show 1 footnote

  1. Which, interestingly enough, see sole guitarist James Lewis maniacally dueling with himself.
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  • Ronnie James

    The embedded track & the review have piqued my interest; also appears to have Fenriz-approved-drums™

  • Iain Gleasure

    Let the hate flow. I don’t like Slayer.
    I purchased Reign in Blood as an edgy 13 year old and have listened to it a dozen times in the 5 times since. I’ve heard the ‘best bits’ of Seasons in the Abyss and Show No Mercy. The music always seemed very wild and needlessly angry and never had lyrics I had fun with like Iron Maiden. I get why people like Slayer but I just don’t

    • Dr. Wvrm

      “The music always seemed very wild and needlessly angry and never had fun lyrics”

      Isn’t this the definition of death metal?

      • Iain Gleasure

        Quite possibly but then I don’t like death metal so there you go. I like folk and power and NWOBHM.

        Pretty much everything this blog hates ;)

        • [not a Dr]


        • I love power and NWOBHM. We don’t have any issues with them on this site.

          • Monsterth Goatom

            Yes, raging, astral dwarves from Aberdeen will always find a happy home here.

          • Iain Gleasure

            May I respectfully remind you of the latest Sabaton review where the commenters roundly took a shit on the whole band’s discography.

          • [not a Dr]

            You can choose to see it that way, or like a hot-Karl: an often misunderstood gesture of love.

          • That’s the peanut gallery, not the AMG staff. Some of us love power metal more than others but we certainly aren’t biased against it and we don’t hate it.

          • Iain Gleasure

            Well we need a better peanut gallery! (that’s a joke) I really wasn’t trying to take a shot at the site and I apologize profusely if it came across that way. Internet comments don’t really get emotion or ribbing across very well

          • The masses are asses, but they’re our asses.

        • Morrowind542

          I seem to remember AMG putting Elvenking on his to 10 of 2014 and Angra and Gloryhammer on his 2015 list, and gushing about how amazing Iron Maiden’s discography is.

          Plus, Alestorm reviews pretty well here, and if there’s anything to be biased against in power metal, Alestorm is it ;)

          • Iain Gleasure

            That’s fair but AMG also couched those choices by saying how everyone would be mad about it and the other reviewers generally have even less in their lists. Except Diabolus the Alestorm Priest.

          • I was specifically brought on board back in 2010 to cover older styled metal and power metal. I love the stuff when it’s done well. Both AMG and myself gave Carolus Rex very high marks and it was lauded and praised on our year end lists too. Dr. Grier loves power metal too.

          • Iain Gleasure

            I will backtrack a bit here and also say that the original comment was mostly meant as a joke and not a dig at the site. I like it too much here to get banned.

          • It takes a lot more than this to get banned. We are a tolerant lot. The Alestorm love isn’t helping you any though….

          • [not a Dr]

            Geriatric metal RULES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Seems like you were already “too old” at 13…

    • [not a Dr]

      If it’s the “needless” aggession that you don’t like, try Richard Cheese’s cover of War Ensemble (available on Bandcamp). Lounge-Slayer is better than it should be.

      • Hulksteraus

        Or, on a tangent, if you like creepy, try Tori Amos’s cover of reign in blood…

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        A great song is a great song!

      • Iain Gleasure

        This is the greatest thing I’ve seen since the Gloryhammer review

    • Wilhelm

      “I purchased Reign in Blood as an edgy 13 year old and have listened to it a dozen times in the 5 times since”

      Is this a math problem? It’s too early in the morning.

      • Iain Gleasure

        Pardon me I meant the 5 years since

        • [not a Dr]

          5 times, 12 year period, 13 years old… how many edges are left in this figure of speech?

          • Iain Gleasure

            Come on! It’s 12 times in 5 years. It’s not that hard to understand. I hope

  • The Nerd.

    Let vegans have their “food”. More good stuff for us!

    I’m not the biggest Slayer fan, however I will give this a spin because everything you have given a good review to I have enjoyed

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      That means you have some seriously elite underground taste, in league with Roquentin!

  • Dr. Wvrm

    I had a TA in college that wore the same Slayer t-shirt and sandals everyday, even in the winter.

    And I thought HE liked Slayer.

    • [not a Dr]

      Especially if he went to the trouble of making his own Slayer sandals…

  • hallowed

    I’d rather have these guys reminding me of old Slayer, than new Slayer reminding me of old Slayer.

    • d3ad13

      New Slayer hasn’t reminded me of old Slayer for years. :(

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Sadly you’re right

      • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

        OH SNAP, SON

    • Wilhelm

      more like new Slayer reminding you of crap

      • Deepfryer789

        They’re putting out a lot better music than any of the other classic thrash bands

  • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

    They should tour with Attic

  • André Snyde Lopes

    This sounds a bit too much like Slayer. The riffs are there but damn this is almost a perfect carbon copy of Slayer. They should just call it Slayerbringer – Awakened Slaybyss,

    I’ll look into it though. Though I’ll probably be too distracted by the fact that they sound like Slayer to pay attention to the actual songs.

    PS: Vocals with delay and echo.. one of the things I hoped we had left in 1986.

    • Jason

      I like that it sounds like Slayer, but I agree that it’s kind of distracting in its similarity.

  • Is it just me or do these guys sound a lot like Slayer?

  • [not a Dr]

    Don’t put all vegans in the same vegetable basket…

    • How about in the same fruit basket?

      • [not a Dr]

        You don’t even need to send them to Hell in a handbasket: they now deliver!

  • [not a Dr]

    I’m confused…
    Does Hell await? Or is it being brought?

    • GardensTale

      Hell awaits in the car until the Uber driver reaches its destination

  • You can tell from the band photo that they spent the whole day riding unicorns.

    • [not a Dr]

      That, or unicorns spent the whole day riding them.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      They’re going to need some moisturizer. This is why all unicorn riders should wear bicycle shorts.

  • El_Cuervo

    Veganism / vegetarianism is good for the environment! Rabble rabble.

    • Kronos

      It’s the righteous path of those more brutal.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Damn right!

        • Nag Dammit

          When i saw Rabble Rabble i thought it said Rabbit for a second and fancied myself some potted rabbit with sourdough bread and pickles. That’s the trve brvtality right there.

  • Phil Daly

    I’ve been vegetarian since the turn on the century and haven’t cared for Slayer for even longer. Neither position gives me sleepless nights worrying that I’m missing out on anything good…

    • SegaGenitals

      Slayer of Kale!

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Slayer should hire these guys as ghostwriters for their next album.

    • Nag Dammit

      They are more Slayer than Slayer. But TBH Slayer pretty much wrote this record 30 years ago, Hellbringer just edited it and re-recorded it. So if they did get hired it’d represent some weird musical wheel of eternity which would destroy the space time continuum and bring about the fiery death of Google, vegans and hemp sandals.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Just to be on the clear: do you view the fiery death of Google, vegans and hemp sandals as a good thing, a bad thing or just a thing that may happen?
        On the other hand, Slayer might not need ghostwriters, they might just need an editor.

        • Nag Dammit

          Or a producer that makes them sound like Hellbringer? I don’t know why I picked on those things to meet their fiery apocalyptic demise, just seemed to fit in with the discussion. No vegans, Googlers (I believe that’s what they call themselves) or hemp sandals were harmed in the writing of this post.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Was any hemp sandal wearing vegan Googler involved?

          • Nag Dammit

            You’ve caught me. I made it up. I bring shame upon myself and the community.

      • [not a Dr]

        Hemp sandals? How do you even smoke those?

        • Nag Dammit

          In Satan’s bong of course, with hippy still attached for maximum trveness.

  • Blueberry Balls

    I was listening to this on bandcamp and clicked on AMG and boom, review! Monday coincedence indeed, you folks are in on the c-o-n-spiracy…

  • hubcapiv

    “Slayer…only tall.”

  • Morrowind542

    Slayer has always been a band that I’ve always wanted to like more than I actually do. I respect them immensely for their influence on metal in general and Death metal in particular, but I’ve never really been able to get into them.

    A large part of this is the vocals. They’re neither sung nor screamed, and have neither melody nor rhythm. They don’t have the raw aggression of screamed vocals or the nuanced anger and hate that clean vocals can deliver. Some songs have better vocals than others, but none go beyond OK. They have great guitar work, and drumming is good for style(I tend to find thrash drumming to be pretty boring in general. Good fills, though), but the vocals suck.

    Compare Unearth’s version of Spirit in Black with the original for a sense of what I mean,

    • Deepfryer789

      Some Slayer vocals definitely go beyond ok. Sure, he’s not the best screamer or the best clean singer. But he can sing really fast! And I disagree with you – he definitely has rhythm, and also great songwriting talents.

      Just listen to War Ensemble or Born of Fire (which are pretty much the same song). Or the best Slayer song of them all: Skeletons of Society. You can’t honestly listen to that song and say Tom lacks rhythm.

  • Dead1

    Wow, words can’t describe how much this sounds like Hell Awaits. At one stage I thought I was listening to Necrophiliac and was expecting to hear “Down to the fiery pits of Hell.”
    Yeah they do it well but I’m not sure why I should listen to this and not just crank Hell Awaits?!?

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      I got the same feeling about that part of “Necrophiliac” too. This is mainly worth hearing because it’s not just taking the sound but a sizable portion of the quality of early Slayer, and continuing on in the direction Hell Awaits took that very few (if any) have done this well. Reign in Blood was a largely different beast than Hell Awaits, so it doesn’t exactly count as a continuation in that sense.

  • Gaëtan Baratin

    Wow. That band pic. Why do they spread their legs like that? They look like they’re riding invisible unicorns!
    If a photoshop master passes by…

  • Fuzzybunny

    As per your advice, I tried listening to low grade metal while drinking juice-box wine. I’m sure I’ll be OK in a year or two.

  • Wilhelm

    Good rip off, quite good actually, unfortunately still a rip off…I’m liking this and feeling guilty at the same time.

  • Innit Bartender

    Been a while since I saw a band photo with the “wide open legs” position. Must be part of the retro thing.

  • herrschobel

    Well Slayer is a somewhat old (not to say BORING) – at this point – repetitive Band that should just quit. Veganism is another thing that might just be too progressive for certain carnivores to understand…so your statement kinda makes sense..

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      Poe’s Law has failed me here, quality post.

      • herrschobel

        i never get internet irony…i refuse too :-P

    • eloli

      Human beings are not carnivores, they’re omnivores. Us hedgehogs may be insectivores, but we do like pizza every now and then. Guess you won’t be having any pepperoni with yours if I ever invite you to dinner.

      • herrschobel

        damn. Pepperoni is all i can eat these Days

    • Jeremy Freeman

      Praise CHICKEN!!! Or in the case All Hail Chicken!!

  • eloli

    “Much like veganism, not liking Slayer is completely beyond my comprehension.”

    It’s even harder when both sides of your family own huge cattle/sheep ranches and you grew up in a cultural context where the concept of animal cruelty doesn’t really apply when we’re talking about tasty critters.
    Grandma used to love Slayer, btw.

  • Thurisaz

    Holy crap this reminds me of Hell Awaits era. The vocalist
    even nails Tom’s enunciation technique. Pretty blatant rip off of Necrophilliac
    at 3:20. That all said Slayer stopped innovating after RIB. Not that SOH, SITA
    were bad albums. Far from it. As far as I’m concerned GHUA was their last good
    release. I don’t know if releasing it on 9/11 really messed with their heads
    but that album was their death rattle. Oh well, if King insists on carrying on
    the band after Tom retires then this guy would be a good fit.
    Still won’t be Slayer though.

  • junkyhead

    I welcome their early Slayer worship with open arms. What a great sound!

  • Bryan Stroup

    As as they don’t copy Kerry King’s absolute shit solos, this will probably be solid overall.

    Whoops, replied too soon!

  • For everyone saying that they’d rather just listen to Slayer, have they listened to Nekromantheon at all, since that’s another band that really likes Hell Awaits (and does it better than Hellbringer)

  • Siege Bantayan

    A 4.0 score for a straight-up thrash album? In late 2016? Praise be!

    Also, I’m excited for your reviews on the new Testament and Opeth if they’re going to be reviewed, among others.

  • Rollos

    Maybe you should also review their debut album “Dominion of Darkness”. I’ve been hearing it the whole week and I’m far from being bored by it. Somehow they manage to create a dark and occult atmosphere which is pretty good and the fucking solos are amazing. It’s shocking how well the cover art and the music matches.
    My only gripe is the song Hellbringer, which doesn’t match the feeling from the whole record.

  • Flush00Gordon

    You would think as a Slayer fan you would know they’re from Huntington Park which is nowhere near the Bay Area, it’s south of L.A.

  • Kimo

    I really want to like this, but there’s a difference between adopting an old-school sound or simply copying riffs and song structures to the point where it sounds like a cover with different lyrics. “Ream of the Heretic” is the best example, this song is musically 95% identical to Altar of Sacrifice. Even lyrically I hear similar wordings. Any Slayer fan hear this instantly. Again, there’s a difference between sounding like Slayer or just copying music.

  • Jeremy Freeman

    Hey anyone who can pull off Slayer and sound like they did in the early 80’s gets a thumbs of form me!! Clone or not. I like being transported back to the good old days.