Lately it feels like I’ve been constantly chasing my own goddamn tail in regards to many elements of life. Trying to keep a lid on things and get shit done has been challenging. Whether it be job stuff, life stuff, or metal, I feel like I haven’t been investing the desired amount of time I would like into my leisure, listening and reviewing habits. Hailing from Rhode Island and boasting a moniker indicative of their mode of destruction, Hell Bent create metal sympathetic for the time poor modern metalhead, unleashing a livewire debut LP which shreds through nine potent songs in a mere 23 minutes. Before you ask, Apocalyptic Lamentations is not a grindcore album but rather a raw, punk-infected slab of death-thrash that aims right for the jugular and does not let up.
Comprising past and present members of acts including Dropdead, Ulcer, Paindriver and Neon Bitches, Hell Bent boast plenty of experience in their ranks. Apocalyptic Lamentations impacts like a caffeinated shot of energy and rage directly into the bloodstream. Speed is a relentless weapon of choice as crusty death-thrash riffs fly by in a flurry of aggression and gutter punk attitude. Unhinged is an adjective that springs to mind across the album’s punchy and frenetically executed attack. The vocals reek of piss, vinegar and unchained rage, with the throat shredding punk-thrash snarl violently effective despite the lack of variation. Visceral and ugly, Hell Bent possess a reckless abandon, yet never at the expense of tight musicianship and focused, cutthroat intent.
There’s much to like about what Hell Bent put together on Apocalyptic Lamentations. The vicious, untamed assault sounds refreshing in a modern metal scene ripe with bands leaning towards a far cleaner, polished sonic aesthetic. Hell Bent‘s warts and all approach only adds weight to these viciously executed, if somewhat one-dimensional tunes. Standout moments are reflected over standout individual tunes, as the onslaught bleeds together in cacophonous harmony, like an extended rush of adrenaline. Thankfully the album’s concise run-time results in this being less of a problem than one might expect, as I certainly wasn’t bored during my time with the platter. The aptly titled “Welcome to the Dirt” is a perfectly fitting opener to set the tone and pace for the album, a volatile explosion of crossover punk-death-thrash aggression and invigorating riffs, bottled into a mere two minutes and 38 seconds of concentrated fury.
Although the foot to the floor execution lends the album a dose of frantic intensity, it’s nice to occasionally hear Hell Bent ease up and allow slivers of melody and groove to kick in. These elements shine on the gritty “Cerberus Unbound,” hardcore crunch of “Ichthyosis” and filthy, primal urges of “Scythian Horde.” Fittingly the production plays into the band’s gnarly sound with a no-frills sonic imprint emphasized by serrated, filthy tones and a garage jam vibe, although it could do with a more dynamic mastering. Nevertheless the sound fits the Hell Bent‘s style extremely well. The biggest gripe I can aim at Hell Bent is despite its potency while in action, there’s little to recall once the savagery subsides, while a lack of individual song identity and dynamics dampening the album’s potential for longer term impact and replay value. But I’ll be damned if it isn’t a hell of a ride in the moment.
Hell Bent play mean and dirty, getting in, fucking shit up, and leaving a trail of blood, piss and entrails in their wake. Their feisty, no-holds-barred metal reminds me of the chaotic rush I used to get with the vastly underrated Watchmaker, albeit without the heavy grind influence. Compacted into concise nuggets of thrashing mayhem, Apocalyptic Lamentations is a basic, no-frills blast of energy and aggression, that despite its songwriting deficiencies, is a pleasingly efficient and awakening slice of fun.