One Hour Hell – Voidwalker Review

One Hour Hell - Voidwalker 01Take a look at that cover art. It’s cool but… familiar, isn’t it? The way the skin and muscle and bone explode off a static skeleton is horrifying, but remarkably bloodless. Comic book fans will immediately discern that it is extremely similar to the way Billy Crudup’s Jonathan Osterman dissolves in the Watchmen movie to become Doc Manhattan. It’s even a bit like the ash effect used in the recent Avengers flicks. In other words, the cover is a bit of a knock-off of an already-established awesome idea. It doesn’t build or tweak—it just mimics. This is a pretty good metaphor for One Hour Hell, a death metal band hailing from frosty Sweden. There isn’t a whole lot of originality going on here, just some aping of cool ideas. Originality is not essential for a good album, however. So is there anything else these guys have brought to the table?

Sadly, not. Voidwalker is their third album, and the first taste I’ve had of their brand of fairly standard death metal with some technical and blackened flourishes. It’s very loud and very aggressive and, like an angry teenager screaming in your face, it doesn’t seem to let up. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but if it continues on without much variety, it quickly becomes dull. One Hour Hell have got the angry part down, but it’s in the variety that things begin to go awry.

The biggest issue with Voidwalker is that, frankly, it just isn’t all that interesting. Guitars chug, drums thunder and vocals wail. But every time I get to the end of the album, I struggle to remember very much except that it all feels long. Riffs are there, but they sound very familiar (“Hall of a Thousand Minds”). Chords progress, but all too infrequently in memorable or surprising ways (“Exit”). Every time something unpredictable threatens to happen, the band doubles back to the combination of blast beats and chugging they seem most comfortable with. This has the effect of just hitting the “reset” button on the interesting tidbit your mind had latched onto. Take “Within,” for example. Throughout the song, there are a few parts when the band breaks from the established chugging template and explores a new avenue. Some of these are interesting, such as a proggy-sounding mid-section. But instead of following these ideas to their conclusion, the band appears to lose confidence in their exploration abilities. Cue more chugging.

One Hour Hell - Voidwalker 02

The lack of any significant variety is also a problem. This has the effect of taking an album that really isn’t very long (a touch over 48 minutes) and making it feel like it’s well over an hour. The songs all have a similar pacing and rhythm, which makes Voidwalker both monotonous and wearying, because everything is a similar-sounding blur. A microcosm of this is the growled vocals. Even in a death metal band, vocals can be dynamic (see Archspire or Shadow of Intent), but don’t tell One Hour Hell that. Everything is just blasted at full pitch, which robs the songs of any sense of dynamism. The dense, brick-walled production further compounds matters because time passes more slowly with a headache.

Voidwalker is not a terrible album; it’s just a mediocre one. There’s nothing truly awful here, just nothing much that’s memorable, either.  It’s reasonably well performed by competent musicians, but the songwriting isn’t of a standard to maintain the listener’s interest for any period of time. It is so aggressively performed and murkily produced that the flaws are not just exposed, but rammed down your throat. And like the exploding body on the album’s cover, these deficiencies reveal that there’s not a lot of actual blood and soul. With so many other quality releases to listen to at this time of year, this one is only for the dedicated. Bring Tylenol.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: ViciSolum Records | Bandcamp
Releases Worldwide: September 13th, 2019

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