Ragehammer – Into Certain Death Review

After the absolute walloping Ragehammer dished out on The Hammer Doctrine, I wanted more Ragehammer but was perfectly content spinning that wonderful little record again and again. Since I avoid social media like the plague vodka-based drinks, I generally don’t know who’s releasing what until I dig through the ol’ promo sump. Seeing Ragehammer was a pleasant surprise, as The Hammer Doctrine still gets regular spins ‘round these parts. Following up a debut as good as The Hammer Doctrine is a mighty task — I had no proper expectations for Ragehammer when I first was clobbered by their sonic hammer force, and now they’ve got quite the bar to clear.

Fans of Ragehammer will be happy that these purveyors of The Hammer Doctrine have remained rather doctrinaire: they care not a whit for new developments in metal, and just want rekindle the excitement, the energy, and the timelessness that the old extreme scene in the mid-to-late eighties did. This is a major key to what makes the material work; Ragehammer aren’t trying to be this or that eighties band, but they’re trying to capture an ethos, a feeling, a sound that would have got readers of Slayer magazine sending them blank tapes and return stamps way back then. As a history buff, I’ve got a great deal of second-hand nostalgia for those times; Ragehammer brings the underground glory convincingly with their mixture of Bathory and Venom piled into a van driven by old Witchery with the Show No Mercy minotaur painted on the side while Obsessed by Cruelty blares through the blown-out speakers. This is speed metal riffing, structure, melodicism, and harmonies blackened by black metal’s first wave.

Into Certain Death is a fun record in the same way the first (best) two Bathory records are fun – it’s played straight but has a downright infectious energy and is loaded with riffs. The introductory piece of “Beneath the Red Suns” provides a convincing martial overture which toys with second-wave melodicism briefly before a barrage of drums and a fresh but familiar chord progression barges in to announce “We Are the Hammer” in top form. Of course they scream the title in the chorus perfectly – it was too good to pass up – but what really hammers drives the song home is the concluding section which features a soaring bass lead (!!) followed by a guitar lead which propels the song further into the stratosphere. “Peace” expertly toys with Slayer riffs circa Show No Mercy by making them heavier via infusion of early Bathory.

“Come ride tonight with us / Rock hard and fight.” That couplet from Venom’s “Black Metal” sums up perfectly everything Into Certain Death is about. Join the fun, bang your head, and embrace the catharsis. Make no mistake, Ragehammer is a lot of fun. Venom’s cartoonish “evil” animates the riotous “616 Terrorkorps” and “Omega Red” is, quite literally, cartoon evil; neither song lets up and the riffs stay sharp and interesting throughout. Ragehammer also aren’t scared to dip into the punkish elements of Slayer or the more overtly melodic end of the speed metal gene pool, which gives these songs that “raw energy” Venom was shouting about and makes them quite catchy too. The fantastically fun and classically metal lead near the conclusion of “Dragon City” elevates the song to more than “just” a killer first wave black/speed metal track.

Into Certain Death edges ever-so-slightly closer to the second wave of black metal in some of its riffs, and there seems to be less overt Celtic Frost influences than on its predecessor – the icy tremolo riff in “Na pewną śmierć” is one good example of this, and it fits well. The most striking difference between this record and The Hammer Doctrine appears on “Prophet of Genocide Part 2 (Mother Winter Eternal)” which sees the vocals, which usually sound like a lower-pitched Toxine, switch to convincing gruff cleans reminiscent of Alan Averill. It’s a fitting closer, a quality song, and adds a little something extra to a record that’s already special. Retained from The Hammer Doctrine is the standout production of Mgla’s M, who gets an organic and powerful sound out of Ragehammer once again. Corpsebutcher’s bass is predictably high in the mix, and the drums have that nice sound M always seems to get. Into Certain Death is a worthy follow-up to The Hammer Doctrine and everything I’d hoped for when I saw that the Ragehammer was to strike my ears again. This is high energy stuff and comes highly recommended.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Pagan Records
Website: facebook.com/Ragehammer.Official
Releases Worldwide: September 18th, 2020

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