The Generals – To Hell Review

The illustrious GardensTale once said “Dear Hollow, your pants look hot, Carcharodon, I like you a lot – let’s hatch a plot blacker than the kettle calling the pot.” No wait, that’s Hamilton. GardensTale said “I’m giving The Osedax a mediocre score just to spite you.” I’m still mad about that, but that’s still not it. “There’s not enough good death ‘n roll tbh” is what his melodious pipes crooned one day. Death ‘n roll has dried up since Entombed stopped doing good things and Six Feet Under tried doing whatever Six Feet Under currently does. Brimming in the underground and seemingly rearing their badass heads only in influences, do the long-dead death ‘n roll gods smile upon The Generals? Or will To Hell prove that they need to stay dead?

The Generals are a Swedish quartet from Åmål, releasing two full-lengths and a split since their 2002 formation. 2009 debut Stand Up Straight and 2013’s Blood for Blood were both solid slabs of Wolverine Blues mimicry that, despite their simplicity, had no need to fix what wasn’t broken. To Hell, the first effort since 2013, continues and capitalizes upon its “death metal-cigarette with a rock ‘n’ roll filter” aesthetic with chunky riffs, blazing solos, pissed-off barks, and a Swedeath buzzsaw tone that commands respect. In worship of the almighty RIFF, To Hell is a stellar outing of breakneck kickassery with just enough melodeath and thrash to keep things fresh.

While bands like Death Breath and Carcharodon1 take their death ‘n roll with a healthy dose of sludge, and Black Breath and Nails fuse it with unrelenting grind, The Generals approaches To Hell with straightforward rockin’ ‘n rollin’ death metal chunkiness. It’s refreshingly straightforward to be curb-stomped by the groove-infused “Faith in Fire” and “Undying Death” or the blazing thrash fury of “Locate Decapitate Incinerate” or “Demonical Trait.” Solos exist in moments of To Hell‘s clarity, leaning into clear and stunning tones momentarily before unleashing hell. The Generals rely on an “all killer, no filler” approach, songs falling within the range of 2-5 minutes, neglecting the pomp in favor of straightforward riff beatdowns. While this level of the riff can be exhausting (and is periodically), brevity ensures that no track overstays its welcome. The Generals furthermore offers a sound that is distinctly Swedish, as its ridiculously heavy guitar tone, mixing, and production2 reflect the Swedeath buzzsaw aesthetic. In line with recent Carcass offerings or Black Waltz– or Hail the Apocalypse-era Avatar, To Hell includes hints of Gothenburg melodeath influence, seen prominently in tracks like “Thrill Kill,” “Locate Decapitate Incinerate,” and the title track.

The Generals have offered perhaps their most cohesive and dynamic listen thus far, as Stand Up Straight offered distinct track identities while Blood for Blood featured a more streamlined palette. This doesn’t mean that To Hell is perfect: vocalist Rickard Hednar’s gruff barks grow wearisome due to lack of variation, the repetitive manic tremolo in “Evolution of the Flesh” grows wearisome, the rhythms in “Deadlock” don’t always land, the buildup of “No Atonement” goes nowhere, and closing riffs in “Undying Death” can feel overly repetitive. It’s also easy to blame these Swedes for the gleeful slaughter of subtlety in how many riffs, fills, and gruff roars they can cram into its thirty-nine minute runtime, and in the words of Steel Druhm, To Hell is “like Wolverine Blues sped up.” Death ‘n roll may not have much exposure aside from underground gems of late, but like sludge, its tricks are limited to varying degrees of Entombed mimicry.

If you’re tired of all the pomp and pretense, The Generals have a straightforward beatdown of a death ‘n roll album for you. While its buzzsaw tone and lack of subtlety belies sloppiness and not all tracks are home runs, they still control the clock with stunningly solid performances for nine ten innings. Death ‘n roll has not been in since Entombed‘s DCLXVI years, and perhaps The Generals hope to carry the torch to a new generation of death ‘n roll greats. While the band’s catalog hints at greatness, To Hell finally capitalizes upon it. While you could argue that The Generals offer lifting music and do little to challenge the genre, solid performances, brutal shellacking, and an “all killer, no filler” approach is truly refreshing. Guess what, GardensTale? Death ‘n roll is back on the menu, bitch – and it’s spicy.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Black Zombie Records
Releases Worldwide: February 26th, 2021

Show 2 footnotes

  1. The band, not the glorious Sharkboi.
  2. Courtesy of Tomas Skogsberg, producer and mixer of Entombed, Dismember, and Hellacopters.
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