Hellripper shows no signs of slowing the fuck down whatsoever, and the results are still enthralling and cathartic to no end.
Release date: February 17, 2023 | Peaceville Records | Linktree
Speed metal can be a tiring sort. The excessiveness of the pedal to the metal at all times can begin to drain on the listener if there’s not enough novel elements added into the mix. I’ve tried to get into so many different acts that I adore on the surface only to be tired two or three songs in due to the lull of the same formula trotted out again and again.
Hellripper is different, though. Harkening back to Venom era black metal with added thrash riffs and tempos, with throwback fuzzy production is just a sonic gift of brutality for listeners that encompasses all the quality elements of what makes metal fucking great. Anytime I’m reminded of anything Hellripper, I go all the way back to Complete and Total Fucking Mayhem, and don’t stop until I hear the entirety of ‘The Hanging Tree” on The Affairs of the Poison. James McBain has always had a clear and concise focus, with a locked and loaded sensibility that fires on all cylinders. No overthinking, taking unnecessary artistic liberties in pursuit of different just because, or pandering to for new listeners. His entire formula is just fucking metal.
Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags fits well within their discography. The 43 minutes they give us on this release is absolutely tried and true Hellripper, but it maintains a freshness that very few can capture. ‘The Nuckalavee” wastes no time diving into a thrashy and grotesque display of technicality with its breakneck pace riffing accompanied by percussion that rolls with intensity.
Hellripper ensures that the pace hardly ever slows, only for a few moments throughout, and we get track after track of riff after riff pouring out with war driven percussion decimating everything, all the time. It’s just a fantastic display that further fulfills Hellripper’s legacy.
When things do slow down, like on the title track, the intensity never fades. Textured acoustics initiate a mid-tempo riff that has enough guts to downshift and mellow out enough without losing any edge whatsoever. As James dives in with his gravely blackened vocal delivery, everything feels like it’s 1989 again before the war torn soldier chant of a chorus breaks through and delivers the most standout tracks in the bunch. It’s 7 minutes of slowed down stop-and-look-at-the-wreckage bliss.
“The Hissing Marshes” treads in Motorhead territory with its punky percussion and full throttled bassline. The guitarwork balances the blackened thrash energy and punk flair for arguably one of the strongest of the eight tracks. Something about the shiny high note bridge sounds reflective, as if its trying to shift the tempo in a different direction, yet fails every time. The track ends with a frantic and jittery solo that literally gives no breathing room before the equally raucous “Poison Womb” starts.
Altogether Hellripper maintains its reputation as being a solid act to follow in the underground. With the entire catalog having no misses, and now being 4 albums deep there’s a keen expectation that James McBain will continue to put out such quality material. Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags represents that solid work ethic entirely. It doesn’t stray away from that familiar winning formula, because it doesn’t have to, and the end result is another solid and enthralling 8 tracks and 43 minutes of hell ripping glory.