on 25 November 2013
Well the boys from Hell have done it again. Not satisfied with their 2011 Masterpiece Human Remains, we now have their latest story Curse & Chapter. Picking up exactly where they finished off, in a world devoid of divinity, I wonder how many fans will get busy splicing the two albums together into one uninterrupted Book of Hell (I know I did).
The album opens with the expected fully orchestrated introduction, Kev Bower showing us the depth of his musical skills, and the unbelievable power of a Yamaha Motif (no orchestra involved here). Then straight into the blistering Age of Nefarious, the first new full song of the album, taking Hell into a new dimension (if not the 5th) as their second album gives us a mix of finishing the release of the back catalogue from the first time around, and looking forwards with new material. Not that the back catalogue is anything to be sneered at, as Disposer Supreme belies its age, sounding just as vital as a song written yesterday, even though as I hear the marionettes line I can still see the mime like shrug Dave Halliday used to do back in the day.
But then we reach the summoning of the Darkhangel, the magnum opus of the album. With an introduction so tasty you might think it was seasoned with Oxo, this is just an awesome track, and one that reaches unexpected heights live (check out the bonus DVD), but doesn't lose any of that drama without the band in front of you.
Then we're back to the back catalogue, though strictly speaking not Hell's, as Harbinger of Death is actually a cover, from the equally excellent Race Against Time. This was original singer Dave Halliday's previous band, but the song always formed a popular part of the set, and this version features the surviving R.A.T members on backing vocals.
Then you get to the curiously spelt End Ov Days, the first song on the album that hadn't already been released or played live in some manner. Of course it doesn't dissappoint, and wins the prize for the most persistent vocal hook on the album. You will have "Fear your God" stuck in your head for days - trust me. It's interesting to note that this song is written by Andy Sneap and Dave Bower, who weren't part of the band first time around, yet this still captures the sound of Hell perfectly.
Then we get to the track that the album would not have been complete without. Deathsquad, one of only two of the original Hell songs to get a vinyl release first time around. This instrumental has it's sounds planted firmly in the 80s synths, and it would have been so easy to update those sounds and heavily orchestrate this song, but mercifully they didn't, leaving us with a very faithful version keeping to the original charm.
Then it's time to get all dramatic again. On the new album frontman and professional Actor Dave Bower (or Beckford in his actor guise) shows us his acting chops throughout this album, but they really come to the fore in this Shakespearean inspired Something Wicked This Way Comes. It's sometimes hard to remember you are listening an album and not the sound track of some high budget West End Gothic Rock Opera.
Then another previously unheard song, this time Faith Will Fall with Tim Bowler literally thumping the message into the darkest recesses of your head. Probably the hardest hitting of all the new songs, sure to be the headbangers favourite.
Then back to the back catalogue with my favourite song, from seeing them first time around, in the shape of Land of the Living Dead. I was gutted this wasn't on the first album, but they're forgiven now.
Then another old live favourite, and given the bass line, probably Tony Speakman's favourite as well. It sounds a little out of place on this album, stylistically, but still well done, and featuring a guest appearance from Benny Hill.
Sadly it then comes to the end, all too soon, with another previously unheard Vespertine Legacy, telling the tale of things that move in the twilight hours. Starting with a curious little warning in Romanian, you plough on into dark domains with riffs and drama galore, before the album finally plays out to a mysterious ticking clock - just where are they taking us next?
They say the Devil has all the best tunes, well Hell certainly do.