Hell – Curse & Chapter


Review by Jason Guest

Nuclear Blast

Two years after 2011’s Human Remains, Hell return with album number two, Curse & Chapter. In-keeping with their theatrical aesthetic, the darkly carnival ‘Gehennae Incendiis’ to open the album and sets the scene: we are entering a dark place, one of mystery, one of misery, one of might. ‘The Age of Nefarious’ drags us deeper into its darkened depths with its overpowering grandeur and relentless riffing; the intro to ‘The Disposer Supreme’ intensifies the haunting feel of the album while its intricate riffs and the histrionic vocal performance further compound its power; and with synths added to the mix, evil’s dark wings extend into and beyond the grim horizon with the epic ‘Darkhangel’. And what is there to say of the remainder of the album other than it is simply incredible. Spanning the full dynamic spectrum, every track is a lesson in songcraft. ‘End Ov Days’ leans toward the exotic and esoteric; ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ is sinister and menacing; ‘Faith Will Fall’ is a stirring anthem to sanity among the mindless herd; and closing track ‘A Vespertine Legacy’ is breath-taking in its scope, the band, as across the whole album, subtly integrating so many of metal’s subgenres that the track defies categorisation.

Remaining true to their early-80s blueprint, Hell have developed from an already outstanding band into, well, an even more outstanding entity. Having weathered the storm of life on stage over the last two years, the band have emerged all the stronger for it. In terms of musicianship, the rhythm section of bassist Tony Speakmam and drummer Tim Bowler feels somehow tighter, both working together in a more mature manner to provide that solid foundation that the tracks and the other musicians can stand tall upon. The riffs are potent and powerful, of course, yet the guitar work of Sneap and Kev Bower is more integrated, the harmony parts and lead breaks in particular having a fluidity and fluency matched only by the greats. And vocalist David Bower is extraordinary, in every way imaginable. Bringing an actor in to the band was a stroke of genius, his vocal performance as extravagant as it is effective, his theatrical background augmenting the larger-than-life nature of the band and the music.

Comprised of material split 50/50 between old and new material, it’s difficult to tell which is which, so much so that all of the tracks sound fresh, not rehashed versions of tracks that were written an aeon ago. As heavy as it is grandiose and as tongue-in-cheek as it is flawless in design and performance, like 2011’s Human Remains, Curse & Chapter will be in more than a few “Best of 2013” lists.

Hell – Curse & Chapter9 out of 10

Track listing:

  1. Gehennae Incendiis
  2. The Age Of Nefarious
  3. The Disposer Supreme
  4. Darkhangel
  5. Harbinger Of Death
  6. End Ov Days
  7. Deathsquad
  8. Something Wicked This Way Comes
  9. Faith Will Fall
  10. Land Of The Living Dead
  11. Deliver Us From Evil
  12. A Vespertine Legacy