02. Hell’s Master of Hell
03. Vengeance Spell
04. Foul Spirit Within
05. Cross Damnation
06. Grave Encounters
07. Black Order
08. The Eternal One
09. Hail to Cruelty
In this age of preppy and generally trendy derivatives of metal with squeaky clean production and played down imagery, that lack the ardor, rebelliousness, anti-conventionalism and rawness that characterized the genre since its inception, this album is certainly an unapologetic beckoning to the roots of black metal, dating back to the early 1980’s. This is not to imply that metal is entirely about being over-the-top, extreme or exaggerated in its approach. But personally, the sort of metal found on this album is something like a comic book. If it doesn’t have that bit of edge and theatrics to it, it just doesn’t do it for me. Fortunately, Joel Grind, known for his work in the retro-thrash metal band Toxic Holocaust has presented us old schoolers a slab of grimy exaltations and invocations to the overlords and archons of the dark realms of metal. Oh so primordial, ancient, chthonic and down-right filthy. One wouldn’t expect this to be heard in 2013 of all years. But apparently the underground resistance (sorry for the reference, Darkthrone!) is alive and well, and stronger than ever. Did Quorthon have some sort of bastard son in his various peregrinations, or did Thomas Warrior let Grind use the very same bunker he used to record the infamous but ever so eternally influential Triumph of Death?
On the same note, the album starts with an eerie intro, Ascension, and bears an incredibly strong resemblance to the intros used on the early Bathory albums (think Storm of Damnation or Nocturnal Obeisance) and jumps straight into Hell’s Master of Hell which is absolutely blatant Bathory worship but a kickass album opener. I’ve seen many people saying that this could’ve well been an omitted track from Bathory (1984) and I couldn’t agree more. It has a great degree of sonic semblance to War from the very same album, in fact. Vengeance Spell is in the very same vein with a speed-driven, blackened quality to it. The riffs are very catchy and the guitar solo, albeit simplistic perfectly fits in. The fourth track Foul Spirit Within is more plodding and has a slower pace, but features rather similar riffs.
Stream the entire album below:
Cross Damnation has an easily recognizable blackened speed metal quality to it, and is a bit of a filler but very enjoyable nevertheless. The next tracks, Grave Encounters and Black Order continue this trend but the former is far more relentless, aggressive and amusingly over-the-top that would make some question whether Joel Grind was being serious at all while penning down these accursed tunes. The 8th track, The Eternal One, and my personal favourite is malevolent, rancorous Hellhammer worship from start to end in the vein of songs like Buried and Forgotten. The album closer, Hail to Cruelty has a more speed-driven edge to it in the vein of Venom and Motorhead with a smattering of Canadian speed/thrash metal (a la Razor, Exciter, etc). The album ends with an outro, Descension, once again a direct nod to the outros found all over the Bathory catalogue.
This album would get any enthusiast of the First Wave of Black Metal absolutely ecstatic. It’s short and crisp with a comical but honest aggression to go along with it. I’ve said this many times before and I’ll say it again – the efforts of artists like Joel Grind serve to preserve a specific sound, that might well get lost in the sands of time lest we lay an excessive emphasis on constant musical innovation and change. By that virtue, this album is one among many underground gems. In short, Joel Grind keeps it real. He should definitely continue releasing stuff in a similar vein as opposed to the comparatively generic retro-thrash, taking us back to a time when there were no limiting, stylistic borders such as thrash or black metal..
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