Hell - Human Remains
Nuclear Blast
Heavy Metal
11 songs (1:06:04)
Release year: 2011
Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Goat
Album of the month

Hell are something of a tragic story in the great legends of NWOBHM, formed all the way back in 1982 but never releasing a full-length due to the collapse of their label. The suicide of vocalist and guitarist Dave Halliday after the band had split up also cast a considerable pall, and they soon faded away. Despite this they were kept alive in spirit through the projects of Sabbat’s Andy Sneap, who was actually taught guitar by Dave Halliday and declared them as his main influence, and when the band was resurrected by the surviving members Sneap was asked to join, with friend and bandmate Martin Walkyier making up the numbers. Unfortunately for us all, Martin wasn’t a part of the project long enough to record this resulting album, but his replacement David Bower (guitarist/keyboardist Kev’s brother) does a terrific job, having a more than epic enough singing voice even to threaten Candlemass' highbrow misery (he’s a stage and television actor as well, interestingly), and makes Human Remains quite the comeback. It’s a very traditional album in many ways, a real vein of true old NWOBHM running through it with just enough modern stomp to keep the kids happy. Yet make no mistake, it’s the older fans of this style that will be the happiest with Human Remains, the band never straying far from their base metals and ensure that no matter how heavy their crunch, it’s tied to the 80s in every way possible.

Opener Overture Theme From Deathsquad is a classical build-up par excellence, breaking into the fire-and-brimstone sermon of On Earth As It Is In Hell, a boisterous riffathon that’s something like classic Rage with just a hint of Power Metal cheese to keep a smile on your face. It’s technical, bold and brash, and it rips, freely moving from old Iron Maiden-esque melody to modern technical riffathons with an underlying air of ridiculous epic glory, well-placed keyboards adding a hint of class. From there, Hell feel comfortable enough with themselves to experiment quite a lot, the atmospheric melange of the opening to Plague And Fyre very gloomy before the spell is broken abruptly and the band plunge into avowedly old-school Speed Metal. They tone it down a little for a Power Metal chorus, but the meat is most definitely there, the guitars rarely being quiet.

Being blunt, I’m seriously impressed with this. The wailing melancholy of The Oppressors with its stop-start groovy riffing is never less than wholly convincing, and the proggy orchestral flourishes fit perfectly with the diabolically crunchy guitars which have some complex melodies of their own to crank out, in oddly Dream Theatre-y style. It flows seamlessly into eight-minute epic Blasphemy And The Master, starting with tolling bells and theatrical spoken word and launching into gloriously Heavy Metal in the finest Iron Maiden tradition without once stealing from that band. Let Battle Commence is classic Exodus taken apart and put together with a Heavy Metal view towards highlighting the vocals and guitars, and ten-minute epic The Devils Deadly Weapon doesn’t just have 80s Europe-esque synth hooks, but an outright proggy keyboard solo!

I honestly can’t decide between the very best tracks, as there’s something to recommend them all. The Quest has a catchy Helloween-anthem style to it that’s very endearing, and although Macbeth’s wacky witch-vocals go on for far too long you forgive the band when the riffs finally come in because they’re too damn good. Plus, bagpipes, in possibly their finest appearance in metal! Subtle, yet not inaudible, they form a vital part of the music and work wonderfully in terms of atmosphere. As for finale No Martyrs Cage, which approaches classic Doom in its slow and grandiose gloom, it’s the cherry on the cake. This album is professional, managing to address The Issues (Save Us From Those Who Save Us’ attack on Catholic complicity in covering up child abuse) without coming over as too preachy. It’s technical and well-thought-out, not a constant hailstorm of riffs but an interesting, varied listen that treats the listener with respect and allows him to uncover the album at his own pace. It’s immediately gripping as well as a grower, the instantaneously headbangable material drawing in those who might take a little longer to appreciate the epic-lengthed tracks.

Above all, this album is fun. From the gleefully ridiculous lyrics to David Bower’s over-the-top vocal performance which makes Dani Filth look like the picture of restraint without once becoming unintelligible, from the interestingly varied songwriting to the gloriously meaty riffs, Hell have produced one heck of a debut album. Delayed seemingly forever, this is a hint of what we’ve been missing all these years, a British Metal giant that is as capable of slow and epic Power Metal as it is fast and furious thrashy Heavy Metal. It’s utterly great, and deserves the undivided attention of riff lovers everywhere, a stunning example of why band reunions are sometimes excellent. Highly recommended.

Killing Songs :
On Earth As It Is In Hell, Plague And Fyre, Blasphemy And The Master, Let Battle Commence, The Devils Deadly Weapon, The Quest, Macbeth, No Martyrs Cave
Goat quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Hell that we have reviewed:
Hell - Trilogy reviewed by Neill and quoted no quote
Hell - Curse and Chapter reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
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