Hellripper – Black Arts & Alchemy Review

If Hellripper doesn’t slow down, their discography page is going to be rivaling that of the satanic thrash speedy boys in Abigail in just a few short years. But Hellripper never slows down. The brainchild of Scotland native James McBain, Hellripper have been refining the craft of high speed, razor-edged black/thrash with fun-filled blasphemic spirit. Since the release of the deservedly well-received Coagulating Darkness full-length in 2017, the band have redoubled their efforts, with James assembling a full band for live gigs on top of releasing a pair of splits last year, which brings us to Black Arts & Alchemy, the EP released this past April on the recently resurrected Reaper Metal Productions.

Release date: April 5, 2019. Label: Reaper Metal Productions
The EP opens with “All Hail The Goat,” and it’s clear from the get go that Hellripper has only fed the flames as the hammer-on riffing flies with unfathomable fury across the fret board beneath a punky 1-2 beat, perfectly suited for the catchy “All hail, all hail the goat” chorus that seems to fly by before it’s even begun. While none of the songwriting or riff construction is particularly new to the band here, the breakdown section shows a particular flair in the twin lead play that feels fresh. The soloing is insane and, knowing McBain’s tendencies to bring in guest soloists on his works, left me dying to know who it is. As it turns out, James himself decided to lay down the needling, melodic shredding on all the solos, adding a feel of high speed rock and roll fury to the affair. Slight tweaks of improvement can be heard on the production, for those who have been following the band, Black Arts & Alchemy finds a sweet spot between the kick drum heavy sound of Coagulating Darkness and the somewhat thinner mix found on the split with Barbados last year. What results is a warmer feel to the final product—really the only area that could use a small boost in production would be a brighter cymbal sound, but this is a minor nitpick amid a release that leans heavily on the power of the energetic riff.

Hellripper never let the forward momentum of progress interfere with the original mission statement of delivering frantic, heart-racing heavy metal, instead taking the approach so often credited to bands such as Bolt Thrower, slowly adjusting the dynamic to keep things fresh and improve their chops. The strongest example of this lies in the title track, as the main riff on “Black Arts & Alchemy” easily marks the highlight of the release and a high watermark for the band. It encompasses the energy that’s to be expected from the band while adding a complexity previously untouched, changing keys and dancing across the the undying one-two hits of the drums. Conversely, “Headless Angels” feels firmly rooted in Hellripper’s style, blurring the already thin line between thrash and speed metal as it embraces both open chord riffing and chugging palm mutes. The falsetto scream in the final moments of the track seals the deal, delivering a full-on erection of steel to any who feel the pounding pulse of metal deep within their loins.

Not only does Black Arts & Alchemy feel like a confident, well-grounded step forward for Hellripper, it never loses sight of what makes the band fun in the first place. McBain simply gets it, and may his insight as to what makes this style so great never, ever die.

P.S. This is an open call to any promoters in the U.S. to PLEASE bring this band to the States already.

Posted by Ryan Tysinger

I listen to music, then I write about it. On Twitter @d00mfr0gg (Outro: The Winds Of Mayhem)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.