Black Anvil – Hail Death (Relapse Records)

Monday, 19th May 2014
Rating: 7.5/10

NYC’s Black Anvil start their third full-length with some gloomy Spanish guitar, demonstrating their musical breadth on “Still Reborn” before crashing into the meaty heft of Black Anvil, blackened groove metal that chugs mightily, using varied tempos while staying within the medium-pace space that beckons the headbang.  Guttural and venomous vocals straddle the black/death line very well and the musicianship shines, pronounced bass tones proudly stand out in the mix and groove very nicely with adept drum work, employing tasty fills and doubles, always suited to the song and not t’other way round.

An aspect of Black Anvil that stands out is an almost hardcore ethos (as with the melodically sung backing vocals as well as some of the power-chorded riffs, for example), which makes sense since the guys used to be in NYC hardcore band Kill Your Idols.  This current runs with the aforementioned bass quality (think 90’s alt-punk tone…maybe Jesus Lizard) to meld with their pan-metal sounds to create something that feels rather unique, organic, sounds good and rocks hard.  Every track on Hail Death contains bonafide headbanging goodness and huge, melodic riffing.  In fact, Black Anvil can even bring a touch of southern-fried metal when the guitars get to soloing.  So, the sound is a bit of this, a bit of that (death, black, stoner, doom, groove, thrash), but never schizophrenic or disjointed.  Nope, it works well and bangs hard with darkness and muscular melody.

Where Hail Death loses points is in the overall pacing/length of the album – this motherfucker is long.  With an hour and seven minutes of original stuff plus another bonus track (a Kiss cover of “Under the Rose”), this quite good music grows a bit stale, unfortunately, not really due to the material itself.  When taking Hail Death in as as album, it seems that trimming this thing down by a decent chunk would have gone a long way.  I guess at the end of the day it’s not a terrible problem to have, but when albums seem to never end, even when they sound good, it makes you kinda wish they would.

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